It's no secret that social media has dramatically impacted traditional advertising. Streaming services and mobile device usage has inspired many companies to pivot their marketing strategy to get ahead of the evolving landscape.
B2B businesses, in particular, can capitalize on the inclusion of digital influencers in their marketing strategy. Here are some of the impacts influencer marketing has had on digital marketing as a whole.
Change in Marketing Spend
One of the most significant impacts that influencer marketing has had in recent years is the change in marketing spend for many companies. Those funds that were once earmarked for paid ads or print advertising have been reallocated for digital promotions. As of 2018, B2B companies were expected to increase their social spending by 89% for products and 58% for services by 2023. A Nielsen Catalina Solutions case study on the effectiveness of B2B influencer marketing showed an ROI 11 times higher than traditional marketing spend.
For B2B businesses that are still considering the merit of working with an influencer, these numbers are a strong indication of how valuable this opportunity truly is.
Relinquishing Creative Control
Businesses traditionally followed one of two paths when developing a digital marketing strategy: they'd manage the creative process in-house or hire an external agency. With influencer marketing, both approaches are still in play, but with less creative control over the finished product.
The thing that makes digital influencers so successful is their authenticity and personal brand elements. Their audience doesn't want to see something overly processed or scripted. Rather than having a polished advertisement pushing the benefits of one social media scheduler over another, an influencer might write an Instagram scheduler blog post and highlight the key points in a short social media video while sitting in their office drinking coffee.
This relinquishment of creative control essentially means that the influencer's brand elements will dominate those of the product or service being showcased. Finding an influencer aligned with the brand and having a clear agreement with guidelines is essential for success.
Better Audience Alignment
Another reason why it's so important to find the right influencer is the need for audience alignment. A digital influencer knows what their audience wants to see and how they engage with content. For brands, an influencer acts as a translator or mediator, bridging the gap between your company and your target demographic. When an influencer shares content, people feel less like they're being advertised to and more like they're receiving advice from a friend.
B2B companies will have a unique challenge in finding the right influencers to create audience alignment. It's integral to seek industry experts and influencers who would realistically use your product or service and have a following that would as well.
For example, working with an influencer who focuses on B2C content might not be ideal, even though they could benefit personally from your offering. Conversely, an influencer who teaches other like-minded entrepreneurs how to hone their craft could be a good fit.
Accelerated Sales Funnel Progression
One of the biggest benefits of an influencer's role in digital marketing is an accelerated sales funnel process. By working with an influencer, your leads may progress from brand awareness to the decision phase within moments.
The reason behind this accelerated progression is the inherent trust and engagement between the influencer and their audience. If the influencer has managed to spark a genuine connection with their following, their following will trust said influencer's recommendations.
One caveat to consider is finding an influencer who has nourished a trusting relationship with their audience. If an influencer is willing to sponsor a product or service with no demo or experience using your offering, there's cause for concern.
Demand for Accountability
Influencers know that when they promote a product or service to their audience, they risk their personal reputation by being false or misleading. If an influencer pushes an offering that they haven't properly vetted, they risk losing trust, followers, and future paid opportunities.
As such, this demand for accountability gets passed along to the hiring business. Expect to showcase your offering's value to the influencer before they agree to share it with their audience. For example, if you offer a small business accounting app, plan on providing free access to the influencer with proactive customer support for an extended period before they agree to a sponsorship.
Changing Legislation Around Transparency
The rise of influencer marketing has necessitated certain changes in legislation regarding transparency and authenticity in advertising. While many changes have been implemented since the internet became a household staple, some jurisdictional gray areas still need to be addressed.
One of the most recent updates to internet legalities relates to influencer marketing transparency. In 2017, the FTC mandated that sponsored posts and influencer relationships must be disclosed within sponsored content. As such, both influencers and the hiring party must adhere to the guidelines or face severe monetary penalties.
Typically, linking a paid partner and using #ad or #sponsoredpost at the beginning of the content is sufficient. However, it's important to understand the nuances of the FTC's guidelines and ensure they're in place when working with an influencer. If you have a respected industry leader sharing a testimonial for your SaaS offering, they should disclose if they've received payment or affiliate funds for their contribution.
Shift Away from Celebrity Endorsements
Celebrity endorsements have long been one of the staples in consumer advertising, both for B2B and B2C marketing campaigns. It's one of the pillars of advertising learned in school. In the beginning, influencer marketing was the modern version of a celebrity endorsement. In recent years, however, companies have been shifting toward micro and nano influencers instead.
Micro-influencers are loosely defined as having fewer than 100,000 followers, while nano influencers have fewer than 10,000. There are numerous benefits to working with smaller influencers. Those with smaller audiences tend to have higher engagement rates, creating warmer leads during sponsorship runs. Additionally, smaller influencers tend to have more affordable partnership rates.
Companies that work with micro and nano B2B influencers tend to have a lower reach but a higher conversion rate.
Influencer marketing has changed the digital marketing landscape over the past decade. If your business hasn't capitalized on this opportunity, the time is now.
To find success in B2B influencer marketing, start with clearly defined goals surrounding the process. Clarify your niche and determine what you hope to accomplish — i.e., better brand awareness, customer loyalty, conversions, etc. From there, take the time to vet trustworthy influencers who will appeal to your niche, opting for an industry leader or someone with notoriety and clout. Approach your influencer relationship as a partnership and work together to engage your shared audience.
Finally, use your analytics to measure your success over time.
Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart — all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere.