Brand ambassadors and social influencers have the capability to boost your marketing efforts dramatically but the question is which is best? In this article we break down what brand ambassadors and social influencers are, what the possible risks are and how to manage them effectively.

Brand Ambassadors and why you need them

A brand ambassador is a marketing term used to define a person who is employed by a company to promote the company’s products and embody a company’s message to a huge following in a positive manner, they are not only an important part of marketing/ brand strategies a brand ambassador has the ability to serve versatile functions as per the need of the company that they are working for. For example as his time as governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the brand ambassador for ‘Visit California’ and appeared in commercials that aimed at increasing the amount of tourists visitation to California. By using his celebrity status he was able to spread his message effectively and to a global audience.

Overall brand ambassadors are very effective due to the amount of reach they give to your brand. If for example your business is a start-up company and a celebrity is spotted wearing/ drinking/ eating whatever it is you’re selling, this could do wonders. For example Cheryl Fernandez- Versini, was once photographed wearing a chequered shirt by Jack Wills and within two days the whole stock of that shirt had sold out completely in the UK.

A brand ambassador can establish your brands identity- essentially they become your brand and people can recognise who your brand is- for example the late Steve Jobs did this really effectively with Apple as he was not only the CEO and founding member, but appeared in many of the advertisements and held many talks where he was the key note speaker. David Beckham is also another brilliant example of a brand ambassador for brand identity- he is a famous non-drinker, however he is a member of the Haig Club and appears in many press-releases for them promoting their whisky.

  • Solidarity with the company is a brilliant advantage of brand ambassador because this is because with a brand ambassador you can ensure that your brands message is consistent and unified because it’s only one person spreading your message.
  • Peer relationships are very powerful marketing strategy that can be utilised by brand ambassadors. For example if I were a 13 year old girl and I spot the singer Sam Smith walking out of a shop in front of me and I manage to get a photo with him outside the shop, and I share it on my social media pages the potential for the post to spread like wild fire is a huge possibility as my friends will like, tag, comment and possibly share to their friends. If Sam Smith then struck a business deal with that shop and agreed to wear jackets only by that brand for a period of time the potential business of the shop has the potential to increase by a huge amount.
  • Iconic celebrities being unintentional brand ambassadors is a mutually beneficial relationship for both the celebrity and the business. For example Michael Jordan a famous basketball player worked with Nike and wore ‘Air Jordan’s’. From that he landed movie deals like ‘Space Jam’  and had other successes and Nike benefitted by selling loads of stock and making loads of profit- and a lot of people do still wear Air Jordan’s as Nike are still selling them. Another example is where Cheryl Fernandez Versini was spotted and photographed wearing a chequered shirt from Jack Will’s and within 2 days the entire stock of that shirt had sold out.

 How to recognize a brand ambassador

It is relatively easy to spot who a brand ambassador is. They are mostly high-profile celebrities who has a great understanding of the business and or industry of the brand they are promoting. They are completely responsible for ensuring that the brand is kept in a positive light and for spreading the message of the brand to their followers and engaging with followers through either their personal social media channels or a social media channel set up for them by the business.

 Managing your brand ambassadors to ensure their continued credibility & validity

Brand ambassadors can be extremely helpful in enhancing a business’s profile/ reputation and can be great influencers on what products are the best on the market. The downside to this though without proper management in place things can go awry and things said or actions can potentially damage reputations, for example YouTube stars like Zoella are very hard to manage because she is brutally honest on how good beauty products are. There are however, ways in which brand ambassadors can be reined in and the company can be ensured to have keep the company’s brand intact and allow their selected brand ambassador to do what they do which will benefit your company the most.

With closer monitoring of what your brand ambassador does/says PR disasters like famous footballer  Ronaldo being dropped from Coca Cola for drinking a Pepsi at a press release, can be averted more easily, this can be achieved by inviting your ambassador to do all of their publicity inside the working office. Other options include, but are not limited to asking your brand ambassador to read from a script when promoting your products, recreate a pre-recorded (pre-worked) message following the script, asking them to follow a format. The thing to remember is to set expectations from the get go and ensure that you have a degree of trust and that they are delivering the companies message to their audiences. There is also they option to discuss terms with a lawyer present that has overseen that they have signed a contract of some sort, this allows the company to protect their brand further.

Social Influencers and why you need them

When it comes to marketing products and promoting your business influencers are people who are unemployed by a company but have the ability to influence their followers on their social media channels. From a business perspective having one or many influencers discuss your company and or products in a positive light and influence their followers to start purchasing your products, therefore boosting sales, possibly beating competitors, extending social reach of your company and can possibly be introduced to a whole new audience.

