Stop Paying for Third-Party Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is not new, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for companies to increase the visibility of their brand—and their products. This type of marketing focuses on paying influential third parties to amplify a brand’s message to their established audience. But whether a company is B2C or B2B, what many are failing to realize is that they need not look any further than their office doors for influencers. Instead of finding and paying people “on the outside,” organizations should be cultivating people internally to fulfill this role.
According to Marketo, nearly two-thirds (65%) of B2B organizations currently run a digital influencer marketing program, and a May 2015 study reported that 84% of global marketers expect to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming year. All this growth increases competition as brands vie for industry influencers and their built-in audiences—all the more reason to leverage your own employees.
Harnessing the power of human capital
This may be going out on a limb, but I’m willing to bet that your company has smart people in it. Offline, they may be recognized as experts in their field—perhaps they’re invited to speak at industry events, or they’ve been quoted in several articles or publications.
But have they established their presence online? Does a Google search reveal a treasure trove of social media commentary or thought leadership blog posts? Creating influencers out of these employees (often senior managers, directors, or executives a layer below the C-suite) is one way to take that human value and extend it into the digital space to create brand value.
What does that mean, exactly? It means investing in an internally-based influencer program that provides social media support and helps employees establish themselves online as authorities in their field. It means providing a scaffolding to encourage your employees to talk about relevant issues and contribute to online conversations by offering valuable perspectives and creating trustworthy, high-value content. Incorporating a broader set of perspectives will also help allay fears that your program is just a collection of shills for your product(s). This is the core of thought leadership.
I’ll give you an example: Tendo created and manages an internal influencer program for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. One of the participants had been inactive on social media for awhile. But by working with him on social media best practices, blogging, and thought leadership, he has become a recognized expert in his field. This online presence validates his customer conversations: “I’ll go into meetings where I don’t know anybody, but they already know about me because of what they’ve seen in social media. They’ll be quoting things that I’ve tweeted, and one time they even quoted some of my blogs. That’s what’s opened up these opportunities.” With this kind of credibility, employees can start a sales conversation at second or third base.
The halo effect: Credibility, relevancy, and influence
In today’s idea economy, intellectual capital is everything—and that sort of capital is borne from the brilliant minds of people—i.e., your employees and colleagues. An internally based influencer program can elevate those minds and associate them with your organization and your brand. Your company then comes across as:
All of these things map to moving customers down the sales funnel.
When your employees are influencers, they create a network of peers and a built-in audience linked specifically to your brand. It’s now common wisdom that when consumers make decisions, they listen to people, not corporate brands—in fact, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Within the B2B arena, 72% of respondents in a Demand Gen Report 2014 Content Preferences Survey looked to peers for relevant content when researching B2B purchasing decisions.
In this crowded social landscape, your content must provide serious value to capture the customers’ attention, while being relevant enough to stand out amidst the noise. Invest in your most important business assets—your people—and give them the tools to create and curate content that speaks directly to your audience in a valuable way.
Want to learn more about growing influence? Stay tuned for part two of our Influencer Marketing series.