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13 Ways B2B Influencer Marketing Offers Brands an Ideal Alternative to the Benefits of Physical Events

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Table of graphs and charts with hands pointing at statistics image.

Table of graphs and charts with hands pointing at statistics image.

B2B influencer marketing is an ideal way for brands to drive digital conversations during the global health crisis, and we have 13 ways influencers can virtually deliver many of the benefits that have been lost due to postponed or cancelled real-world events.

With 45 percent of consumers spending more time on social media and 95 percent spending more time on in-home media consumption according to a recent GlobalWebIndex survey, now is an ideal time for brands to drive digital conversations using influencer marketing.

Another recent survey found that 92 percent of marketers believe putting on successful virtual events will be important or critical in the coming months.

Some brands have already chosen to postpone or cancel their events all the way through the middle of 2021, including major players Facebook and Microsoft.

Physical events typically offer a well-rounded array of benefits to everyone involved, from the organizers to attendees, exhibitors, partners, sponsors, speakers, and more.

Some of the traditional benefits of real-world events include:

  • Boosting Brand Awareness
  • Gaining New Audiences & Clients
  • Forging New Business Relationships
  • Building Highly Targeted Leads
  • Researching Competitors
  • Education
  • Creating Lasting Impressions
  • Networking
  • Advertising & Sponsorship Opportunities
  • Providing Giveaway & Contest Opportunities
  • Saving Time with All-In-One Conference Experiences
  • Accessing Key People
  • Testing New Products & Services
  • Connecting with Attendees

As brands look to utilize virtual events it can be daunting to find relevant substitutes for all of these benefits that real-world events provide, and many have been asking themselves “How can I replace these key real-world event benefits?

Luckily, B2B influencers can readily provide strong alternative benefits that don’t require physical events, and we’ll look at what they can offer for each of the traditional event advantages.

How B2B Influencers Bring Back the Benefits of Physical Events

How can influencer marketing help B2B brands create new virtual versions of the kinds of experiences that they’ve typically gained from traditional real-world events that are now cancelled or postponed?

“By collaborating with influencers on educational, entertaining and interactive online content, B2B brands can satisfy the hunger buyers have for credible content experiences that engage and inspire,” Lee Odden, chief executive and co-founder of TopRank Marketing noted.

B2B influencers helping co-create and promote these types of engaging content experiences can be particularly powerful now, as consumers are forced to seek out inspiration in a virtual world to replace what they typically gain through attending real-world events.

In substituting virtual for real-world, our client Adobe’s annual Summit conference chose to explore a “choose your own adventure”-style virtual session selection experience — a type of content especially promotable using influencers.

“We decided the best way to do the storytelling was to allow a lot of user choice and not keep them captive,” Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe*, recently told Adweek.

“We felt ‘choose your own adventure’ was the best way for the audience to get more value out of it. When you’re online there are distractions, so we had to play to the situation as best we could,” Alex added.

Uniting influencers with customers and media should now be a key marketing focus for brands, according to public relations and marketing consultancy Edelman.

“Digital marketing provides unique opportunities for cross-promotion in partnership with customers, vertical media and influencers,” Edelman’s Joe Kingsbury and Ben Laws recently noted in “Beyond Conferences: How B2B Marketers Should Approach a Covid-19 World.”

[bctt tweet=”“By collaborating with influencers on educational, entertaining and interactive online content, B2B brands can satisfy the hunger buyers have for credible content experiences that engage and inspire.” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

B2B Influencers Help Gain New Audiences & Clients

86 percent of marketers in charge of ad spend allocation said that they either might or definitely would use social media influencer marketing during the health crisis, topping a list of marketing strategies in a recent IZEA survey.

IZEA Chart

Tom Treanor, global head of marketing at our client Arm Treasure Data, sees strong opportunities for influencers as brands look to replace the benefits of real-world events.

“With in-person events on hold indefinitely, marketers have lost one major channel,” Tom noted.

