Influencers it’s an overused word for those cooler-than-cool tastemakers, experts in their field or command a bajillion followers. They have become a mainstay option of modern marketing, trusted voices that command a loyal audience and drive trends. They’re not quite unicorns (they certainly exist), but their near-mythic reputations make them seem like it. There’s a generally held belief that getting the right influencer involved can supercharge a campaign, and there’s plenty of examples of just that happening. Initially, influencer marketing was a tool mainly used by B2C companies, with popular figures endorsing products on YouTube or Instagram, directing their fans to the cash point. Things have evolved, though, and the B2B sector has started to tap into the enormous potential of the influencer market.
Let's crunch some numbers: Businesses are seeing an average return of $5.20 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. The influencer industry is practically jet-propelled, storming from $1.7 billion in 2016 to an estimated $13.8 billion in 2021. According to surveys, 90% of marketers rate influencer marketing as super effective, with 80% of them ranking it as more effective or at least as effective as other marketing channels. Even more convincing, 71% of marketers report that customers and traffic from influencer marketing is more reliable and engaged than from other sources. It's clear that influencer marketing has the potential to propel genuine growth.
However, success isn't just about jumping on the influencer bandwagon—it demands a nuanced strategy that includes understanding your audience (and the audience of the influencers you’d like to work with), fostering genuine relationships, respecting regulatory requirements across markets, and effectively measuring results.
That audience insight is your starting point. A brand looking to work with an influencer must have a clear picture of its target audience. It's essential that your influencer's followers mirror your audience in terms of interests, values, and demographics. IBM's marketing campaign for its AI platform, Watson, is a case in point. By partnering with influencers rooted in the tech industry, they ensured their message reached an audience invested in their product and interested in their ideas by definition. A Love Island winner is not going to be the person person to sell.
Once you’ve established who you are marketing to, there’s some best-practice tips that are important to consider:
1 - Building Real Relationships
Influencer marketing isn't a one-and-done deal—it's about crafting lasting partnerships. Microsoft and Apple regularly team up with influencers on a range of projects, from product reviews to event appearances. They effectively build a real connection between the influencer, their audience, and the brand, creating and maintaining credibility and trust. A well-matched influencer relationship is a gift that can keep on giving.
2 - Staying Transparent
Transparency is non-negotiable in influencer marketing. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) insists on completely clear disclosure of sponsored content, and similar rules are in place in the UK, EU and other territories. Brands must make the sponsored nature of the content clear and unambiguous. On Instagram—a platform utilised by 67% of businesses for influencer marketing —brand partnership labels are available for sponsored content, as they are on Facebook which in some territories insists you link sponsored posts to the business involved. It’s generally good practice to do this, regardless of regs however – declaring these relationships (with a simple “#Ad” in the copy for example) will help build trust, while an undeclared influencer relationship being discovered can be a PR disaster.
3 - Choose the right level of Influencer
Understanding the different types of influencers based on their follower count and niche is essential. Nano-influencers (less than 1,000 followers) are perfect for hyper-local or niche audiences, while mega-influencers (over a million followers) can provide massive reach and brand recognition. Each offers unique benefits and challenges, so it’s something you need to consider very carefully, baring in mind marketing goals, budget, and, importantly, your target audience's characteristics. Social media superstars are great for some brands, but for others the engagement and passion of grassroots experts who understand their market and audience can be far more effective. Micro-influencers, with fewer than 10,000 followers, tend to have higher engagement rates, averaging 3.86% on Instagram. Focusing on micro-influencers could be a smart move for B2B companies targeting a niche audience and wanting to cultivate stronger relationships with prospective clients.
4 - Measure Success
The effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaign can be gauged by tracking the right key performance indicators (KPIs)—engagement rates, website traffic, lead generation, and more. This means you can track the effectiveness of the campaign, of course, but it also means you have figures to report publicly, helping to build excitement around products or brands.
5 - Navigate the pitfalls
Remember the Fyre Festival fiasco in 2017? Top influencers like Kendell Jenner and Bella Hadid promoted the event that turned out to be a colossal failure, leading to substantial backlash. Even worse many of the attendees were themselves influencers attracted by the ‘grammable opportunities – meaning the bad word got out quickly. An influencer-first strategy actually worked against the event in the end. In another case, UK betting company, BetIndex, used influencers to promote their 'Football Index' platform. When the platform collapsed, it led to significant losses for users and backlash against the influencers and the company.
6 - Be authentic
The worst missteps in influencer strategies underline the importance of due diligence and authenticity. Influencers should be well-versed in what they're endorsing, and ideally they should genuinely be enthusiastic about those ideas and products. Brands need to ensure their partnerships align with their values and audience expectations. A best case scenario for a misalignment is throwing away good money on a campaign that doesn’t catch alight, which is bad enough – the other end of the scale is considerable reputational damage. High profile influencers who misalign with your brand will only amplify your errors.
When done right, B2B influencer marketing can yield impressive returns. It demands a deep understanding of your audience, commitment to building authentic relationships, adherence to disclosure regulations, and careful tracking of results. It’s not the easy win some assume – marketing professionals will now be used to someone suggesting “can’t we work with an influencer” without really understanding the complexities of the issue. Not every YouTuber, TikToker, Instagrammer or specialist blogger is an automatic key to viral gold. However, with the right approach and the right influencers, the sky's the limit.
Published on 2023-05-19 09:17:18