Destination Digital

What’s the Difference Between Influencers and Brand Ambassadors?

Have you been puzzled by the roles of Influencers and Brand Ambassadors on social media and what these terms actually mean? Figuring out the differences can be confusing, especially as the line between the two have come increasingly blurred over the last decade.

Understanding the differences between these is crucial for any business wanting to promote its products and/or services on social media. Both Influencers and Brand Ambassadors have the power to influence people’s opinions/perspectives but the key difference in the two roles is the type of partnership they have with the company. To help you decipher what they mean, we’ve written this blog to give you an insight into the similarities and differences and so you can determine which could be beneficial for your brand.


What is a Brand Ambassador?

Once television, film and media began to rapidly evolve in the 20th century and started to churn out celebrity after celebrity, brands saw their huge advertising potential and began to use famous stars to represent them – whether that was through sponsoring popular sports teams or paying celebrities to endorse their products or services. For example, Coca-Cola and Nike teamed up with famous basketball player, Lebron James, to promote their products. Brands as large as these have the money to sponsor popular names or celebrities, and as these people tend to have millions of loyal fans they can help brands reach a much larger audience which is helpful for the return on significant investment poured into these deals.

Brand Ambassadors represent the company and are less likely to have any other collaborations with other company rivals. They are responsible for making the brand remain visible and to deliver the right message to the brand’s fan base. They are passionate and actively use the products to share through photo opportunities, campaigns, on their own social media channels and via word-of-mouth.

The role is long-term, and there is a stronger relationship between the company and ambassador as usually both have great ambitions and respect for the brand. Because there is a deep sense of loyalty between the two, this encourages their target audience to listen to and trust the Brand Ambassadors’ opinions.

Although some of these deals do involve large sums of money, not all ambassadors receive money or free products for their services as they are already a fan, often they are just happy to see the brand succeed. So, a brand ambassador has many good qualities like brand loyalty, visible advocacy, authentic content, trust and passion for the brand.


What is a Social Media Influencer?

Social media influencers are personalities that have a large number of followers on social media as a result of posting quality content around one particular topic. For example, beauty influencers post content about the various beauty products they use, and so their audience then becomes influenced to use that particular brand or type of product. Influencers tend to be chosen by brands for their brand fit, follower demographics and audience.

It can be argued that the first type of social media influencer was in the form of bloggers. Blogs first started to appear in 1999 and became the new popular thing to do online, where anyone could suddenly write and publish anything about any topic at all.  In 2002, there was a rise in mothers sharing their advice, useful products and toys on for instance. This site was created by Melinda Roberts when she decided to share her experiences and thoughts about parenting and soon got a huge following due to the niche topic that had a very engaged readership. The modern-day Mumsnet is an online community also predicated on a similar topic theme.


Blogs then started to transform into ‘vlogs’ in the early noughties as video technology became more accessible, and it wasn’t long before YouTube started to dominate the scene, introducing us to the likes of famous vloggers (or YouTubers) such as beauty and lifestyle blogger Zoella, Pewdie Pie and the now-disgraced Logan Paul. Fast forward to 2010, and we have the advent of the Instagram platform, providing its users, brands and bloggers with a new way to communicate and share information with each other through a mainly photographic medium, making a departure from other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that weren’t so reliant on posting out photos and videos to accompany posts.

Influencers are now mainly thought of in terms of Instagram stars or serious Youtubers, and many also maintain blogs to complement their online reach. Influencers will share a product in their own unique way, following their own editorial guidelines, but unlike Brand Ambassadors, influencers are not as loyal to the brand. Not all have necessarily used the product before and they have a shorter period working with brands, their role usually consisting of maybe one or two posts. When they move on, they can often then move to promoting a competitor, and their activities are driven by how much revenue they can generate for their activities.

