Brand Advocacy Panel: Enabling Advocates vs. Targeting Influencers


Advocates and influencers are synonymous, right? Not so according to social media marketing experts who took the stage at Expion’s Mission Possible social summit.

Expion’s own Jeannette Arrowood took the stage to moderate a brand advocacy panel featuring American Dental Association’s Bridget Houlihan, H&R Block’s Matt Staub, Jeep’s Vicki Carlini, and 360i’s Matt Wurst who defined the not-so-subtle differences between influencers and advocates. The discussion was centered around the idea that by providing content suggestions to employees and customers, brands and organizations can increase social selling and engagement. However, a panel can often spur some unexpected conversations that lead to eye-opening takeaways – and that’s just what happened.

Here are some of the most interesting views on influencer marketing that came out of the panel:

  • Influencers are not the same as advocates. H&R Block’s Matt Staub put it best when he said that influencers need to be targeted, and advocates need to be enabled. Matt Wurst of 360i added another distinction between the two groups saying that everyone can be an advocate, but not everyone can be an influencer. Smart social media marketers need to recognize the difference between these two groups and create content accordingly.
  • Providing social content to advocates increases sharing. Bridget Houlihan, the social community and engagement manager at the American Dental Association, went from simply providing social guidelines to its network of dentists to providing social content by implementing Expion’s Social Advocator tool. After the tool was implemented, social activity increased 10x because the content they provided not only drove shares but spurred dentists to create their own.
  • Advocates will come to your rescue. Jeep is a lifestyle brand with loyal advocates because it focuses on creating an identity for the lifestyle it represents and not the cars themselves. As part of its advocacy engagement strategy, it uses Expion’s Social Advocator tool to feed custom content to brand advocates that they can then share with their own social networks. Vicki Carlini of Jeep described the benefits of this strategy saying that they allow and encourage their fans to do the talking, so that when a negative response or comment comes in, Jeep doesn’t even have to jump in – their advocates come to the rescue for them.
  • Asking fans to dosomething increases engagement. Matt Wurst of 360i says that he sees the highest engagement rates when brands ask fans and followers to do something specific. Posting should be well thought out and include a relevant and specific call to action. Rather than posting content for the sake of posting content, brands need to make sure they’re posting what is right for their audience, and then use those posts to spur fans into action.

All of the panelists agreed that a successful influencer and/or advocate engagement strategy needs to take into account a company or organization’s specific audience and goals. The Expion summit continues on with another day of engaging social media sessions, but for now we will leave you with a piece of smart social content from Jeep and a picture of the panel so you can feel like you were actually in the room with these brilliant speakers!