Our last expert series post featured Joe Pulizzi, who gave us some killer insights on how to combine influencers and content for continued marketing success. We learned about the nuances of outreach, relationship-building and influencer fundamentals that can improve the likelihood of getting in front of your desired audience. In this post, we’re taking a left turn into the territory of B2B social influence.
It’s an all too common myth along the road of marketing that social media is largely a B2C lane. And unfortunately, it has taken B2B executives far too long to get over this myth, and start seeing the potential of B2B social influence. In this post, Dr. Konstanze Alex-Brown of Dell puts many myths of B2B social influence to rest.
Below, she offers advice on curation, collaboration and the changing nature of social media influence in the B2B enterprise world. With years of experience on the frontlines of B2B technology marketing, Konstanze brings a rare and valuable perspective on how to make social influencer marketing truly work at an enterprise level.
How is social media changing online influence? Is everyone an influencer now?
“There has certainly been plenty of confusion about the nature of online influence lately. Especially within a B2B environment or context, the value of online influence has to be established and proven with the C-suite and clarified with marketing teams. In B2B efforts, we can never focus entirely on the size of the influencer’s online connections or social network. We have to consider two very important aspects: the individual’s subject matter expertise and influence among other subject matter experts and industry professionals. Then we need to figure out how this translates into clout and credibility with the online audience.
We find that often, what appear to be relatively small online networks consisting of very specific audiences are much more valuable than a large, but less targeted reach. Of utmost importance is the influencers’ independence of opinion. Strategies around working with social influencers in a B2B environment are often very different from B2C strategies.”
How can brand marketers know when they should curate influencer content versus collaborate directly with influencers to create content?
“2016 is the year that B2B social influencer relations (and marketing) has reached the tipping point of being taken seriously by brands, the C-suite and the industry in general. The topic is represented at nearly every social media, marketing and PR/communications conference. Still, a lot of confusion exists.
At Dell, we believe that the core of social influencer marketing lies in building a solid relationship to ensure mutual value creation for the brand and the social influencer. Once synergies are confirmed and trust is built on both sides, we can think about the marketing part, if and only if, the influencer’s independence of voice can be preserved at all times. If this is the case, we can curate influencer content in an authentic way. That said, by that time, we have already engaged with the social influencer and can collaborate with them to create content.”
How does Dell collaborate with influencers to create relevant social content?
“Industry, internal, and customer-facing events are all great opportunities to collaborate with social influencers in a B2B environment. At Dell, we have been pushing the boundaries with innovative ways to involve influencers in event content co-creation and collaborative storytelling. I want to call out the Dell #social360 Unconference that we have hosted at SXSW for the past couple of years. Both years, we temporarily trended on Twitter over the official #SXSW hashtag (not a small feat!) due to our social influencers’ active participation in the content creation and earned social coverage.
Another great way that we have collaborated with influencers is in expert and thought leadership think tanks, where social influencers have a seat at the table on par with industry analysts, members of the press and industry subject matter experts. The resulting coverage on owned and earned social channels has been outstanding and provides value for the brand and the influencer.
Executive briefings and one-on-one meetings, specifically for our social influencers, are another way of co-creating content and, extremely importantly, solidifying a strategy that is based on shared value creation. In my mind, we have just scratched the surface of the potential synergies between our brand and the power of social influencers with laser focus on providing relevant and timely content for our customers.”
What can brands do to scale up their influencer efforts and ensure it's treated as a long-term investment?
“Long-term, trust based relationships with shared value creation take time and effort to build and investment to sustain. While results will be measured digitally in reach, impressions, online engagement, there is no shortcut for getting there.
A dedicated team, much like an analyst relations team or a PR team, is one of the ways to scale current efforts. Tagging, “social influencer program building” on to a social media professional’s job description is not the answer. That is, of course, if a brand is serious about scaling its social influencer relations.”
If you are seeking additional advice, training, or a framework for scaling your B2B influencer marketing, sign up for our Academy of Influencer Marketing. First course is free!