Influencer Marketing in the B2B world is fast growing as an essential part of the marketing mix. How brands implement influencer engagement strategies varies from one off campaigns, to event activations to passive social engagement to the topic of this post: Always On Influencer Marketing.
According to research from Linqia. 42% of marketers have shifted to an “always on” influencer marketing strategy from individual campaigns. As B2B companies evolve in their influencer marketing maturity, confidence builds along with the realization that a relationship driven endeavor like engaging with influencers requires an ongoing effort.
The problem is, many B2B marketers still see influencer marketing as something you just turn on or off as needed. Such a short term approach does not yield the full benefit of developing strong content collaboration partnerships with industry influencers that can fuel thought leadership, be repurposed for demand gen and even sales enablement.
This post is the start of a new series called Always On Influence where the team at TopRank Marketing will be exploring all aspects of the topic from the what, why and how to the who, when and where. Let’s start with the what:
Definition: Always On Influencer Marketing is essentially the practice of ongoing relationship building, engagement and activation of a specified group of influencers to build community, content and brand advocacy.
Below I’ll break that definition down a bit:
A Specified Group of Influencers is essential for a productive influencer marketing program. That means, not a random group of people the CEO or VP of marketing thinks are influencers, but those industry experts that publish with active networks on topics that are relevant to the brand and their customers and that will resonate significantly. Most importantly, influencer selection is data informed.
Of course the C-Suite and brand leadership can contribute suggestions, but influencers should be validated according to criteria established for the success of the program. Software is essential for influencer discovery and manual inspection of where they publish is necessary to qualify them. Once a group of influencers has been identified, influencer marketing software can track their social activity as a group as well as ongoing brand engagement, communications and performance measurement.
Relationships take time and that means influencer engagement is an ongoing effort, not just when influencers are needed to provide content or promotion.
Relationship building means first having clear goals for your brand in terms of what an influencer program can do as well as an understanding of what is important to the influencer: exposure, exclusive access to information or experts, experiences, compensation, or most likely a mix of all. Building relationships takes time and that means influencer engagement is an ongoing effort, not just when influencers are needed to provide content or promotion.
Engagement is a big part of developing a relationship with your target list of influencers and the approach will vary according to the situation. For example, if your strategy is mainly organic (non-paid) then recognition can be a powerful first step such as through publishing a list of the top influencers in your industry (which would include many of the influencers you want to work with). Connecting via social networks, commenting on blog posts and articles in industry publications and simple quote asks are all great first steps.
Ongoing engagement can be accomplished by using social media monitoring or influencer marketing software to track your group of influencers to identify interaction opportunities.
Activation is a more specific form of engagement that has specific objectives, actions, expectations and measures of success. Activations in B2B typically involve the co-creation of content whether it is a contribution to an ebook, hosting a podcast or being a guest on a brand webinar. With real-world events out of the picture at the moment, activations can also mean virtual conferences, livestreaming video and influencer produced “shows”.
A more mature form of influencer community is where the B2B brand creates an opportunity for the influencers to connect with each other as well as the brand.
Community building with influencers represents a level of maturity that can create the most success for a B2B brand. Relationship building between brand and a group of influencers is the most basic community and requires someone from the brand to serve as a liaison. This person should be highly organized, have great communication skills and able to work with a group of high performing individuals.
A more mature form of influencer community is where the B2B brand creates an opportunity for the influencers to connect with each other as well as the brand. Most influencers are social by nature and creating networking opportunities between the influencers that are part of the brand influencer community creates a much stronger community. The more the influencers care about the community, the more they will put into its success.
Many brands fail at influencer content because they focus only on what’s in it for the brand.
Content is most often the output from influencer engagement, relationship building and activations. In B2B, influencer content has traditionally been focused on ebooks, blog posts, reports, infographics, interviews, webinars, and real-world events. Many brands fail at influencer content because they focus only on what’s in it for the brand. B2B marketers that understand the power of exposure by brand association will ensure that content collaborations simultaneously meet brand needs as well as give influencers an experience and a content product they can be proud of.
Content as an experience is the direction B2B influencer collaboration is going including live streaming video, podcasts, interactive content and even VR.
Brand Advocacy is the ultimate objective for many B2B companies that develop influencer communities. When industry experts advocate for a brand organically, it can have powerful influence over how that brand is perceived by customers and the industry. When brands create strong relationships of mutual value for influencers through ongoing engagement and content activations, brand advocacy is a natural outcome. But why leave it to chance when there are strategies to facilitate brand advocacy opportunities? That’s what an ongoing influencer marketing program can do for a B2B company.
With brand trust at a low, it’s important for B2B companies to invest in relationships with credible experts that buyers do trust.
The world of marketing is entering a new era and the old rules of brand trust simply no longer apply. Buyers want to trust the brands they work with and with brand trust at a low, it’s important for B2B companies to invest in relationships with credible experts that buyers do trust. Always On Influencer Marketing is a strategic approach to creating communities of trusted experts that is relationship and content focused. Those relationships are nurtured over time through ongoing engagement and activations that create value for buyers, the brand and the influencers – it is truly an “everybody wins” approach to marketing.
Be sure to watch for many more Always On Influence articles in this series from the team at TopRank Marketing. If you have questions you’d like to see answered, please leave them in the comments or post to our Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.