Hop on board the B2B marketing bus as our expert tour guide Sophie Mackintosh (@sophmackintosh) takes us on a trip around influencer marketing
Influencer marketing can seem totally confusing. Even to me, a digital native/compulsive social media addict surgically attached to my iPhone. Every article you read on the subject seems to be full of compliance and coercion, when what it really all boils down to is stalking the cool kids to see what’s really hot right now.
Let’s face it, in the flighty world of social media it’s pretty hard to get a handle on that kind of stuff. But it’s important to know what’s in and what’s out, because nobody wants their brand or company to come over like a fuddy-duddy relative at a Christmas gathering talking enthusiastically about how everything is “wicked” to an unimpressed fifteen-year-old.
So here – to soothe your confusion and help you get the most out of your social media campaigns – is my no-frills guide to influencer marketing:
What even is it?
Influencer marketing is the practice of tracking down influential people within a target market and focusing marketing efforts at them in the hope they’ll influence those around them. Kind of like a domino effect: concentrate on those who people look up to and follow, get them to like your brand, and the people they influence are likely to give you a chance. Also, identify where the influencers themselves place content, and learn from what they do. It’s kind of sneaky, really. No brash in-your-face marketing here – the key element is subtlety.
So, uh, who actually are these influencers?
Nowadays anyone can be an influencer. In the B2B market, key influencers tend to be journalists, analysts, bloggers, academics or social media accounts: basically, to use that little marketing chestnut, those considered ‘thought leaders’. They’re figures who others follow and trust, where they might be more suspicious about brands and their motives. The direct effect of their endorsement of your company might be impossible to properly measure – but it’s there, for sure.
Ok, that’s all cool. But why is it important? Regular marketing has done us well so far – why all this new-fangled ephemeral stuff?
Social media has forced marketers to take a far more nuanced approach to reaching their customers. Newspaper and trade press readership may be dwindling, but the rise of social media has brought all sorts of experts out of the woodwork. And with word of mouth becoming such an important marketing channel, having these experts in the field endorse your brand is worth more than its weight in gold.
Moreover, keeping an eye on influencers helps companies keep track of the latest developments – it’s just another form of research. In a world where we get our news from conversation rather than publication, people want to be active consumers, not passive. Today anyone can theoretically have influence, thanks to social media, so finding the channels that really make a difference to your marketing strategy and reach is becoming an increasingly fine-tuned art. Sometimes an increasingly frustrating one, too.
Right. So how do we market to these influencers?
Engagement, engagement, engagement. Remember, these are the cool kids. Which means that you have to be cool too.
Influencer marketing activities revolve around:
- Identifying influencers (harder than you may think, and the topic of this month on the B2B Guide to Social Media)
- Marketing to these influencers, to make them aware of your offering
- Marketing through influencers, to create market awareness of your brand
- Marketing with influencers to turn them into brand advocates
Influencers are likely to be way ahead of the curve. When it comes to engaging with experts and get them talking about your product, you are unlikely to make a splash unless your product is genuinely interesting. For marketers, this means knowing the market inside out.
So there you have it – a brief overview of the murky world of influencer marketing. Now go hunt down your influencers, keep your head, and remember to make them think that you’re as cool as they are.