It’s clear that influencer marketing has become an integral piece of marketing programs today, not only for B2C companies but more recently B2B have taken hold of this marketing platform. Reaching B2B decision makers isn’t easy. They’re savvy professionals that are well educated in sales and marketing, which is why B2B marketing had no choice but to step up and enter the realm of influencer marketing.
Influencers are clued into numerous sectors of the industry and possess a wealth of knowledge to bring new ideas to fuel your PR and marketing content. An influencer can contribute to your organization’s blog and highlight new industry trends while also stressing how your organization is remaining forward thinking. Influencers can also co-author whitepapers or eBooks with your organization on timely topics that are relevant to your key stakeholders and new customers. Potential customers may also view this content as more credible.
Google searches for “influencer marketing” have increased 325 percent in the last 12 months.
The core idea behind developing an influencer relationship is that the influencer in question will advocate on behalf of the brand. This is intuitively obvious, but there’s another component to this idea that is often lost: They advocate on behalf of the brand because both have similar visions, values and interests.
They needed a trusted third party to effectively communicate the benefits of their product or service. The most powerful way to include influencer marketing is through an integrated approach – tying the platform back through your already established PR, thought leadership, social media and content marketing initiatives.
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There are two types of influencer marketing relationships – paid and organic. With a paid approach to influencer marketing you are guaranteed a certain return, whether it’s an increase in social following, website traffic or engagement.
Include a measurement protocol in your agreement with a paid influencer. Don’t pay for it if you can’t measure it.
When entering into a paid engagement, step one is validating that the influencer actually has the reach that they claim. Research is available on sites such as Audiense to confirm these figures or to develop your influencer network. Transparency is important – be sure to disclose a paid promotion by your brand and the influencer. Endorsements must be honest and not misleading. When you reach out for an earned promotion, provide the influencer with expectations and what you are offering in return. Hand them a playbook including logos, images, brand guidelines, etc.
For smaller-sized B2B companies they simply can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars forming a relationship with an influencer.
Enter organic influencer marketing.
While it can be difficult to get the attention of macro-influencers organically, there are micro-influencers (10,000 followers or less) that are easier to attract and engage with.
Marketers and PR professionals value earned media and are searching for ways to deliver effective results for their brands. Influencer marketing fits nicely in this niche. By identifying influencers and building relationships with them, savvy marketers can then pitch relevant stories.
Earned influencer strategies can be amplified by integrating them with paid and owned tactics. There is a great deal of synergy between public relations and earned influencer efforts. Think of influencers as members of the media who use social as their broadcast channel. Most reporters use social media to find new ideas, and help those ideas move from one segment of influencers to another.
While finding influencers to work with can be a challenge, lean on your martech stack for support in this process. Tools like Audiense, Onalytica and Discoverly are just a few examples of the many tools that are available to today’s marketer. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, make sure your chosen influencer has a similar tone and message that will compliment your brand.
The best way to develop an influencer relationship of this kind is to find common ground. Figure out what they like, find out how it matches your thought leaders, your brand and your interests and then cultivate that relationship. Social media is perfect for cultivating these kinds of relationships. Platforms like Twitter allow brand representatives to engage in direct conversation with the trend setters in the industry.
You can add insight, build on their discussions, create conversations and help provide them with the information they need to accomplish their goals. If you want someone to speak positively about you (or your brand), the most effective way to do so is by building an authentic relationship with them in this manner.
Influencer marketing can’t be done alone. It needs the support of PR, social media and content marketing. PR, analyst relations and influencer marketing are extremely similar in that they are all working towards building relationships with individuals that are going to help foster your brand’s reputation and thought leadership. You need the content marketing element, or you have nothing for the influencer to share, and finally social media so that they can leverage their large audience database.
Influencers, organic and paid, have a place in your integrated marketing strategy. Influencers are neither inherently more or less important than analysts, media professionals, employee champions or client advocates. At some point, you may need to put all players in the mix to ensure your brand’s message moves from obscurity to well-known, direct attribution.
While your PR, social media and content marketing are all working together as you’re working on this integrated approach, you don’t want to lose sight of your customer. Your customer should be part of this equation at every stage, voicing their opinions, speaking to pain points and how your brand’s solutions and opportunities have resulted from this relationship.
HubSpot defines Voice of the Customer (VoC) as the process of capturing all of what a customer is saying about your business, product or service. It helps you visualize the gap between your customer’s expectations and their brand experience. By capturing your customer’s voice, you can connect and engage at each touchpoint in the customer journey.
Voice of the Customer programs are the “voice of many voices” that help drive leads into the sales funnel.
