For B2B marketers, an external voice can amplify the credibility of your message and help you connect more deeply with your target audience.

Macro versus micro influencers

It’s true that if you collaborate with an influencer with millions of followers, also known as a macro influencer, the reach will be larger – but that engagement could be far less meaningful.

A 2016 study found that 30 per cent of consumers were more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger, suggesting that while celebrity influencers are useful, their endorsement doesn’t prompt action from all audience segments.

Similar trends have emerged in B2B marketing, where audiences respond to experts in the field, as opposed to bigger names – the latter might have more followers but the former brings industry credibility.

LinkedIn used this particularly effectively in its recent influencer campaign, deploying a number of B2B influencers whose audiences exist both on and off LinkedIn to encourage digital marketers to use the platform.

In collaboration with social media and digital marketing influencers, LInkedIn created a 48-page e-book titled The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn. Each chapter includes a Q&A with experts in the field who all have sizable followings on LinkedIn and other platforms, and shared the e-book on their own platforms.

By leveraging the influencers’ status as trusted authority figures for a specific industry, LinkedIn was able to communicate with authority to a highly engaged audience and, while their reach may have been larger with a macro influencer, the message may not have reached as many marketers.

Ultimately, the number of followers an influencer has or the size of their database is important, but must be considered alongside the overlap of that audience with your specific target market.

Finding the right influencers

Finding influencers that are a good fit for your brand and your goals starts with research. By immersing yourself in the digital world of your audiences, you can start to understand which influencers have an audience that aligns with your target market, and who has an audience size and engagement level that will help you achieve your marketing goals.

Industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are often a good place to start, as they give insight into candid conversations between members of your target audience, and the kinds of content and people that they respond to.

More traditional market research can also be useful. Speaking to people in your target audience and finding out which influencers they view as trustworthy sources of knowledge is a highly effective way of understanding which influencers will be most likely to connect with them and lend authority to the message.

Building relationships, building an audience

Like so many relationships, the best kinds of brand and influencer partnerships are mutually beneficial. While the brand leverages the influencer’s network, the influencer reinforces their position as a thought leader by discussing engaging ideas and exciting brands.

If that benefit flows both ways, a long-term partnership is more likely – and long-term relationship can often be the difference between successful and unsuccessful influencer programs, giving audiences the time to expand their trusted relationship with the influencer to include the brand, and providing brands the time needed to convert the influencer’s audience into an owned audience.

The mutual benefits of influencer marketing were made abundantly clear in LinkedIn’s program. The influencers added authority and brought audiences to LinkedIn – table stakes for influencer marketing – but the influencers were also able to align themselves with the an established platform, and in doing so were able to achieve greater legitimacy.

When should you use influencers?

Influencers can be a valuable channel for brands keen to either reach new audiences or increase engagement and authority with existing audiences. As with all channel marketing strategies, it’s important to have clearly defined goals, and understand where the influencer can work alongside your other marketing channels to maximise their impact.

Deploying carefully chosen influencers as part of a comprehensive, multi-channel campaign can be truly transformative for B2B marketers looking to create meaningful connections with niche audiences.

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