Facebook, Instagram, XING, YouTube – these are just a few of the channels where B2B influencer marketing can be communicated. Strategy, content and more – what’s most important in 2020?
Influencer marketing – definition
Influencers are people who talk positively about goods and services mainly via social media. On Facebook, Instagram and similar, they use testimonials and images to inform followers about, for instance, their personal experiences with products such as cosmetics, holiday travels or consumer electronics. They are considered experts and enjoy huge trust as well as high popularity among subscribers to their channel, their followers. Companies use this good reputation successfully for their B2C marketing, to inspire conversions based on influencer recommendations.
Reports from YouTubers, Instagrammers or lifestyle bloggers are well received by end consumers, also because these often trigger emotions. Professional needs in terms of credibility and relevance are, however, not met enough usually. Despite this, the B2B segment should leverage influencer marketing too – but by focusing on other aspects.
How to achieve influencer marketing for B2B
What’s important in the selection of influencers for the B2B environment is shown by a study from the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt and the communications agency Fink & Fuchs. According to the study, more than 50 surveyed communications and marketing decision-makers saw the following criteria as being especially important:
- Relevance of the content
- Personal reputation
- Quality of the reach
- Reputation of associated organisations
What does this mean in real life?
Influencer marketing in B2B should be carefully planned, as the target group is usually much more critical than end consumers in the B2C segment. Which is why influencers, their messages, the company and its products must match perfectly. Otherwise, the brand’s credibility could suffer and lose acceptance. Highly sought after as multipliers are, for instance, specialist journalists, researchers and well-known industry insiders. Also possible: in-house employees or business partners with the respective expertise.
When you go on the search for the right candidate, the first best place to look is social networks. In addition to Facebook and Instagram, career platforms like XING and LinkedIn are also valuable. The marketing department should then finely sift through results gained bit by bit. Social media monitoring tools (e.g. Hootsuite®, Brandwatch, Echobot) can provide valuable assistance.
But as previously mentioned: it does not have to be an external brand ambassador. An own employee – or representative of the executive management – can also take on this function. The downside of this solution: internal manpower often first has to gain a reputation and credibility, as they normally don’t have many followers. This costs time and money, but it can prove to be a reliable and affordable solution in the long term.
Influencer strategy: content, formats, analyses
Regardless of the person and their background: influencers have to appear credible. This requires a serious combination of message and product. To achieve this, companies should develop an influencer marketing strategy as a first step and sketch out their goals. The result is presented to the influencer and possibly fine-tuned with her help. Ideally, the result serves as the basis for a long-term, fruitful collaboration.
Later, the right content and formats need to be found and harmonised with one another. Because the user, and thus adoption behaviour, can change, it’s advisable to regularly perform a check. Is the financial investment worthwhile? Does the influencer still match the target group? Setbacks are often a part of business. If you see weak points, the situation needs to be carefully analysed in order to determine the reasons for the lack of success.
Many companies are very successful with influencer marketing for the B2B segment. These four best practice cases are representative of this success.
B2B influencer trends for 2020: AI, influencer networks, infotainment content
B2B influencer marketing is undergoing a continual transformation – even if this is not as strong as for B2C. The reason: the professional target group is first and foremost interested in facts. Fast-paced communication trends play only a secondary role for them. But despite this, they, too, are slowly following new forms of presentation. After all, buyers or vendors are normal, everyday users of social media platforms in their free time. It is merely taking more time for their private adoption habits to transfer over into their professional handling of media.
For these reasons and more will the year 2020 and beyond see quite a bit change in terms of influencer marketing in the B2B segment. Companies should gear up for the following trends:
Less is more – also for B2B influencer marketing
Reach is increasingly losing importance as a significant benchmark in B2B influencer marketing. Instead, the motto “quality not quantity” is winning in importance. This means that a brand ambassador with a maximum of 10,000 followers (macro influencer) or even just 1,000 followers (nano influencer) should be considered. Indeed, they have a smaller number of followers, but they have a very close bond to them and enjoy an excellent reputation among them. Experience has shown that this leads to a relatively high engagement and thus to very good value for money.
But: some companies serve a very narrowly focused market. This may make it difficult or even impossible to find the right influencer. Especially in such cases can it be worthwhile to build up a brand ambassador from your own team. On the flip side: some niches are indeed so narrow that it is just not economical to leverage influencer marketing.
AI is becoming more important – also in influencer marketing
The roles of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are growing in influencer marketing as well. Both technologies not only help to filter out the right brand ambassador from social networks, they also find request topics and identify relevant formats and channels. At the same time, they can be leveraged for monitoring success.
More influencer networks
Influencers are increasingly coming together in networks (influencer media entities) and thus expanding their spectrum of media and channels. They can, for instance, cooperate for podcasts or build teams which generate content jointly. Companies also profit from this trend: they achieve a potentially higher reach without compromising credibility and trust among their target group at the same time.
Attractive formats for influencers
Facts continue to be the hardest currency in B2B influencer marketing, but they are presented in a more attractive way. Talk is of infotainment content. Influencers and companies can and should work together on new forms of (interactive) video, audio or AR and VR content. This does not make white papers, e-books and case studies irrelevant – it can, however, support them in an entertaining way or transport the information more dynamically.
Closer collaboration with B2B influencers
Companies often see influencers purely as an instrument for their marketing purposes. Their focus is then on the question: what can influencers do for us? This judgement could prove to come up short in future. Clients should interact more intensively with their influencers and, in this way, learn more about them, their goals, possibilities and skills. What kind of potential do they have? And why not bring several brand ambassadors together under a single marketing director? The effectiveness of a group can increase over that of a single individual, because each member of the brand’s network has their strengths. This enables concerted campaigns across different channels. An even higher impact can be achieved when several internal departments such as SEO, social media an PR are taken on board.