How many of you can count the number of times you’ve purchased a product or made a decision based on a recommendation from a friend, acquaintance, review on the web or a celebrity endorsement? I’d venture to guess that most of you would say: “Too many to count.”
That’s because we all rely on advice from others to help us make sense of a complex world where we don’t always have all of the information we need to make a decision.
Influencer marketing has been around for ages (literally), but it’s only begun to build steam within the B2B world over the past few years. The good news is that for many, B2B influencer marketing is still in its infancy—which means there are plenty of opportunities to begin implementing influencer marketing today.
Interestingly, a report from Twitter found that recommendations from influencers are quickly gaining momentum and are nearly equal to receiving recommendations from actual friends.
To help you navigate the future of B2B influencer marketing and guide your approach, we’ve put together six trends and predictions to watch for in 2019.
#1 – Increasing Data Privacy Concerns Will Impact the Role of Influencers
This year new GDPR regulations took effect across the EU, which left many global brands scrambling to make sure that they were appropriately handling personal identifying information.
What many brands didn’t consider, was how it will impact influencer marketing programs. Some big brands have already begun evolving how they handle influencer information and what is needed in terms of documentation to properly meet new requirements. And that will only continue to increase.
As Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing for SAP*, told us earlier this year:
“GDPR is going to be the stake in the ground for all data privacy—bar none. As GDPR kicks off, we’ll start to see lawsuits and controversies in the news and people will become increasingly aware and engaged. In the U.S., we’re already becoming more aware of data privacy issues, especially after Cambridge Analytica.”
She added: “But bottom line, GDPR will be really important. And as a result, our influencers will become even more important and valuable. They’re going to be our trusted brand ambassadors; our trusted voices. They’ll be a huge asset because people don’t trust brands outright—they trust people.”
Bottom line, #GDPR will be really important. And as a result, our #influencers will become even more important and valuable. @usularingham #InfluencerMarketing #B2B Click To Tweet
#2 – Capturing Influencer Attention Will Become Increasingly Difficult
As the demand for working with influencers increases, it will become more and more difficult to capture and hold their attention. As a result, before reaching out to influencers to collaborate, it will be even more important to first determine and communicate what’s in it for them.
Showing influencers value and displaying that you understand what they’re interested in will help you begin building a relationship of mutual value. As Rani Mani, Head of Influencer Social Enablement at Adobe, told us in a recent interview:
“We at Adobe pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long term relationships with our influencers. We look at it as dating with an eye towards long term commitment which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give to get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead.”
The key that Rani touches on? Building lasting relationships, which will require more effort than simply reaching out when you need something. As Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing’s CEO, recently wrote:
“Brands that use a shotgun approach to invite influencers only when they need them won’t see very high recruitment rates. The same goes for non-personalized, ego-centric messages from brands that are only concerned with what the brand wants to get out of the collaboration.”
And while we advise placing a lot of emphasis on building these relationships organically, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay your influencers where appropriate. Think about what you’re asking of your influencers and make sure that you understand their expectations as well.
Onalytica’s recent survey of brand and influencer relationships found that influencers have varying objectives, but many are most interested in building thought leadership and gaining exposure on specific topics followed by expanding their networks to reach new audiences.
Brands that use a shotgun approach to invite influencers only when they need them won’t see very high recruitment rates. @leeodden #InfluencerMarketing #B2B Click To Tweet
#3 – Emphasis on Specific Influencer Qualities Will Evolve
When you consider what makes for a good B2C influencer, the most sought-after quality is that they have an extensive network. For many B2B marketers, the emphasis has followed that same path.
However, influence is not solely based on the number of followers that an expert has, something that is becoming more clear in the wake of fake social media accounts and inflated follower counts.
True, social reach should be a consideration for your B2B influencer marketing program, but not the only one. Sometimes the influencers with the largest reach may not be engaging their audience in a meaningful way that leads to more users connecting with your content.
As a result, if you aren’t already, you need to be looking at a variety of influencer qualities (each of which are important) when identifying influencers to work with in 2019 and beyond.
