It is no longer enough to grow your network on social media such as LinkedIn. As senior executives, you need to be B2B influencers if you aim at exponential career development. Influencers are key opinion leaders who help their network of connections to make better decisions about brands, products, and services. For this reason, modern B2B companies must embrace and nurture their in-house B2B influencers.
The explosion in the popularity of social media has led many to believe that it’s an effective way to influence audiences directly. While this isn’t wrong, it’s also not entirely correct. It’s become crystal clear that influencer marketing, rather than social media marketing, is the key to a successful influencer marketing campaign.
Many companies have different avenues to raise awareness about their products/services and generate sales leads, but few have discovered B2B influencer marketing as a way to leverage their senior executives’ and professionals’ skills and knowledge.
B2B influencer marketing is the process of using trusted individuals (inside or outside an organization) to share information about the industry, products, and services on social media and in real life, for example, conferences. The process can be challenging to execute, but it can be an excellent way to develop your industry influence and your company’s brand credibility and image.
It is a great way to promote your product in front of a group of highly engaged targeted audiences, both online and offline. If you can find a successful B2B influencer with a sizable audience, a powerful, persuasive story, and a genuine enthusiasm for your product, you can gain access to their community of followers.
And why not leverage potential influencers, either experts or executives, inside your company?
Now, if you’re thinking, “But, I’m not a social media influencer” – not so fast. Sure, you don’t have millions of followers across all your social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a B2B influencer. Every single influencer started with… zero followers!
Thought leadership and influence are two of the most sought-after qualities in today’s senior professional world. If you ask any recruiter or employer, they will tell you that they are looking for highly influential professionals or individuals who are perceived as such. There’s a natural preference for professionals who have built a strong reputation of being thought leaders in their industry.
So, what exactly do we mean by thought leadership and influence? It’s the ability to get an idea or opinion across to people and for that opinion to be accepted as substantial, valuable, and true.
Any marketing campaign is only as good as the people who are behind it. The quality of your influencers is of the utmost importance: the most brilliant content in the world won’t matter if nobody sees it. So you want to make sure you are working with influencers who know how to get the word out. B2B influencer marketing is all about leveraging your industry’s influencer community (inside and outside your organization) to make your brand known, and it can be incredibly effective if used correctly. And who can better advocate about your brand, products, and services than your executives?
The benefits of B2B influencer marketing are numerous. Businesses have used it for building awareness and driving traffic for a long time.
B2B influencer marketing is a powerful practice for brands that allows them an amplified reach to highly targeted prospects, it gives them the information they need to make the right purchase decisions. Many senior executives actively use social media to follow companies, stay informed, and engage with thought leaders in their industry. Because of this, senior professionals are likely the right audience for your B2B influencer marketing campaign.
It’s also more effective than B2B outbound marketing: research shows that customers are more likely to trust an influencer’s advice than a company’s. It’s efficient: it’s cost-effective and takes less time to engage an influencer than it does to try and reach as many people as possible via traditional B2B marketing. It can also help build a strong relationship with a particular demographic (for example, technology professionals, marketing professionals) through blog posts and social media updates.
B2B influencer marketing power lies in enabling marketers to reach their target audience and in the unique way it can allow brands to connect with influencers.
Influencer marketing has become a valuable tool in the B2B marketing arsenal, but only if used correctly. Not only should they be used to target the right influencers specifically, but the right influencers should be tapped into the campaign to give it the most reach possible.
When you’re planning on getting into B2B influencer marketing, you’ll want to research the market to see what influencers are out there, so you can get a feel of the space you’ll be attempting to break into. Also, you’ll want to see what other B2B influencer marketing agencies, competitors, and influencers are already doing, as well as what kind of partnerships they’re making.
Companies and senior professionals want to influence and interact with many people in the modern digital world, and social media offer a streamlined way to achieve this goal. However, social media can be a confusing and intimidating place for senior professionals and those who want to influence and interact with them. Engagement is the number one reason senior professionals need to develop their influence and thought leadership via social media.
Brands are beginning to realize the potential of engaging with influencers, either directly or through agency partners, to reach established leaders in their field. It becomes more than just brand awareness. Brands and their executives can grow their influence and thought leadership and become the go-to resource for companies looking to solve business problems.
Firstly, congratulations on the realization of the power your presence could hold! Many senior executives struggle to build their voice and audience, and here are some of my personally tried and tested steps to guide you through your B2B influencer journey.
Write on paper your objectives to help you get clarity about what you are trying to achieve. Get one niche only to start. Ask yourself these questions which will, in turn, help you identify your USPs and objectives:
With so many social media channels available – Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts, blogs, it’s essential to identify where your crowd is. Check where B2B influencers in your industry currently are, the size of their audience, and the engagement with their content. It also needs to be a channel you are comfortable producing content. This could be:
Creating content is the most intimidating part for most people, but it’s also the easiest. Just breathe and don’t get overwhelmed,you can cover a wide range of topics that you’re naturally an expert at.
You need to adapt each piece of content into multiple posts. For example, an article on LinkedIn can become:
Influencing is a two-way process. Many people only push content but never respond to comments and questions. If someone engages with your content, be thankful and engage back. It could just be a like to show appreciation or an even detailed comment depending on your bandwidth and personal judgment.
The metrics may not matter at the beginning of your B2B influencer activity, but you will monitor what topics speak to your audience. What content types and formats are the most popular. Produce more of what your audience wants and less of what they don’t like – even if you have a different opinion, trust your audience!
Becoming a B2B influencer is all about being a good, authentic person that is consistent and transparent in their content.
As we saw, social media has a way of elevating executives’ voices outside the immediate perimeter of their company. It can also help you become a thought leader in your industry. Working on your blog and growing your social media accounts can significantly impact your ability to influence others and grow your portfolio.
It’s important to remember that it’s not just about the number of followers or friends someone has on a social network. The key is to leverage your social media presence to develop meaningful relationships with those you follow and engage with and create and share content that resonates with your target audience.
It takes time and effort to be a B2B influencer, but it’s worth it for the additional personal connections, clients, and business opportunities you’ll gain along the way.
Cyril Coste is CxO Digital Transformation Advisor, Founder and CDO of Digital And Growth. Cyril is also part of Huawei’s Key Opinion Leader program and has been associated with brands such as Ted Baker, Barclays, GSK, Rolls-Royce, Nivea, and others. He can be found on Twitter @CyrilCoste.
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