“Events are a place to connect face-to-face with potential buyers, to share thought leadership and to gain visibility in their target markets. With that channel gone for now, it’s an important time to look at other available — and often under-utilized — channels, including influencer marketing,” Tom added.

“Working with influencers is a potentially valuable channel for many companies. Why? Because influencers are tapped into the current mood and interests of their audience. Their insights can help you craft your messaging to better resonate with your customers. More importantly, influencers are able to provide your company with additional reach into the influencers audiences,” Tom said.

“Lastly, influencers are able to work with your company to co-create content or to develop content on behalf of your brand. So, consider how you work with influencers in areas such as podcasts, webinars, live-streams, eBooks, blogs and social content. Are there ways that your marketing can be improved with the help of well-connected industry influencers?” Tom concluded.

Tom was one of our “50 Top B2B Marketing Influencers, Experts and Speakers,” and was featured in our Break Free B2B  video interview series, exploring B2B marketing personalization.

Among the top ways companies will need to pivot in order to embrace B2B marketing in a post-real-world event environment is influencer marketing, according to author and technology advisor Bernard Marr.

“Digital is likely to be the clear winner here, and companies — including ones that may not so much as had a Facebook page before – will need to move into social marketing, content marketing, SEO and influencer-led campaigns,” Bernard wrote recent in the Forbes piece “Why Companies Turn To Digital Marketing To Survive COVID-19.”

[bctt tweet=”“Consider how you work with influencers in areas such as podcasts, webinars, live-streams, ebooks, blogs and social content. Are there ways that your marketing can be improved with the help of industry influencers?” @RtMixMktg” username=”toprank”]

B2B Influencers Help Promote New Products & Services

With the real-world events B2B brands normally attend cancelled or postponed, what roles can influencer marketing play in providing virtual alternatives to physical exhibition booths and traditional in-person product demonstrations?

“Influencer marketing’s importance went up when in-person events were canceled,” Debbie Friez, influencer marketing strategist at TopRank Marketing, said.

“Brands are fighting for attendee’s attention and time, and finding influencers are there to help to spread the news on their personal platforms about the virtual events,” Debbie explained.

“Plus, brands still need independent thought leaders for keynotes, moderators and panelists for their virtual events. We are finding influencers have been using virtual media for years, and can easily adapt to the changing landscape with both ideas and the know-how to use alternative presentation channels,” Debbie added.

During this global shift to a digital-first customer experience, marketers who incorporate empathy into their efforts are especially well-poised to deliver successful virtual experiences.

“Data-driven empathy is essential for personalization across customer and employee journeys,” Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce recently noted.

“There’s no going back to the world we once knew, the only way to get to the next normal is by plowing straight through disruption,” Solis added.

[bctt tweet=”“Influencer marketing’s importance went up when in-person events were canceled.” @dfriez” username=”toprank”]

B2B Influencers Bridge the Media Coverage Gap

What roles can influencer marketing play in providing virtual alternatives to the media coverage and product announcements typically gained from traditional physical events?

“B2B brands continue to impress me with how agile they’ve been with their marketing in the swiftly changing landscape,” Elizabeth Williams, TopRank Marketing account manager shared.

“Marketers are being ultra-cognizant of their messaging, publishing cadences, and ensuring their POVs and messaging on COVID-19 — or lack thereof — are aligned with their brand values. Influencer marketing is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between what once was our 2020 marketing plan and what we now need to achieve,” Elizabeth said.

“We can show our audiences we are tuned into their world by creating virtual experiences that inspire. And, what better way to do that than featuring credible industry experts and thought leader influencers?” Elizabeth added.

“Influencer-driven content can lead the conversation through live panels, webinars, podcasts and larger virtual events. Or, influencers can add a refreshing seasoning of the latest insights or advice on the changing marketplace. Think blogs, LinkedIn* articles, interactive assets, videos and social content,” Elizabeth suggested.

