Beyond the Hype Cycle: It’s Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing

It's Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing

Every marketer should consider getting a tattoo of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, as a reminder to keep us from chasing shiny objects.

The Hype Cycle goes like this:

  1. A new hotness emerges. It could be new technology, a new strategy or tactic, some new thing.
  2. There are wild predictions about how the thing will revolutionize the world.
  3. People scramble to get on board with the thing before they even understand it.
  4. The new thing doesn’t measure up to elevated expectations.
  5. People get disillusioned with the thing and decide it’s worthless.
  6. People actually learn how the thing works, get sophisticated in using it.
  7. The thing turns out to be pretty awesome and is used productively.

Marketers are just as susceptible to the hype machine as anyone else is. More so, even. Think of content marketing: We went from “content is king” to “content shock” in just a few years, and we’re just now hitting the plateau of productivity.

Now it’s influencer marketing’s turn to ride the downhill slope to the trough of disillusionment. It’s inevitable. We started with high expectations, a ton of hype, and a lot of investment before people really knew what worked.

Now the backlash is hitting. The latest Sprout Social Index is particularly sobering. Only 46% of marketers are using influencer marketing. Only 19% said they had the budget for an influencer program. And on the consumer side, people say they’re more likely to take a friend’s recommendation on social media than take an influencer’s word for it.

In other words: The party’s over. Now the real work begins. It’s time to redefine influencer marketing, get more sophisticated, and get productive. Here’s how to get out of the trough:

#1 – Redefining Influence

In the B2C world (and even in the B2B realm), influence and celebrity are often treated as synonyms. Whether it’s Rhianna or Matthew McConaughey or Pewdiepie, it’s people who have audiences in the millions. There’s some differentiation for relevancy — this YouTuber does makeup tutorials, that one is a gamer — but it’s mostly a numbers game. It’s paying people with huge followings to throw some attention at your brand.

As Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing for SAP*, told us in a recent interview on social and influencer marketing:

“People often think that influencer marketing is all about celebrities hawking a product. It’s truly not about that—especially in the B2B realm. It’s about highlighting experts who have real experience on the business challenges a brand’s audience faces.”

To become more sophisticated, you need to rethink what it means to be influential. Sure, a mega-star with a huge following is great — if they are relevant to your specific target audience and if their participation doesn’t break the bank.

However, you can get amazing results working with influencers like:

  • Thought leaders in the industry with a small but prestigious network
  • Experts with radical new ideas who are poised to become thought leaders
  • Subject matter experts within your own company
  • Prospective customers from influential brands you want to work with
  • Employees who will advocate for your brand given direction and material

That last one is crucial. Inspiring your internal influencers can give your content a massive boost in reach — LinkedIn* estimates that the average employee has a network 10x bigger than the brand’s social reach. Sprout says, in the key findings of their report:

“Social marketers in 2018 see the value in employee advocacy as a cost-effective, scalable alternative to influencer marketing.”

I would say “addition” rather than “alternative,” but it’s definitely an undervalued tactic.

Our experience is that a combination of industry and internal influencers can yield the most effective results. SAP Success Factors incorporated industry influencers, internal subject matter experts, partners and clients on a program that exceeded the lead generation goal by 272% with a 66% conversion rate.

The bottom line is, when evaluating influencers, look beyond their follower count. Their industry reputation, group affiliations, and level of engagement are all indicators influence, too. And don’t forget to include your customers, prospects, and employees in your potential influencer pool.

When evaluating influencers, look beyond their follower count. Their industry reputation, group affiliations, & level of engagement are all indicators influence, too. – @NiteWrites #RedefiningInfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Redefining Compensation

The rising cost of influencer marketing is another factor that has led to the trough of disillusionment. The majority of influencer marketing, especially in B2C, has been exclusively transactional. Big brands swept up top-tier influencers, the payments kept getting bigger for smaller results, and eventually the bubble had to burst.

To reach the plateau of productivity, that compensation model must change. At TopRank Marketing, we focus on building relationships with influencers and invite them to co-create with us. While there are instances in which financial compensation is part of the partnership, most often the compensation is the same both for our client and the influencer:

  • A cool, valuable asset to share
  • Cross-promotion to each other’s audiences
  • Boost to thought leadership
  • Access to a community of thought leaders

The relationship model is far more sustainable than a transactional-only approach. Again, if there is an influencer who prefers a transaction, and is of high value to the client, we’re not opposed to financial compensation. But these cases should be the exception, not the norm.

#3 – Redefining Measurement

Proving ROI is a crucial part of making your influencer marketing more sophisticated. Without the ability to show what your influencers have accomplished for the brand, it’s hard to sell management on continued investment.

It all starts with measurable goals and KPIs that hold your influencer marketing to the same standards as every other tactic you use. Tracking performance against those goals is the next step. We all have access to the tools and tech for this kind of measurement. We just need to use them more effectively to show how influencers are effective throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Right now, marketers tend to focus on the top of funnel metrics, because they’re easy to measure: Social reach, influencer participation, engagements, likes, comments.

