“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” ~ Seth Godin
I love this quote from Seth Godin. Why? Because it speaks directly and beautifully to the heart of the influencer marketing concept. And if you’ve read Part I of this series, you’ve hopefully gotten a whiff of why engaging influencers is an important part of any holistic B2B marketing strategy…and why you should start off thinking small when launching any influencer marketing initiative. It’s time to dive headlong into the second half this primer on influencer marketing: the care and feeding of micro- and nano-influencers. Ready? Let’s go.
Here an Influencer, There an Influencer…
The proposition of tapping into the influencer marketing trend doesn’t appear to be all that difficult these days, with seemingly every other person out there on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram making grand declarations of their status as a Very Important Personality (aka the “I’m an influencer too!” syndrome). But appearances can be deceiving – the real challenge of finding the right influencer for your brand can be harder than you think.
The influencer game is wide open when it comes to B2C brands but B2B is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. B2B brands aren’t typically involved in consumer packaged goods and services like lipstick or luxury spa resorts. If you’re a B2B organization, it’s doubtful that you’ll have hordes of Insta-famous types banging on your door, asking to be put on your PR list so they can get a free sample of your latest software widget or belt conveyor. Unlike the B2C crowd that has to wade through the proverbial haystack to find just the right needle, B2B faces the tougher question of how to find influencers – any influencers – at all.
So, where does B2B find meaningful influencers then? I recommend you start by looking in your own backyard.
When thinking about cultivating a network of micro- and nano-influencers, one solid approach is to look for those already invested in your brand. Who is blogging about your company, product, or service? Replying to, Liking, and sharing your tweets and Instagram posts? Following your brand on LinkedIn and Facebook? These are all great avenues for discovering and engaging with influencers.
And don’t neglect to comb through your customers and opted-in email marketing database for those who might be receptive to forming an influencer marketing relationship. Additionally, explore the social accounts for these individuals to see what they’re reading, who they’re following, and what they’re interested in. It could help you discover synergies that will point you to your next micro- or nano-influencer.
One often overlooked pool of influencers? Employees. Or members and volunteers, if you’re a member-driven organization. There’s no more powerful advocate than someone on the inside. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better brand ambassador than an employee who personally uses your brand’s product or service, or someone who has benefitted from the advantages membership brings firsthand.
Last but not least, use every available tool at your disposal. Whether putting your Google Fu to work for some good ol’ fashioned keyword research, leveraging Pixlee’s free Instagram analytics for hashtag insights, tapping into social listening solutions like Buzzsumo, or searching SocialBaker’s influencer database, there’s a cornucopia of both free and paid options out there for finding influencers.
The Care and Feeding of Influencers
So you’ve done your research and identified a pool of possible influencers to engage with. Now what? First, make sure you have a well-crafted influencer marketing plan ready to go based on the goals you’re hoping to achieve. Then, It’s time to start the relationship-building process by reaching out to your candidates for a conversation about why they’re a fit for your influencer marketing program. Having that clearly outlined plan to fall back on will enable you to explain how you’re expecting their participation to help you realize your business goals.
What makes an influencer willing to get onboard? The top-of-mind question for any influencer is always going to be, “What’s in it for me?” In B2C, influencers are generally compensated with free products and services and frequently, some sort of additional consideration for their efforts. Unfortunately, typical B2C influencer compensation models like pay-for-post, cost-per-click, and cost-per-engagement don’t translate well to the B2B space. You do have options, though. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Early access to your next release – give your influencers an edge by offering an exclusive preview in exchange for a blog, social media post, or short video of their positive experience with your latest product or solution
- Discounts and freebies – if your influencer also happens to be your customer, consider offering a price break on future purchases or SLAs, or sweeten things with no-charge product add-ons, upgrades, or consulting hours
- Up the value of membership – for member-driven organizations, offering a discount on membership fees, complimentary conference registration, or free subscriptions to publications can help turn an influential member into an advocate
- Roll out the red carpet – host an invitation-only influencers conference that includes exclusive first-look news or information, throw a VIP reception at the next big industry event, or offer an insider tour of your facility
Once you have your influencers lined up and ready, where do you go with them? How you put them to work will depend on your goals and unique situation, but there are a number of win-win tactics that can benefit brand and influencer alike:
- Equip your influencers with everything they need to succeed – this includes key messages, sample products if applicable, photos and video, hashtags and keywords, statistics, and anything else they require to help tell your brand’s story
- Give ‘em space – running a large event? Set aside space for your attendee influencers to do a bit of livestreaming, or provide them access to your spokespeople for a Q&A, Twitter chat, or podcast
- Sharing is caring – once your influencer does post or blog about your brand, don’t forget to Like, comment, and share, because the more you interact with them, the stronger and more productive your relationship will be
Watch the Gotchas
Right now, you’re convinced that a micro- and nano-influencer marketing campaign is the very thing you need to do, yes? Great! However, it’s time for me to sprinkle a few words of caution on your enthusiasm. Why? Because just like everything else, there are things to be aware of and prepared for, so make sure you’re going into this with your eyes wide open.
With so many people out there declaring themselves influencers, make sure anyone you engage with is an authentic, dyed-in-the-wool influencer. The rise of greedy “influencers” looking to make a quick buck or score free stuff is a growing problem for B2C businesses and brands. I mean, it’s bad when even the ice cream man is upset. Due diligence is half of the solution to this issue – vetting influencers carefully to ensure you’re not signing on with someone who buys followers by the bucketful is an absolute must. The other half? Having an agreement in place that transparently spells out what you’re providing to the influencer and what you anticipate to receive in return. Having a written agreement keeps things above board and should help minimize any confusion over expectations.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the bottom line. Influencer marketing can be a valuable tactic, but you have to make sure the cost is justifiable for your brand. Measuring its ROI is challenging enough that the Influencer Marketing Hub team has suggested that a different metric is needed for cost-justification of influencer marketing campaigns. No matter how you calculate it, it comes down to being able to answer the question of whether what you’re putting into your campaign is worth what you’re getting out of it with a resounding, “Yes!”. If the answer is “no”, then you may need to take a step back and reevaluate your influencer marketing program.
Micro- and nano-influencer marketing is a coming trend for B2B. Hopefully, you’re now one step closer to putting it to work for your brand. And as always, if you feel like you still need help? You know whom to call.