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Trust Factors: The (In)Credible Impact of B2B Influencer Marketing

How Influencer Marketing Can Help B2B Brands Build Trust

How Influencer Marketing Can Help B2B Brands Build Trust Trust is a currency. It’s arguably the most valuable currency in today’s B2B marketing environment. And much like real money, it needs to be earned; the risks of attempting to counterfeit trust are grave. In the first installment of our Trust Factor series, we discussed how creating best-answer content serves a long-term trust-building strategy. Today we’ll examine the ways in which partnering with influencers can provide a dramatic boost to your brand’s credibility and authority in the eyes of your audience. We’ll also share some examples of companies that are already doing this effectively, and the lessons we can draw from them. There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing genuine trust with your customers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take the shortest possible path, so long as you know where you’re going. Walking this road with the right influencers at your side can expedite the journey.

Coordinating Content, Co-opting Trust

In the past, we have defined influencer marketing as “the practice of engaging internal and industry experts with active networks to help achieve measurable business goals.” Building trust should be a primary goal for virtually every business, and is a helpful guiding imperative as you start building out an influencer strategy. Sometimes, objectives tied to influencer marketing campaigns can feel ambiguous. Usually, brands are looking to gain reach and visibility with targeted audiences. But it’s not just about getting in front of those people; it’s about the perception of your company’s association with the influencers in question. It’s also about trusted voices delivering messages with expertise and credibility in a time when buyers are increasingly wary of advertising and marketing messages. A strong influencer candidate already has trust equity built up with their (your) audience. They speak knowledgeably and persuasively on topics that align closely with your business. They’ve developed a sturdy reputation in their industry or niche that holds weight with the people who follow it. It’s a level of credibility that can’t be matched. Data shows that an increasing number of B2B buyers trust digital content from influencers, more so than content from the brand itself. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, the three most trusted voices are “company technical experts,” “academic experts,” and “a person like yourself.” All three represent common influencer profiles.   Edelman Trust Graphic In large part, this resonance owes to relatability, which brings us to our next point: engaging the wrong influencers can be detrimental to what we’re trying to achieve.

How NOT to Build Trust with Influencer Marketing

The caveat here is that if you don’t do it right, influencer marketing can actually diminish trust with your audience. So before we dive into practical examples of trust-building influencer engagements, let’s outline a few things to avoid.

Don’t Prioritize Quantity Over Quality

It’s one of the most prevalent pitfalls in the influencer marketing universe: “This person has a huge following! Let’s partner with ‘em!” In fact, research from Influencer Marketing Hub for the 2019 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report actually found that larger followings, on average, correlate with lower ROI. The same report shows that 48% of brands are smartly treating audience relationship as the most valuable factor in working with influencers, higher than any other benefit. And while this isn’t always true, influencers with smaller (not tiny) followings can often foster more tightly knit communities, with more meaningful bonds. Don’t look strictly at popularity when selecting influencers. As our CEO Lee Odden has written: “Relevance, resonance and reach metrics should be used for influencer identification and validation.” [bctt tweet=”Relevance, resonance and reach metrics should be used for influencer identification and validation. – @leeodden” username=”toprank”]

Don’t Try to Buy Trust Equity

Influencers should always feel like their efforts in a brand partnership are worthwhile. Sometimes, it makes sense to compensate them financially, but the most fruitful deployments of this strategy tend to take shape when both sides are invested beyond a simple money exchange.
“The real goal should be to develop mutually beneficial relationships with experts to co-create content that works for your audience, their audience and your mutual audience to build credibility,” writes TopRank Marketing Senior Director of Digital Strategy Ashley Zeckman. Internet users are becoming smarter in general. If the extent of your motivation is to simply to associate your brand name with Instagram celebrities in a pay-to-play scenario (I’m looking at you, Fyre Festival), it’ll be transparent to your audience, and is likely to do more harm than good. Creating a mutually beneficial scenario, as Ashley referenced, means that influencers see incentive in growing their own personal brands by partnering with yours. Establishing this dynamic is key to genuine and lasting influencer relationships.

Create Something Valuable

So, you’ve recruited an influencer to join your cause. Great! Now what are you going to do together? Too often, it seems like this is a secondary concern when it should be a foremost priority. We consistently find that the most effective influencer marketing programs involve co-creation of content, where the expert perspectives lend tangible value to something your audience wants. Given the knowledge and authority held by niche influencers, this can greatly enhance the credibility of your best-answer content, which also supports SEO efforts. If you want to see what this looks like, I invite you to peruse some of the examples below.

