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Can Employees Really Match Paid Influencers?

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming an indispensable tactic in social media marketing. Paid influencers can indeed bring in quick results, as they have a ready following that is very receptive of what they say or “like” in the digital and social media world.  Just Google the Kardashians’ earnings from such endorsements alone; that’ll show you the potential of influencer marketing.

However, social media has given rise to another front for brand promotion. These are advocate marketers. These are regular people, like you and me, who love the brand and are constantly engaged with it. These advocates may not individually have millions of followers, but together they can be quite a formidable force. They can include satisfied customers, employees and business partners. Their collective following is more often than not, more effective than that of a single influencer.

So how do these two marketing approaches match up to each other? We’re going to weigh them against each other to see which one trumps the other.


Paid influencers are paid to endorse a brand or product that they may, or may not be familiar with. As such, their passion for the brand is manufactured and very limited.  A written contract is the only way of getting them to fulfill their part of the bargain.

Employee advocates, on the other hand, have a passion for what they are endorsing. For engaged employees, the brand is not just their livelihood but also their joy. When it succeeds, they become part of the success, hence their genuine passion.


Paid influencers have big followings, and will usually know and collaborate with other influencers. Their endorsement can give the brand more visibility in a relatively short time. The problem is that this following is not very connected to them.  The followers know that the influencer’s endorsements are advertisements in another form, so they will always be skeptical.

Employee advocates have smaller followings but these followings are more connected and engaged.  Friends and relatives are more likely to believe what they say about a certain product than they would if they heard it from an influencer.  In the long run, the collective network of employee brand ambassadors gives the brand slow, but ever expanding visibility.


Gaining access to an influencer can be quite a challenge. Technorati reports that influencers get solicited 10 times a week on average.  In addition to asking huge endorsement fees, exclusive favors are a norm when it comes to hiring an influencer. They will also have no reason to continue endorsing the brand after the contract is over.

Employee advocates will willingly spread the word about the brand in the course of daily interactions with family and friends. They have a stake in the brand and will keep playing brand ambassadors as long as they are in the company, making advocate marketing a more sustainable approach.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for quick, attention-grabbing results, then you’re probably going to be better off hiring an influencer. But, if more sustained visibility and awareness on social media are what you’re looking for then there’s no need to go elsewhere; your employees have you covered.

Nurturing a healthy implementation of employee advocacy can help your brand achieve several goals, including gaining more traffic, leads and even bettering your work culture and employee engagement levels.


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