In community marketing, you need to find what works for your brand. Let’s begin by reviewing the definitions, differences, and commonalities between advocate programs and ambassador programs.
An advocate is your super fan. Any person who takes action to support or advocate for your brand.
An ambassador is the super fan who loves your brand so much,that they decided to turn it into a side hustle to earn cash when they sell or refer.
Find more on the definition of these two in this article here.
Next, we'll dive into the overlapping similarities between advocate and ambassador programs and the unique differentiators.
Exclusive to Advocate Programs
Can be better for companies with frequent product drops.
Advocates are incentivized for short-term participation because they are primarily earning product credit instead of cash.
Better for companies with a higher price point (because Advocates want to find other ways to attain the product without spending money)
Better for companies with a simpler product (because Advocates are less bought-in than Ambassadors and the process to understand the product must not take too much time)
Requires less intensive community support than Ambassador programs.
Common to BOTH Advocate & Ambassador Programs
Both guide the passion of the superfan to take action, get rewards, and achieve the company’s goals with them.
Both need established goals for what the program will do for the company
Both require thoughtful design and support
Both require a strong social impact or sustainable message from the brand
Both can leverage tools like referral programs, affiliate programs, or loyalty programs
Exclusive to Ambassador Programs
Ambassadors are incentivized to engage with the company long-term due to the potential for earnings
Better for companies with a consistent, diversified product line with seasonal product drops (so that they can create repeat customers in their community).
Better for companies with a diverse range of price points (so they can offer value to their community by operating as a guide on the product journey for their customers)
Better for companies with a complex product that might require story-telling.
Over time, requires higher levels of community support.
There are a few strategic questions you can ask to help understand which program is a better fit for you.
Question #1: What do you want this program to accomplish for your company?
You can find the six core outcomes of an ambassador or advocate program here. Regardless of the program you choose, every outcome is accomplished to some extent as a byproduct of your efforts. But it’s important you choose which 1-2 outcomes are your top priorities. Next, we explore which outcomes each program lends itself to. (You’ll notice “increase sales” and “attain market research” are not listed in either since both are equal byproducts of each type of program.)
Outcomes for Advocate Programs
Acquire new customers
Gather user-generated content
Outcomes for Ambassador Programs
Engage repeat customers
Create Community and Loyalty
Question #2: What actions can a superfan take that would help achieve your core outcome?
Depending on which route a brand chooses, there are different approved actions that lend themselves to each type of program. An approved action is any action you have determined the superfan could take that would achieve the goal identified above.
Approved actions for Advocates
Host an event
Share on social media about the product or experience
Share images or testimonials with the company about the product or experience
Send the company feedback on what you want to see next.
Approved actions for Ambassadors
Host multiple events on an ongoing basis
Create a social page or account to routinely share your experience and updates about the product or company
Test out new products for the company and send us your feedback.
Invite a friend to join with you as an Ambassador
Question #3: What are you willing to give in order to incentivize your superfan to take those actions?
There’s the question, "what you’re willing to give?" and then there's the question, "what your team is able to support?" Both programs are investments in your customers and will require growing support over time. But the good news is you don’t have to rush to support something that doesn’t exist yet. Allow your program to grow over time and support accordingly as you see results. Here are the distinct incentives for each program.
Incentives for Advocates: Product and Non-financial
Exclusive access to product
Early access to products
Limited Edition product
Community & Connection
Social media spotlights
Incentives for Ambassadors: Product, Non-financial, and Cash
All advocate incentives +
Cash commission on sales
Bonuses for achieving challenges
Optional: commission on team sales and/or growth
We hope this article provides a little more direction on which type of program might be a good fit for where your brand is at today! Should you want to riff and dream with us (because every program is unique as the brand implementing it), don't hesitate to drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a call.
Photo Credit: Vonecia Carswell
About the Author
Bri Leever is Chief Community Architect at Ember, a splasher of water, and lover of books doing life in an ever-changing migration pattern ✈️