“Regardless of what tactics suit your business needs and objectives, I’d encourage every B2B marketer to step back and reflect on whether influencer marketing is a fit to take their content to the next level in today’s extra noisy virtual world,” Elizabeth concluded.

[bctt tweet=”Influencer marketing is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between what once was our 2020 marketing plan and what we now need to achieve.” @ElizabethW1057″ username=”toprank”]

Boosting Brand Awareness With B2B Influencers

What additional roles can influencer marketing play in driving virtual brand conversations and boosting brand awareness?

Now is a great time for B2B brands to utilize relevant industry influencers who can successfully drive virtual conversations that expand brand exposure and help with lead generation, as our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis explained.

“Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been. Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience — who may not have planned to travel to your live event or conference,” Susan noted.

“If marketers focus on bringing true subject matter expertise to their audience — especially in partnership with influencers — I predict that virtual events will actually grow to be even better than live events for reaching and building positive awareness with an audience,” Susan added.

Industry writer Katie Sehl recently suggested in a HootSuite article about the rise of virtual events that influencers take advantage of the social stories format, including hosting influencer takeovers — another way that influencers can drive brand conversations.

“Speakers often double as influencers — so provide them with the details they need to become event ambassadors,” Katie noted, highlighting the strength of influencers when it comes to digitally replacing some of the key benefits of real-world events.

HubSpot’s Caroline Forsey encouraged organizations adjusting to virtual events to implement “breakout sessions led by influencers and experts,” another way influencers can help brands replace some of their former real-world event momentum with online efforts.

[bctt tweet=”Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been. Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience.” @smisukanis” username=”toprank”]

Begin Or Expand Your B2B Influencer Marketing Program

As we’ve seen, successful B2B influencer marketing has much to offer for brands seeking to replace the benefits of real-world events while they’re on hiatus due to the global health crisis.

Implementing a successful program takes time, effort, and dedicated strategy, which leads many brands to use a top B2B influencer marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing, which was the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in Forrester’s “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America” report.

[bctt tweet=”Successful B2B influencer relationships take time to build and require time to maintain.” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Whether you work with a top B2B influencer marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing or utilize your own team, now is an ideal time to reach B2B influencers and work together to drive digital brand conversations.

Finally, as we all navigate the uncharted marketing waters of the global health crisis, here are several additional resources to help keep your B2B influencer marketing efforts safely afloat:

* Note: Adobe and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post 13 Ways B2B Influencer Marketing Offers Brands an Ideal Alternative to the Benefits of Physical Events appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Thank you for reading.

Digital Marketing News: Record Influencer Spending, Google’s Gmail Shopping Ads, Pinterest’s Verified Merchant Program, & Twitter Engagement Stats

This may be of some interest.

2020 February 14 MarketingCharts Chart

2020 February 14 MarketingCharts Chart

Facebook Adds ‘One-Time Notification’ API to Messenger for Business
Facebook has given marketers new options for contacting consumers who have agreed to notifications, with the release of an API token system that will enable expanded brand-to-customer contact choices, the social media giant recently announced. Social Media Today

Twitter says ad tech and product updates will improve direct response advertising
Twitter saw fourth quarter advertising revenues climb by some 12 percent to $885 million, with monetizable daily active users (mDAUs) up 21 percent to 152 million, and pointed to several updates that it expects to continue bringing better direct-response ad revenue, the firm recently reported. Marketing Land

Top Twitter Stats for 2020 [Infographic]
Twitter’s ad engagement rates rose by 23 percent, with video ads on the platform coming in some 50 percent cheaper in cost-per-engagement, two of many statistics of interest to digital marketers contained in recent Hootsuite infographic data. Social Media Today

Facebook Is Killing Off Its Web Supply In Audience Network – And Don’t Be Surprised If It All Shuts Down
Facebook has announced that it is phasing out mobile web publishers in its Audience Network. Shuttering one of its low-performing formats may have been driven by the shift away from browser cookies, as Facebook and other social platforms look to alternate forms of ad tracking. AdExchanger