A VoC program should capture the tone and preferences of your brand’s most loyal advocates. It should show them that their feedback and opinions truly matter. And, most importantly, it should translate into a platform that sales, marketing and other key stakeholders can point to for validation in referrals. This will help drive new business and revenue for your organization. Leverage VoC as part of your strong influencer marketing program.
Measurement is key to success within every influencer marketing strategy. When you’re working with so many different and creative approaches, elements, channels and advocates, you need a way to streamline these efforts. This can be done by establishing your goals, meeting objectives and measuring at every juncture. Lean on your integrated agency for support here as well as your martech stack.
A recent report found more than 37% of marketers are dedicating budget to influencer marketing, with that number expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.
Your influencer marketing plan should include early and frequent measurement of key analytics to determine what is working and what is not, so you are able to steer your efforts toward what is effective. Not everything can be measured online, so your measurement plan should take into account offline actions that are equally (or more) valuable.
These metrics may include:
Your audience’s demand for authenticity is changing everything. PR professionals are forced to re-evaluate how they engage audiences and boost brand image. Your brand’s PR department or agency can now reach out to the media even if they don’t have a press release or breaking news item.
They can reach out and share their collaborative campaigns that they are working on with influencers. They can use influencers’ quotes to leverage their trend-jacking pitches and finally PR pros are reaching out with pitching stories they already know will engage audiences.
With the pace of change in today’s business world, many companies struggle with implementing strategic, value-driven PR initiatives. While several grassroots PR principles still apply, the game has changed, and it takes a multi-faceted approach to come out on top.
Influencers are authority figures, and the media loves nothing more than to showcase and explore authoritative professionals. Case in point, if you’re pitching to the media a breaking story from your company, it might get some media interest. If you go one step further and present an analyst quote on how that story is going to affect the given industry, it’s going to appeal to the media in a much larger capacity.
The same goes for influencers due to their involvement within the industry; they keep pulse on what’s trending, and they have already garnered the trust of their followers.
The world of PR has come a long way, even in the past few years, and while it’s allowed us to provide a myriad of added value to our clients, it’s also resulted in a number of challenges. As we continue to move forward and adapt along with the changing overall landscape, a number of trends are sure to have a significant impact on our industry.
The newsroom is swamped, and more publications are seeking contributed content and bylines from outside experts to ensure a steady stream of content. If a topic has legs, but a reporter simply doesn’t have time to cover it themselves, requesting a byline instead has become an increasingly popular practice. Don’t be afraid to proactively make the offer in your pitch, and use your owned and paid influencers to produce this content.
You want your brand to be the top thought leader in your industry, always starting the conversation when it comes to new trends and transformations, never lagging behind. How do you accomplish this effectively?
You start by bringing in your brand’s top experts that are willing to speak to the media, be quoted by analysts, start conversations on social media. These thought leaders are the perfect fit when it comes to engaging with influencers.
If these two parties start engaging with each other frequently, it’s going to raise the profile of your brand tenfold. You can have these two parties engage with each other in numerous ways via social media, webinars, podcasts, blog Q&As, panels, etc.
To be a thought leader, you have to share what is “thought leading.” A key part of any great media relations campaign is to spend time building your reputation. Start delivering valuable and valid information, solidifying your media relationships and establishing your credibility as a thought leader. Influencer marketing supports thought leadership perfectly and should be part of your PR program.
Customer experience (CX) is defined by interactions between a customer and an organization throughout their business relationship. An interaction can include awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchases or service.
Your customers play an essential role when it comes to integrating your PR and influencer marketing efforts. Bring them into the spotlight when reaching out to media. What pain points are they experiencing first hand, and what do your brand’s thought leaders and influencer advocates have to say in response? What suggestions can they bring to the table that will impact not only your customer but the industry?
Showcase your voice of customer by establishing a program that highlights their voice, and their experience with your brand, in the form of case studies, Q&As, blog posts, newsletters and social engagement.
Customer advocacy programs have grown 570% year over year among B2B vendors. – IDC
Before starting any integrated PR and influencer marketing campaign you should establish what your goals are. This will help determine what your future campaigns will be and if you need to change any processes or keep them the same. After setting your goals you should determine which KPIs you’ll be tracking. Will you look at follower growth, impressions, traffic data, number of media briefings, mentions? Whatever you decide, at the end of the day you should be able to demonstrate clear ROI.
It’s time to stop siloing efforts and take a truly integrated approach to marketing in both its implementation and measurement. There are new ways to measure the value of PR and other marketing tactics that used to be difficult to quantify. Embrace them and understand the impact of your efforts. Understand the power of influencer marketing, and how successful marketers use social media to get in front of these industry experts.
You can measure the so-called “un-measureable” metrics of influencer marketing with stats such as number of referrals, briefings and social traction gained due to those interactions. These are the building blocks to establishing your ROI. An effective integrated marketing effort, well measured and aligned with topline revenue goals, is always a winning strategy.
