Influencer marketing is projected to be a $10B market by 2020 and is becoming a mainstream approach not only for consumer brands looking to tap into the power of social media influencers, but for companies in the B2B space as well.
In recent years, one of the key challenges with influencer marketing has been the fake follower crisis, which has been extensively covered by the media, and influencer marketing fraud is projected to cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019 (which equates to 15% of advertisers’ spending).
To help brands tap into the potential of B2B influencer marketing, while at the same time avoiding some of its common pitfalls, here’s 5 best practices to help you design and deploy your influencer marketing program and ongoing campaigns:
1 – Know your influencer marketing goals and objectives
The first step is to prepare your strategic plan. According to Tom Augenthaler, influencer marketing consultant and owner of 551 Media LLC, one of the first steps is to have a clear idea about what you believe influencers can help you with. Are you looking to get more brand exposure, elevate your internal thought leaders or generate leads? Knowing your objective will make charting your influencer strategy easier and your path to measuring your ROI clear.
To execute on this strategy, you may wish to find and work with a variety of influencers and thought leaders ranging from a broad base of social media influencers, to help spread the word at a grass roots level, to a more specialized “select few” who will become your key strategic partners and evangelists.
This approach is depicted in the Thinkers360 B2B influencer marketing framework which groups influencers into three tiers all with different roles within your influencer marketing plan.
Depending on the size of your organization, the number of influencers you work with across the three tiers may range from 1:10:100 all the way to 10:100:1000 (or higher) and there will typically be an order of magnitude difference between each tier as you go from tactical, light-touch interactions to more strategic, high-touch collaborations.
2 – Look for innovative approaches for finding and working with influencers
While you may source your social media influencers from the various influencer lists across the web, it’s important to know the pros and cons of these lists. While some influencers may be there for a reason and have a unique perspective related to your niche, others may be sharing purely third-party and/or non-related content, may be gaming the system to climb the leaderboards by spamming, or may even be purchasing their followers to increase their scores.
As you look to tiers 1 and 2 in our B2B influencer marketing framework, look for innovative approaches that can help you work around these social media limitations so you can find and work with real thought leaders and authentic influencers. This can help you thoroughly vet your influencers before engaging them on a deeper level where your investment and your brand reputation is more exposed.
Thinkers360, for example, is an opt-in network of the world’s foremost thought leaders — including academics, analysts, authors, consultants, influencers and speakers — with over 10M followers on social media combined. The platform is differentiated by its unique algorithms that measure thought leadership and authentic influence looking far beyond social media alone.
Another approach that’s starting to gain traction is the use of algorithms to determine influence by separating organic and original content from that of simple volume of activity that someone has, which can easily be gamed by buying and boosting traffic. This tells you who has genuine influence based on originality of content and work product rather than just volume of reposts/retweets.
For example Thinkers360 is an online service that ranks influencers, and what are often referred to as Thought Leaders, by taking into account the original content they produce, and their actual achievements, in terms of patents, businesses founded, and other relatively difficult to fake accomplishments.
– Thomas Koulopoulos, Chairman, Delphi Group
3 – Know your influencer’s DNA in terms of their various roles
Rather than treating all influencers as equal, it’s important to know your influencer’s DNA. What’s their make-up in terms of the various hats they may wear as an academic, author, advisor, consultant, influencer and speaker?
This helps you to get to know your influencers on a more personal level and can help you better select your influencers for specific tasks. For example, you may need an influencer who’s also a well-respected author to help with some custom thought leadership content pieces, or you may need an influencer who’s also an established keynote speaker for your next event.
By looking at your influencer’s DNA, you can get a far more accurate picture of their background, their interests, as well as the various kinds of content they produce.
4 – Know your influencer’s thought leadership content portfolio
Once you have a handle on your influencer’s DNA in terms of their various roles, the next step is to get to know their content a bit more. By looking at their content portfolio, you’ll be able to sample their articles, blogs, books, media interviews, podcasts, speaking, webinars, whitepapers and more.
This will help you determine their level of thought leadership (i.e. unique perspectives and highly actionable approaches specific to your niche) as well as helping get past the sometimes-superficial content posted on social media – which is often liked and shared solely based upon the top-level title.
Exploring your influencers content portfolio will help you look beyond the headline and into their more in-depth points of view. When you’re searching for influencers for Tiers 1 and 2 of the B2B influencer marketing framework, this can really help to identify prospective individuals.
5 – Build a true two-way partnership with your top influencers
Finally, just as in any business deal, working with influencers is a two-way street. It’s important to understand how value can be exchanged and what each influencer is looking to obtain from the relationship. Some may be simply interested in joining your formal influencer program and attending your events, while others may be interested in a more substantive financial relationship. Either way, you can often trade deliverables with your influencers where they may exchange unpaid social media amplification for other paid services such as authoring or speaking at your next event.
According to Tom Augenthaler, the key to influencer marketing for any B2B is investing in relationships with them. If you concentrate on tactics, you’re going to get limited, short term results. The juice comes from cultivating long-term relationships with influencers you identify as being important to your business. In this way, you can concentrate on evergreen strategies where you co-create content together, so you reach your target market while delivering substantial value. Not only do you inform your target audience in the process, but you educate and help them too. This strategic approach positions your brand in a positive light for the long-term, attracts new customers and outflanks your competitors. What more could you ask for?
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Thinkers360 is an opt-in network of the world’s foremost thought leaders — including academics, analysts, authors, consultants, influencers and speakers — with over 10M followers on social media combined. We are differentiated by our unique patent-pending algorithms that measure thought leadership and authentic influence looking far beyond social media alone.
Individuals: Showcase your thought leadership profile and portfolio, build your media kit, and participate in our global leaderboards and opportunity marketplace. Connect and work with global brands as an author, influencer, speaker and more: Sign-Up (free) | Newsletter
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