Pinterest shares surge as revenue, user adds beat estimates
Pinterest announced fourth-quarter revenue increases up 46 percent to $400 million and an accompanying 26 percent increase in monthly active users, as the image-focused platform also announced plans to launch its own Verified Merchant Program. Reuters

New Research Shows Facebook Still Holds Sway With Millennials and Gen Z [Infographic]
Facebook has remained the most popular social platform among Millennials, with some 77 percent using it daily, while 64 percent of the demographic have their purchasing behavior influenced by the YouTube influencers they follow — two of several statistics of interest to digital marketers in newly-released survey data. Social Media Today

 February 14 Statistics Image

Google is Expanding Shopping Ads to Gmail
Google announced that it plans to offer a new variety of ads targeting Gmail users. Beginning March 4, Google’s Product and Showcase Shopping ads will get the ability to run on Gmail, the search giant recently revealed. Search Engine Journal

56% of marketers think AI will negatively impact branding in 2020, study says
The effect artificial intelligence (AI) has on branding is largely seen in a negative light, with 56 percent of marketers expressing fear that the technology could lead to the loss of jobs and lower creativity, while an even higher number — 77 percent — also expressed at least some level of concern over the use of AI with branding efforts. Marketing Dive

Instagram Adds New Listings of ‘Least Interacted With’ and ‘Most Shown in Feed’ in Following Tab
Instagram’s “following” section received a new listing that shows those accounts a user interacts with the least, the Facebook-owned platform recently announced. The new interaction data could help digital marketers discover those users prime for increased engagement efforts. Social Media Today

US Online Media Spend in 2019 and the Outlook for 2020
Continuing on from a strong 2019 online media spend of $145.3 billion in the U.S., 2020 is expected to top $166 billion, an increase of more than 14 percent, along with a record $3.4 billion for influencer spending, according to new forecast report data from MarketingCharts. MarketingCharts

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2020 February 14 Marketoonist Comic

A lighthearted look at 7 types of LinkedIn requests by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

The 10 Best Super Bowl Ads of 2020 — Adweek

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Nick Nelson — What’s Trending: It’s the Thought that Counts — LinkedIn (client)
  • Lee Odden — How To Curate Social Media Content Like A Professional — Three Girls Media
  • Lee Odden — Best Practices for Buyer Personas, Influencer Marketing, and Demand Generation in 2020: Key Takeaways from the Digital Branding Summit — Webbiquity
  • TopRank Marketing — 30 B2B Content Marketing Statistics Everyone Needs to Know — Trade Press Services

Do you have your own top B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thank you for taking the time to join us, and we hope you will return again next week for another selection of the most relevant B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

The post Digital Marketing News: Record Influencer Spending, Google’s Gmail Shopping Ads, Pinterest’s Verified Merchant Program, & Twitter Engagement Stats appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Thank you for reading.

Get Heroic Results from B2B Influencer Marketing with Advice from Ashley Zeckman #CMWorld

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Ashley Zeckman Presents at CMWorld 2019

Ashley Zeckman Presents at CMWorld 2019

B2B content marketers have faced many epic foes over the last few years. There’s the nefarious Content Shock, the demoralizing Facebook Algorithm, and the destructive Google Search Update. We have battled them all and continued to thrive.

But now we face our most fearsome foe: The Dreaded Trust Gap.

Less than half of consumers trust brands. Seventy-one percent of buyers are turned off by overly sales-y content. Buyers increasingly prefer content from industry influencers rather than brands.

It’s a daunting problem that needs a bold solution: The Guardians of Content!

In her Content Marketing World 2019 presentation, our very own Director of Digital Strategy Ashley Zeckman explained how B2B content marketers can initiate and scale up a heroic influencer content program of their own. Here are a few key takeaways.

