I’ve been in AR for a long long time, so long that when I started (working at Text 100 representing Microsoft in Europe – yup I am showing my age!) reaching out to industry analysts while at a PR agency most of the analysts I spoke to thought I had called the wrong department. Almost 20 years later (yikes!) and AR is cool again, especially if it is part of your influencer relations strategy.
You missed that trend? Let me explain, today everyone is an influencer (wasn’t that always the case?) and if you work in marketing you need to reach out to them to ensure you can influence their thinking and in turn they will influence your customer, or if you are an agency practioner your clients’ customer.
The advent of all things social – twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc… means we have digital platforms that enable us to assess and measure the reach, influence and impact of influencers. So followers, likes, shares, retweets all count. On the one hand this makes our jobs a lot easier – if you use a solution like ARchitect – the data is provided with the lists of analysts you are targeting as part of your core AR program. So far so good.
Over the last couple of years I have become increasingly involved in Influencer Marketing and not just in renaming the ‘A’ in AR with an ‘I’ so people think it is more strategic! Part of my work has involved gaining a deeper understanding of all of the stakeholders that impact purchasing decisions and in the process looking at some of the technology out there to identify and track influencers in addition to the traditional PR tools such as Meltwater or Muck Rack there are a number of interesting things I have found:
- No one tool fits the bill – hardly surprising as different companies will have different stakeholders so it’s a little naïve to think that one solution can work for influencers that function very differently to one another
- Careful what you measure – those involved in social media marketing (as an AR professional I think it’s OK to admit this is part of your role!) will often warn about vanity metrics, but when it comes to influence it’s tricky to get real data on the one thing you are really after the extent to which an influencer impacts purchasing decisions
- B2B Influencers v Consumer Influencers the difference is real – whilst technology is seen as a great leveller there is still, in my view a real difference between running influencer relations campaigns for a consumer brand and undertaking one for a B2B brand. Recently I looked at solutions from two new UK start-ups CORQ and Buzzoole and whilst both were really impressive their design is very much with the consumer brand in mind (not that that is problem). The only true B2B tool I could find was from an outfit called NarrativeWorx
- Tactics, timings and pay for play – there is also a clear distinction between B2B and B2C tactics the latter makes for a much larger pool of pay to play influencers, whereas B2B influencers are usually more interested in long term relationships than just soley cash payment. There is also a hard line between pay to play influencer MARKETING (partner marketing) and proper conversation-driven influencer RELATIONS (pure influencer relations).
This got me thinking on the consumer side of things the main objectives of an influencer campaign is simply endorsement of some degree or another as this will in turn create awareness, either build or strengthen a brand and ultimately drive sales. The extent to which consumer led influencers are as influential as they seem has always been subject to debate. On the Business to business front whilst endorsement is sought after and prized that is not the full picture with some influencers such as analysts and industry acolytes the conversations away from the glare of social media are as valuable as a name check in a tweet or reference in a blog post.
There are a number of other considerations when comparing B2B v Consumer Influencer relations
The purchasing decision making process – while there is no question that the process of influence is becoming more fragmented and at times more tricky to map when considering the impact of social platforms, there is always going to more complexity when an organisation is considering buying products or services that require approval or endorsement from several people. The DMU (decision making unit) might communicate digitally rather than in person but the need to identify who influences the people who are involved in deciding what products/services will be purchased is just as crucial.
The nature of influence – when looking at consumer influencers they tend to act as power users but this is not always the case in b2b. For example a celebrity that endorses a make-up product will use the product; however an industry analyst is unlikely to be a power user of a disk array solution rather they are able to advise why a particular vendor’s solution should be chosen over another.
Influence and revenue – influencers impact revenue otherwise we wouldn’t invest valuable time and budget on connecting with them. There is a big difference between the impact of influencers and revenue when comparing consumer influencers to b2b. The thinking being a consumer influencer will have an almost immediate impact on revenue while the effect of a b2b influencer is likely to be a lot slower due to length of purchasing cycle of business products and services and the fact that often expenditure is classed as capex so is only done periodically.
There are other differences but one thing is for certain influencer marketing whether consumer or b2b is becoming an increasingly important part of marketing and is something all AR professionals need to keep a watchful eye out for.
Marc Duke (@marcduke, LinkedIn) is an independent consultant currently helping Criteo with its Influencer Relations Program and Destrier Communications with its AR programs and is also Community Manager of the TLA Createch Working Group.
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