The idea of connecting with influential people in your community, whether for business or personal, is certainly nothing new. The Ancient Romans lived by a ruling class of prominent families. If you wanted your business to survive, the support of these influencers was essential.
Today, we all have the world at the fingertips, and anyone can become a source of influence to thousands, even millions, of people through online channels. In the digital age, influencer marketing has become an essential part of social media strategies. Not only is it effective for consumer brands trying to reach moms or certain demographics, but B2B companies have a great opportunity to connect with industry influencers who are thought leaders in their market.
Why should B2B companies have an influencer strategy?
Many B2B companies feel their social media efforts produce little outcome. And, as a content marketing agency that specializes in the B2B market, we have experienced this firsthand. It’s one thing to use social channels as a publishing platform for content, and another to use it effectively as an inbound marketing strategy. Innovative B2B marketers are building relationships with influencers in their industry and target markets, with the goal of showing their expertise and knowledge to potential prospects and industry thought leaders. These influencers can, in turn, boost a company’s message with their own influential audience.
B2B buyers are increasingly putting value on the opinions of industry influencers, whether they are colleagues, journalists or even competitors. According to Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey, 72% of respondents looked to industry peers while researching relevant content for B2B purchase decisions. In B2B, influencers are really anyone who can affect the sales cycle, but might not even be the actual purchase decision maker. Of course target buyers are in your influencer market, but you have to know whom they are looking to as influencers as well.
So, like any good marketing effort, you must have a strategy in place to meet specific goals.
How to Create a B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy
1. Identify Your Target Buyers
As with all strategic content marketing efforts, you won’t reach anyone unless you have clearly identified buyer personas. While your actual purchase decision makers aren’t the only ones you are trying to reach, knowing these key buyers, is essential (in all aspects of your business). Understanding who they are, their challenges and where they look for information is step number one.
2. Determine industry Influencers
Once you have a solid understanding of your buyers, who are they looking to for information. Identify the peers, bloggers, publications and industry experts that they are following. How?
- Connect with anyone you meet in-person on LinkedIn
- Look at the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of your connections and influencers to see who they are connected to
- Participate in LinkedIn Groups, Google Hangouts and real-time Twitter chats in your industry
- Search Twitter for people using relevant hashtags when sharing content or in conversations. (and follow them)
- Check out the blogs of these influencers and make insightful comments on posts (not just “Great post!”)
Remember, don’t just focus on the biggest, most well-known names in your industry either. Everyone is trying to connect with them. Look for the up-and-comers, the new thought leaders, and build relationships with them from the get-go. They will be honored that you’ve noticed them and appreciate your support.
If you want to know what some of the marketing influencers we admire, like Andrew Davis and Joe Pulizzi, have to say about the subject, check out the great infographic of quotes created by Placester.
Build Your Social Credibility
Now you’re out there, make people care. Give examples of why you and your company are industry leaders through social proof. Are your company and personal social profiles up-to-date? Do you have case studies readily available on your site? Are you regularly sharing content through your social channels (your own and other influencers)? Curating content is an important part of influencer marketing, so sharing the posts of those you admire will broaden your audience and get their attention.
Building trust is essential to credibility. The number of Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections you have doesn’t matter at all, if that trust factor isn’t there. It’s very easy to inundate people with information online, so don’t lose sight of being helpful and authentic. Share informative content, offer new insights and be respectful. Don’t just promote your own agenda. Build a relationship with those influencers before you need them.
I’ll keep this one to the point. Just like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. Sharing a post on LinkedIn once a month and pre-scheduling five Tweets a week is not going to get much traction. It may feel time-consuming, but it’s worth the commitment. Get out there and engage with people every day. Take ten minutes a day and participate in a Twitter chat, RT content, comment in a LinkedIn discussion, and make sure you are sharing your own original content more than once.
If you develop a clear influencer strategy tied to goals and invest in following these best practices, you will increase your B2B brand’s visibility, increase your message reach, and build trust with not only potential customers, but those they respect as well.
Find out more about what an influencer marketing strategy can do for your business.