What Makes Influencers Influential? 5 Qualities Every B2B Influencer Must Have
The business world has bought into the effectiveness of influencer marketing. A recent survey conducted by Linqua found that in 2016, 86% of marketers had used influencer marketing. Of those who used it, 94% found influencer marketing effective.
In the same survey, marketers cited content creation, audience engagement, and higher traffic as the top benefits of influencer marketing. These metrics are worthwhile indicators of the ROI of influencer marketing.
But rather than just measuring what an influencer can help deliver, brands could gain a lot by exploring what qualities helped an influencer build their audience in the first place. Applying aspects of influence to their own business and brand could prove even more valuable.
Influencer marketing: Abstract traits driving concrete action
In Merriam-Webster, the first definition listed for influence refers to a celestial substance that emanated from the stars and drifted down to Earth, supposedly affecting the actions of humans and animals alike. Today, the word is generally used as a verb to indicate the ability to produce an affect without applying force or command.
While these definitions are separated by more than 200 years, both refer to influence—whether originating from the celestial dome or a domain expert—as a factor in driving action or changing behavior. This is exactly what influencer marketing is intended to do.
How have influencers attained their status? It’s not heavenly properties radiating from the stars. It’s the result of a specific set of qualities that an influencer expresses and earns. They can apply to influencers in both the B2B and B2C spaces.
The (very earthbound) aspects of influence
Even though some celebrity influencers may seem otherworldly based on their carefully curated profiles, anyone can be an influencer.
It’s important to note that influence doesn’t equal popularity. The ability to drive action or thought is the defining factor. This is usually achieved by applying the below qualities to a defined topic domain, whether it’s fly fishing, IT security, fashion, or the rigors of being famous. Audiences will choose to follow influencers that represent their interests, even if those interests include simply gawking at an extravagant lifestyle.
For B2B influencer marketing, a clearly defined topic niche is even more important, as business audiences are both goal oriented and short on time. And because business audiences are looking for more than personal interest or entertainment, the below characteristics are even more important for building influence.
- Relevance: Staying on topic is important for setting and meeting audience expectations. An influencer can discuss a range within a broader topic, but the more specific the better. For example, during a B2B discussion about data manipulation in an enterprise setting, a data scientist might also mention how a consumer fitness app pulls and uses social data. The topic is still relevant because it’s about data. Relevance matters because of its direct correlation to audience engagement: The more relevant an influencer’s content is, the more shares, comments, and link clicks it’s likely to generate.
- Consistency: To build up real online influence, you must keep at it. Successful influencers maintain a sustained level of effort, regularly publishing relevant content on their channels. Whether it’s a weekly, daily, or hourly cadence, an influencer’s audience should know when to reliably expect fresh content.
- Originality: An effective influencer provides something that audiences can’t find anywhere else. Topics such as insider tips or industry insights—typically based on a long history of experience—attract an audience because they expand beyond the scope of traditional marketing content to provide a unique point of view.
- Authenticity: Having real experience with a topic will validate an influencer’s thought leadership. Why? Because an audience then knows it’s based in truth. Showing some evidence of an influencer’s real personality also helps to differentiate and make them more approachable.
- Trust: The above elements combine to build trust over time. Audiences will begin to trust influencers whom they know that they can depend on to consistently provide content and opinions that deliver real value. Establishing transparency also helps build trust, such as indicating when a brand is paying an influencer to review its products, or disclosing that the influencer works for a specific company whose services they’ll be discussing regularly.
While these aspects are not a magic formula for developing influence, they play a significant part in building an audience. Marketers should consider these factors when evaluating influencers to work with. Or better yet, they should incorporate them into their own brand marketing.