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Influencers vs. Ambassadors. Which is right for your campaign?

John Entwistle
Oct, 2017
5 mins

It’s no secret that many outdoor companies are leaning on influencers and ambassadors to spread their brand message to broader ranges of individuals. Understanding the differences and nuances of ambassadors and influencers can be an important factor of achieving your campaign goals.

The technique of tapping into brand ambassadors has been around for years as professional athletes, celebrities, and fictional characters have long represented brands. Think: Michael Jordan and Nike, Shaun White and Burton, or even Tony the Tiger and Frosted Flakes - these personas have grown with the brand, and allowed the brand they represent to increase brand recognition and awareness.

There has recently been a shift where brands are no longer the only ones with the power and influence to convey their messages through media channels. With the rise of social media, we have put the power in the hands of the individual. There is a whole new wave of people, personalities, and characters who are now armed with the channels that our brands want to tap into. These individuals have networks that extend far beyond the typical reach of our brands, and can be extremely beneficial if used properly.

Influencer vs. Ambassador

In order to go about finding the right influencer for your campaign, it is important to understand the difference between influencers and ambassadors. Although both do serve similar purposes, and are often very similar people, there are some key differences that can make or break your marketing efforts utilizing these people.

Ambassadors are groups or individuals whose values align with those of your brand, and through a longer term relationship, you are able to grow your brand alongside theirs. They usually have some form of attachment to your product or brand, often helping to create, refine, or use it. An influencer, on the other hand, can be a group or an individual that possess some or all of the following characteristics:

  • They have their own defined and engaged audience

  • They have their own established channels that your brand could benefit from

  • They likely work with several other brands, possibly even competitors

  • They create their own content, but are also featured within their feeds

Finding the right ambassador for your brand

I am often asked “who are the best influencers on Instagram” - a question that is actually impossible to answer. It is impossible to answer this question without first evaluating your needs and campaign goals. Does your niche snowboard brand really want to run an awareness campaign with Selena Gomez’s 128 million followers? Some might say that she is the “best” influencer, as she has the most followers of any instagram user, but chances are that not even 1% of those followers are the people you want to reach - not to mention the amount you would have to pay to reach them. We have found huge value in working with very specialized influencers that are hyper-aligned with our clients’ brands and target geographies, and there definitely isn't a defined list who cover all of our requirements.

Three key questions to get to the most relevant influencers to your brand:

Will they connect you with the right people?

Because all social networks now offer follower analytics to business accounts, the access to follower demographics is now easier than ever before. These demographics can vary widely from influencer to influencer, and numbers on the surface can be misleading. A large number of followers might seem to be but when you actually dig into the numbers it is important to determine:

  • Are these based in the right locations

  • Is the age range of these followers appropriate for your brand?

Do they have high engagement with their followers?

It is fairly easy to quickly scroll through a prospective influencers feed to get a sense of the type of engagement they receive. In the world of hyper-growth, influencers are trying all forms of tactics to grow. This can include purchasing followers or likes and soliciting engagement in unethical or spam-like ways. It is important to understand if your influencer is speaking to a bunch of robots, or a group of humans who will be interested in your brand.

Do they produce a level of content that is representative of your brand?

Because influencers will be speaking on behalf of your brand through their own channels, you will want to make sure that they are capable of producing content that aligns with your brand’s vision. Quality photography and polished video may seem like easy things to come by these days, but when you have a true professional creating your content, you will notice the difference.

Running successful influencer campaigns

We have seen the most success in running influencer campaigns when you select the appropriate influencer based on the above criteria, combined with finding the right campaign fit.  Short, focused campaigns with specific objectives such as the following can be very effective when working with influencers:

  • Promoting a contest or short term promotion

  • Promoting an event

  • Promoting a new product

The most important thing to remember when engaging influencers and ambassadors, is that they are humans too. All relationships and agreements should be mutually beneficial, and you will both see great gains.


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Origin is a digital marketing agency for tourism or outdoor sports businesses. We offer a full range of creative services to improve your reach and branding.