You need to get more granular than just those raw engagement numbers. You need to get from engagement to action. When you’re ready to amplify, give each influencer a custom URL to share. Then you can measure which influencers are actually inspiring people to leave social media and check out the asset you’ve created. From there, you can measure how those clicks convert to a lead capture, and track the lead through your pipeline.

We all have access to the tools & tech for better measurement of #influencermarketing #ROI. We just need to use them more effectively. – @NiteWrites #RedefiningInfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

Redefining Influencer Marketing

It’s time for influencer marketing to graduate from the Hype Cycle and become a trusted part of your integrated marketing strategy. To get to the plateau of productivity, we must discard what doesn’t work, keep what does, and refine our approach for continued improvement.

It starts with reconsidering just what influence means and who has it. Once you find your true influencers, it’s about developing relationships and building communities, rather than ever-more-expensive transactions. Finally, it requires making your measurement as sophisticated as it is for the rest of your marketing tactics.

We have found that influencer marketing beyond the Hype Cycle is an indispensable part of our marketing mix. The proof is in the pie: Read how our Easy-As-Pie Guide to Content Planning drove a 500% increase in leads for client DivvyHQ.

*Disclosure: SAP and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

Digital Marketing Spotlight: An Interview With Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing, SAP

Influencer Marketing Interview Ursula Ringham

They say curiosity killed the cat, but in Ursula Ringham’s case, curiosity is her special gift—both personally and professionally.

“I’m a fiercely curious person who loves storytelling,” Ursula told me. “I guess it’s my hidden talent; I can strike up a conversation with a stranger and get them to tell me their full life story. I’ll talk to anyone. I want to know people and how they think.”

Her curiosity and “love of story” have guided her throughout her marketing career—from early positions at Adobe and Apple to self-publishing a thriller novel to her latest role as Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP*.

“I’m no millennial, but I have the millennial mindset,” she says. “You have to go after what you want. You can’t let fear decide your future. And I know if I put my mind to something, I can do it.”

As influencer marketing booms and social media marketing experiences a quasi midlife crisis, I sat down with Ursula to talk misconceptions, tools, and tips on both marketing fronts.

Q&A with SAP’s Ursula Ringham

Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing, SAP1. Tell me about yourself. How did you come into the digital marketing space and eventually join SAP?

I was in the right place at the right time. As you know, I worked at Adobe and Apple, so I had a career in high-tech early on. I actually left Apple right before the first iPhone came out, and I stayed at home with my kids for about eight years.

When it was time to get back in, honestly, no one would hire me. They’d say: “You have great experience from back in the day, but you can’t compete.” Things had changed.

But even when I was at home, I was always doing something—I did some consulting and also worked on my passion for writing. That’s when I wrote and self-published my thriller novel, “Privileged Corruption.” I took creative writing classes, attended conferences and events when I could—and this is still something I do today; attend events to continue to develop because I still have several books in me.

Then in 2012, I was talking with a girlfriend and she said she needed someone to write customer success stories. And while I didn’t have the exact experience, I could write and I thought: “I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

So, I got a job as a contractor; someone took a chance on me. And that someone was at SAP.

2. You have extensive experience with social media. What have you found to be the universal truths of social? (The things that stay the same no matter what platform or algorithm changes occur.)

Authenticity and storytelling; you need to own your brand—but you need to do it strategically.

As an individual on social or through your brand channels, you need to share the truths about who you are in a way that connects with your audience.

For me, these are the “five truths” I share with my following:

No. 1: My work.

Tell a story that enables people to come with you on the journey. Your audience doesn’t want to hear that your company just released a new product or service. They want to know how you’re solving problems or making a difference.

No. 2: My family.

I don’t give every detail here—just sprinkle some things in. This is how people see a different side and get to know me. You have to give something personal.

No. 3: My passion.

You have to share something you love. Dogs, skiing, Star Wars, poetry—the list goes on. Share something you’re passionate about because you’ll be able to form connections with people who have the same passions.

No. 4: Sports.

Whether you’re a sports fanatic or simply tolerate them, it’s something everyone can connect with and discuss—whether it’s your child’s little league baseball game or the NBA Finals.

No. 5: Third-party voices.

It could be an article from my favorite journalist or the latest commentary on the royal wedding. The point is to share things that you and your audience find interesting.

The bottom line here is: Be authentic. Be yourself (or your brand). But be strategic.

As an individual on #socialmedia or through your brand channels, you need to share the truths about who you are in a way that connects with your audience. – @ursularingham Click To Tweet

3. What do you think is most misunderstood about influencer marketing?

For one, people often think that influencer marketing is all about celebrities hawking a product. It’s truly not about that—especially in the B2B realm. It’s about highlighting experts who have real experience on the business challenges a brand’s audience faces.

Secondly, it’s not always about the number of followers or connections an influencer has. Some people think: “Oh my God. We have to work with this person. They have a million followers.” Your influencers have to be able to relate to your audience and that skill isn’t necessarily determined by a large following.

Thirdly, influencer marketing is not a one-and-done tactic. You want it to be for the long haul, so influencer relationships are everything. You need to dig deep to learn who your influencers are and the expertise they bring, and build a relationship by consistent and thoughtful engagement.

