With more than 500,000 influencers operating on Instagram—just under 40% of all accounts—it has become the go-to digital platform for businesses to reach interested young consumers.
An influencer account has 15,000 or more followers, though it’s often higher than this with 81% of influencer accounts ranging from between 15,000 and 100,000 followers.
Influencer marketing has traditionally been the purview of B2C marketers peddling retail products like t-shirts, pet supplies, and household goods.
But influencer marketing can also be a powerful tool for B2B campaigns. In this post, we’ll review the state of the influencer market in 2019 and discuss some ways that companies can identify and work with key influencers to promote their brand, products or services.
Influencer marketing is alive and well
Influencer Marketing Hub (IMH), an online resource for influencers and agencies, surveyed over 800 influencer marketing agencies to determine the current state of the industry.
The survey reveals tremendous potential for advertisers on Instagram alone, due to Instagram’s rapid growth (Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users last year). The incredible popularity of Instagram isn’t lost on marketers, with more than 740 influencer marketing focused platforms and agencies in the marketplace in 2018, up from 190 in 2015.
Image Source: Influencer Marketing Hub
Influencer marketing offers high returns
The IMH survey revealed that influencer marketing nets high returns, with the most influencer-savvy marketers earning $18 in earned media value for every dollar spent on influencer marketing.
While returns can be high for those who know what they’re doing, it can be unsuccessful for those who don’t, with a quarter of respondents indicating they lost money or broke even. This can happen when businesses select the wrong influencers for there specific brand, a distinction particularly important in the B2B space.
And speaking of B2B influencer marketing, roughly 30% of survey respondents indicated they run influencer campaigns in the B2B space. Currently the platforms of choice for B2B marketers are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (in that order.)
B2B Influencer marketing—learning by example
B2B campaigns tend to be less straightforward than B2C campaigns, and leveraging influencer marketing in the B2B space is no exception. Thus, the best way to demonstrate how companies can leverage this hot new tactic, is by example.
Creating and sharing content
Influencer marketing is inextricably tied to good content. For B2B campaigns, content creation is simple—images of products, brief posts about events or sales, a short video of an influencer touting the benefits of a new skin cream or lip gloss.
So how does this translate to the B2B space? Well, B2B marketers must first identify the appropriate influencers in their given industry, and work with them to deliver meaningful content. They can do this by using one of many tools designed specifically for this purpose.
Once influencers are identified, the next step is to figure out what content to create and promote. It could be as simple as promoting a product launch or industry event or something more complex, like working with influencers to create videos that promote or endorse a company.
Case in point: in 2016, enterprise software provider SAP, worked with influencers to create video interviews at their annual Sapphire conference. During the event, influencers met with SAP executives, tested products, and provided feedback. Influencers live-streamed the event to thousands of people and SAP repurposed much of this content for their blog, but also shared it predominantly on social media.
Hashtag branding and promotion
Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by a hash sign (#). Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook use hashtags to categorize and highlight topics. When a user clicks on the hashtag, a list of posts that use that hashtag appear (for example).
American Express leveraged hashtags to promote their Platinum card by working with celebrities and Instagram influencers to promote the card using the hashtag #AmexAmbassadors.
Amex was careful to align this campaign with people that represent the luxury lifestyle and had them share posts about the benefits of the card. They used a range of influencers that included very well-known celebrities to influencers with less than 100,000 followers. Just one post from the right influencer can net tens of thousands of likes, as shown in this example from men’s fashion blogger Adam Gallagher’s Instagram account.
Image Source: Influencer Marketing Hub
Insider information via influencers
Influencers have access to specific niche audiences which is why they make the perfect brand ambassadors. One way that B2B marketers can leverage this is by inviting influencers behind the scenes at their offices, events, or factories.
G.E. did exactly this by combining a hashtag–#GEInstaWalk—with good old-fashioned schmoozing. They invited a few relevant Instagram influencers to tour an R&D Center and share photos and videos of the experience on Instagram using the #GEInstaWalk hashtag.
In just one post, photographer and Instagram influencer Chris Ozer generated nearly 11,000 likes with a photo of the inside of a Turbulence Control Structure at the G.E. R&D Center.
Image Source: Instagram
Influencer marketing has grown year over year since 2016 and is expected to reach 6.5 billion in revenue in 2019. Even so, it tends to be the last stop for B2B marketers when crafting their social media strategy, taking a back seat to more popular tactics like paid search, social media ads, and email marketing.
Growth of influencer marketing from 2016 to 2019—Source: Influencer Marketing Hub
For savvy B2B marketers, influencer marketing presents an exciting opportunity to reach a savvy audience of engaged customers via social media. As with any tactic, it’s important to test different strategies and approaches to see what works for your specific company or campaign.