The business world has bought into the effectiveness of influencer marketing. A 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 what makes a great influencer? Rather than just measuring what an influencer can help deliver, brands could gain a lot by exploring the influencer traits that helped them 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. This substance supposedly affected the actions of humans and animals alike. Today, we generally use influence as a verb to indicate the ability to produce an effect 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. These influencer traits can apply to influencers in both the B2B and B2C spaces.
What Makes a Great Influencer?
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 what makes a great influencer. Influencers usually achieve this reach by applying the influencer traits outlined below to a defined topic domain, whether it’s fly fishing, IT security, fashion, or the rigors of being famous. Audiences choose to follow influencers that represent their interests.
For B2B influencer marketing, a clearly defined topic niche is even more important. Business audiences are both goal oriented and short on time. And because business audiences are looking for more than personal interest or entertainment, these influencer traits 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 knows it’s based in truth. Showing an influencer’s authentic personality also helps to differentiate and make them more approachable.
- Trust: The above influencer traits combine to build trust over time. Audiences will begin to trust influencers whom they know they can depend on to consistently provide content and opinions that deliver real value. Establishing transparency also helps build trust. For example, a brand can indicate when it is paying an influencer to review products or disclose that the influencer works for a specific company whose services they’ll be discussing regularly.
While these characteristics 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.
For a deep dive into the how’s and why’s of B2B influencer marketing, download our e-book, Make Your Mark with B2B Influencer Marketing.
Subscribe for Content Strategy Trends and Guidance
Get our monthly e-newsletter with Tendo’s latest thought leadership and content resources for B2B leaders.