Influencers bring an escalated authority to your brand, raising its profile in terms of being a thought leader, tapping into the emotions of your target audience and bringing in even more brand advocates than ever before. Another key benefit to influencer marketing is that it is closely tied to content marketing. Your brand shouldn’t be producing content if it’s not engaging, authentic and useful to your audience.
By having influencers quoted in your content you’re automatically raising the quality that it holds. But challenge your brand to go even further. Get influencers involved in your brand’s video content, have them guest blog for you, or get them to intro your new eBook. The options are endless.
Good content resonates with the reader or viewer because it fits with their goals or general interest. Great content maps to their desire, emotions, and journey, delivering an outcome that will build advocacy and drive engagement that results in customer retention and revenue. In other words, content from influencers can be the “path to purpose” for the customer.
While these two marketing initiatives work seamlessly together, they do attract challenges. You must first off find the right influencer to work with your brand. They should share similar visions, have similar tones, messaging strategies and most importantly a matching audience demographic. Another challenge can be setting expectations and matching goals in terms of how much content they’re producing and how often they’ll be promoting that content.
Marketers are experimenting with different avenues, like influencer marketing, to help support their content initiatives. It’s an exciting time for marketers as new opportunities arise every day to help us stay connected to our audiences. In 2017, only 7 percent of marketers felt they had an “advanced” degree of integration between social and content marketing (defined as having an influencer relations strategy in place and a high level of connected content). So, it came as no surprise that marketers in 2018 chose content and social media marketing as their number one priority, coming in at 60 percent.
Since influencer marketing is just on the brink for B2B companies, it means that there’s plenty of opportunity in terms of improvements. In the future, we will see brands and influencers striving to capitalize on the emotions of their audience by perfecting the storytelling aspect that buyers are craving.
96% of B2B buyers look for more information from industry thought leaders before buying. (Business2Community)
We will also see influencer marketing content get personalized. No longer will they be communicating to the masses. They’ll be discussing specific pain points that individuals and companies have.
The demand for content marketing will continue to grow – especially for B2B technology and healthcare sectors looking to personalize messages with a targeted strategy. The benefits of content marketing go beyond brand awareness as its power is so much more. It brings more qualified traffic to your website, improves SEO, educates prospects on your service or product, drives conversions, builds trust, and generates brand authority, to name a few.
Now that you’ve formed a solid relationship between your brand’s thought leaders and your influencers, it’s time to bring in your customers. It’s not enough to simply showcase third-party advocates – especially in the B2B world where skepticism is on the rise. You need to display the Voice of the Customer for clear brand validation. Start thinking of ways that you can showcase your brand’s thought leaders, your influencers and your customers throughout your brand’s content. These types of content campaigns will connect, resonate and convert.
Content initiatives are growing, with social media, influencer marketing and demand generation as top priorities.
The best content connects with your potential customers and speaks to them as individuals, identified through the use of personas, personalization and great storytelling. Challenge yourself and your team to make each user a believer that the product or service they are purchasing will create a better world for them NOW. Ideas can make this a reality – whether emotional or physical – and moves markets.
How you measure your own ROI on influencer marketing depends largely on your objective. Is your brand looking to establish visibility and awareness? Are you looking to increase engagement with key target audiences? Or maybe, you’re just looking for that third-party vendor to get authority and boost in SEO. By focusing on your goals, it becomes easier to set expectations, KPIs and achieve ROI.
To gauge whether or not your integrated marketing plan — which includes influencer marketing — is a success, there are many metrics to look at. This includes how many leads received, email CTRs, press mentions and social media engagement. All of those metrics are important and can give context to what matters most — new business.
Creating SMART goals, KPIs or setting a predetermined ROI for your influencer campaign will help you determine how much to budget, whom to target and what to measure. Establish measurement goals from the outset. At the end of the campaign, what do you want the influencers to say about you? Your goals can include some very topline objectives, such as increasing awareness or driving more inbound web traffic to generate more qualified leads. Not everything is measured with a click, so start with the end in mind – what you will measure and how.
Remember that influencer marketing is all about how ideas move from one influencer to the next stakeholder. Measuring that movement – includes understanding early progress milestones. You’ll want to identify key metrics by influencer type or personas. Once you know what your objectives are, develop your measurement plan. For each campaign that you run, and depending on your objectives, the measurement plan will differ.
Influencers are notorious for having a large following on social media. Now it may not be from all channels — they could have a wide following on Instagram and nothing on Twitter or vice versa. Make sure you’re not only choosing the right influencer that carries a similar message to your brand, but also make sure that influencer has the audience you need on the right channel. Once that’s determined, you should decide the frequency of the influencer posting and engaging on social.