As you can see in the chart below, different types of experts can positively impact your program in several different ways. As your influencer program continues to mature, begin determining what the right mix of influencers to include for maximum impact.
If you aren’t already, you need to be looking at a variety of influencer qualities (each of which are important) when identifying influencers to work with in 2019 and beyond. – @azeckman #InfluencerMarketing #B2B Click To Tweet
#4 – The Call for Tighter Topical Alignment
When many brands first start dipping their toes in the influencer marketing waters, it can be difficult to suss out exactly who to co-create content with. Unfortunately, one of the mistakes many brands make is working with influencers that don’t quite align with the topics they want to share with their target audience.
As a result, in 2019 and beyond, you need to commit to meaningful influencer identification and collaboration if you want to co-create content that informs, engages, and resonates with your audiences.
For example, if you want to collaborate with an influencer on the topic of “Account Based Marketing” it’s important to conduct critical research to determine what their take is on the topic, and if it’s a topic they publish content on frequently. Otherwise, you may not end up with the level of content that your audience is anticipating. Additionally, the influencer audience may not be a fit for the content topic which will not lead to the level of engagement you’re seeking.
Part of TopRank Marketing’s process with our clients is to conduct research internally and externally to determine which topics should be included in influencer co-creation programs to best target the audience. Below is an example of how these topics could be priorities:
But marketer beware. The goal is not to control the opinion of influencers. Instead, focus on finding the RIGHT influencers that already align with the message you’d like to create content around.
#5 – Influencer Video Content Will Reign Supreme
Video has been a rising content marketing star over the past couple years. But in 2018, video is officially dominating social media news feeds, search results, and the minds of our target audience. It’s everyhere, and the launch and refinement of native video and Stories features on top social platforms has heightened this demand.
Both live and pre-recorded video that can be uploaded natively on social platforms presents an opportunity for brands and influencers alike. Everything from talking head videos to interviews and motion graphics are all content co-creation moments that can be captured and shared again and again.
So, as the overall demand for video increases, so will the demand for increased quality. If you plan on co-creating video with influencers, you need to plan for the unexpected. If recording remotely, be sure to prep your influencers beforehand and run a test before you begin recording. If you’re recording onsite (at somewhere like their office or event) be sure to create a contingency plan in case your original setup is not conducive to capturing great video.
Both live and pre-recorded video that can be uploaded natively on social platforms presents an opportunity for brands and influencers alike. @azeckman #Influencer Marketing #B2B Click To Tweet
#6 – The Battle Between ROI & Awareness Will Continue
Every B2B marketer wants to enhance brand awareness, recognition, and advocacy. But they also want to drive a high volume of qualified leads. But to get from one end of the spectrum to the other, you need to deploy tactics and strategies that are tailored to your audience where they actually are in their buyer’s journey.
The same goes for influencer marketing programs. Not all are created equal. For example, if your goal in working with influencers is to build awareness, you’ll need to deploy a specific strategy and mix of tactics that are vastly different than if your goal is demand or lead gen.
In fact, the most recent Influence 2.0 Report from Traackr and Brian Solis found that the two top influencer priorities for marketers are to increase brand awareness followed closely by determining attribution and ROI.
Influencer marketing can absolutely have an impact on both lead gen and awareness programs. However, in 2019 and beyond, it will be essential that you build an approach that aligns with your objectives. And as influencer marketing programs continue to mature, it will be essential that brands nail down exactly what they need to measure and how they’ll measure.
Ready. Set. Connect
2019 stands to be a big year for B2B influencer marketing. Consumers and influencers alike will expect more from the brands they work with, which means that one of the most important steps you can take as a brand is to build your influencer marketing program on a solid foundation.
Instead of just throwing money at a program and expecting results, it’ll take time, effort and people to build meaningful relationships that will have a lasting impact.
Want to know what’s on tap for social media marketing in 2019? Check out our top social media trends and predictions to watch in 2019.