With over 700 million community members in 200+ countries and territories, LinkedIn is without question the place for businesses to do business. With 91% of marketing executives using LinkedIn as a content source (SocialPilot) it's easy to understand why 94% of B2B marketers using LinkedIn to distribute content (CMI). In fact, there's been a 50% year over year increase in content shared on the LinkedIn platform (LinkedIn).
With many social network options, LinkedIn has proven to be an effective choice for B2B marketers. A study from HubSpot showed that traffic from LinkedIn generates the highest visitor to lead conversion rate, 277% higher than Facebook and Twitter.
While there are robust opportunities to connect with potential customers on LinkedIn, the platform is busier than ever, making it hard to stand out. There are also challenges in terms of reduced organic visibility and the trend towards distrust of sales outreach and what brands publish directly. With so much information, many buyers are suffering what I call Content Attention Deficit.
One of the most promising growth areas within the B2B marketing mix is working with influencers. In our research we found that 77% of marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts. and 96% of marketers that engage influencers consider their program to be successful.
Trusted experts that have the attention of customers can help B2B brands attract and engage potential customers in more meaningful ways. But what are the best ways to engage with B2B influencers on LinkedIn? How are B2B brands successfully working with influencers to achieve marketing goals using the LinkedIn platform?
To help B2B marketers think about how they can better engage with influencers on LinkedIn, here are several examples of how TopRank Marketing and a few clients are doing just that:
1. Give the Gift of Recognition to Influencers
For small B2B brands and those of any size that do not have relationships with influencers, a good starting point to warm up the influencer community is to recognize them. When you come to a party bearing gifts, it makes an impression and with influencers, it's no different except instead of a bottle of spirits, you're giving the gift of recognition.
For our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, we followed our own best practices and identified 20 top B2B influencer marketing professionals working for B2B brands and published a list in the report and as a blog post. Sharing that list on LinkedIn while tagging each person along with a small infographic featuring the group provided relevant and credible recognition. The result was tens of thousands of views on LinkedIn, hundreds of reactions and over 50 comments. More importantly, the post helped generate goodwill among those mentioned, inspiring new connections, conversations and engagement opportunities.
2. Grow Credible Awareness of a Brand Solution
Mitel wanted to create awareness, credibility and consideration of their Remote Working Solutions and what better way to do that than by engaging remote work experts in conversations around topics that highlight the issues and solutions so many companies are considering in today's new normal. A variety of remote work influencers and content formats were used to accomplish program awareness including a livestream video broadcast on LinkedIn. To showcase the topic of remote work with credibility, several paid influencers were engaged to share their expertise along with a Mitel executive on a LinkedIn Live. With an audience of professionals, Linkedin was the perfect place to highlight remote work conversation and in a format that is increasingly important for B2B engagement - live video.
While there were multiple influencers and content formats involved with this program, the LivesStream on LinkedIn had the highest engagement of all, helping Mitel achieve meaningful their awareness, credibility and consideration goals.
3. Increase Brand Engagement with Authentic Stories
While LinkedIn is the most relevant platform for reaching business decision makers, reaching and connecting with both marketers and sales professionals has become increasingly difficult due to information overload. LinkedIn also faced this challenge, even on their own platform.
In order to reach business decision makers in a meaningful way, LinkedIn Marketing and Sales Solutions set out to create a social influencer content campaign characterized by:
- Increasing engagement and help humanize LinkedIn as a brand by partnering with well respected industry experts to share real-life struggles, stories and obstacles with a focused audience.
- Driving new audiences to targeted Showcase Pages via the influencer’s audiences (that were not already following or engaging with the LinkedIn brand).
- Continuing to nurture and grow relationships with sales and marketing influencers as part of an ongoing influencer program.
- Engaging the audience in-channel on the LinkedIn platform (versus sending to alternate content elsewhere).
Since much of B2B marketing is more mechanical than meaningful, LinkedIn decided to forego marketing and sales tips content and emphasize stories from respected influencers about experiences they've had in their careers. Influencers were asked to share:
- A defining moment in your career and how it shaped you as a marketer or sales professional.
- One thing NOT on your LinkedIn profile that people should about you?
- One rising star in your field that you’d like to recognize? What makes them amazing?
By making the shift to a combination of professional and personal content, we were able to better engage the audience around their own professional opportunities and provide them a platform to engage directly with people that they respect.
With the goal to drive authentic engagement, on platform, between LinkedIn and their customers, the reach from influencers' brand mentions exceeded 54 million and there was a 1,000% increase in post engagements over the previous 12 months. This tactic was also part of an ongoing influencer marketing program that won the ANA B2 Marketing Award.
While it would be expected that LinkedIn working with a top B2B influencer marketing agency like TopRank Marketing and a premium group of influencers would achieve results like these, the overall story about the opportunity with B2B influencer marketing is a bit different. The State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report found that while 12X more marketers who run ongoing influencer engagement efforts are very successful compared to those who run periodic campaigns, only 19% of B2B marketers are running ongoing influencer programs.
4. Improve Reach of a Brand Webinar
Prophix software was looking for more more interesting ways to get the attention of LinkedIn followers of the brand to help promote an upcoming brand webinar about the 2020 CFO Benchmark Report. Since the amount of content being published on LinkedIn has risen 50% year over year, the competition for organic attention has too. Fortunately, LinkedIn offers an opportunity for members or brands to upload vertical PDF files to create a carousel of messages that can tell a story or communicate a series of connected messages very different than what the normal feed can.
For the webinar in question, a key financial industry influencer, Jack McCullough of the CFO Leadership Council was engaged to collaborate on the report highlighted in the webinar and was also featured in the carousel promotion. The same 3rd party credibility effect that helped the report and webinar also provided validation to the LinkedIn post which had over 1,500 organic impressions and referred nearly 200 visitors to the registration page.
5. Connect Brand Executive with Influencers
Research has show that B2B buyers favorably view brands with senior executives that engage on social media. In an effort to connect with customers while also creating relationships with respected industry influencers, the CEO of HRS engages in content creation and sharing on social networks like LinkedIn. In this example, Tobias Ragge posted an article on his LinkedIn profile page featuring a group of travel and tech industry influencers to provide them with recognition in the context of topics important to the HRS brand and customers.
By featuring relevant industry influencers in content from the CEO of the company, HRS was able to inspire meaningful engagement and goodwill with these respected voices as well as to build influence for the CEO as well.
Before you get started with B2B influencer engagement on LinkedIn, it's essential that you have a documented influencer marketing strategy. For the most successful B2B influencer marketers, our research found that having a documented strategy (68%) is one of the key differentiators over less successful marketers (25%) so it's a very important step. Here are some basic questions to get you thinking about developing your own B2B influencer marketing plan:
- Topic - What topic do you want to be influential about?
- Influencers - Identify, and qualify relevant influencers
- Collect - Activate influencers for a project or program
- Co-Create - Collaborate on content: text, audio, video, interactive, live
- Publish - Will content live on LinkedIn, off or both?
- Promote - Promote via brand LinkedIn page, influencers, ads
- Optimize - Monitor tracking URLs, LinkedIn engagement, adjust
Of course if you are looking for assistance in understanding what role influencer marketing can play in your B2B marketing mix, be sure to reach out.
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