The world of work is changing. Millennials are taking on higher positions within the workforce, paving the way for new Generation Z employees. These younger gens are bringing their digital culture into the business sphere. Professionals of all ages are now recognising the value of personal branding; starting to promote not only their companies but also themselves as voices to be heard. With everyone from CEOs to freelance creatives acting as a sort of influencer, It’s no wonder that B2B influencers are a trend on the rise.
On the flip side of personal branding, brands and businesses are also having to get personal as authenticity and ‘wokeness’ shape more and more B2B conversations. The topic of work wellbeing and mental health, for example, is taking LinkedIn by storm. With first-hand stories to share from both their industry expertise and personal work life, influencers are the perfect voice for the changing culture of B2B marketing.
According to Convince and Convert, at least 91% of B2B transactions are influenced by word of mouth and, according to Demand Gen’s The 2019 Content Preferences Survey, 95% of respondents named reliable content from industry influencers as their B2B marketing preference, an increase of 30% from the previous year.
B2B 2 C…
The boundary between B2B and B2C influencer marketing is starting to blur as businesses become more and more like everyday consumers. Nowadays, selling a brilliant product or service is simply not enough. Businesses want more than just functionality. They want to connect with the specific product or service on a more personal level and believe in the brand’s story. And who better to tell brand stories while connecting with these businesses than influencers? Many B2B companies are seeing that influencer campaigns lead to a combination of the following: greater engagement, increased lead generation, better lead quality and a higher number of ebook and guide downloads.
So, who are B2B influencers?
Authors, academics, CEOs, directors, managers… B2B influencers are working professionals, balancing their day jobs with their work as an influencer. According to LinkedIn, when it comes to B2B influencers, it’s more about relevance than numbers. In other words, the best influencers are not necessarily the ones with a huge social following. They’re the ones working in the same industry as your potential customers, with experience-driven insight and understanding.
Employees as advocates
Just as authenticity is the name of the B2C influencer game, it’s also integral to B2B marketing. For this reason, your most useful influencers might actually be sharing a desk with you. Yes, that’s right, employees make great influencers as they can celebrate your organisation in a truly authentic way. After all, they’ve got behind-the-scenes access to your company’s inner workings. If employees share their company’s content alongside their own thoughts and insights, they can make a great impression on prospective customers. CTR is 2x higher when an employee shares company content, rather than the company itself (source:Iron Paper Insights). As a cohort, a company’s workforce has a huge number of contacts, meaning they’re a valuable source to tap into.
For more on the importance of authenticity, read our blog ‘Keeping it Real: How to Achieve Brand Authenticity’.
The power of good storytelling
As our previous chapter proves, brand storytelling is a key trend for 2020 and is an area where B2B influencers make a real difference. Take the #MakeWhatsNext campaign, where Microsoft, alongside National Geographic, collaborated with female scientists and adventure-seekers. Whilst sharing how Microsoft products helped them in their work, these influencers also led workshops for young women, inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). By using exciting professionals, Microsoft showcased the true value of their product and told their brand story in a highly memorable way. It’s no wonder they got great results, with a reach of 91M (source: Grin).
Related Read: How Can Brands Tell Inspiring Stories in 2020?
Influencing unseen social
From the spotlight to the unseen, B2B influencers also play an important role in the world of dark social. No, it’s not as ominous as it sounds – dark social is content that cannot be tracked by companies because it’s shared through private messaging platforms like Slack or Whatsapp. The personal and trustworthy nature of B2B influencer content means it’s more likely to be shared across this dark social sphere. For example, a mid-level employee spots a post from a reliable influencer and sends it to their higher-level colleagues until it hits the desk of a Director or CEO who then takes action. So, while it all sounds rather sneaky, B2B influencers help get your content where it needs to go.
Key channels and content
According to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, 80% of B2B Leads come through LinkedIn, so it’s no wonder that business professionals continue to flock to the platform. Thanks to this, LinkedIn is seeing more and more insight driven (and sometimes even emoji-packed) marketing posts popping up from experts across the globe.
3,2,1… and we’re live
Though a relatively new feature, LinkedIn Live allows B2B influencers and companies to lead conversations with other professionals in real time. LinkedIn Live is great for driving engagement, with live video getting 24 times more comments than native video (source: LinkedIn Live Best Practices Guide, 2019). With Live, there’s lots of possibilities when it comes to influencer content. For example, companies can stream influencers speaking at an event; film inside the office to celebrate their employees; deliver a live presentation or share a live demo about their services or products.
For more content ideas for your 2020 marketing plans, make sure to read our new Trends 2020 report!
Who doesn’t love lists?
2019 was the year of the LinkedIn list, and for good reason. According to Omnicore, lists are amongst the top performing content formats on LinkedIn, so they’re a great type of post for influencers to share. But remember, lists shouldn’t be overloaded; between 5-10 short bullet points is more than enough!
Lights, camera, action
According to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, 78% of users agree that video engagement helps immensely with lead generation, as they can determine higher quality leads. Equally, 57% of B2B marketers believe that video on LinkedIn leads to a greater number of leads. So putting influencers behind the camera is integral for any B2B marketing campaign. When posting video think-pieces, any length from 30 seconds up to 5 minutes is advised (source: Marketing Land).
Want to know more about effective video content? Read our related blog post, ‘An Innovative Approach: Engaging Global Audiences Through Video Marketing’.
The more the merrier
It’s not all just about LinkedIn, of course. There are loads of other platforms and formats perfect for influencer content. Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, blogs and slideshares are great places for influencers to share their knowledge. Webinars are also a strong option, especially since in the The 2019 Content Preferences Survey, 47% of respondents stated that case studies were the ‘most valuable influencer content’, closely followed by webinars at 37% (source: Demand Gen, The 2019 Content Preferences Survey, 2019).
It probably comes as no surprise that events continue to shape B2B marketing in 2020. According to EventMB, amongst event professionals, 39% stated that ‘engaging attendees’ are the most important aspect of an event. A great way to tap into this statistic is to invite personable and engaging B2B influencers to mingle at these events. Equally, hosting an insightful event and inviting influencers onto the stage is sure to get people excited about your company.
B2B Channels around the globe
Of course, it’s important to remember that B2B marketing channels differ around the world. Companies should take into account their target market when choosing the platforms for their influencer campaigns. In Japan, for example, Facebook is seen as a hub for business professionals and so is ideal for B2B content. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Xing is the social platform used for business whilst in China, WeChat is the ultimate platform for networking. Zhihu is also an option for marketing in China as its used for discovering more informative content about specific industries.
From offices in Beijing, to hubs in Berlin – it’s evident that businesses will need to give their B2B marketing strategies more of a human touch in the future. For more info on 2020’s global marketing trends, download our latest guide now.