Ambassador Programs vs Influencer Programs – Which Model Makes Sense for Your Brand?

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If you’re new to the influencer marketing game, you may have heard the term “brand ambassador” and figured it was just a synonym for an influencer. Don’t worry—we’ve all been there. 

While influencers and brand ambassadors have some similarities, they also have some key differences that set them apart. 

So what makes an ambassador different from an influencer? And how do you know which is right for your brand? Let’s dive into these answers together. 

What is the difference between a brand ambassador and a brand influencer? 

It’s common for an ambassador program to include influencers or for an influencer program to include brand ambassadors. These terms—brand ambassador and influencer—are easy to confuse because there is some overlap between the two.

For example, both primarily use social media to create online communities of like-minded consumers. Additionally, each will take intentional steps to build a personal brand and grow their audience. And finally, both do what they do professionally, even though they may only partner with brands “on the side” or on top of their day job.

But there are also key differences. Some brands that have mastered long-term influencer relationships convert their influencer programs into ambassador programs. Brand ambassadors are distinct in the following ways:

  • Brand ambassadorships are long-term relationships exclusively.
  • Ambassadors are more inclined to partner with a relatively short list of brands.
  • They are members of a brand ambassador community.
  • While creative and appealing, they usually prioritize a certain kind of lifestyle over crowd-pleasing posts.

By contrast, influencers may embody some of the characteristics above but are different in the following ways:

  • Influencers nearly always have at least 1,000 followers on social media.
  • They prioritize creating compelling content for their audience.
  • Influencer-brand relationships may be short or long-term.
  • Influencer compensation is campaign-based and structured.

By looking at both groups more closely, you will begin to see how each is unique and why both are essential in today’s social media marketing landscape.

man holding a guitar

Pros of a brand ambassador program

As a general rule, brand ambassadors are more deeply connected with the brands they partner with than influencers. As such, they act as true customer advocates.

In general, brand ambassadors: 

  • Are committed brand fans. 
  • Form more personal connections with their audience than influencers.
  • Foster a greater sense of trust within their community. 

When a brand ambassador talks about your products, their fans will see their genuine love, which can spur action and encourage purchases. 

Cons of a brand ambassador program 

Developing a strong brand ambassador program can take some time and a lot of effort.

To start an ambassador program, you first need to identify which creators you want to work with. We recommend beginning with short-term partnerships to see who produces the best results and then developing long-term relationships with the top performers. 

Then, you must foster a sense of community for your team of ambassadors. To get the best results, they need to feel like a true member of your team. 

When is an ambassador program right for your brand? 

Ambassador marketing is ideal for niche markets and premium products and services. Because ambassadors exert more effort to become expert users of your products or services, they are in a better position to showcase your brand.

Additionally, these ambassadors naturally guide their followers toward ideal purchases for specific uses and problems. Audiences gain a better understanding of all the ways that a high-quality product or service can enhance their way of life.

Pros of a brand influencer program

Influencers are social media power users that are experts at creative, compelling content. While influencers are still industry-specific, they often appeal to broader audiences than brand ambassadors.

In general, influencers: 

  • Have at least 1,000 followers. 
  • Know how to create content that resonates with their audiences. 
  • Have experience working with brands to create content that doesn’t come across as salesy. 

Cons of a brand influencer program 

Compared to ambassador programs, influencer programs tend to be shorter and only last for a set amount of time.

While this can be great for certain needs, brands can miss out on the benefits of a long-term relationship, like better creative flow, more brand stability, and more opportunities for creator feedback, among other things. 

When is an influencer program right for your brand? 

If one of your main goals is to build brand awareness, an influencer program may be the way to go. Since influencers have such large followings, they can be a great medium for sharing your products with a lot of people relatively quickly. 

Additionally, if you like to run marketing campaigns around certain times of the year or are new to the creator economy, an influencer program is a great place to start. 

You can use an influencer program to try different types of influencers and expand your audience. Once you feel comfortable managing your influencer relationships, you may want to continue to scale your influencer program or convert it to an ambassador program.

Brands with some of the best ambassador programs 

Cuts Clothing 

@kenxtori Use “KENXTORI” for 15% off @cuts www.cutsclothing.com 🔥 #cutsclothing #alwayson #madethecut #cutsteam #mensfashion #travelcouple #tiktokfashionmonth ♬ оригинальный звук – ezi4kaa

In order to build brand awareness on TikTok, Cuts, an apparel company focusing on high-quality basics, developed partnerships with ambassadors who were tasked with creating 1-2 videos a month. 

Whether they were highlighting new products or creating content around a certain holiday, these ambassadors delivered. Together, they collectively produced over 20 pieces of content with a 10%+ engagement rate and <$120 CPA. 