Lastly, influencers can be found within your own company. Your employees can be influencers. People often forget this. You can and should combine internal and external influencers.

4. What’s one “influencer marketing must” that marketers often overlook?

You must have a call to action. What’s the point? What’s your end goal? How are you defining success? Where are you sending them?

Whether your goal is brand awareness or lead gen, if you’re telling a story that has people on the edge of their seat, you need to give them a natural next step to continue their journey.

Regardless of your goal, if you’re telling a story that has people on the edge of their seat, you need to give them a natural next step to continue their journey. – @ursularingham #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

5. Let’s say you’ve run into a long-lost marketer friend who’s considering working with influencers. Where do you tell them to start? What do you tell them to be cautious of?

The main thing is: If you want to succeed, you have to be in it to win it. You have to be on social media, you have to be engaged, you have to follow influencers, you have to engage with them, and you have to read, watch, or listen to their content. And all of this is before, during, and after you reach out for the first ask.

When it comes to vetting who you want to work with, start by digging into their social channels.

Twitter is a great place to learn about the topics and types of content they’re interested in. LinkedIn is great for this, too, but that’s where you can really vet whether they have the expertise and background to make a partnership a good fit. Facebook and Instagram are where you can see if you really want to work with them since you’re typically able to see more personality there.

As for something to look out for, as you’re viewing their social posts, see if they’re just sharing the same things on every channel. A post on Instagram with 10 hashtags will not work on Facebook. Every channel is different and if you keep seeing the same post, it’s like: Where are you? Where’s the authentic side?

Finally, you should be very selective on who you work with. You need to make sure they’re a good fit. Sometimes I’ll actually reach out to a mutual connection or a colleague at a different company to see if they’ve worked with an influencer before and get their read on them.

If you want to succeed at #influencermarketing, you have to be in it to win it. You have to commit. – @ursularingham Click To Tweet

6. Where do you think GDPR and data privacy as it relates to social media and influencer marketing will have biggest impact on how brands engage? (What do brands need to consider?)

GDPR is going to be the stake in the ground for all data privacy—bar none. As GDPR kicks off, we’ll start to see lawsuits and controversies in the news and people will become increasingly aware and engaged. In the U.S., we’re already becoming more aware of data privacy issues, especially after Cambridge Analytica.

But bottom line, GDPR will be really important. And as a result, our influencers will become even more important and valuable. They’re going to be our trusted brand ambassadors; our trusted voices. They’ll be a huge asset because people don’t trust brands outright—they trust people.

In light of #GDPR, influencers will become even more important and valuable. They’re going to be our trusted brand ambassadors; our trusted voices. – @ursularingham #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

7. What’s in your social media marketing toolbox? (What platforms, tools or best practices are your must-haves for success?)

On the personal front, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. A key best practice for me here is tailoring the content and the messaging for each platform because my audience is different for each.

In addition, I post in the moment, every day. Authenticity is important, so I rarely use scheduling tools.

Now, for the brand marketers out there, you absolutely need a social media scheduling and management tool. You need help. And there are so many tools out there like Hootsuite or Buffer, but do your research and select one that meets your brand’s needs from a management and budgetary perspective.

8. How about your influencer marketing toolbox?

Brands engaging in influencer relations and marketing need a tool to help organize, identify, and manage relationships with influencers. A spreadsheet won’t get you very far. Tools can help you keep up with what your influencers are doing and sharing, so you can regularly engage and continue to build relationships.

Like with social media management tools, there are several options like Traackr or Onalytica, so do your research and pick one that’s the best fit.

9. Finally, what are you most excited for in your new role as Head of Global Influencer Marketing for SAP?

Building a world-class influencer program that helps SAP become a Top-10 brand. And we’ll do it through innovative storytelling. We make incredibly innovative products, so we need to tell our stories in innovative ways. And working with influencers will help us do that.

I love pushing the envelope. I love innovative content. And I’m excited about what can happen when we think a little differently.

10. Any final words for other marketers out there?

In marketing, story is everything. But in order to tell a compelling story, you have to be immersed. Bring empathy and understanding, bring purpose, and bring insight—the latter of which influencers can certainly help with.

Finally, embrace curiosity, think and do things differently, and embed yourself in your craft if you want to innovate.

[email protected]‘s message to #marketers: Embrace curiosity, think and do things differently, and embed yourself in your craft if you want to innovate. Click To Tweet

Ready to Take the Influencer Marketing Dive?

As Ursula so eloquently said, in order to succeed at influencer marketing, you have to be in it to win it. You have to commit. So, why not start with immersing yourself in influencer marketing tips, tactics, and strategies.

Check out some of these helpful posts to get you more in the know and help you make the leap:

Finally, a big thank you to Ursula for sharing her story and insights. You rock! If you want to connect with Ursula, follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Disclosure: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

Building Better Influencer Relationships: 7 Cues Marketers Can Take from Sales

Influencer marketing is booming with B2B and B2C brands big and small dipping their toes in the water. And it’s certainly not hard to see why. From declining consumer trust to content overload to near-dead organic reach on social channels, working with influencers enables brands to build credibility, authority with existing and new audiences, as well as connect with thoughtful industry experts.

