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Effective B2B influencer marketing is rooted in brands developing and nurturing relationships—relationships with individuals who have the relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance to align with the goals of the brand.
Of course, those relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm via social media, email, and audio or video conferencing. And that's OK. We've all gone digital.
But there’s simply no replacement for face-to-face communication—and B2B marketers may have more chances than they know to proactively facilitate interactions or take advantage of in-person opportunities as they arise.
It’s time to bridge the digital divide. How? When? Where? Let’s dive in.
#1 - Highlight influencers and/or their brands with live event coverage.
B2B industry conferences and events are marketing gold mines. Not only do events give you an opportunity to have facetime with customers, prospects, and industry experts and influencers, but also the opportunity to create insightful (and influential) content.
If one or more of your warm or targeted influencers or another representative from their brand are delivering a keynote address or are part of a learning track that’s relevant to your audience, plan to attend their sessions and amplify the insights they share via social media, blog content, or both. Giving influencers this kind of thoughtful attention benefits everyone, helping you:
- Deliver your wider digital audience with credible, relevant, and valuable content.
- Capitalize on event engagement and reach.
- Deepen your connections with existing influencer partners.
- Help grow your partners’ influence among your audience and within the industry.
- Get on the radar of prospective influencer partners.
- Provide additional perspective and insight into who your current and prospective partners are, helping you further vet or find new connection points.
[bctt tweet="Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both online and offline engagements. @konstanze" username="toprank"]
#2 - Conduct on-site video interviews at industry conferences and events.
Co-creating content with influencers provides influential experts with a medium to share valuable insights and gives your audience a mix of perspectives—upping your brand’s storytelling capabilities and credibility. Industry events and conferences provide the perfect platform for capturing original insights—especially on video.
Set aside the fact that video is an increasingly preferred learning and entertainment medium for modern consumers and buyers alike. When it comes to working with influencers, video can help capture their essence as well as their expertise. This can add a new degree of authenticity and credibility to their insights and resonate more deeply with your audiences.
Here’s an example from our own vault. While attending MarketingProfs B2B Forum in 2017, our team conducted a series of interviews with marketing experts and influencers, including MarketingProf’s own Chief Content Officer Ann Handley. The “Content Conversations” series covered top marketing learnings from the year, predictions for the coming year and decades, and tips and insights to finding success in the future.
*SAP’s video coverage of its own SAPPHIRENOW event is a fantastic example of how influencers can play an active role in bridging the real and digital worlds.
Working in partnership with SAP, Eric Kavanagh, CEO of The Bloor Group and a respected technology analyst, actually interviewed SAP’s own Chief Innovation Officer Max Wessel. This is just one of several unique examples from the conference.
[bctt tweet="If you want content to be great, ask influencers to participate. @leeodden" username="toprank"]
#3 - Host a VIP appreciation and networking event.
There may be no better way to create meaningful connections than over good food, drinks, and great conversation. Whether it’s a cocktail hour, leisurely lunch, or sit-down dinner, inviting influencers to come together for a couple hours of relaxed fun is a great way to show your appreciation for their partnership, nurture prospective partners, and connect influencers with one another.
This is a practice that is near and dear to our hearts. We absolutely love the work we do and almost always carve out time for this while attending larger industry events. And of course, you can chronicle your interactions on your owned digital properties to let your audiences in on the fun. Here’s a little shot from our dinner at B2B Marketing Exchange 2019, courtesy of our CEO Lee Odden’s Instagram.
This sort of engagement can certainly be planned independently of any industry conference, but it can be yet another way to make the most out of your trip to an event.
[bctt tweet="Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. @AmishaGandhi @SAPAriba" username="toprank"]
#4 - Play matchmaker when the opportunity arises.
There will undoubtedly come a time during your work with industry experts and influencers where you can help them connect with one another. Whether they’re looking for insight, a new product or solution, or you’ve discovered two people share a common hobby or interest, take the lead on introducing them.
Why? Because you have the opportunity to provide more value. The relationship you’re cultivating needs to be mutually beneficial to go the distance, and helping influencers solve problems or grow their network has value written all over it.
[bctt tweet="We pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers … which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give to get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. @ranimani0707 @adobe" username="toprank"]
#5 - Embrace the “show, don’t tell” mantra when it comes to influencer appreciation.
Your online efforts to nurture, engage, and showcase the expertise of your influencer partners are incredibly important. Your prospects are online. Your customers are online. Your influencers are online. The world is online.
But there is absolutely an opportunity to add a personal, human touch to show your influencer partners you care about and appreciate them. New job? Send a handwritten letter filled with well wishes. New baby? Send a congratulatory gift basket. New campaign launch? Deliver a tasty treat or bit of swag to give thanks.
A couple years back, we helped our friends at DivvyHQ introduce the world to Grandma Gertrude, as well as easy-as-pie recipes for content planning. Following the launch, we sent pies to the influencers who contributed their thoughts and insights.
[bctt tweet="Grow your influencer network long before you need them. The day to create an army of influential advocates isn’t the first day of the war. Find common interests and develop rapport. - @leeodden " username="toprank"]
Build a Bridge to Stronger Influencer Relationships
Influencer relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm. But they can be nurtured and grown to new heights in the real world.
Take advantage of any opportunity to spotlight, co-create, or connect with influencers at industry events. In addition, go the extra mile to create valuable, memorable connections. Taking action here not only helps you strengthen relationships and generate content for the digital world, but also plant the seeds of partnership.