Three Common B2B Influncer Pitfalls

If you’re just getting started with B2B influencer marketing, there are easy mistakes to make. Most of them come from trying to emulate the B2C model: Transactional, glorified sponsorship rather than content co-creation. Here are Ashley’s three most common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

#1: A Disconnected Approach

Say you have a hole in your editorial calendar, so you ask an influencer for an interview. Then you need some quotes for an infographic, so you ask a few others for a nugget of wisdom. Then you reach out on social media to a couple of folks you admire. Then you ask a different set of influencers for quotes for an eBook…

You get the picture. Instead of a strategic campaign that can build into something bigger, you have a ton of one-offs. It’s inefficient. It’s inconsistent for your audience and for the influencers you’re courting.

Instead, Ashley says, aim for a strategic, connected approach. Plan in advance which topics you’re covering, which influencers you want to include, how you’ll use the content, and your plans for repurposing.

#2: Transactional Relationships

There are two ways that influencer relationships can get too transactional. The first is asking too much too quickly, while offering nothing of value in return. Imagine you got an email from a stranger asking you to help them move. Would you do it?

Now imagine an email from a friend asking for that help, and promising pizza and beer? Relationships matter. Take time to honor your influencers, follow them on social media, promote them and their work. Help them succeed, then start with a small ask, like a sound bite for a blog post.

The second way relationships can be too transactional is more literal. If you only work with paid influencers who promote content you wrote… well, that’s more endorsement than influencer content, and it can be less likely to find an enthusiastic audience.

While you may financially compensate some influencers, Ashley says, the emphasis should always be on content co-creation. You want influencers to feel ownership of the finished product – they’ll be much more likely to promote something they’re excited to have made.

#3: Lack of Measurement

Like any other marketing tactic, influencer marketing should be able to prove its worth. Many marketers fail to build in measurement at the beginning, and end up with nothing but vanity metrics to show.

It’s important to plan for measurement before you start. Lay the groundwork for the KPIs you plan to meet, and the metrics you’ll use to show progress. And don’t forget to set benchmarks!

Here are a few of Ashley’s sample KPIs:

Planning Content and Assembling Your Heroes

Keeping those pitfalls in mind, here’s how Ashley recommends designing and implementing an influencer program.

First, determine your topical focus. The topics you plan to cover should hit the intersection of your business priorities, search demand, and influencer expertise. It shouldn’t be too tied to your products and solutions. Think more about what you want your brand to be known for.

Use the same tools you use for content research to find the key terms where there is audience demand and competitor whitespace as well.

With topics in hand, you can start identifying your influencer mix:

You’re not looking for just the people with the largest audience. Instead, focus on people who are respected in their fields, shared interest in your topics, and the ability to actually move people to engage.

It’s also important, says Ashley, to find influencers who fit your content type. If it’s an audio or video asset, look for folks who have demonstrated a willingness an ability to provide that type of content. Beyond that, influencers should be reputable, practical, with real-life experience to draw from.

When you reach out to these influencers, remember to give before you ask:

The nurturing process helps prove your own credibility to influencers, showing you’re a trustworthy partner, and hopefully sparking interest in co-creating awesome content.

The Adventure Continues (and Continues, and Continues)

The ultimate goal of your influencer outreach and nurturing should be a connected universe of content (much like Marvel’s cinematic universe). Who would assemble a hero team and disband them after one adventure? Continue nurturing relationships with your influencers and encourage them to acknowledge and support each other, too. The goal is to develop a community of folks who are always up for another mission to save the world from boring B2B content.

Ready for a heroic influencer marketing success story? See how Alcatel-Lucent drove 6-figure leads with their campaign. Looking for more insights out of CMWorld 2019? Check out these other posts featuring several of this year’s speakers:

The post Get Heroic Results from B2B Influencer Marketing with Advice from Ashley Zeckman #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Thank you for reading.