And, of course, partnering with influencers can help drive marketing results. In fact, according to a Linqia survey, 94% of marketers who use influencer marketing find it an effective practice that can generate up to 11-times the ROI of traditional advertising.

But in order to keep your influencer partners interested, as well as drive results, thoughtful engagement is paramount. It’s all about building relationships — which is an art form, and an area where your sales team can be incredibly helpful. And I should know. I’m a recovering salesperson who’s now embedded in the influencer marketing world.

Below I share seven sales-industry strategies and ideas that can be used to boost and inspire your influencer relations activities.

#1 – Do your research.

Any successful salesperson will tell you that sales is really about making friends. And you can’t make friends if you don’t know who you’re contacting.

Sales teams are often well-versed in scouring and researching on LinkedIn and other online tools, looking for clues, connections and topics to discuss with their prospects or existing customers.

When it comes to researching influencers you’d like to work with, that research and understanding is not only important to learn if they’re a good fit for your brand, but also the kind of topics they’re talking about, the people they follow and engage with, and even their personality. And all this can inform how you should with them before, during, and after the first time your work together.

#2 – Use tools to save time and properly nurture.

I know salespeople who have a big Excel spreadsheet they use to keep track of their prospects and contacts. But as their list grows, managing contacts and relationships becomes cumbersome and inefficient. That’s why most sales teams use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep track of who their prospects and customers are, track their interactions and measure the likelihood the prospect will close.

The same best practice should be applied to influencer relations and marketing. You need a tool or a set of tools to keep track of prospective and current influencer contacts. This will not only help you be efficient (and preserve your sanity), but also help you properly nurture the relationship through informed communication. Some of these helpful tools include Onalytica and Traackr.

My advice, don’t go it alone. Use a tool.

#3 – Social selling rocks.

Nobody likes to be cold called. Eighty percent of decision makers won’t buy from a cold call and only 2% actually result in a meeting being scheduled. So, when I discovered social selling, I jumped in with both feet. I’d get to know my prospects on social media. Then, when I decided to reach out to them, they already knew me. It wasn’t a cold call, anymore.

Getting to know your influencers works the same way. As touched on above, through social media, you can understand what they like to share, start to build a connection, and then interact with them before you make an ask.

You can look at this as smart influencer engagement. TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden calls this the “Confluence Romance,” a framework for making and maintaining influencer relationships.

“Organic influencer engagement is all about warming the relationship,” he says. “And there’s no more efficient or effective way to do that than showing interest and care through social channels.”

Organic #InfluencerEngagement is all about warming the relationship & there’s no more efficient or effective way to do that than showing interest & care through social channels. – @leeodden Click To Tweet

#4 – “Say it with a smile.”

Did you know you can see a smile through the phone? It comes out in they way you write, too. I learned this in a sales class, and I’ve tested it. It really makes a difference if you smile through your interactions. People will be more likely to want to interact with you.

When it comes to your interactions with influencers, aim to delight people and show them you genuinely care by:

  • Thoughtfully commenting on recent social posts
  • Asking them about recent trips they’ve taken or events they’ve attended
  • Showing interest in their key subject areas

And, don’t forget. Let your smile come through in all your interactions.

#5 – Personalize Your Correspondence

More than ever, consumers and buyers want a personalized touch during their interactions with brands and salespeople — especially when it comes to email marketing, something that HubSpot spotlights in its article 18 Habits of Incredibly Successful Salespeople.

Just as forward-thinking salespeople work to create a personalized experience for their customers and buyers, marketers should do the same when reaching out to influencers.

It’s easy to send the same message to everyone you’re hoping to work with on a curated piece, larger asset, or ongoing campaign. But, a little personalization goes a long way. Consider mentioning a tweet or blog post you found interesting, or a previous conversation to show that you are not a bot.

And, there are tools to help. You might consider a tool like Crystal Knows, which will help you understand the personality of your influencer prospect.

Influencers expect and deserve a personal ask, so make the effort.

Influencers expect & deserve a personal ask, so make the effort. – @dfriez #InfluencerRelations #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

#6 – Ask for the Close

Salespeople are taught to find the best time to ask for “the close.” It may be a presumptive close, but the overall idea is to lead prospects to the outcome that includes “money being exchanged.”

Here’s where you want to stop me and say: “I’m a marketer. I’m not selling anything.”

Marketers, you’re selling your brand, the relationship, and the idea that working together will be mutually beneficial. You’re also trying to entice influencers take an action on a range of “offerings,” such as sharing a quote for an eBook or sharing something on social. You need to lead that influencer to an outcome that helps achieve your overall goal of solving a problem.

How do you shape the close for an influencer? As I’ve mentioned a few times, look to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Consider the influencer may want to promote their book, spotlight their thought leadership or help the greater community. So, frame the close in a way that speaks to what they’ll get out of it.

