Guest post by Justin Goldsborough
Remember that Johnny Dakota “Saved by the Bell” episode? You know, the one that taught us “There’s no hope with dope.”
Thanks, NBC. The more you know…
There’s another lesson that can be learned from that episode and it has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with marketing communications.
Zack, Kelly and the gang all wanted to hang and be seen with Johnny because he was a movie star. Your standard case of being cool by association.
But what they found out and tried to teach a nation of Saturday morning tween viewers was that, in the end, sticking together with the friends they’d had for years – yes, even Screech – was pretty cool in its own right.
So wipe away the teeny bop cheese that was a requirement for a show like SBTB in the early 90s and what are we left with? A microcosm example of influencers vs ambassadors and the value each can provide to your reputation – or in this case, your client’s reputation.
In a recent #pr20chat, we asked a question about the difference between influencers and ambassadors and one thing became very clear. Ten different people defined the terms in 10 different ways. So let me start by providing definitions for both and then I’ll get back to Zack.
Influencers are people who can influence the perception of your brand in the short term.
Think of the term “buzz.” These folks can generate it. They won’t be the same for each brand. And they won’t always be the same type of people. Might be media, bloggers, celebrities, social media mavens. Really, anyone who has developed a network that includes members of your target audience.
Oh, and one more thing. Influencers are often one-hit wonders. A positive article here. A supportive retweet there. And that’s it, until you pitch, engage, and potentially pay, them again.
Ambassadors provide support to your brand that is much more sustainable than what influencers bring to the table. Think raving fans.
Influencers can become ambassadors over time. For example, bloggers that your company works with consistently over several campaigns. But your best ambassadors don’t have to be influential in the way we define it in the online space – by the numbers. They just have to be passionate about your brand.
Remember, 93 percent of word of mouth still takes place offline. And your ambassadors’ allegiance often shows up in those conversations. Most importantly, it doesn’t just show up once, but consistently, over time.
So now, back to Zack.
If you haven’t guessed already, Johnny Dakota represents the influencer. He was the celebrity that was going to give Kelly, Slater, Screech and the gang a sudden boost in popularity. But that boost didn’t last long, in this case because Johnny got caught doing drugs.
Still, even if his character had been clean, he would only have been around an episode or two and then the reputation boost would’ve left with him.
It was the show’s core group of friends who were actually ambassadors for each other throughout middle school, high school and the college years. Well, maybe not the college years, because those episodes were awful.
But you get my point – Zack and team had a loyalty for each other on the show that wasn’t for an episode here or there, but for the entire run of the series.
Brands need both influencers and ambassadors to drive sales and perception. The keys are:
- To find the right balance between the two groups
- To make sure the company doesn’t ignore brand ambassadors because they don’t have huge social media numbers
- To have a strategy for moving some of your influencers over to the ambassadors side
It may seem like semantics, but way too many brands are focused solely on influencers these days. They ignore their most passionate brand fans because they really want a story in the New York Times or a tweet from someone with several thousand followers.
It’s not unlike the companies who focus solely on adding new business and forget to pay enough attention to the customers they already have. Your current customers are already fans and they’re ready to advocate for you. For more than a day or a week. It’s our job to make sure our clients don’t forget that.
Even if we have to pull out a corny Saved by the Bell episode to do so.
Image: Sam Howzit via Flickr, CC 2.0
Justin Goldsborough specializes in digital strategy and education at Fleishman-Hillard, Kansas City, and is immediate past president of Kansas City IABC. Justin is a huge Bon Jovi fan and once won third place in a karaoke contest at Chicago’s John Barleycorn’s with a rousing rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer.” He’s also a diehard Kansas City Royals fan, so go easy when talking baseball.
[…] or your business, in the same way. That’s why people are going crazy trying to figure out who their “influencers” are and there’s so much poppycock around […]
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I loved the corny Saved by the Bell example! Your point is well made, and I agree that often times brands get so caught up with getting the attention of influencers that they completely forget to nurture and use the loyalty of their raving fans to their advantage.
I will echo @hackmanj by saying again, thought provocative post Justin, thank you!
I guess I have always been an ambassador, I think about the advocacy I’ve done for companies that listened to and took care of their users. One thing I find very interesting is an ambassador is the result of great loyalty engagement which is something many companies seem to forget. I’ve been mindful of new ways and approaches to build loyalty since catching caroljsroth loyalty 2.0 talk at Sobcon. I guess you could say I am an ambassador for both now.
This also plays into personality types, I believe that I am a better ambassador more than influencer because of my personality type. It makes sense for companies to utilize both opportunities.
Thought provocative post Justin, well done.
@hackmanjcaroljsroth Thanks, Joe. Thought provoking comment as well. Sustainability is absolutely the advantage to engaging ambassadors. We get caught up in follower and traffic numbers and don’t think about the long-term picture enough, IMO. Cheers!
Justin, I appreciate the perspective you put on the power of influence, with the added potential from ambassadors. You’re right, there’s more staying power from the core supporters than from something like a celebrity endorsement for a couple of weeks. Even though it doesn’t hurt to add a big name to a brochure, it gets spread around by the ambassadors. I was a couple years too young for Saved by the Bell.
@ShakirahDawud We definitely need both influencers and ambassadors. But most companies don’t do much, if anything, on the ambassador level. They just stick to the same old buzz generating they’ve always done and call it something different because they do it through social media.
I think Saved by the Bell reruns are still playing on TBS :).
btw i’m too old saved by the bell was after my time. thanks for reminding me death is close =P
@HowieSPM Death is close to all of us. We start dying the minute we are born. How’s that for an uplifting thought to start your day? :p
Great post Justin. I think of influencers as the Ad.ly ads. They surely are not ambassadors like I am for chobani .
But you have a number wrong. Forget word of mouth. My estimates are 98%+ of all communication takes place privately (I might be understating) meaning off public social networks. This includes 2 way (Phone, email, in person, SMS etc) and one way (TV communicating with you, web surfing etc). Not sure this will ever change. 70% of all facebook profiles are 100% private even though there are ways around that. and for every Facebook status update there are 173 private SMS texts.
I bring this up because Henry Blodgett in the dot.com days did what we do on social nets. He pumped up stocks he knew sucked and wouldn’t make it in his public words. Then emails showed he lied and while he stated Business Insider he is barred for life from working in the markets.
This is why true Ambassadors are really important to cultivate. But so few brands or marketers no how. It really usually starts with product then on social having the right personality representing you.
Oh yes, I have noticed your loyalty to Chobani. You should charge, because you could make customer out of me pretty soon.
@HowieSPMchobani Good thoughts, skypulsemedia . Especially that last paragraph. I think that’s absolutely the problem…Most companies don’t know how to prioritize engaging with ambassadors and they aren’t sure how to do it. So they fall back to the same old influencer outreach they’ve always done. Kind of a shame that lazy so often wins out.
@JGoldsborough@HowieSPM I think the other thing organizations sometimes forget is that employees can be the best ambassadors, and help to cultivate external ones. So often communication plans are drawn up with a strong focus on external outreach, but the internal stuff is forgotten… or usually left to HR. Um… hello?