The best advertisements aren’t ads at all, they’re endorsements, by real people with a credibility that is recognised by peers and consumers. Influencer marketing is nothing new of course, but in the age of social media it’s found a real home by infiltrating friends’ news feeds. It’s true to say that companies usually look to influential end users to evangelize their products, but B2B firms can also learn a trick or two about the power of connecting with the right people and the audiences those people directly affect.
So, how can an influencer help with your business goals? First off, it’s a long game you’re playing here. Unlike B2C you’re not looking to influence a customer to pick your product while they are in a short-term buying cycle. You’re looking at forming an on-going partnership that will help build your brand up and make it ‘first in mind’ going forward, no matter the campaign.
It all starts with brand awareness and getting you in front of new customers, potentially shortening the sales cycle along the way. With the right influencer amplifying your message you can free up marketing resource and reach people already taking notice of what someone says. Here’s what you can do to get them on board:
1: Identify the influencers in your area
The first obvious step is to look at who to target – remember though, you need to direct the message, you want your brand story told effectively. They need to clearly communicate your ‘why’. The key is being selective. You should be looking to garner not just those with the biggest reach but the highest level of reaction, and therefore influence, over their audience. Pay close attention to comments and reactions that these influencers get, the closer the relationship appears to be the higher the likelihood that an audience listens to the opinion of the influencer.
What’s the best way to find out who’s who? The manual approach would be to analyse the market using relevant hashtags and groups where relevant content is being shared. When it comes to tools of the trade, there’s a plethora of software that can help you identify influencers in the market. Apps like Buzzsumo and Talkwalker are strong social listening tools. There’s also browser extensions such as MozBar which helps sort through search engine results by scoring the SEO authority of blogs, and Klout which is a good way of seeing a score rating for a particular person’s sphere of social influence.
"...the closer the relationship appears to be the higher the likelihood that an audience listens to the opinion of the influencer"
2: Tap up the most relevant
Once you’ve identified the right influencer you need to get them onside in the right way. Always remember influencers have a direct connection with your customers, so invite them to events, get them on key campaign calls and try and get a face to face if you can. They will appreciate feeling like part of the team and if made to feel comfortable (because you don’t put up barriers to information), they’ll translate that sense of ease in the content they produce.
3: Make some noise
Part of working with an influencer is making more of their content too. This isn’t a one-way street, it’s good to share relevant content they’ve generated (they’re always after increased exposure), but equally, it shouldn’t be a reciprocal relationship – you don’t want to be sharing everything. You need to be measured, targeted and make sure it doesn’t look like an obvious stunt or mismatched relationship.
4. Create the right content
It isn’t sufficient to ask your influencer just to share from your feed, create some unique content with their input so that it resonates most effectively with the end audience. And don’t choose off the rack – tailor the content for each social network where you are active. Very few influencers are equally strong on each social network, often preferring one audience to focus their attention. Add value when sharing their content too, perhaps use it as a platform to introduce them as a guest blogger or let them announce something exclusive of yours and then share that. You’ve got some great tools on your side too – Facebook Live was used by influencers at SAP’s user conference (Sapphire) to live-stream the event to more than 80,000 who couldn’t attend the 20,000-strong event. SAP then repurposed the best bits for guest blog posts.
5. Discover the micro-influencers
Small-time influencers, what use are they? Well, they are not so much small-time but incredibly focused individuals who, in some way, are already connected to your brand. They may not be the biggest names around but can often be the most useful in getting your content messages spread. They should take less convincing to work with you and they will make your partnership seem that bit more authentic from the outset.
6. Be an influencer yourself
It might sound odd, but the more you promote yourself in the right way online, the more likely you are to garner interest from other influential people in your sector. You can’t just apply to be an official Influencer on LinkedIn anymore, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating great content that hits the mark! In fact, you’ll need to create a lot of good content and push your personal brand hard. Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck did exactly that with weekly long-form articles focused just on her specialism - women in business.
"They [micro-influencers] may not be the biggest names around but can often be the most useful in getting your content messages spread"
At TBT Marketing we’re driven by creating meaningful conversations for our clients. You never know if that conversation might start with a powerful influencer in your sector, well we can help with that too. Contact us at [email protected] or reach us on 01373 469270 and we can help spread your brand message further.