Influencers tend to be seen as more genuine and identifiable to their audience than celebrities endorsing a company’s products/brand, this is because what they have to say is their honest opinion and they are impartial and have not been given a script to read off. YouTube star Zoella started out by showing her followers beauty products that she wore or was interested to see if what a product claimed to do actually stayed true to their word and after she would either rate the product good or bad and give reasons why, all the products that she deemed good had a brilliant knock on effect for the businesses that created the product and started flying off the shelf as a result. As her videos, Twitter and Facebook fan page gained popularity businesses like MAC Cosmetics started sending her free products to showcase on her videos. After a short while of doing this she started to charge businesses up to £20,000 per product rated on her YouTube channel, this may seem expensive but this is much cheaper than a business employing a brand ambassador to do essentially the same job.

 How to recognise social influencers

Anyone can be an influencer on social media they tend to be extroverted, trend-setting individuals who possess many different interests and have a large following on their social media channels. From a business perspective influencers have the potential to turn their audience into buyers of any product that is mentioned via their personal social media channel. Influencers also tend to be not on the payroll of the company and are not responsible for ensuring a particular product is constantly seen in a positive light or has to engage with customers and defend the company/product as they are impartial and their stance is normally impartial.

It is getting easier nowadays for a company to identify who is an influencer for their business simply by looking on social media sites such as Twitter or YouTube or social media tools such as Google AdWords and search specific keywords/hashtags or mentions, by doing this the business can see who is actively taking part in these trends and online conversations and observe who is getting the most engagement or views.

 How to ensure the validity and credibility of social influencers

Credibility

It is difficult to know if a particular social influencer is a credible source for your business and how much of an influence they actually have on their followers and whether their followers are genuine and not made of up fake profiles. To ensure that the social influencer is a credible source the company should monitor the social activity the person takes part in over a period time like what online conversations they get involved in, their follower count and while doing so pay particular attention to how much engagement each of their posts get and the social reach of each post. Another thing to monitor is whether the social influencer is giving factual information and has expertise in your companies’ particular industry or product. Another way to ensure a particular person is a credible influencer is to see how many lists on Twitter they are in- listing people is a way for people to group together certain individuals into categories that they deem to be useful to them.

Validity

Validity basically means that any information that is presented is proven to be correct and factual. With validity you can look back on your marketing plan and see what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistake in the future and help you decide if there needs to be a shift in a different direction.

 How to manage social influencers

Influencers would be harder to manage and control than say a brand ambassador because they are impartial individuals, however if a business wanted to utilise an influencer effectively they could attract the influencer to want to post positive things about your company by sending free products for them to keep or by engaging with them on social media channels directly for the influencer’s followers to see. If the business wanted to have a more controlled influencer than I would think that the company would endorse the influencer to showcase or discuss their brand positively and draft together some sort of agreement and outline rough guidelines for them to follow- while still allowing them to feel as though they are not being controlled. Viral video star Cian Twomy is a great example of a well-managed influencer as he advertises certain products in his videos in his own way whilst still delivering the companies message and he often mentions that he is great friends with the people behind the company. You do not want to try and control your influencers too much as this could have a serious negative repercussions as they could become frustrated and start posting negative things about your company and reveal somethings that are meant to stay behind closed doors that could destroy the company’s reputation.

Comparing brand ambassadors and social influencers

There are many similarities and differences between brand ambassadors and social influencers who share the same purpose to gain more traffic to the company, both have to stay on top of key trends and social media tools. They also have to craft together different ways on how to get good engagement and strategize how to increase their followers.   Some key differences are:

 

Social influencer

Brand ambassador

Multiple individuals, non-employeesOne or more employees in the company
Separate to the brand – impartialIs part of the brand – only comments positively about the brand
Engaging, conversational and responsiveResponsive, reflects the company values and adheres strictly to the company ‘voice’
Relevant only where the conversations take placeAppears across all brand areas
Usually unique to the person who might be involved with more than one brandNormally unique to the company – markets only that one brand
Used only in real conversations by real people (paid influencers might differ here)Used everywhere from conversations, marketing material and advertisements
Not responsible for ‘turning’ any negative commentsResponsible for dealing with negative comments and repairing online reputation
Less pressure to stay informed on new trends – can switch off at any time onlineConstant pressure to stay up to date on social media changes, trends and tools – so ‘always on’
Performance is not (normally) measuredPerformance is measured with inbound marketing analytics from campaigns, content and engagement
Tweeting the ‘wrong message’ can lead to a fall in online popularity and influencing powerMistakes in social networking can lead to loss of a job

So what do you think, would you rather have a brand ambassador or a social influencer or both? Both have their advantages and disadvantages and can improve your marketing efforts tremendously. Let us know in the comments section below.