Influencer marketing isn’t new. Think about how many times you’ve seen a movie star or athlete star in brand ads and commercials. For generations, B2C brands have harnessed the power of known personalities to pique interest, validate their unique positioning and build trust among target consumers.
As more B2B buyers have turned to blogs and social networks to research trends and potential solutions, they’ve also started to rely on trusted experts and individuals. Beyond search, most B2B buyers say they rely on peers/colleagues (49%) and industry experts and analysts (35%) to guide solution research, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer Survey.
That is why we’ve seen more technology and social providers try to capitalize on the cult of personality. In 2015, 60% of marketers said they planned to boost their influencer marketing ad spend over the next 12 months, according to Adweek.
Using influencer feedback and insight, you can:
- Build trust among target audiences
- Uncover and validate campaign themes and content topics
- Enrich assets with relevant influencer quotes and commentary
- Expand the reach of your content and accelerate social word of mouth
The benefits of influencer strategy are clearer than ever, but many marketers (75%) still have difficulty finding the right influencers for their brand and marketing needs. If this challenge resonates, just follow these steps to start building out your influencer strategy.
- Think of what (and who) inspires you: Before you dive too deep into research, start small by developing a short list of the resources you use frequently to develop your content and learn more about your industry. Which publications do you read? Which analyst groups do you rely on to identify hard-hitting trends? Which blogs and newsletters are you excited to dig into each morning? This will give you a great starting point for researching and comparing potential influencers.
- Identify target buyers and their watering holes: Compare your short list of publications and resources with those your buyers rely on. (This information should be found in your personas or buyer profiles.) Are there any new watering holes you should look at? Do they tend to rely on analyst groups more than publications? Once you know where to focus, look for key players and representatives in these organizations.
Then, try to get more in-depth insights by connecting with a customer and asking them to share their preferences and experiences. Are there any talking heads, authors or speakers they turn to? Do they agree with the list you’ve developed thus far? Going through this process can help you validate your current list and even add new targets.
- Track influencer behaviors: At this point, you should have a short list of potential influencers for your campaign. The next step, of course, is to follow them on all key social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — heck, even Instagram. Look at the number of followers they have and the kind of content they share. From where do they typically get the links and resources for their social posts? Do they primarily send batch-and-blast tweets, or do they incorporate their unique perspectives and commentary? Do they respond to posts and comments frequently? All of these factors can help you get a clearer picture of how influencers use social media. If these networks are strong communication, collaboration and networking hubs for your influencers, they’re a good match.
- Use third-party tools and apps: If you want to discover and track influencer behaviors in a faster, more scalable way, consider looking into third-party tools and apps. There are a plethora of offerings available, and they all serve their unique purposes. There are many blogs that review these tools, but at Content4Demand, we use BuzzSumo. It’s a great resource for looking up keywords and sorting influencers based on their number of followers, re-tweet ratio and other factors. Other tools worth checking out include Followerwonk, GroupHigh, Little Bird, Brandwatch and Traackr.
- Prioritize your list and start engaging: Using buyer preferences and feedback, and tracking behaviors through social media and third-party apps, you’re able to refine and even prioritize your list of influencers. This is where the fun really starts. Open the conversation by sending an introductory email (or message on LinkedIn) outlining your goals and why you think the influencer is a great fit. Share the guidelines of the relationship and how you’ll incorporate their feedback into content assets and campaigns.
Of course, communicating and building relationships with influencers is a process. You need to continually engage with them, reassure them and reaffirm that participating in your campaign will be easy and valuable for them in the long run. Stay tuned for my next blog post in this series, which will discuss the ways you can incorporate influencers into multiple facets of your marketing strategy and continue to enrich your influencer relationships every step of the way!