#7 – Sometimes They Say No

The hardest lesson a salesperson can learn is to accept “no” for answer. It’s a really hard lesson. After a “no,” the best think you can do is to access the sale process, and learn how you can do better the next time.

Sometimes, influencers say “no,” too. You ask them to attend an event, but they may have a prior commitment. Or, maybe they don’t feel like the subject matter matches their expertise.

When they say “no”, be gracious and ask follow-up questions to gain insight into why they made their decision. You might learn they have availability in two weeks, so your timing was just off. It is important to always be looking for the “next sale.” It is all a part of the process.

The Process of Building Better Relationships

At the end of the day, sales teams aren’t looking to close one-off deals. They’re looking to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

Marketers need to strive to do the same with influencers. It takes time and dedication, but it’s worth it for both you and your influencers.

So, consider taking a cue from the land of sales to help you create a great relationships utilizing research, personalization, tools, social media, and a great attitude. You might find you’re getting fewer nos.

Are you ready to go make some positive influencer interactions?  You don’t need to go it alone. If you want help with an influencer marketing campaign, contact TopRank Marketing.  

6 Top Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Whether you’re a new Marketing leader at a company in need of establishing wins quickly or part of a growing organization with ambitious revenue goals, the challenges within marketing today are greater than ever.

To help make sense out of these challenges, I’ve listed 6 of the top obstacles to brands achieving effectiveness out of their marketing and how collaborating with influencers on content help solve each problem.

1. Challenge: Ad Blocking. 600 million devices using ad blocking, leading to a loss of $22 billion in ad revenue (PageFair). If buyers don’t ever see your ads, what chance do you have?

Challenge solved: Contrary to ads, influencers are liked and because people pay attention to the influencers they follow, shared brand messages are far more likely to attract and engage buyers.

When you subscribe to the idea that everyone is influential about something, especially with their friends, co-workers and social connections, this statistic from Nielsen (83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising) becomes very powerful.

Collaborating with influencers on content that the influencers then promote to their subscribing community can become a powerful differentiator for any marketing program.

Of course not all customers use ad blocking and there are incredible opportunities to be realized with sophisticated ad targeting. That’s why when properly executed, influencer content can be leveraged for both organic and paid promotions.

2. Challenge: Information Overload. Consider this: 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day (IBM). In fact, 74gb of media are sent to the average consumer on an average day (USC/ICTM).

The sheer number of choices faced by consumers and general distrust has turned brand marketing into noise for many customers.

Challenge solved: Influencers are Focused. One of the most compelling reasons a person is influential is because of the specificity in the topics they cover. Because of that specialization, buyers anticipate rather than ignore or feel overwhelmed by what their trusted influencers share.

While some influencers distribute their content on multiple channels, their personal brand focus plus consistency and trust equals a signal that buyers pay attention to.

3. Challenge: Google Hates SEO. Search Engine Optimization bloggers have been positing this question for 10+ years. With Google algorithm and platform updates including Florida, Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, RankBrain, Mobile, Possum, Fred and the thousands of launches, live traffic experiments, side-by-side experiments and over 130,000 search quality tests, it makes you wonder: is this all for improving the customer experience or is some of it to thwart SEO?

Challenge solved: Google actually likes influencer content. Another key ingredient to why someone is influential is their credibility and authority. An influencer’s specific expertise and their ability to provide insights, answers and even research based perspectives all deliver on the Google’s expectation that content be useful.

Beyond influencer content being useful, there’s the practice of making content worth linking to. Influencers typically have a subscribed audience, many of which publish themselves. When influencers publish and promote content, it naturally attracts links.

By optimizing content for search and activating influencers, brands can create opportunities to help customers find trusted content and everybody wins.

4. Challenge: Buyers don’t trust brands. Or ads. This is a hard pill to swallow: 42% of consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising according to a study by (Ipsos Connect).

Challenge solved: Influencers are trusted.  A recent study by Fullscreen and Shareblee via MarketingCharts found that nearly 40% of 18-34-year-olds are more likely to trust what an influencer says about a brand than what the brand says about itself. Additionally, Twitter reports that users trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.

Collaborating with influencers on content can bring authenticity, credibility and trust to that content. When influencers share that content, the effect of their audiences’s trust goes even further.

5. Challenge: Content Doesn’t Scale. According to the annual study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, some of the top content challenges marketers included: 60% producing engaging content, 57% producing content consistently.

Challenge solved: Creator Influencers are experts at creating content. Influencer content creation and storytelling skills come in many forms: blogging, podcasting, video, images, and sometimes interactive.

Brands can extend the media creation skills of their marketing departments by partnering with creators with specialized skills. In addition to skill, creator influencers have an audience to promote the content to.

6. Challenge: Organic Social is Dead. Not only is Facebook organic reach down 52% (MarketingLand) but declarations that organic reach on Facebook is outright dead for brands are being stated by many credible industry publications, including Digiday.

Challenge (partly) solved: Influencers have optimized social popularity. Influencers create the kinds of signals that social network algorithms reward with higher visibility. Influencers understand what resonates with their audience in terms of topic, content type and promotion. Those same influencers also have an active audience that engages with their shared content. This is a powerful combination for triggering social network algorithms to prioritize influencer content in the feed.