If you are considering using Influencer Marketing in your marketing mix, working with smaller and bigger influencers at the same time can reach different demographics when discovering your target market. However, the influencer marketing strategy has changed and working to gain the most followers or finding the influencer with the biggest following is not considered to be the most effective approach anymore. Creating genuine, quality content for your target audience is becoming the most successful strategy, as audiences can now identify when something is just ‘promotional’ drivel as opposed to transparent, organic content. So micro-influencers have stepped in to fill this gap and using a range of these along with some key larger influencers is usually a more efficient strategy for reaching a wider base.

Are Influencers or Brand Ambassadors Best for My Brand?

Brand Ambassadors can humanise your brand and provide a great word-of-mouth marketing for your brand’s product or service. They show their loyalty to the brand by promoting your products in person and online for longer periods of time, which can drive traffic to your website and create sales over an extended period, as opposed to influencers, where you will most likely see a spike in sales during the days after their promotional content and then you will likely then see your sales levels drop again once the activity is over.

Choosing the right brand ambassador for your brand can be tricky as partnering with a well-known person could overshadow or tarnish your brand, depending on their values and their portrayal in the press. Popular sandwich shop, Subway, learned this the hard way in 2015 when their ambassador and spokesman, Jared Fogle, was jailed for child pornography crimes. There are consequences if you don’t choose the right person as your ambassador as they are not completely in your control and they could ruin your brand’s credibility and deter your audience from choosing you. At a less ‘mega-bucks’ level than this for your small business, you should check out brand ambassadors thoroughly before creating a a relationship. If their timelines are full of cuss-words or they have questionable political or social views and aren’t afraid to share them, or have shared them in the past, you would be wise to think twice. Most of the time, brand ambassadors for smaller businesses can prove to be a safe and lower-cost way of getting into influencer marketing, where free products might end up being the only payment.

There is no doubt that the professional influencer market has grown over recent years, and continues to do so due to the advantages of incorporating influencers into your marketing strategy. They understand their own audience and what they want to see and so from this knowledge, they can create good, quality content that will appeal to their audience and will present your product in its best light for that audience. For example, Molly Mae, who most recently evolved from being an influencer for fashion brand Pretty Little Thing to becoming their Creative Director, has a social media following that consists mainly of young girls and women that have similar fashion and beauty interests to her, and so Pretty Little Thing have leveraged her online persona to benefit their brand.

Having a large following on social media and with the correct target audience all in one place can be an attractive attribute for brands when partnering up with influencers. A famous influencer can broaden your brand’s outreach and drive purchase decisions, however, choosing the wrong influencer can lead to expensive costs per post and you could end up misleading your target audience. So, again,for smaller businesses, you need to choose these relationships wisely.


An Influencer Has Been in Touch About Collaborating on Social Media, What do I do?

If someone has contacted you on social media asking if they can collaborate and try out some of your products, then first thing’s first – check their profile out!

If they don’t have a significant following or you can’t see that they’ve posted about other products or brands they’ve used, they’re probably not worth investing time or money in if you are interested in going down that route.

So, with that being said, what should you look out for when partnering up with a social media influencer? Here’s a checklist to make sure it works:

  • They have at least 1,000 followers. If you’re a small brand, working with micro-influencers and building your way up is a smart move to make!
  • They post regular content. The more regularly they post, the more likely they are to have an active, engaged audience.
  • They’ve tagged brands on other promotional posts. Tags are important, as this will lead their followers to your page and increase the chances of you getting new followers.
  • Find out if they want to do paid or free promotional content before you agree to anything! The last thing you want is to send your products for them to test out only for them to come back charging £2,000 for a post.

Although social media influencers seem to be everywhere you turn at the moment, it looks like they’re set to stay as more brands turn to these as a cheaper alternative to implementing brand ambassadors.

However, some would argue that the long-term benefits, such as brand loyalty and extended brand exposure, of using brand ambassadors outweigh the costs of the short-term influence that social media stars provide for your brand, as you could end up spending thousands of pounds to only receive a small return on investment.

So, with that said, it’s important to recognise the size of your brand and the objectives you want to reach in order to determine whether a social media influencer of brand ambassador would be better for your brand.


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