Influencers vs. Ambassadors: What’s the Difference?
By Allon Caidar, CEO & Co-Founder, TVPage
Influencer marketing is nothing new. It has been around for years as many brands have tapped into celebrities – actors, musicians, athletes – to promote and sell their products. And while brands are still leveraging traditional influencers to help amass large followings, there’s a new kind of influencer emerging with a modern twist in service to long-term brand awareness and building genuine relationships with consumers –– online ambassadors.
Since the nature of an “influencer” is to achieve the largest possible reach, growing their “brand” is where Influencers invest their time and energy. Influencers seek a celebrity status that is detached, by definition. However, brand ambassadors embody salespeople who have deeper interactions with audiences and build longer-lasting consumer loyalty.
In looking for the right brand representatives across social media and e-commerce platforms, brands should consider three important facts:
- E-commerce is the primary medium that retailers are investing in for growth.
- Consumers are seeking guidance, and expect to find this both offline and online.
- Ads just aren’t as effective –– people buy from people, not from ads.
E-commerce is the new brick-and-mortar
Any store, ever since the invention of the retail industry, has had both salespeople and customers. As retail moves to a dominantly virtual world, the salesperson must be recreated online. The online ambassador is well-positioned to fill this void, and this has only been strengthened in a post-COVID-19 world.
The ongoing nature of an ambassador relationship is more akin to a sales associate relationship with customers, versus an influencer looking at a monetary value and then moving onto the next deal without building genuine connections. The pay structure for ambassadors can therefore lend itself to being very different than it is for influencers. If and to the extent possible, ambassadors would welcome being paid on a commission for every product they sell, and retailers would far prefer such a method. They understand that they are working for a brand and product in which they specialize, maintain expertise and are passionate about it. Influencers, on the other hand, are accustomed to demanding a fixed fee per effort, and then moving onto the next deal.
Consumers seek guidance, both offline and online
When engaging in influencer marketing, brands are typically paying the going rate to share or “bid” for that “real estate” in front of the influencer’s consumers, along with any other brand that may be competing for that exposure. It is another form of advertising, pure and simple. Given their agenda to go wide and broad, influencers do not focus on creating a connection with the consumers who follow them. When a customer opens their Instagram account, or logs onto their Twitter, they want to see people behind products, not another sponsored placeholder.
People buy from people, not from ads
There is a need for people who can engage with consumers on social media in an authentic manner. Brands must communicate the power of their products through this medium.
In many ways, an ambassador is similar to an influencer, both wield online influence and use it to promote specific brands and the products they sell.
Ambassadors, however, are focused on the brand they represent, and their goals align with that brand. This creates a more human element to the experience. Ambassadors work closely with the brands they partner with on an ongoing basis. This allows them to learn about the products they represent and gain in-depth knowledge about their target audience. They are also incentivized to create genuine connections.
So how can brands create a winning ambassador program? Let’s look at the three key steps marketers should take to build a program that generates new substantial revenue:
- Bring ambassadors into e-commerce stores through technology such as shoppable videos, virtual online shopping appointments and live virtual events.
- Incentivize ambassadors with commission-based models and holistic engagement.
- Track pay-outs and reporting from actual sales data on accounting-based auditing programs.
Read More: Adapting Better to a Virtual Selling World
Retailers who want to increase online sales while preserving and extending a current customer base should use people instead of advertisements. Online ambassadors are the salespeople of the future, and now is the time to enable them. Consumers today value authenticity and while an influencer program may still be part of the marketing mix, incorporating an ambassador-driven sales strategy will contribute to long-term brand loyalty and e-commerce success.