Influencer Marketing is no silver bullet. Neither is content marketing or any kind of marketing approach.

But when influencers are intelligently researched, qualified and engaged during the planning phases of a content marketing program, the benefits of the collaboration can include improved content in a variety of ways:

  • Authenticity – Choose influencers that represent your customers and the resulting message will be a lot more genuine to what buyers actually care about.
  • Variety – Including experts beyond your marketing department can generate a greater span of content ideas.
  • Quality – Tapping expertise can boost the quality beyond what marketing department copywriters might be able to produce.
  • Quantity – Engaging a group of influencers on an ongoing basis can boost the volume of content. Factor in repurposing and you’ll create even more content options without increasing spend.
  • Reach – Trusted, credible experts promoting content can reach audiences that are very difficult to connect with through any other way.
  • Trust – The credibility, expertise and authority of influencers that collaborate with a brand over time can grow trust for the brand.

On top of that, there are efficiency benefits. We have implemented influencer content campaigns where influencers have contributed anywhere from 20% to 80% of the content for the entire campaign.

Then there are the effectiveness benefits. For an organic influencer content campaign, achieving a 50% share rate amongst influencers is impressive. We’ve had many programs with over 100% share rate. Why? By communicating effectively, setting expectations and making content that contributors are proud to be a part of.

The reality is that influencer content programs can deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle, not just awareness. That means improved engagement and conversions.

There are many more challenges for marketing than the six above. I didn’t get into martech shock (too much tech), difficulty in finding qualified marketing candidates, measurement challenges or the implications of the lockdown on data represented by GDPR in the EU and recent attention being given Facebook by lawmakers. But addressing the six above should give the vast majority of marketers reading this an advantage.

Establishing relationships with qualified, capable influencers can bring a tremendous amount of value to a company’s content marketing effectiveness. When influencer marketing is thoughtful, ongoing and properly managed, it becomes a force multiplier that is difficult to duplicate.

Are you planning a content marketing program right now? Who are your best influencers? Who are your best employee advocates? Which industry media do you have the attention of? Which of your customers are most likely to advocate for your brand? Do you know if they are influential? Do you know which of your prospective customers are influential?

Answering these questions can open the door to content marketing success for your brand and mutually valuable relationships with the people that actually influence your customers.

How to Leverage Influencer Marketing for Improved SEO #Pubcon Florida

How to Leverage Influencer Marketing for Improved SEO

This session on influencer marketing and SEO is the first up for me on day one of Pubcon Florida, which has grown from a one day to a two day event. It’s easy to see why: The speaker line up is chock full of current smart search marketing advice from a great collection of expert practitioners.

With moderation duties handled by Susan Wenograd @SusanEDub the speakers for this session included the dynamic duo of:
Marcela De Vivo @marceladevivo from SEMRush
Dixon Jones @Dixon_Jones from Majestic

First up is birthday woman Marcela De Vivo. Happy Birthday Marcela!

Influencer Marketing is hot right now for a variety of reasons: consumers increased use of ad blocking, increased competition and working with the right influencers can make your marketing more effective, especially with SEO.

But working with influencers and getting them to pay attention to your brand can be hard.

There are many examples of big brands leveraging influencer marketing including Pedigree, Hulu and Bob’s Red Mill. But there are also small brands like YogaClub that have had great results too. “Working with influencers revolutionized our brand.”

Impressions are nice, but how do you get influencers to truly impact your ROI?

One of the best ways to get ROI out of influencer marketing is to bring it into your SEO strategy.

To do that, understanding the top SEO ranking factors will help you understand opportunities to incorporate influence with SEO.

  1. Site traffic – Number of direct visits for high volume keywords. Influencers can be a great source for direct traffic. Influencers can generate demand for your brand which also creates visits to your site.
  2. User engagement signals – Visitors coming to your website from search – pages viewed per session and bounce rate. Influencers that have a trusted niche of followers that trust them to recommend sites to visit. That trust should result in an audience that delivers stronger user engagement signals.
  3. Links – Total backlinks to a domain, referring IPs, and total follow backlinks. With influencers you get links they share to your site but ideally, their followers may also link to you. One way to work with influencers this way is through giveaways where content is part of the contest.
  4. Natural organic content – Longer content tends to perform better than shorter content. Things like keywords in the title and H1 tags. Influencers can contribute content to your site that your brand owns. Then you can encourage influencers to share that content that they created hosted on your site. You can also use Facebook ads to promote that content. Alternatively, you can sponsor the influencer to create content on their own site and encourage them to promote.

Steps to build an effective influencer marketing campaign:

  1. Start by picking the social media channels you want to target.
  2. Create a list of potential influencers using Google, social networks or specialty tools / networks of influencers.
  3. Shortlist your influencers.
  4. Contact the influencers via email, phone and/or social media. Get creative.
  5. Get pricing information from the influencer.
  6. Negotiate a detailed agreement with deliverables. Focus on long term partnerships.
  7. Send the influencer a descriptive campaign brief.
  8. Track, monitor and amplify their posts.
  9. Measure performance.