What’s on the horizon for B2B influencer marketing? Check out Lee Odden’s rundown of seven B2B influencer marketing trends to watch.
*Disclaimer: SAP is TopRank Marketing client.
The post How to Intertwine Online & Offline Tactics to Cultivate B2B Influencer Relationships appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.Read More »
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What does effective marketing engagement look like?
In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation.
Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.
Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects?
Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers
In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:
- A shared idea
- A way to communicate
The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.
Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing
It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks.
In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections.
In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers.
Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do.
Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.
Where Can You Build Online Communities?
Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:
- Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
- LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
- Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
- Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.
Benefits of B2B Community-Building
“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network.
Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:
- Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
- User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
- Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.
B2B Brands Running Strong Communities
Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:
Bank of America
They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.”
As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop.
The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community.
Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.”
Find Your Tribe
As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement.
Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not CompaniesRead More »
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While there are some who think the expression "influencer" is an expired term, the role of influence on B2B buying decisions is irrefutable.
According to the World Federation of Advertisers, 65% of multinational brands will increase influencer marketing spending in the next 12 months and there's good reason for increased confidence: The 2019 Content Preferences Survey from DGR reports 95% of respondents favor credible content from industry influencers as a top preference, a 30% increase compared year over year.
Earlier this year in a post about The Business of Influence for 2019, I shared 5 influencer marketing trends including:
- Micro AND Macro influencers
- Centralizing Influencer Operations
- Always On Influencer Engagement
- Focus on Quality vs. Quantity Metrics
- Influencer Marketing Software Investment
Along with a predictions post from Ashley, these were well received. Since the time of that post, my team at TopRank Marketing has launched many more influencer content programs for B2B companies, each bringing lessons learned, patterns indicating trends and insights.
From the influencers involved in these programs to the brand influencer marketing leaders we work with to being on the inside as an influencer for B2B brands ranging from Adobe to SAP, I have been in a unique position to learn from some of the best in the business.
For companies operating in the B2B space, here are 7 trends worth digging in to for 2020 and beyond:
Increased use of AI - From finding the right influencers, to recommending content topics, formats and channels and performance optimization, artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a much greater role in influencer marketing. Signals of influence exist beyond social media and bringing together disparate data sources and automating analysis, selection and opportunities for engagement in an increasingly competitive environment will require more robust technologies.
Democratized Influence - B2B purchasing is a team sport involving individuals at multiple levels from buying committees conducting research and making recommendations to executives with budgets to decide. Each of those individuals rely on centers of influence around them as they discover, consume and engage with information. Everyone is influential at some level and more brands are going to tap into the niche influence of the many, whether they are employees, customers, industry community members or traditional influencers.
Brandividal Media - The number of professional influencers who operate their own media or networks of multiple influencers with media and distribution channels will increase and compete with traditional digital media. Influencers with complementary domain expertise and networks that combine forces can offer a B2B brand the reach of a major publication but with the credibility and trust of respected influencers. These influencer media entities can take many forms, from a podcast network to a group of YouTube creators to a team of bloggers that can provide turnkey event coverage and promotion.
More Engaging Content Formats - B2B is evolving from boring to bold through video, interactive and VR/AR content. That trend will continue with influencers creating and co-creating these formats with B2B brands. We've seen interest in more infotaining B2B influencer content rise dramatically over the past year including our first deployment of a VR influencer environment for one of the biggest B2B technology brands in the world. Whitepapers, ebooks and case studies still hold value, but there is no reason to limit that information packaging to web pages or static PDF formats anymore.
Influencer Tech Integration with other Martech - Influencer identification, engagement and measurement technology will increasingly become integrated with cloud marketing platforms. As B2B brands mature in their influencer marketing practices, the need for integration will increase. Influence is an important part of the brand experience, so why not make it easier to connect and grow influence for the brand by making it easier to connect with other marketing technologies? The simplest example would be enabling the coordination of SEO, social media, PR, ads and influencers and the alignment of a narrative across those channels.
Consumerization of B2B Influencers and Content - Business users of software have come to expect a consumer like experience and that same set of expectations is spilling over into how business influencers create content and engage. A simple example is the rise of LinkedIn video creators. Influencers publishing video content on YouTube have created expectations for video content wherever it can be found, viewed and engaged with. LinkedIn is a great example of where consumer video skills are playing out with B2B content. People like Goldie Chan, Michaela Alexis and Allen Gannett have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on LinkedIn and millions of video views. The continued rollout of live video on LinkedIn will only attract more of B2C-like video behaviors over to the B2B influencer world.
Influencer Experience Management - As brands have elevated their focus on customer experience and employee experience, there will be an increased focus on managing the experience of brand influencers. Far too many B2B brands treat their influencer relationships transactionally and in terms of what the brand can get from the influencer. B2B brands that make any effort at all to learn more about influencer goals, preferences and capabilities in combination with providing opportunities to connect with other influencers, will go along ways towards building brand advocates and inspire more effective influencer behaviors.
Whether you're tired of or wired for "influencer marketing", make no mistake: The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come. Those who are influential in the B2B world have the domain expertise their networks trust. Not staying on top of how the world of influencer marketing is evolving is simply leaving your customers open to the influence of your competition.
What B2B influencer marketing trends would you add to this list?
Be sure to join me May 30th as I join Seth Bridges, founder at Rival IQ for a live interview to talk about these influencer marketing trends and more.Read More »
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