At this point in time, there isn’t a single business that should not be marketing itself on social media. The opportunity to interact directly with your target audience should not, and cannot, be passed up. However, many businesses throw together a profile haphazardly, and then don’t put the time and strategy into prioritizing its importance and success. You must put careful thought and consideration behind your social presence and then take it even further with paid campaigns to start generating leads for your business. That social presence should definitely incorporate influencer marketing, both paid and earned.
You may just think that influencers are good for posting your brand’s content and engaging with your audience, however there are multiple different directions that your influencer can be active on behalf of your brand. Maybe they’re going to take on live videos? Start a tweet chat? Write some LinkedIn posts? Challenge your brand and your team(s) to think of the different ways your influencer can be active on behalf of your brand and what would bring the most ROI.
According to Forrester, people engage with 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase.
Conversations like these are happening all day long, all over social media. Millions of these conversations are about brands, products and services. Social media is all about social interaction. Brands should not be afraid to talk, share, educate and ask questions. Look at social media as a way to make your brand human, establish trust and build lasting relationships with your audience. Influencers fit nicely into this approach.
If customers like the people behind the brand, they will by association like the brand. With an influencer’s help, you can be authentic, be social and be friendly.
Social media is the perfect platform to showcase all of the hard work you’ve accomplished by bringing together media, thought leaders, customers and influencers with the common goal of telling a story that resonates. True storytelling from a brand doesn’t just come from the brand’s point of view. It needs to evolve past that and you can shape that story into something bigger and promote it across social media. These social channels aren’t just for brand awareness, they’re for starting conversations that can lead to massive industry changes.
The goal of any marketing, PR or social media campaign is to expand your reach, promote your brand and continue to lead your buyer personas down the path to purchase. However, as social media channels and the digital ecosystem have evolved, measuring success has become increasingly challenging. Now, more than ever, marketing, PR and social media can’t evolve without an integrated growth strategy. The first step in any successful campaign is knowing your ideal audience and creating meaningful content to engage with them.
“Influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel, beating organic search, paid search and email marketing” in a Tomoson poll of marketing professionals.
PR has always been dependent upon building strong relationships with media outlets and influencers. Influencer relations is about accomplishing mutual goals and providing value to one another while igniting conversations with your target audience and advocates. By developing these relationships, co-creation can begin and discussions can revolve around the pain points of your customer and how to solve them — effectively building trust along this journey.
One way to show appreciation to your customers is to highlight them on social media. Bring them into the fold when it comes to conversations, start tagging them in posts if you think the information your talking about is relevant to them. Give them credit where credit is due and make that action happen on social media. Interact with them via surveys and contests, letting them share their perspectives.
Social media is supposed to be about social interaction. B2B companies often use social media to share their own content, pass on company updates or to share the opinion of someone else. You should look at social media as a way to make your brand human to your audience, establish trust and build lasting relationships.
Respond to tweets in your own voice so consumers know you are actually a human, and don’t say “tweets are my own” in your bio if they aren’t. It is disingenuous. If people like you, they will not only reward you – they will become advocates for your brand. Customers trust word-of-mouth reviews more than written product/service reviews.
When customers feel like you are speaking to them directly through your content, teaching them something they don’t know or offering them something they can’t get from someone else, they will begin to trust you. If they sense that you don’t care enough about them to post a high-quality image on LinkedIn, they will dismiss you immediately. Success will come to the companies tailor-fitting their content to their audience on each platform.
At this point you’ve found the right influencers to work with, you’ve created exceptional content by merging your thought leadership and Voice of the Customer programs and you’ve thought of creative ways for your influencer to promote this content across social media. The final stage is to track, measure and analyze these efforts.
Marketers today are challenged to provide the C-suite with ROI and demonstrate that their programs are working and delivering enjoyable experiences for customers and prospects heading down the buyer’s journey.
In 2019, it is estimated that there will be 2.77 billion social media users around the globe.
Here are several metrics you may not have thought of, which can help you measure the impact of your program more deeply and effectively:
In today’s rapidly evolving marketing world, it’s necessary to promote products and services in different ways. But, working beyond a siloed effort and bridging together your PR, social media, content and influencer marketing can make for an even more powerful approach.
Doing this requires collaboration, communication and trust between all external teams and departments. Rely on an integrated agency for a more cohesive relationship and start executing your ideas into campaigns that resonate. Determining if your department is integrated and aligned is a good first step.
In fact, 87% of B2B buyers are giving more credence to industry influencer content.
There’s been a lot of hype around influencer marketing and what it can do for your brand. It’s no surprise that the voice of these influencers can go a long way. As marketers continue to figure out the best way to capitalize on this opportunity, the timing couldn’t be better. Be sure your team and your marketing strategy is ready for an integrated approach that taps the power of influencer marketing.