Examples of Trust-Building Influencer Engagements in Action

Trust is difficult to measure. But when you’re building it successfully, the impact tends to ripple outward into other metrics, like earned media value, prospect quality, and positive brand mentions. Here are a few campaigns that delivered results thanks, in large part, to an infusion of influencer content.  

SAP SuccessFactors

Focus is an important aspect of any well conceived influencer content campaign. You want to address a direct pain point for your customers in a substantive way. SAP SuccessFactors, a provider of cloud-based human resource management software, wanted to zero in on employee health and well-being. In partnership with our team at TopRank Marketing, SAP SuccessFactors created an eBook featuring unique insights from respected executives and leaders in the human resources space. One contributor, Chris Paine, even has “Chief HR Geek” for a title. SuccessFactors Well-Being eBook This collaborative influencer marketing campaign surpassed download benchmarks by 272%, and most pertinently, organic social messaging (via SAP and influencers) drove 69% of conversions.  

Cisco Champions

This program exemplifies an influencer ecosystem that is driven by mutual benefit. Through its Cisco Champions community, the company nurtures a collection of brand enthusiasts who are also industry experts and active social media participants. By participating, these influencers are able to grow their own personal brands (while tethering themselves to the “single biggest player in enterprise networking”), and they also get special access to groups, training, and new products. Cisco Champions Community “The program reaches a diverse audience and allows Cisco to earn the trust of the IT community with authentic and relevant content. Our community views the information as ‘for us, by us,’ ” according to Cisco’s social media marketing manager Linda Hamilton (via Influitive). That is precisely the outcome any similar initiative should aim for.

Prophix

For this highly successful influencer program, Prophix tapped TopRank Marketing to help showcase powerful influencer content in action. The series of Pro Talks interview clips align with Prophix’s model as a provider of finance software, offering practical guidance for delivering finance presentations. The angle of the topic meant that this content was oriented directly toward CFOs and other business leaders that Prophix most wanted to reach, while also helping industry leaders showcase their expertise in an impactful way to grow their own influence. Prophix ProTalks Presenting insights through video, with the speaker talking directly into the camera, helps enhance the trust-building qualities by simulating a face-to-face conversation with subject matter experts who embody the “trusted advisor” persona. Supported by a mix of blog, social, and paid promotion, this campaign drove big results. An impressive 42% of viewers completed each video (7-to-9 minutes in length) and conversions exceeded the benchmark by 200%. Prophix captured multiple enterprise-level CFO leads.

Trust in Influencer Marketing

Even if trust is tough to measure, marketers are clearly seeing the value in influencer content, and trust is a key (if subtle) component of that. In the aforementioned State of Influencer Marketing report from IMH, 92% of respondents said they believe the tactic is effective and 86% plan to dedicate budget to influencer marketing activities this year. These are further reasons to trust in influencer marketing, but I’d argue that the No. 1 driver should be the trust these strategic collaborators can imbue into your brand. By choosing the right influencers, creating mutually advantageous programs, and jointly creating content that serves your audience, you’ll be on your way to earning the kind of trust that simply cannot be bought. Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing delivers trusted influencer marketing solutions for B2B companies? Check out our influencer marketing service page.

The post Trust Factors: The (In)Credible Impact of B2B Influencer Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Content Curation Inspiration: Types, Examples, & Use Cases for B2B Marketers

Content Curation Inspiration for B2B Marketers

If you create and share content, curation is part of your B2B marketing strategy. From seasoning a blog post with key third-party statistics to sharing an interesting article from an industry publication or influencer across your social channels, you’re curating.

But content curation has a place beyond adding an insight or two to your content.

With large volumes of information available today and short attention spans, curation allows content marketers to create more convenient, valuable content experiences for their target audience, while growing thought leadership, bolstering their content calendar, and increasing production efficiency.

What types of curation exist? How are B2B brands doing curation? When does it make sense to do curation? Let’s dive in.

Types of Content Curation and B2B Examples

The Curation Kitchen Staples: Microcontent

Statistics. Quotes. Tips. Social media commentary. Third-party videos. Gifs. Memes. Curated microcontent is what gives your content its flavor—whether its used as seasoning in a long-form blog post or modularly in short-form social content. This is foundational curation, and it plays a role in all other types. And as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden once said:

“Snackable content can often be managed and repurposed like ingredients to create a main course. On their own, short-form content like quotes, tips, and statistics are useful for social network shares and as added credibility to blog posts, eBooks, and articles.”

See what I did there? Microcontent is simplistic and easy to integrate, helping you provide more depth and insight on a topic, infuse credibility, and highlight industry experts.

When microcontent curation makes sense: Always—if the content is relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Microcontent helps you provide proof points to bolster your narrative and build credibility with your audience.

