While there are some who think the expression “influencer” is an expired term, the role of influence on B2B buying decisions is irrefutable.
According to the World Federation of Advertisers, 65% of multinational brands will increase influencer marketing spending in the next 12 months and there’s good reason for increased confidence: The 2019 Content Preferences Survey from DGR reports 95% of respondents favor credible content from industry influencers as a top preference, a 30% increase compared year over year.
Earlier this year in a post about The Business of Influence for 2019, I shared 5 influencer marketing trends including:
- Micro AND Macro influencers
- Centralizing Influencer Operations
- Always On Influencer Engagement
- Focus on Quality vs. Quantity Metrics
- Influencer Marketing Software Investment
Along with a predictions post from Ashley, these were well received. Since the time of that post, my team at TopRank Marketing has launched many more influencer content programs for B2B companies, each bringing lessons learned, patterns indicating trends and insights.
From the influencers involved in these programs to the brand influencer marketing leaders we work with to being on the inside as an influencer for B2B brands ranging from Adobe to SAP, I have been in a unique position to learn from some of the best in the business.
For companies operating in the B2B space, here are 7 trends worth digging in to for 2020 and beyond:
Increased use of AI – From finding the right influencers, to recommending content topics, formats and channels and performance optimization, artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a much greater role in influencer marketing. Signals of influence exist beyond social media and bringing together disparate data sources and automating analysis, selection and opportunities for engagement in an increasingly competitive environment will require more robust technologies.
Democratized Influence – B2B purchasing is a team sport involving individuals at multiple levels from buying committees conducting research and making recommendations to executives with budgets to decide. Each of those individuals rely on centers of influence around them as they discover, consume and engage with information. Everyone is influential at some level and more brands are going to tap into the niche influence of the many, whether they are employees, customers, industry community members or traditional influencers.
Brandividal Media – The number of professional influencers who operate their own media or networks of multiple influencers with media and distribution channels will increase and compete with traditional digital media. Influencers with complementary domain expertise and networks that combine forces can offer a B2B brand the reach of a major publication but with the credibility and trust of respected influencers. These influencer media entities can take many forms, from a podcast network to a group of YouTube creators to a team of bloggers that can provide turnkey event coverage and promotion.
More Engaging Content Formats – B2B is evolving from boring to bold through video, interactive and VR/AR content. That trend will continue with influencers creating and co-creating these formats with B2B brands. We’ve seen interest in more infotaining B2B influencer content rise dramatically over the past year including our first deployment of a VR influencer environment for one of the biggest B2B technology brands in the world. Whitepapers, ebooks and case studies still hold value, but there is no reason to limit that information packaging to web pages or static PDF formats anymore.
Influencer Tech Integration with other Martech – Influencer identification, engagement and measurement technology will increasingly become integrated with cloud marketing platforms. As B2B brands mature in their influencer marketing practices, the need for integration will increase. Influence is an important part of the brand experience, so why not make it easier to connect and grow influence for the brand by making it easier to connect with other marketing technologies? The simplest example would be enabling the coordination of SEO, social media, PR, ads and influencers and the alignment of a narrative across those channels.
Consumerization of B2B Influencers and Content – Business users of software have come to expect a consumer like experience and that same set of expectations is spilling over into how business influencers create content and engage. A simple example is the rise of LinkedIn video creators. Influencers publishing video content on YouTube have created expectations for video content wherever it can be found, viewed and engaged with. LinkedIn is a great example of where consumer video skills are playing out with B2B content. People like Goldie Chan, Michaela Alexis and Allen Gannett have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on LinkedIn and millions of video views. The continued rollout of live video on LinkedIn will only attract more of B2C-like video behaviors over to the B2B influencer world.
Influencer Experience Management – As brands have elevated their focus on customer experience and employee experience, there will be an increased focus on managing the experience of brand influencers. Far too many B2B brands treat their influencer relationships transactionally and in terms of what the brand can get from the influencer. B2B brands that make any effort at all to learn more about influencer goals, preferences and capabilities in combination with providing opportunities to connect with other influencers, will go along ways towards building brand advocates and inspire more effective influencer behaviors.
Whether you’re tired of or wired for “influencer marketing”, make no mistake: The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come. Those who are influential in the B2B world have the domain expertise their networks trust. Not staying on top of how the world of influencer marketing is evolving is simply leaving your customers open to the influence of your competition.
What B2B influencer marketing trends would you add to this list?
Be sure to join me May 30th as I join Seth Bridges, founder at Rival IQ for a live interview to talk about these influencer marketing trends and more.