Separating The Difference Between Influencers & Evangelists.

Twitter question: Influencers the same as evangelists?

This question was first posed today on Twitter by Joann Peach during the Future of Influence Summit in San Francisco. Several people responded to her inquiry and here’s my take on it: no. I don’t think that influencers are the same as people you would consider to be champions or enthusiasts. Rather, let’s think of the latter as evangelists.

So why aren’t influencers the same as evangelists? It’s because of their bias. For those who you think influence your decisions, they are not bias as to whether or not they actually want you to purchase or use the product or be a supporter of the brand. An influencer that I’d think would fit this mold would be someone like Jeremiah Owyang – when he was an analyst at Forrester Research, he offered his input and data regarding social media, startups and other web-related technology and the results were probably good enough to sway someone’s decision – whether positively or negatively lies with the end user (you).

With respect to the evangelist, these can be both internal or external individuals who has a deep passion towards helping the brand and product succeed. These individuals already have a committed bias towards whether they would use the product. They’re advocates for why you should be using the product/service. In this scenario, I would suggest that Robert Scoble would fit the bill since he’s actively building out his new Building 43 startup with his company Rackspace. Or, it would be Dave Mathews for his evangelism work with PeopleBrowsr.

Overall, I think that these two facets of promotions are truly different and separate. The influencer is probably someone who is a valid “trust agent” and I’m a bit hard-pressed to believe that it could be someone within the company, but it’s not impossible. It would be more plausible to have a third-party individual who reviews your product, is an industry leader, or someone else who understands the profession that is well-respected within the community.

An evangelist, champion or enthusiast has more believability of someone within the company rather than an independent third-party. This person could be a marketer or someone in public relations or even sales or product development who is working with the company to make the product more “likeable”.

Granted, some people may think that this role is probably also more for non-company individuals, but I think the one discernible difference between these two role types is the consumer’s understanding of who would portray those roles. These are two great roles and each has a part in the marketing and decision making process, but the people acting in these situations can vary based on circumstances. I suppose that overall, it’s basically part of the entire cycle of marketing.

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3 responses to “Separating The Difference Between Influencers & Evangelists.”

  1. gravity7 Avatar

    Ken,

    You can also use the indiividual's audience, as well as position, to distinguish between different kinds of influencers and evangelists. These obviously aren't descriptions of people (a person has influence among certain audience about something — but isn't just an all around influential type of person in all aspects, and isn't a person who wakes up thinking about influencing people). If we view influence as something measured by impact w/in the individual's audience, we shift from attributing influence to the acts of the influencer over to the responses of the audience. Which seems more accurate, since we know that influence is contingent on audience response (and influencers lose influence as soon as their audience walks away).

    By defining it as a relation between the influencer or evangelist and the audience, we can now see more clearly that it's engagement strategies and tactics, ways of sharing, communicating, recommending, and interacting that may qualify differences between influencers and evangelists (and really, these should be subdivided into core activities probably so that we dont think of them as people archetypes. Evangelists may have deep passion for a brand, but if they don't interact with an audience that shares this passion and which views the evangelist either as an expert, a popular person, a news maker, etc, then the evangelist has no tribe…)

    Marketers like the influencer – aspirational relationship as one that can make buzz, for example. But there are others — that involve viral sharing, or expert recommendations, etc. You know where i would go with that: social dynamics and kinds of populations and interactions that might be good for a brand.

    cheers
    adrian

    1. Ken Yeung Avatar

      Adrian –

      Great points and thanks for your comments on this subject.

      I think that it's a great idea to look at the audience based on the individual. If I'm understanding you, you're suggesting that the difference between an influencer and an evangelist is the audience associated with each role?

      There are definitely other factors that differentiate between these two sides besides just simply the fact of bias. The amount of engagement, the tactics, the sharing, communicating, etc all play a factor in the whole scheme of things.

      However, I disagree with you on the fact that marketers like influencers. These are the guys that would like both the influencer and the evangelist/champion. The latter will definitely be in favor of the product – making the marketer's work a success and them being happy. The influencer is a wild card but if they are doing a good job at marketing the product, then it can work in favor of the marketer. Perhaps this is also a wild card for those in PR?

  2. Ken Yeung Avatar

    Adrian –

    Great points and thanks for your comments on this subject.

    I think that it's a great idea to look at the audience based on the individual. If I'm understanding you, you're suggesting that the difference between an influencer and an evangelist is the audience associated with each role?

    There are definitely other factors that differentiate between these two sides besides just simply the fact of bias. The amount of engagement, the tactics, the sharing, communicating, etc all play a factor in the whole scheme of things.

    However, I disagree with you on the fact that marketers like influencers. These are the guys that would like both the influencer and the evangelist/champion. The latter will definitely be in favor of the product – making the marketer's work a success and them being happy. The influencer is a wild card but if they are doing a good job at marketing the product, then it can work in favor of the marketer. Perhaps this is also a wild card for those in PR?

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