When you’re tasked with identifying influencers for B2B it can seem like a daunting task. The sheer number of industry leaders can make it seem like your company will never get a look in or gain any traction. Understanding how to identify influencers, and what to do with them once you know who they are, will move your social presence to the next level.
Why do I need influencers?
Before you begin diving into your influencer research, it’s important to lay the groundwork for good working practice. First thing is first, what do you hope to achieve by connecting with the influencers in your industry? It’s a well-known fact that first impressions count, so having a clear idea of your aims before connecting is vital.
There are two main reasons for connecting with industry influencers:
1. Building relationships/contacts
2. Amplifying the reach of your content
Building relationships in your industry are the cornerstone of most business success. Especially in a B2B environment. Happy customers mean more sales or conversions, more sales or conversions means business success. It’s a simple formula. Using the influencers in your industry can help grow your business by improving your online presence (either by link building, page ranking or SEO) and developing trust in your product or service by word-of-mouth advertising.
Developing good content is vital for influencer engagement. Influencers generally need a good steady stream of high-quality content to share and talk about. If your business is consistently producing high-quality content, you will, in time, be seen as a trusted source of information. Being seen as a trusted source of information will grow your brand awareness and improve brand loyalty to your product or service. Influencers who are brand advocates, and putting your service/product in front of their loyal following, are invaluable to all businesses.
Social Listening Is Key
Once you have a clear idea in your mind of why you want to engage with influencers, the real research begins. In the B2B environment, we have an advantage over our B2C colleagues. It’s very likely that our business will be a fairly niche environment, meaning identification and social listening becomes easier.
It goes without saying that you should be following and engaging with your customers as the first point of call. Be sure to see who your customers are following (even if it’s the competition) and mark these down as potential influencers. Twitter lists are great for this.
Use your industry knowledge and business acumen to decide on the keywords for your research. Using the Twitter advanced search, or a tool such as Hootsuite, social listening is easier than ever and should be a large part of your content strategy. Keyword searching is a great place to start. If your business is in the animal health sector, for example, your keyword search may look something like this:
- Animal Health
- Animal Welfare
- Veterinary Medicine
- Veterinary Science
These examples are quite broad and you may wish to narrow your search down. If your business is just targeting dogs and dog guardians, for example, your keywords to search should reflect this. It’s a good idea to mix broader industry topics with much more targeted topics to ensure a good mix of influencers.
There are many tools, such as Buzzoole, available to search Twitter profiles and keywords to provide a list of users. These tools range in price as well as usefulness, but it may be worthwhile doing some research and seeing if these are a good fit.
It is worth noting that just because an account has hundreds of thousands of followers, this doesn’t make it a great influencer. Have a look at how they engage with their followers. There should be a nice mix of retweets, comments, conversation, and content being shared. If the only thing being shared is their own content, they are a meformer and not an informer and will probably not help out your cause.
On this same note, an account that has fewer followers may be an up and coming influencer (just like you!). Keep notes of these accounts and engage with them, this early groundwork could prove fruitful for both of you in the future.
Engagement, Engagement, Engagement!
Social listening and identifying influencers should be a big part of your content marketing strategy, but don’t forget engagement. Once you have a list of influencers in your industry, having authentic engagement with them is the next step. This should always be done with integrity, it’s very easy to spot interaction that is not legitimate.
Using influencers to market your product or service to their audience can be a fantastic way to grow your business. As long as engagement and marketing are done honestly, the benefits for both business and customer are endless.
NB This post was written for a previous client as a prospective blog post.