The Evolution of Influencer Marketing and the Rise of Advocates

If you have an Instagram account, most likely you have heard the term ‘influencer.’ It’s being used everywhere right now, and rightfully so, with studies that show a successful influencer campaign can generate 16x higher ROI than the average digital marketing campaign and 11x better return than a traditional banner ad campaign (report from Nielsen Catalina Solutions). As with any marketing trend, the more companies that utilize the same strategy, the more the industry matures. However, there have been few marketing revolutions that have exploded as quickly as “Influencer Marketing.”

Let’s take a look back at the rise of the influencer.

2007: Twitter and Facebook were the place to be.

If you were a celebrity, had a high-profile job or were extremely attractive or funny, you typically accrued a large following on one of these platforms. But few companies were engaging with these people online…most product placements you did see were organic and unpaid.

2010: Instagram changed the game.

The ability to quickly scan photos from friends was revolutionary. At the same time, personal bloggers began realizing the influence they had on an audience of their peers. These were the training wheels for social media advertising, and a new age of marketing was emerging.

2013: Facebook became a marketer’s dream.

They were now fully supporting ads from companies and it become the best place to use your money online.


But unlike Facebook, Instagram enabled people to chronologically showcase their niche passions, talents and lives to the rest of the world. Consuming this content was visually appealing, fun and most all… personal. We never had so much insight into someone else’s life “behind the scenes”. It was addicting.

And as you would imagine, celebrities hogged the spotlight. They took their private lives to Instagram and immediately garnered huge followings. Once companies realized their online distribution power was equivalent to a small tv network they quickly started teaming up with them.

2016: Viral content had become King.


By 2014, the short video platform, Vine, enabled a new viral sensation of content to emerge. People who were relatively no-names started to gain hundreds of thousands of followers because they were able to quickly create super engaging content.

These people become known as Social Media Influencers, and they took their fame to other platforms. At the same time, brands were struggling to meet the demand of content by consumers and they desperately tried to hack their way through the never-ending world of social media content absorption.

Instagram continued doing its thing (eclipsed 100M users), and had created their own version of social media influencers centered around beauty, fashion, fitness and food. And as you can imagine, companies took to these people more so than ever. They engaged in quick promotions with Influencers for product placement in their photos and videos. After all, how the heck were they supposed to constantly be cranking out original pieces of content day-in and day-out for every single one of their social media platforms? As someone who once did this, trust me when I say it’s exhausting.

By 2016, influencer-promotions became the norm, and there was little strategy on behalf of brands to make sure the people they worked with actually cared about their product. Content was content. And for most, as long as they could tell their boss how many impressions and likes they helped get, they were safe.

2017: Influencer marketing hangs by a thread of authenticity.

With the influx of influencer marketing campaigns targeting products from diapers to yachts, there are few companies that aren’t working with influencers. And despite all the empty celebrity and influencer endorsements, people still do trust recommendations online…they just have to be selective where they look.

I love this post below. Not only do I personally know that Ashley (@dtkaustin on Instagram) only works with brands she truly likes, but she produces quality content. The value she brings to the table for a brand is undeniable…I mean, just look at her caption. Right away you can tell she’s honest and relatable, and as a marketer THAT IS GOLD!

Source: Instagram
83% of consumers placed the most trust in the recommendations of friends and family. Furthermore, 66% trusted the opinions of consumers they found online. — Report by Nielsen Catalina Solutions

It’s no wonder smaller, more relatable influencers have emerged as the popular, trusted voice. How do they do it? Well, like Ashley, they typically only work with brands they like, or, are advocates for. The day you see a popular carpenter with 40K followers promoting a teeth-whitener is the day he would lose a lot of credibility…and business. The same goes for a sustainable fashion influencer who promotes a brand that is known for cheap labor and poor quality.

Seems obvious, right? But a lot of companies still miss the point on why it really matters to use advocates and not big-time influencers. Authenticity sells.

With just a 12% increase in advocacy, on average, companies can experience a 2X growth in revenue — Report in the Harvard Business School Press.

This is the age of Advocate Marketing — not influencer marketing.

There’s a sense of accountability that these smaller advocates have that is extremely valuable. Someone who takes great pride in the brands that they work with will ensure that the quality of content they create is authentic, engaging and relevant to its followers → the perfect recipe for conversions.

AdMass has pioneered Advocate Marketing by leveraging proprietary algorithms to identify advocates for any brand on any platform.

It’s not just semantics — it’s using the data that is already out there to be more strategic about the influencers a brand partners with. The AdMass vision is to build a community of people who become true Brand Advocates for companies they believe in.

Authenticity, not convenience. This thinking is exactly what’s built into our products.

If you are a brand and agree that building partnerships is more important than pushing views, drop me a note here and let’s setup some time to talk.