Hacks for working with influencers:

Measure influencers against each other with an assessment tool. Gather all the data about influencer activity and estimate the CPM value. Include data like: followers, blog traffic, demographic data, engagement per post.

Calculate total relevant audience. Then figure out the engagement to audience ratio. Add total cost and divide by total relevant audience divided by 1000. With this data you can identify which influencers are the best to work with.

Combine Facebook live videos with influencer amplification. Live videos often have good organic reach. Run ads against the influencers own audience. Be sure to use the same post ID when you promote content to build social proof.

After the live video on Facebook, upload them to YouTube, creata a bog post with them, get the influencer to share your video blog post and use Facebook ads to amplify the posts.

Following these guidelines will result in links, traffic and engagement – all signals that are good for SEO.

Next up is Dixon Jones who is retiring after 20 years in the industry at the end of this year. Congratulations Dixon!

Dixon asks, to leverage influencer marketing to improve SEO what are we trying to do? Get them to write about you and to get them to like and share your content.

Likes and shares are nice, but they’re just not as impactful to SEO as links.

BuzzSumo did some research on why people share and link to content which is useful when planning how to get influencers to link to your content.

Why might influencers link to your content?

  1. Original insights research
  2. As reference to support an article
  3. To share authoritative content including research and facts
  4. To cite dynamic data that changes

But do links still matter? “Yes” says Andrey Lipattsev from Google. Also Google’s Gary Illes, “Ranking without links is really, really hard. Not impossible, but very hard.”

Takeaway – An influencer can amplify a link for you very effectively.

How many links is enough? Dixon says “one” if they’re from the right source. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality. That means being careful about which influencers you work with.

Steps to engaging influencers:

  1. Identify the right influencers. Use Majestic’s search engine to find relevant content with desirable inbound co-linking ratios. Also, BuzzSumo’s tool for finding top content and authors for a keyword. Review where they publish. Use whatever communication tool that the influencer prefers – not what is most convenient to you.
  2. Engage the influencers. Doing this right is hard. Networking is priceless. It’s your chemistry not the tools that matter. Use tools like Influsionsoft, Sendible, Outlook, Rapportive. Build trust, be honest and be sincere. Ultimately, its about the beer (for Dixon). Build genuine relationships that can be leveraged when you have something valuable to share with them.
  3. Define the digital asset. Content isn’t necessarily king. The best thing might be an idea, a produce, or a process. It doesn’t have to be a URL.
  4. Prepare the launch. When you have something good to say and great relationships with relevant influencers, send them a preview of what you’re going to announce. Tell them the link URL and the exact time of launch. Then remind them it is live.
  5. Monitor results. Choose a KPI and stick to it, Is it a digital asset? Traffic from the influencer’s content? Search traffic? Citation flow or Trust flow? Just be sure to look at impact over time, not just in the short term. Compare similar campaign metrics with each other vs. mis-matched metrics.

Finally, Dixon asks and answers: How can you get influencers’ attention? By sharing something new, authoritative, referenceable, or unique.

And that’s a wrap. Great job Marcela and Dixon!

If you’re interested in influencer marketing tools to use or other content about influencer marketing, be sure to check out our past posts on the topic.

3 Reasons B2B Marketers Need Optimized & Influencer Activated Content

B2B content optimized influencer activated

We’ve all read the headlines about the death of organic social media and BuzzSumo’s recent report on the huge drop in social sharing reinforces the news that the free for all days of social media are coming to a close. Add to that the distrust of branded content and advertising and it’s easy to see that marketers need to rethink their approach.

If buyers are not engaging with brand social media and content, then where is their attention?

This is not a new question and the way we’ve been finding the answer is through insights about buyer preferences for solutions content: discovery, consumption and action.

The Customer Information Journey. Buyers pulling themselves through the majority of the research process for finding solutions do so with content. But where do they discover that content? What are their preferences for content types, topics and platforms for consumption? What sources do they trust? Of equal importance is what signals of credibility produce the confidence to inspire action within that content?

Customer Empathy. As B2B marketers are faced with an ever growing list of demands for content and channels, empathy with the customer experience is more important now than ever. What’s also important are the solutions for attracting, engaging and inspiring action that actually work.

Optimized And Influencer Activated Content. At TopRank Marketing we are fortunate to work with an innovative team and brave clients that trust our advice on how to optimize B2B buyer experiences. By leveraging integrated SEO, Content and Influencer programs, we’ve been able to achieve marketing performance results like 550% more leads and generating 22% of all new revenue for the year from a single integrated content program.

To help marketers make the shift from dead end social media and brand-centric content that buyers don’t turst, here are 3 reasons why now is the time for B2B brands to capitalize on content optimized for search and influence:

1. Keywords are King:

Ignoring social and brand content means paying attention to something else. It comes down to trust and credibility. At every stage of the buying cycle from awareness to consideration to purchase, buyers use search engines to find solution content.

WIth everyone on the content marketing bandwagon, many B2B marketers are so focused on creating content they’re not allocating much more than an afterthought of paid social and ads to content promotion.

