When I started Schmooz, I defined what we did as a social media marketing. In the time between 2014 and now, I realized that the social media piece is just the tool that we use to start meaningful conversations and build communities with our clients. For Schmooz and for myself, social marketing is about actually being social, we just happen to often use social media tools. By being truly social – that is not creating only conversion-centric/ sales and promotional content – and by creating social value beyond what you’re selling, you can get great marketing (and other) outcomes for your business.
Influencers and ambassadors are often something that our clients think they want to have (whether rightly or wrongly) as part of their social media marketing mix. While I think that creating influencer or ambassador programs are extremely valuable options, I want to take a moment to break it down without the trendy jargon so that you can think about if this should be part of your social marketing strategy or not.
What’s the difference between an influencer and a brand ambassador?
An influencer is usually an individual who is paid to post on their own social media pages on your behalf or in collaboration with your brand. Influencer posts will be highly curated and preplanned. These posts or ad campaigns have specific content, hashtags, keywords and influencers will often either be paid through a traditional contract or there will be an affiliate program created so that the influencer can collect money every time a product or services purchased as the result of their work.
An ambassador or a brand ambassador is typically defined as somebody who is a little bit more organic than an influencer. They are usually an existing happy customer and they are going to be doing tasks that are more similar to what you might be doing with your marketing team. Those tasks could include liking, commenting, or sharing a post that you've written or perhaps being quoted in a blog feature. A brand ambassador program is like a testimonial taken to the next level because there has to be more to it than them simply submitting a piece of content saying how great they think you are. An ambassador speaks to how a company – your company – fits into their day-to-day life and how that company matches their values.
How do you want your company to be perceived – in real life and on social media?
Here's where things get interesting. My advice, whether it's an influencer or an ambassador, would be to make sure that you understand what that brand or individual ambassador or influencer is already posting and aligning themselves with before you work with them. Take a holistic look at who that person and brand is and make sure you know that you're associating yourself with that person and/or brand. Each one of these decisions needs to be strategic and serve your business with more than just page likes or clicks to the website.
Let's say that you are a fairly liberal person and brand. Your company is a wedding cake bakery in the U.S. As a brand, one of your core values is that you wish to treat all people equally. You sell your cakes to everyone – moreover, you believe in same sex marriage. An influencer you are considering working with has a great following and is respected in the wedding industry. They are also a brand ambassador or influencer for a Chick-fil-A, a brand that has been publicly anti-LGBTQ in the past. Should you work with them?
With social marketing, my decisions are strategic, professional and socially responsible. I like to make my final decisions about who I’m collaborating with while pretending that the campaign is unsuccessful in terms of traditional return on investment (ROI). In other words, will I still be happy to have affiliated myself with that influencer or brand ambassador regardless of outcome? Need help with this? Ask yourself: “would I want posts about me next to a post about Chick-fil-A? Would I go to a party and proudly stand next to this person I’m collaborating with?
Companies that stand the test of time measure retention and referrals!
Whether you work with Schmooz or another marketing agency or handle this internally, I want you to think about more than the clicks and the KPIs and the potential revenue generated; I want you to also think about the legacy you're creating and the brands, partnerships and relationships that you will be proud of. Many of the successful companies we’ve worked with are looking for customer and employee retention and meaningful referrals from the content they are creating, whether that content is original or in collaboration.
If you want to be a company that stands the test of time, it is more likely that your customers and your community will be more loyal to you because you're truthful about what you stand for and you are willing to put a stake in the ground around that because of who you work with and also because of who you don't work with
So call it whatever you wanna call it, but in this next decade, let's measure more than the traditional markers of success on social media and let's think about what a legacy and a long term success plan looks like for you and your business!
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