01/21/2013 07:50 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2013

Influencers vs. Advocates in New Media

Most people have an opinion on most things, and many of them are willing to tell others, but do they have influence? That was an interesting topic covered in a panel in the NMX/BusinessNext Social media conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The panel was led by social media authority, Mark Fidelman and included Sam Fiorella (Sensi Marketing), Jennifer Beaupre (BlogFrog), Luke Hohmann (innovation games), and Lori Ruff (the LinkedIn Diva).

The panel covered several hot topics, including the very important differences between being influencers versus advocates.

There are a broad range of individuals who can be called advocates, because they are often a "dime a dozen," while others can also get paid large amounts for promoting certain brands and products. Those that are common include anyone who hates or likes something, are vocal about something, but do not have a means or influencing a significant number of individuals through social media. Those that can be costly are celebrities, who are often paid large amounts of money to advocate for brands (one of the most prominent examples would be Kim Kardashian). The effectiveness of those who are paid to influence is debatable, according to the panel.

Sam Fiorella said that there is a high potential that paid advocacy as influence could backfire. Instead of influencing individuals to buy a product, he argues, such advocacy could turn many off. He largely stood alone on this. Lori Ruff and Jennifer Beaupre believed that if the paid influencer (or advocate) is using the brand and is disclosing the relationship, such promotion can be very effective. Luke Hohmann chimed in on the importance of being authentic when it comes to such advocacy. Meanwhile, Fidelman said the most important rule of thumb is being ethical. Businesses must have transparency be a part of their social marketing efforts.

There was an interesting discussion brought on by Beaupre about her 12-year-old's love of an iPad. The young person is passionate about it, advocates for it, but has little influence, she argued. The others in the panel seemed to agree and it served as the example of the contrast between an influencer vs. an advocate. I disagreed, frankly -- my kids, by the time they were 12, were far more influenced by others their age than virtually anything else. Now it may not be through social media (though many do use such), but they are definitely powerful forces. Then again, this session was about social media, so I have to give the panel the point.

This topic is crucial for business leaders trying to move into social media to grow their brands. There are so many busy things people can do to grow their social media, that do little to actually improve the company's influence (like trying to improve one's "Klout"). In the end, there was a sizable gap among the members of the panel on the most effective ways to increase influence. Businesses must have these debates too, not for academic reasons, but to determine the best routes for future expansion.

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of US Daily Review and Host of the Price of Business on 1110 AM KTEK in Houston, Texas. He is the author of Empowerment to the People and has twice received the George Washington Honor Medal in Communications from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge. His column is nationally syndicated and he is a frequent guest on major media around the country, being found on Fox News, Fox Business, and other networks. For more see at

This post is part of a series co-produced by The Huffington Post and Blogworld, in conjunction with the latter's NMX BusinessNext Social 2013. That event will feature some of the world's leading social-business luminaries and influencers, each of whom will be speaking at the event to provide an up-close look at how the world's most successful businesses harness the power of social.