Entrepreneurs By Shama Hyder
There’s no denying that when it comes to influencer marketing, B2B companies were late to the game.
While B2C brands were establishing relationships with mega-influencers, the B2B brands I was working with were barely on social media. Later, when B2C brands were starting to figure out that consumers weren’t as wowed by celebrity endorsements as they used to be, B2B brands were courting the Kylie Jenners and Selena Gomezes of the Instagram world, trying to score posts and connect their brand image to people with millions of followers.
The problem is that today’s connected consumer is too sophisticated to take most mega-influencers at face value. Though there will always be a place for big names and celebrity faces, brands can no longer assume that a high-profile influencer will buy them instant credibility and is worth the investment. It’s now public knowledge, for instance, that Jenner makes $1 million per paid Instagram post—making this kind of promotion a hard sell for consumers, especially ultra-savvy Gen Z.
And yet, many B2B companies seem to be stuck using what are either outdated or inappropriate (for their audience) influencer marketing strategies—and then find themselves at a loss when their campaigns don’t bring in the leads they expected.
Here’s how to update and expand your arsenal of influencer tactics and create a campaign that will capture the connected consumer’s attention—along with their wallet.
1.Explore working with micro- and nano-influencers.
If you want to reach the connected consumer, you’ve got to be authentic—and nothing can compromise authenticity faster than a tone-deaf endorsement by a major celebrity whom everyone is aware makes millions of dollars posting product lifestyle shots on their Instagram account.
Again, it’s not that there’s no place for high-profile influencers or influencers who lack celebrity status but have an incredibly large reach, it’s just that in many cases, brands no longer have to go this route — and in many cases, shouldn’t go this route — to create a successful campaign.
Instead of assuming your brand needs to go after influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers, consider partnering with smaller ones. Even though these micro-influencers (5k-10k followers) and nano-influencers (1k-5k followers) have much smaller audiences, those audiences are almost invariably far more engaged than those of mega-influencers. Not only that, but a partnership with a micro-influencer will be a whole lot easier on your marketing budget.
2.Emphasize storytelling and education.
Brands have long known that their customers want content that tells a story or provides value in some way. This is why we’ve seen so many companies, both B2C and B2B, focusing on telling their brand’s history, emphasizing their values, and producing educational, valuable content.
The same is true, however, with your influencer partnerships. Instead of the typical, ad-like promotion, consider asking the influencers you work with to work your product or service into a story or experience.
For example, American Express’s Love My Store campaign brought in small business owners to talk about their businesses, while raising awareness of AmEx services for small businesses.
3.Lose the “Instagram-perfect” aesthetic.
It may surprise you, but those perfectly staged, beautifully lit Instagram shots that have been filling up your feed for the past 5 years? They’re fast on their way out.
Connected consumers don’t want perfect (in other words, perfectly contrived) images anymore. They don’t want to see shots that appear “staged” but rather those that lend themselves to the impression that they were taken by “normal” people for the purpose of sharing rather than by a professional camera crew for the purpose of promoting.
This is important to know when you’re seeking out influencers to partner with, as you want someone who’s aware of the way influencer marketing is going and isn’t going to give your brand a collection of over-produced posts that don’t capture the audience you’re after.
At the same time, of course, you don’t want an influencer who’s so completely embraced the “real-life” look that your product or service comes out looking less than desirable. There’s a balance to be struck there, and a sophisticated influencer (or micro-influencer) will know how to tell the difference between an aesthetic that is “natural and authentic” vs. “careless and ill-composed.”
4.Don’t neglect the social capital represented by your employees.
If individual executives are more trusted than brands (and they are), then employees are more trusted than individual executives.
In fact, a brand’s employees are a vastly underappreciated resource for spreading a company’s message and increasing their online reach. For example, employee re-shares of company-posted content have more than double the click-through rate of the original post.
Collectively, a company’s staff also has far more connections than their employer has followers. In essence, a company’s employees can easily act as de facto influencers, especially if the content they post is perceived to be genuine and authentic. Encouraging employees to share company-sponsored content, as well their own company-related content, is a great way to engage this often overlooked potential resource.
Influencer marketing has traditionally been harder to crack for B2B companies than for its B2C cousins—but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. By putting into practice some of the lessons B2C companies have learned over the past several years, B2B brands can make the most out of their influencer partnerships.
Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age. A web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of Zen Media.
This article first appeared in Forbes Entrepreneurs.