Influencer marketing is quickly rising in the ranks as a top B2B marketing strategy. At a time when audiences are more distrustful of brands than ever, influencer marketing stands out as an effective and lucrative alternative to traditional marketing.
Before we discuss how to incorporate influencers into your B2B communications strategy, let’s review a comprehensive influencer marketing definition, and how you can begin using this tactic today.
Our Influencer Marketing Definition and How to Get Started
Influencer marketing works with individuals with a large following on social media. But this is more than just numbers. Because of the regular engagement between influencers and their audience, there is a bond and a level of trust and confidence that exists between the two. Influencer marketing takes that bond and uses it to amplify a company’s message or brand image.
Influencers are not simply used for their audience. Influencers have many other talents that they bring to the table during an influencer marketing campaign. For example, because of the substantial time they spend with their audience, many influencers have unique insights into their audience and the kinds of content and topics that they want to see. Brands can tap into their knowledge and boost the results of their influencer marketing campaign.
What can you expect when you engage in influencer marketing? The benefits include:
- A unique insight into content strategies that work
- Increased reach
- Personal connection
How to Get Started
Finding the right influencers is of course half the battle. There are several tools that will help you to narrow down the choices and get the most out of your influencer marketing campaign. Here are some tools that can get you going:
Also keep in mind that numbers aren’t everything. While a particular influencer may have the biggest audience, it doesn’t mean that he or she engages them effectively. Look into other metrics, such as how many likes, comments, and shares an influencer receives followers, as well as the depth and scope of the comments.
Let’s now look at 4 ways that you can collaborate with industry influencers for killer results.
5 Great Ways to Use Influencers in Your B2B Marketing Strategy
1. Guest Blogging
Guest blogging has quickly gained popularity among many brands — and using influencers is a major part of its success.
Reach out to a handful of influencers in your industry and invite them to post on your blog. Explain that you both cover similar topics, what your readership is and how posting will benefit the influencer — not just you.
Discuss with your influencer what topics he or she sees a need for. The post should go as in-depth as possible to make it more valuable to your audience as well as the influencers. Once it’s ready, share it to your website and spread the word on social media.
On the flip side, seek out opportunities to guest post on an influencer’s platform. Before you discuss this possibility with your influencer, brainstorm one-of-a-kind industry topics to write about that will hold value for the influencer’s audience.
Both of these methods will attract new people to your website and build credibility among readers.
Video marketing has tremendous potential for influencer marketing — it has been shown to create strong customer engagement, drive purchase decisions, and even increase trust in a brand. In fact, 51% of marketers worldwide name video marketing the marketing content that delivers the best ROI.
How can you use video in your influencer marketing campaign?
Use video (live or not) to interview an influencer about industry trends or predictions. Promote a live event on video by engaging with influencers at the event.
If you choose an influencer who regularly uses video as part of his/her personal brand, consider ways that they can mention your brand in the course of their video.
When you approach an influencer about a video marketing opportunity, ensure you have a well-laid-out game plan. Know what you want to talk about, your approach and unique ideas to make it viable. Choose influencers who are naturally charismatic in front of a camera — otherwise it could be a wasted effort.
3. Employee Advocacy
Your employees may just be the best influencers at your disposal. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find people who would better understand your product and services. Plus, when employees of a company speak up with a little love for your brand, it resonates. After all, not everyone nowadays has positive feedback about their workplace.
Encourage your employees to post about your brand on their social networks. To this end, you could even create a reward program for those who do so. Provide pieces of content specifically designed for a certain campaign, and allow your employees to pick and choose what content they’ll share.
Content is truly king of the marketing world — and it packs an even more powerful punch when it’s a collaborative effort. Think about collaborating with several influencers at once on any given piece of content. This could be a blog post, an interview, or even an ebook.
For example, you could develop a list of industry-specific and timely questions and ask each influencer to give his or her personal opinion on each question. Then you can round these up and present them in a blog post, infographic, video, or — if you have enough content — an eBook.
5. Customer Advocacy
Customers can be a veritable gold mine of influencer marketing potential. Happy customers willing to speak out about their experience with your brand will carry weight with potential customers. If a prospect is at all on the fence about working with your company, hearing about the positive experience a similar customer has had with you might just be what’s needed to tip the scales in your favor.
