When you think about who is influential in your industry, you likely think about professional influencers first. These are the consultants, public speakers and authors, the ones who give keynote speeches and have huge followings on social media.
These folks are absolutely essential as part of your influencer mix. Their reach, knowledge and professionalism are incredibly valuable.
However, you need more than just these folks for authentic and useful content. To create the kind of experience that earns the attention of qualified prospects, you need to expand your definition of what an influencer is — and what influencer content should look like.
Here’s how to optimize your influencer marketing to create authentic experiences that attract your most valuable audience.
Who is an influencer? Now that Instagram models are using the word as a job title, it’s important not to forget the meaning of the word. Influencer (n.): One whohas influenceover a group of people. Someone whose opinion is trusted because of their experience and proven track record of success.
Some of the most influential people to your prospects don’t have a huge social media following or an outsized personality. They’re the ones who quietly build a reputation for excellence in your industry.
For example, the CEO of Coca-Cola might not have millions of followers. But you can bet that when he speaks, anyone in the beverage business listens.
The problem is that many influencer identification tools are focused on audience size more than this type of practical topical relevance. Tools like Traackr are getting better with it, but for now you may need to get creative. See who the executives at your most valued accounts are following on LinkedIn. Ask your customer contacts who they admire in the industry. See whose panel at the last industry conference had everyone talking, even though it was in the small conference room.
Our survey found that marketers are seeing the value of including these folks in their influencer mix. When we asked what qualities they look for in an influencer, follower count was 5th on the list. Relevance, trustworthiness and expertise all scored higher.
When you’re looking for subject matter experts, you may find you don’t have to look too far from the office, either. Your executives and employees have practical experience that your most valued prospects want to hear.
It might be illuminating, for example, to hear a keynote speaker talk about how Red Bull built their media brand. Someone with a gift for storytelling could bring that tale to life and even mine deeper insight out of it, to boot. But someone who was in the room where these decisions were made, when Red Bull first built their content empire, could provide practical information that no one else would know.
Of course, your executives, managers and workers may not be natural born storytellers. That’s okay! You can interview them, tease out their stories and insights, and polish them up without sacrificing authenticity.
In our survey, over half of respondents said they included internal executives in their influencer content. Nearly half said they included their employees as well. This is a clear opportunity to create more valuable content and build your organization’s thought leadership at the same time.
Would you pass up a chance to praise, elevate, promote and otherwise butter up your most valuable customers? Of course not. Including your customers in your content is another win-win-win: You get more perspectives in your content, your customer gets recognized and flattered, and your audience finds your content more valuable.
Customer content doesn’t have to be limited to case studies — in fact, it shouldn’t be. Let your customers be the stars and talk about their business, the challenges they’ve faced and the successes they’ve achieved. Showcasing your happy customers as the industry experts they are will reflect well on your brand, even if they’re not making a sales pitch.
And finally, we have to talk about the most jaw-dropping stat from our recent report:
Onlytwelve percentof our respondents said they use prospects in their influencer marketing. If you asked 100 marketers: “Would you pass up a chance to interact with, build up, flatter, and build a relationship with your most valuable prospects?” How many would turn it down? How many would say, “Well, only if I can get them to give me content that will help attract evenmoreprospects?”
Surely more than 12 out of 100 would see the value if you put it that way. Including prospects in your influencer marketing is such a colossal opportunity, triply so because so few folks are doing it. Treat your prospects like rock star influencers, promote their thought leadership, and good things will happen.
Think about it: How many times have you heard that your audience needs to see themselves in your content? Maybe it’s time to take that advice literally.
Now that you have the perfect mix of professional influencers, industry experts, your colleagues, customers and prospects, it’s time to create some great content experiences.
There’s nothing wrong with a classic PDF-based eBook (we put out one this year!), but you can earn more attention with jazzier content formats. The simplest would be a long-scroll web page with a few animated elements, likethis one from our client Prophix. It splits the difference between an eBook and a website, borrowing the strengths from each.
Finally, think beyond text and into multimedia. Podcasts are a natural fit for influencer content. If you’re not ready for that level of commitment, however, consider a video (either a produced short video or a livestream). I love what our client LinkedIn is doing with their LinkedIn Collective Live! Series. The first episode is all about Cannes Lions, and features a Grand Prix winner and one of the jurors.
As you plan your next influencer marketing campaign, it’s time to redefine influence. Your most valuable prospects are looking to industry leaders, practitioners and peers for advice. Your team can deliver all of the above with the right mix of influencers.
Check out our full2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Reportto learn more.