Advocates are more important than influencers

August 18, 2009

For some time I have been arguing that what brands need is advocates not influencers.  Somehow this meme has recently gathered steam in the marketing discussion (see great post here from Jeremy Epstein – influencers vs. fans)

I don’t think fans is quite the right word for what brands or movements need, what they need is advocates.  Advocates are different than fans because they will do something.  They will recommend you to a friend, they will tell someone else to buy your car.  They are taking positive action.   Moreover, they don’t do this because they are “influential” or because they are being paid by the post or enticed to write nice things b/c they are getting free stuff.  They are telling their friends (online and off) to do something, because they believe.

I have studied Brand Advocacy in some detail and I am confident in saying that increasing levels of advocacy (online and off) are correlated to increasing sales or share.  We have studied this in automotive, food, cellular, spirits and other markets with some variability (how much of the change in share or sales are explained by the change in advocacy; time lag) but always with a strong positive correlation.

When we work with brands, key questions are how many advocates do you have (compared to your competition) is the number increasing or decreasing and why?  Also, we examine what your advocates love about you most, and figure out how to leverage these things to grow advocacy.

Contrast this approach with Influencer marketing.  With adovocacy research and marketing we are trying to discover why your authentic brand fans love y0u most and how to make more advocates.  With influencer marketing you are trying to find those few people who will influence lots of other to do something.   Now like most things this works great if you get the right influencer, on the right topic.  Clearly Oprah Winfrey recommending a book to her audience is a guarantee of a NYT best seller.  Every other influencer works less well than that.

The other day I had a tweet with Guy Kawasaki about this very subject.  Guy has somehow Corvettewrangled a Corvette from GM to drive and tweet about as an “influencer”.  I respect Guy for lots of things, but is opinion is irrelevant to me as a car guy.   (Though Guy did confirm that it is fun for him!)  This is but one of many, many influencer strategies being deployed by big companies, and some of them will work.  But to me it feels more like Viral Marketing than anything else.  Rather than engaging your REAL brand users on the level of their personal brand experience, you are looking for a few influencers who will tell the rest of us sheep what to do.

What if instead of giving Guy (and I’m assuming a bunch of other “influencers”) a Corvette GM spent the resources engaging with the people over at the non-GM owned Corvette Forums which has 30 million posts from some 223,000 members?  Those are the Corvette advocates, and the care and feeding of the Corvette advocates (even if they aren’t famous) should be the #1 job of the Corvette PR and Marketing teams.




But can we measure it?

December 12, 2007

An excellent post on web metrics from Avinash K over at Occam’s Razor. True to the title of his blog, one of his key arguments is to strive for a simple, understandable and powerful metric. (Take the simplest explanation that fits the facts!) The post is rather long – but well worth the read.

Of course measurement is a huge deal, and there is a land grab on to define measurement of marketing effectiveness on the web. I think it is unlikely that there will be a single measure that will work for everyone, but we are focused on a measure (Online Promoter Score) grounded in online conversations and tied to real-world results.

Taking a look at Avinash’s criteria, I think we can tick the box on all four.

  • Simple (well, he said uncomplex)
  • Relevant
  • Timely
  • Instantly Useful

I will post more about this soon.


Social Media Measurement & ROI

November 16, 2007

This is a big and popular topic, and having just read a few posts about it – Patrick Schaber over at the Lonely Marketer and Francois at Emergence Marketing motivated me to put up my own post about it.

Of course Social Media is a huge space, so I am focused on what we (MotiveQuest) do around here – which is listen. (We collect millions of topic-specific consumer conversations from blogs, forums and newsgroups and then analyze them to develop an understanding of the core human motivations & drivers and competitive dynamics within a category. Results used for branding, communication, product development and issue management)

Anyway, in conjunction with Northwestern University, MotiveQuest has been developing something called the Online Promoter Score. This is a measure of the frequency and willingness of consumers to advocate strongly for and recommend your brand or product.

Strong Predictive Relationship to Sales

MotiveQuest worked with MINI and their agency BSSP to measure the impact of online promoters to sales. The analysis covered 16 months of data from January 2006 through April of 2007. The graph to the right shows the correlation the monthly change in online promoters for the previous month versus the change in sales. For example the point in the upper right is MINI’s monthly change in sales from April to May 2006 and the change in online promoters from March to April 2006. Statistical analysis gives 99.8% confidence that the metrics are positively correlated.


So, if your marketing activities (social media and otherwise) can drive your online promoter score – then we have ROI!


Tom O’Brien

How Online Communities Work

November 15, 2007

Just read this – a goodbye post from the longtime owner/operaters of Rennlist – a web board for Porsche owners:

I want to start this announcement with this personal comment.

Jen and I simply want to thank our Moderators, Sponsors and Rennlist Members for nearly eleven years of support, trust and confidence. Without all of you – each and every one of you- Rennlist would be an empty shell of what “might have been”. But rather, you entrusted Jen and I – for the ten plus years to do what is best for the site, its Members, its Sponsors. That trust has not been taken lightly nor misplaced. Jen and I honor it. At the same time, it is our responsibility to take Rennlist beyond both Jen and me – our capabilities both combined and individually. That has always been our charter since May of 1998. And most, if not all of you, know that to be true. And that’s what this announcement is all about. We physically, monetarily and time wise – cannot take it to the “next level” which this site deserves. Jen & I, in short – are “out of gas”: We have no more “We Need More Power, Captain!” overdrives left (I always chuckle when I read that post of yours, Randy V.!! ).

Today, was acquired by Internet Brands, Inc.. Internet Brands owns and operates many of the most pervasive on-line automotive enthusiast communities found on the Internet today. They include sites such as,,,, etc.

Jen and I are excited about what this means in the long-term of Rennlist. This acquisition will result in the ability to invest more in servers, software, programs and features than we could ever accomplish on our own. These technology improvements will also result in additional content in both the short and longer term, and of course, Jen & I will continue to play an active role in the community and in the direction and growth of this site.

In retrospect, the growth of Rennlist since Jen and I started in May of 1998 has never ceased to amaze us (perhaps even “daunt us”?). Jen and I credit that growth to our Moderators, Members, Sponsors and supporters. What started as a simple e-mail list server has grown into a thriving International community interacting both online and off. We have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Charities worldwide. We have shared the loss when its members have passed away. People have met on Rennlist – married – and started their own families. Folks regularly get together, meet, drive and gather throughout the world under the moniker. In short, we have laughed together, mourned together – and accomplished things in ten years that most on-line communities can’t even imagine, nor will they ever experience.

But you have, too – shared those same experiences with us – simply through being a part of this community. And sure – this community has changed. A few may remember the “good old days” with a smile – the Flamers list, PorscheList and that transition, the infamous “Tuner Wars” – and many thought this community couldn’t/wouldn’t survive those evolutions. But we did. And every single one has been wrought with equal amounts of uncertainty and conviction that we needed that change to positively affect this community. And every single time – this site and community grew, matured and improved.

This, too – is “one of those transitions”. And someday -today will be the “good old days” as well. And as well, this “transition” will positively impact both this community and this site we call “Rennlist”.

As for my favorite sayings: “that’s all there is – there is no more” and “it is time”. Both are appropriate. Internet Brands, can – and will take Rennlist further then Jen, I and even you, reading this right now – could ever imagine. They have earned Jen’s and my confidence. We are certain they will earn yours as well.

My Sincerest thanks and;

My Best Always,

John D.

I Get Questions (Influencers)

November 15, 2007

At a big presentation yesterday, I had someone kind of badgering me on one (commonly asked) question. Who are these crazy people online? Do they really represent my consumers? The exact words were more like:

“well, you can’t extrapolate from what these highly involved consumers say and do to all of our consumers”

Two points. First, what people talk about online is the same as what they talk about offline. Questions about HDTV are the same online and off. Not everyone will go online to ask them, but the questions are the same. Second, we think there is a new influence model that looks like this:


With this model, the offline world may not be talking about the same thing as the online world at a given point in time – but they will – just a matter of time.

Key point here? The influence model starts at the top – with the online mavens. Listening to them will give you a running start over your competition.

You can pretend that these people talking online aren’t your customers – but ignore them at your peril.