Reach out to your current customers who use your product or service regularly and are enthusiastic about the results they receive. Pose it as a mutually beneficial opportunity — show them the spotlight that such an opportunity would shine on their brand. And lastly, streamline the process so it won’t take too much of their time.
Ask customers to share their experience with you in a video or in print. Once you have this material, feature it on your website, use snippets in a social media campaign, or include it with your marketing materials.
Now that we’ve covered ways to implement influencer marketing into your marketing plan, we’ve gathered leading examples of influencer marketing. These show how real-world B2B companies have used influencer marketing and the results that they’ve reaped from their efforts.
5 Fantastic Real-Life Examples of Influencer Marketing in Action
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This endeavor included over 40 industry influencers from a variety of brands and backgrounds. Together, they created SlideShares and eBooks, which were shared on several social media networks.
The results of this campaign highlight the true effectiveness of influencer marketing. The campaign generated over 145,000 SlideShare views, 20,000 website page views, and over 217,000 eBook views. This campaign truly hit its goal of creating excitement for the event and keeping that excitement going even after the event was over.
The following is an example of a SlideShare that was published as part of this influencer marketing campaign.
As part of a campaign to spread the word about a new business email solution known as IBM Verse, IBM used its employees as advocates. They encouraged each employee to take to their social media networks as brand ambassadors.
IBM used Dynamic Signal, a platform where employees could find pre-approved content to post on their social media networks, including videos, infographics, and blog posts. The authenticity of their employees’ voices, along with the fact that the messages came from real people and not a company’s social media handle, made this especially effective.
IBM even gamified its employee advocacy program, giving employees the opportunity to win points and rewards in return for their social activity. This skyrocketed the results — within just two weeks, 50,000 people signed up to use IBM Verse.
The following video is one from the 2014 Employee Advocacy Summit. In this clip, IBM is featured as a leading example for its work with employee advocacy programs, and the results it achieved.
This example shows how creativity and the right partner can skyrocket an influencer marketing approach. In a campaign to encourage more women to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, Microsoft embarked on a campaign christened #MakeWhatsNext. To draw attention to the campaign, Microsoft partnered with National Geographic’s adventure photography influencers.
The campaign included 30 photographs of women adventurers or scientists, and was featured on 5 of National Geographic’s Instagram accounts.
The results were mind-blowing. Within the course of a day, photographs received upwards of 3.5 million likes. The campaign reached nearly 91 million individuals — a feat that would have been difficult for Microsoft on its own.
The following is one of the photos featured by National Geographic as part of this influencer marketing program. With over 4,500 likes and a rich comment thread of positive feedback, the campaign was a clear win for Microsoft’s influencer marketing campaign.
SAP, a leading brand within the B2B software industry, was able to use influencer marketing to attract more attention to its recent Sapphire Conference. This annual conference attracts a number of industry experts as well as users.
SAP leveraged influencer marketing and Facebook Live in order to expand and engage its audience. Every day of the conference, SAP interviewed industry influencers on Facebook Live and fielded real-time questions from people not able to attend but interested in the topics.
Not only did this enable non-attendee viewers to feel like part of the real events and extend SAP’s audience, but it also gave SAP content for blog posts and regular video to share on social media after the event. The campaign boosted brand awareness and amped up anticipation for its Sapphire Conference.
The following is a video interview with Maggie Fox, Senior Vice President of Digital Marketing at SAP, on how the brand implemented influencer marketing successfully.
Time Warner Business Class
Time Warner Business Class has cleverly compiled the experiences of current customers into an influencer marketing campaign. Such customer advocacy is a powerful and convincing tool for potential customers who want to see how the product affects current users.
The folks over at Time Warner Business Class have created a series of videos that focus on their customer success stories. These videos explore the problems clients faced before coming to Time Warner, and how Time Warner’s solutions solved their problems and made their lives easier.
These videos have each received tens of thousands of views and are a living testimony to how their solutions have helped their clients.
The following is a short but effective video interview with one of Time Warner Business Class’s success storiy customers, Cloud Imperium Games. The company discusses how solid internet speed is an integral part of its business, and how Time Warner Business Class delivers.
Key Points to Remember…
- Use the tools at your disposal to look for influencers who truly engage with their audiences.
- Use video to reach your audience with interviews with your influencers.
- Position your own employees to speak out and share posts for your brand.
- Collaborate with influencers to create content such as blog posts, infographics, eBooks, or SlideShares.