Organifi

Organifi, a company creating delicious and nutritious juice blends, wanted to foster a sense of community among their fans, so they created the Organifi Collective. 

The Organifi Collective is a group of ambassadors who serve as extensions of the brand. Organifi began building this group by identifying creators whose audience demographics matched the brand’s target and then sending them free products in exchange for posts so they could see whose content resonated most. After identifying high performers, they converted them to ambassadors. 

JOLYN

@shwimshady this month’s jolyn goodies!! #ad #jolyncollegiate #jolyn @jolynclothing ♬ Buttercup – Jack Stauber

JOLYN, a swimwear, surf suit, and activewear brand, developed a Collegiate Athlete Ambassador Program to help their clothing reach a larger audience. Instead of recruiting pro athletes, they realized they could get more authentic content from brand ambassadors with smaller followings. 

Learn More About Their Collegiate Athlete Ambassador Program: Athletes as Content Creators: GRIN Gets Real Podcast

Brands with some of the best influencer programs 

Inkbox

@joels.tattoodesigns tatted up thanks to @inkbox, so sick 😎 #inkbox, #tattooideas, #tattoomarker, #ad ♬ Hell N Back – Bakar

Inkbox, a temporary tattoo brand, partners with creators to showcase their unique designs, the quality of their products, and the fact that their tattoos don’t fade or wear away for 1-2 weeks. From there, they repurpose creator content across their other marketing channels to get the most value from their program. 

“Especially with the rise of TikTok, we’re finding that it really does pay off to have a lot of eyeballs on your social channels. So working with a Rolodex of creators and having a strong gifting program really amplifies our presence in those spaces and continues to feed traffic to our website.”

— Lara Cardoso, Lead of Community, Creators, and Content at Inkbox

SmartSweets 

@bobthedragqueen 🍭Make ya mouth go 🫦 Show me and @themonetxchange your best moves using this sound + #MakeYaMouthGo + follow @SmartSweets for a chance to receive limited edition SmartSweet nail stickers! Show us what y’all got #Ad ♬ Make Ya Mouth Go – SmartSweets

SmartSweets partners with creators of all sizes, from nano to mega, to promote their low-sugar candies. They even developed their own custom song to use on TikTok to give creators inspiration and tie their posts together to build brand awareness across posts and accounts.

Curtsy

With a goal of brand awareness and looking to stay creative as a business, Curtsy, a fashion resale app, partners with creators to showcase the clothes users can buy and sell. They also work with them to drive app downloads.

“So that’s what we look at first. And then after that, we’ll go in and see, okay, maybe they didn’t get, you know, any code redemptions. But the video has a 20% engagement rate, like, that’s awesome. It’s really, you know, hitting with their audience. We should work with them again.”

— Sam Atherley, Head of Influencer Marketing at Curtsy 

Key takeaway: Leveraging customer advocacy could be your most lucrative strategy. 

Influencers and brand ambassadors are prolific members of a subgroup known as customer advocates. As customer advocates, these individuals help brands enhance their credibility and social proof among consumers.

Third-party mentions will help your brand work smarter (not harder) when it comes to customer acquisition. Furthermore, brand ambassadorships give your biggest fans the opportunity to enjoy special privileges, driving customer loyalty among fan followers.

Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101

Updated: June 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

As a general rule, brand ambassadors are more deeply connected with the brands they partner with than influencers. As such, they act as true customer advocates.

Here are some other key differences between influencers and brand ambassadors:

  • Ambassadors are committed brand fans, as well as social media power users. Influencers may or may not feel as strongly about the brands they choose to partner with.
  • Ambassadors form long-term relationships with brands. Influencers may only partner with brands on a short-term (or “one-off” basis), such as special events or seasonal promotions.
  • Ambassadors can still be effective with follower counts of less than 1,000. Influencers usually have a minimum of 1,000 followers on their preferred channel.
  • Ambassadors form stronger connections with members of their audience. Many influencers grow so popular that it is impossible for them to maintain deep connections with all or most of their engaged followers.

Influencers can be brand ambassadors and vice versa. However, when brands use either term, they typically have a particular set of goals in mind. Either way, both influencers and ambassadors are social media power users with a keen ability to connect with fellow consumers online. 

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Written by Sarah Conrad

Originally from San Antonio, Sarah studied advertising at the University of Houston and decided to stay in the city upon graduation. She is particularly interested in SEO for social media platforms and tracking the latest influencer content trends. When she's not putting pen to paper, she's baking, painting, or hanging out with her dog.

All-in-one creator management platform helping ecommerce companies build more valuable brands through the power of creator partnerships.

© Grin Technologies Inc. 2022. All rights reserved.

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