B2B influencer marketing is like the new kid in school -- many B2B brands have held it at a distance, unsure how to interact, or even if they should.
Why is this?
While influencer marketing has achieved a level of recognition among effective B2B marketing strategies, there still seems to be a disconnect in its practice. This is evidenced by the 49% of B2B marketers who are still in the experimental stage of influencer marketing -- while only 31% of B2C marketers are in this stage.
Influencer marketing has earned a reputation as a productive marketing strategy. Even the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, Amazon, has jumped on board and recently unveiled its Amazon Influencer Program.
The reason influencer marketing works so well is because it's so easy to feel bombarded every day with ads and other in-your-face marketing tactics. That's where influencers come into play. They help point us in the right direction The vast majority of people, even in B2B, have started to rely on third party recommendations when faced with purchasing decisions.
So why aren’t more B2B companies implementing this marketing method as part of their strategy?
3 Problem Areas of B2B Influencer Marketing
There are three main issues that have stood in the way of B2B companies using influencer marketing to its fullest potential.
1. Focusing on Famous People, Not Influencers
Fame does not always equate to influence. Just because an individual is popular on a social network does not mean that he or she can inspire brand confidence.
So if popularity isn’t the key, what metric can B2B marketers look for in influencers? Engagement. Look for influencers who truly connect with their audience and receive a consistently favorable response.
2. Viewing Influencer Marketing as Advertising
It makes sense that many would think in terms of advertising -- after all, the roots of this methodology go deep. Yet the “advertising” approach fails when it comes to influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is not going to perform the same as advertising, nor will you see the same, consistent results. Instead, view this marketing strategy as an investment that will pay off in the long term.
3. Lacking Consistency
Influencer marketing is not a tool just to be picked up and then dropped on a whim. Instead, effective influencer marketing must be consistent.
That is why many companies have found it beneficial to have dedicated teams to nurture, and consistently work with influencers. After all, these are relationships, not one night stands.
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So how can companies incorporate B2B influencer marketing more effectively into their B2B marketing strategies? Let’s look at a few ways that this can be done.
The 5 Keys to Successful Influencer Marketing
1. Start Off with Microcontent
Influencers are busy people, so in the beginning start small. Once you’ve decided on the right influencers for your industry, engage on social media. Comment on, like, and share their posts. Approach them at industry events. The goal is for your name to become familiar to them.
Once you’ve created a rapport, and you're no longer a stranger, you're ready to reach out and request some short form content. This short form, or microcontent, could be a quote, tip, or snippet that you can turn around and use in your blog and other outlets.
This strategy of microcontent is a great stepping stone to establishing more meaningful influencer relationships. As you work together on this small scale, influencers familiarize themselves with your brand and message, and may be more willing to work with you on large-scale campaigns in the future.
2. Create Strategic and Cohesive Campaigns
Campaigns need to be strategically planned and connected. A carefully planned strategy will guide the narrative, and will have a cohesive appearance.
You don’t want your influencer campaign to be a one-time deal. You want your relationship with influencers to grow and evolve -- the right campaign will create an atmosphere that encourages this kind of growth.
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3. Get the Right Influencers Involved
As mentioned above, a large social media following doesn’t mean an influencer is the right fit for you. Instead of numbers, look at engagement.
You want influencers who have a high-quality, loyal following. That’s why micro-influencers (those who have 30,000 or fewer followers) are emerging as more effective influencers.
In fact, campaigns using micro-influencers were found to be 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with a larger following. They may not reach as many people as the big-name influencer, but the ones they do reach really listen to them.
4. Create Influencer Communities
Create your own brand VIP program, where influencers can collaborate and share ideas. This should be a place where influencers feel a part of the brand based on shared interests and goals.
A brand VIP program can offer influencers specific benefits, including increased visibility, discoverability, and a private channel for working with other VIPs. Find out what your influencers value and incorporate that into your program.
The popular live-streaming platform, Periscope, has started such a program with incredible success. Its VIP program is tiered into three categories based on number of followers: bronze, silver, and gold. Such a program adds a special, enticing element to your relationship with an influencer.
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5. Use the Right Tools
Tools play a vital role in effective influencer marketing. Take, for instance, Traackr, which is specifically designed to create, nurture, and measure influencer marketing. Some other influencer marketing tools include:
- Hootsuite’s Search Streams
Key Points to Remember…
- B2B marketers needs to fully commit to use influencer marketing if they are going to succeed.
- Popularity isn’t the best metric to find the right influencer for your brand -- instead, look at engagement and loyalty.
- Start off with smaller, microcontent from influencers, such as quotes or tips to be used with your other content.
- Influencer relationships are an investment, and should be nurtured for long-term use.
As B2B influencer marketing continues to move forward, one thing is very clear: It’s an essential component of B2B marketing strategies. Now is the time to integrate this method into your strategy, and reap the many rewards.
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