How to Turn Influencers Into Brand Ambassadors

Mon Oct 07 2019
Jenn Kim
Industry

Getty Images / @martin-dm

For years, marketers have tapped influencers to reach new audiences, increase brand awareness, and boost conversions. But as the influencer marketing industry evolves, brands need to think about what’s next.

And despite what the media loves to exaggerate, the next chapter doesn’t include the “death of influencer marketing.”

Rather than cutting ties with influencers, companies like Paula’s Choice and DripDrop are actually strategizing ways to form deeper relationships with them and embracing them as part of the brand family. Why?

Influencers have strong relationships with their audiences (read: your consumers), who are excited to hear about and try new brands that influencers recommend. By forming long-term partnerships with influencers, you’re also building a relationship with their followers. That’s why many companies are going beyond one-off Instagram posts and instead turning their influencers into brand ambassadors — a true extension of the brand.

Today, we’ll go over the differences between a brand ambassador and an influencer, as well as ways your brand can work with them depending on your marketing goals and objectives.

First, let’s cover the basics.

What is a brand ambassador?

A brand ambassador is someone who is paid to not only talk positively about the brand but to embody the brand they are endorsing. Think Steph Curry and Under Armour, or Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger.

Brands always train their ambassadors on their products and services, as well as on their company mission and values. Because of this, ambassadors have inside knowledge and become true brand experts. Brands and their ambassadors always have long-term partnerships, which is why “brand ambassador” is such a coveted title.

What is an influencer?

Influencers are micro-celebrities who have the power to affect the perception and decision-making process of others. People become social media influencers by creating highly engaging content to establish their personal brands online, eventually amassing a loyal following of people who are interested in the same industry.

Influencers interact with their audiences on a daily basis, so they have a level of trust and authority given to them by their followers. That’s why influencers have such high engagement rates online.

Check out these Instagram influencers, for example. Under each influencer’s post, their followers compliment their content or ask for advice.

How are brand ambassadors and influencers different?

Although influencers and brand ambassadors are commonly grouped together, they have a few subtle differences.

    1. Number of followers: Brand ambassadors can range from celebrities to “regular” people. In other words, they don’t necessarily have to be famous or have huge followings. For example, many brands hire “regular” college students to be brand ambassadors to reach the college-age demographic. It’s more important for ambassadors to be big fans of the brand and represent the values of the company.

    On the other hand, influencers typically have many devoted followers who share similar interests. And while there is no “magic number” that deems someone an influencer, influencers have the kind of large reach that many brands are looking for.

    2. Payment: Brands pay ambassadors a flat payment for their long-term partnership, while they typically pay influencers based on their ability to impact their followers’ choices. This is because influencers have different standards that determine their level of influence, such as engagement rates.

    3. Quality of content: It’s not a given that every brand ambassador will know how to create high-quality content. The content that ambassadors create is usually similar to user-generated content (UGC), meaning it is highly organic and authentic but a little unpredictable when it comes to quality.

    Meanwhile, influencers are experienced photographers, videographers, models, editors, or creative directors all rolled up in one package. They always deliver eye-catching, highly engaging, relatable, yet aspirational content. Influencer-generated content (IGC) is so powerful that social campaigns that incorporate influencer-generated content see a 50% lift in engagement.

UGC vs. IGC

For more information on the differences between brand ambassadors and influencers, check out our blog post, Affiliates, Ambassadors, & Influencers: Another Important Distinction.

How can influencers and brand ambassadors work with your brand?

Working with brand ambassadors

Building a strong community of ambassadors will work in favor of brands looking to highlight the experiential interactions between their customers and the product. Since brand ambassadors embody the companies they partner with, they are great at implementing their products into their lives and telling brands’ stories through their everyday lifestyle. Creating a tight-knit community of ambassadors is also useful when launching a new product, seeking feedback, or educating your target audience.

One brand with an exemplary brand ambassador program is Lululemon. A spokesperson for the brand explained that its ambassadors are chosen because they reflect the company’s culture and share its core values. That being said, Lululemon selects elite athletes and fitness instructors to be its brand ambassadors. The ambassadors not only wear and promote the brand’s activewear, but also teach classes and share their industry knowledge in stores.

Working with influencers

Brands should work with influencers when they want to have a presence in multiple markets and reach a variety of audiences.

For example, Sprint collaborated with well-known influencers who could naturally embody the appearance and lifestyle of #LiveUnlimited, its influencer marketing campaign encouraging people to be fully themselves. The company wanted the campaign to have widespread reach, so it tapped well-known influencers across a variety of industries. Because each influencer is popular among millennials and Gen Z, Sprint was able to gain the attention of a massive young audience.

But of course, a big following isn’t everything. Micro-influencers, or creators with under 150k followers, typically achieve even higher engagement for a lower cost per action due to their knowledge about some specialty niche. If you have goals around reaching a very specific market, work with micro-influencers.

Turning influencers into brand ambassadors

Now that marketers have realized the true power of influencers, they are looking to form deeper, long-term relationships with those who have performed repeatedly well. Several brands have initiated this by offering influencers ambassadorship after working with them multiple times.

Here are just a few of the benefits of turning influencers into brand ambassadors:

  • • The partnership will seem much more genuine from the consumer’s perspective. As brand ambassadors, influencers will likely post about the brand even without being asked to. And when a consumer sees an influencer post about a brand multiple times — especially without it being a #sponsored post — it seems much more authentic.
  • • Brands have access to an unlimited content machine. With a strong brand ambassador program made up of influencers, you can even produce eye-catching flatlays and product-only shots.
  • •There are opportunities to run more meaningful campaigns. From in-store meetups and master classes to influencer-branded product collaborations, the possibilities are endless when you turn influencers into brand ambassadors.


Are you ready to take your influencer program to the next level? Schedule a time to strategize with one of our experts.

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