As consumers, we are familiar with business-to-consumer (B2C) influencer marketing campaigns. Over the past decade, influencer marketing has revolutionized the way that brands engage consumers, providing a way to raise awareness and promote purchasing to larger, and more targeted, audiences. But only recently have business-to-business (B2B) companies recognized the value of the creator economy, and their involvement with influencers is just beginning to grow.
73% B2B marketers cite an increased interest in pursuing influencer marketing initiatives in the past 12 months, and 80% say they expect interest to continue to grow over the next year.
There is no doubt that B2B influencers are rapidly rising in popularity, and the sheer quantity of them is continuing to multiply by the day. Let’s discuss why they are gaining traction, the challenges that come with implementing a campaign, and what the future of B2B influencer marketing holds.
Tapping Into The Success Seen In B2C
The use of influencer marketing in the B2C space has skyrocketed largely due to the high level of consumer trust that creators are able to establish with their audiences. Because creators often share products that align with their personal brand, their promotions can feel more genuine compared to what a brand has to say about itself. This same effect is seen for B2B influencers.
Just as it is in the B2C space, building strong, long-term relationships with their audiences is the main priority for B2B businesses. Typically, these targets include key decision-making executives at prospective companies. Though, unlike consumers, businesses are likely going to take their time in considering business purchases, so maintaining conversations over a longer period of time is key to generating sales in the future. And because businesses often select industry experts or thought leaders as part of their influencer campaigns, their target audiences are usually confident that the product or service being marketed to them is of value and are more likely to follow through with a purchase.
Additionally, similar to the rise of nano- and micro-influencers in the consumer space, smaller, more niche B2B audiences can be preferable to a business to a vast audience with less relevance. In fact:
TopRank found that 87% of B2B brands consider a relevant audience as a must-have when identifying influencers.
As B2B influencers tend to focus on specific verticals, whether it be marketing, fintech, or IT, to name a few, they bring with them this selective social media following that businesses are looking for.
Challenges Of B2B Influencer Marketing
Leveraging influencers as part of B2B marketing strategies can yield tremendous results. But there are challenges that come with doing B2B influencer marketing correctly.
As mentioned, B2B influencers often specialize in a certain field. Conducting diligent research to ensure influencers not only align with a brand’s mission and have the same target audience but actually understand the product or service they will be promoting, can take up valuable time and company resources. On top of this, evaluating an influencer’s followings to validate that their audiences are legitimate is another onerous task. On every social media platform, accounts can be inactive or even fraudulent (bots, fake profiles, etc.), so it is imperative that influencers are vetted for having genuine followers.
Adequately communicating with B2B influencers can also prove to be difficult for businesses. Finding the right balance between personalized messages and transparency when it comes to paying, timelines, and content expectations are crucial to the success of securing an influencer partnership.
Many of these challenges can however be addressed by leveraging influencer marketing technology to help manage influencer marketing campaigns. Several artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) platforms exist that can allow businesses to streamline the outreach process, analyze influencer accounts (including engagement rates, post impressions, growth metrics, and audience insights), and monitor campaign progress.
The Future of the B2B Creator Economy
Even with the accelerated growth of B2B influencers since the start of the pandemic, B2B influencer campaigns still only account for a fraction of total influencer marketing spending. The number of B2B brands tapping into the creator economy will only continue to increase over the next few years. With this, we will also see the number of those self-identifying as B2B influencers soar, creating an overcrowded pool of B2B influencers that we currently see in the B2C space.
Employee influencers, that is, employees who promote the products or services for their own company, will be another trend that consistently gains popularity. Employees acting as influencers are trusted sources of information for target audiences and also create positive brand images, potentially even aiding in recruiting initiatives.
Lastly, B2B influencer marketing has the potential to become less formal and more relatable moving forward. Many may think of long, structured LinkedIn posts detailing the benefits of software or professional service when they think of B2B influencing. But soon, more and more businesses will utilize humor, short-form content like TikTok or Instagram Reels, and memes to make more of an impact on target audiences, engaging with them on a more personal level.
The B2B influencer space is still fairly new and there is a lot that is still uncertain in terms of how it will evolve. However, the one sure thing is that it is here to stay.