The Curation Classics: Roundups, Listicles, and Resource Hubs

Collecting key bits of information and insights and organizing them into an easy to digest format is the quintessential content curation tactic. The premise is simple: You’re gathering interesting tidbits from multiple sources on a specific topic and placing them in one central location.

The underlying theme for this curation tactic (and any content tactic for that matter) is relevance and value. It needs to be topically relevant to your audience and it can’t be a lazy compilation; it needs to serve a purpose.

News roundups are perhaps the most popular of the curation classics. We’ve all seen them and likely have a few we go back to on a regular basis, so I won’t spend too much time here. (Shameless plug to check out our weekly digital marketing news roundup.)

But here’s an example of a roundup style piece from EHS and sustainability consulting firm *Antea Group that brings video content together to have a little fun and spark a connection with the audience.

The post showcases six workplace safety videos—all sourced and easily embedded from YouTube—with movie-critic-like commentary that make connections to the daily life and work of their target audience.

Content Curation Example from Antea Group

When it comes to resource hubs, HubSpot is an “ultimate list” destination on a variety of subjects, most notably digital marketing statistics. Here’s a recent example featuring Instagram statistics.

Content Curation Example from HubSpot

For listicles, one of our recent BIGLIST editions featuring 50 of the top marketing blogs featuring martech brands is a solid example. Time was spent on researching and vetting, and the list provides a short and sweet description of each blog, as well as our favorite recent article to give readers a cue on what’s worth checking out first.

Content Curation Example from TopRank Marketing's Lee Odden

Finally, events can be great opportunities for curation. *Introhive, an enterprise relationship management (ERM) platform, regularly curates social and team member insights to compile post-event infographics with top takeaways.

Content Curation Example from Introhive

When classic curation makes sense: Classic curation is largely an awareness and engagement play. If you’re looking to provide your audience with a helpful resource that hits quick on the points, and showcase your brand as a thoughtful expert in the space, this type of curation can make it easy for your audience to find insight and inspiration—and minimize the amount of time they need to spend on the hunt.

The Next Level of Curation: Thought Leadership Mashups

Curation isn’t limited to assembling a robust, scannable list of information or resources, or seasoning original content with stats, quotes, or videos. Curation can fuel thought leadership.

Great examples of this kind of curation are trends-focused pieces. Taking a cue from the classic curation formats, this kind of content aims to identify one or more trend or pattern using curated bits of information, all tied together with your knowledge and expertise.

This could be small-scale or large-scale—meaning a single concept could provide the supporting content or tie-in, or it could be your take on a collection of related trends, facts, or insights. This piece from *SAP’s Digitalist Magazine is a great example.

Content Curation Example from Introhive

But this kind of curation doesn’t just lend itself to discussing trends. Many of our own blog posts use a mashup curation method to educate and engage marketers, and define our perspectives and approach to marketing.

This can be seen in a recent post from Nick Nelson on how to write clear, concise content. Using our words intentionally is a core belief, and Nick was able to illustrate that with his deep knowledge and some relevant insights from third parties.

Content Curation Example from TopRank Marketing's Nick Nelson

Also, when we say “curation,” we don’t just mean collecting insights from third-party sources. You can curate your own content—it’s just most often called repurposing.

Salesforce has a great example here. This recent post touches on a key trend in the marketplace (lack of consumer trust), leverages microcontent from Salesforce’s own research (the Trends in Consumer Trust research report), and then original content builds a narrative for a specific audience (retailers).

Content Curation Example from Salesforce

In addition, curating and repurposing influencer content is an especially big opportunity. More than likely, the insights that influencers share with you have implications and applications across other related topics.

When curation mashups make sense: If you want to build thought leadership on a subject, mashups should be in your content lineup. Mashups allow you to elevate an idea, perspective, challenge, or opportunity, while using existing content as a jumping off-point or as part of the foundation of your take.

Read: A Tasty, Strategic Addition to the Content Marketing Table: ‘Repurposed Content Cobbler’

Content Curation for the Win

Regardless of your editorial plan, you’re already doing some form of content curation. However, you can make curation a more deliberate and effective part of your overall B2B content marketing strategy.

Whether you create an ultimate list featuring statistics from multiple sources, provide high-level takeaways from an event or report, give your own content new life to build thought leadership, content curation can provide value and convenience for your audience and writing team.

Looking for content curation best practices, tools, and more examples? Check out our post on Content Curation 101.

*Disclosure: Antea Group, SAP, and Introhive are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Content Curation Inspiration: Types, Examples, & Use Cases for B2B Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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