With content optimized for the solutions information and keywords that buyers are looking for, B2B brands can be useful at the very moment of need. That kind of credibility is what drives confidence, engagement and action.

The challenge: Is your content optimized for specific solutions keywords? Have you done the homework to find out if those are the keywords buyers are using? That are in demand? Are you creating topical hub and spoke content for focused internal linking that drives organic search visibility?

2. Influence is Queen:

B2B marketing industry research shows buyers trust peers and experts more than advertising. Whether it’s a question to an expert in a forum or reading expert advice in an industry publication, B2B buyers seek useful information from credible sources.

B2B brands are still behind when it comes to engaging influencers to add expertise and credibility to content. Our research with Traackr and Altimeter found that only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer programs vs. 48% of B2C companies. B2B content without influencer contributions is like eating a baked potato plain. Boring! Including influencer contributions to B2B content is like adding your favorite toppings (salt, butter or sour cream) to that potato.

The challenge: Who are your brand’s influencers? Who is actively evangelizing your products or services? Which influencers could really make a difference for your marketing if they were associated with your brand? What are you doing to build quality, ongoing relationships with industry experts?

3. Activate Influencers & Optimize for Search:

When content programs leverage keyword research to optimize content and use those same keywords to help identify credible industry experts to contribute to that optimized content, it creates information that is both trusted and credible.

Many B2B brands do optimize their content for customer focused keywords. Others are moving from experiments to ongoing influencer programs. B2B brands that integrate both SEO and influence create a compelling opportunity to be found when it matters and to be trusted when it matters more.

The challenge: Are you leveraging your keyword research for SEO to also find influencers that are relevant for the same topics? Are you engaging those influencers to co-create content on those topics? Are you inspiring the influencers to publish keyword rich content on their websites linking back to your brand? Are those influencers also engaged for earned media in industry publications and blogs on target topics with links back to your brand?

With an understanding of keyword demand, B2B marketers can tap into the opportunity to be the best answer for buyers with content at the very moment of need. Even better is that influencer contributions to that optimized content will give it the credibility and engagement needed to inspire action.

Here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Identify top, relevant search keywords
  2. Create hub and spoke content architecture (big topic & derivatives)
  3. Map keywords to to content
  4. Keyword optimize content + links
  5. Leverage keywords to identify & recruit relevant influencers
  6. Ask influencers keyword rich questions
  7. Incorporate influencer contributions in mapped content
  8. Encourage influencer promotion and linking to content
  9. Implement media and blogger relations using influencer content
  10. Repurpose content according to best performing keywords/influencers

You can go a lot deeper than this and there are a number of sub-steps, but this list should provide a good overview. Of course we specialize in B2B programs that integrate SEO, content and influencers, so feel free to check out our influencer content marketing case studies for inspiration.

Lee Odden Demystifies the Confluence Equation to Help Marketers Get Better Results

Influencer marketing is not a new concept. Public relations professionals, journalists and forward-thinking marketers have been executing some form of influencer marketing for decades.

While that may be the case, times have changed.

The expectation for influencer content marketing has evolved, which means consumers have higher expectations and the influencers themselves are more particular about who they partner with. However, our Influence 2.0 report with Altimeter Group and Traackr found that 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next 3 years.

Last week at Social Media Marketing World, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden took the stage to help marketers transition influencer marketing from something they’d like to do, to something they can execute strategically.

Interest in Influencer Marketing is on the Rise

According to Google Trends, the interest in influencer marketing has outpaced email marketing, SEO, social media marketing and content marketing.

What is Influence Really?

Often, influence is confused with simply having a large social following. According to Lee, there are five areas that make up influence:

  • Personality
  • Passion
  • Popularity
  • Persuasion
  • Power

Not every influencer (even good ones) are going to have all five nailed down. Some may have a combination of passion, persuasion and power, but don’t have the popularity. That’s why it’s essential to include different types of influencers into your content programs such as brandividuals, niche experts, internal experts, up-and-comers, customers and prospects.

Influence is the ability to affect action. @leeodden Click To Tweet

How Can Influencer Marketing Help Solve Common Marketing Challenges?

Marketers are experiencing challenges in every stage of the buying funnel all the way from the attract stage to advocacy. Here are some ways influencer marketing can help at the different stages:

Attract

  • Reach new audiences
  • Inspire advocacy
  • Retarget influencer followers

Engage

  • Creators bring talent
  • Authenticity and voice of customer
  • Influencer and audience channel match

Covert

  • Influencers are trusted
  • Relevance increases action
  • Credibility converts

Retain

  • Community participation
  • Showcase employee influencers
  • Create info-taining utility

Advocate

  • Showcase customer expertise
  • Testimonials
  • Create incentives for referrals

The people who are ignoring your ads are still engaging with peers and influencers. @leeodden Click To Tweet

Why Empathy + Ask + Reward (repeat) = Success

To create a successful influencer marketing program, Lee suggests implementing the following three steps and then repeating to continue developing audience and influencer relationships:

Empathy: Understand customer and influencer goals

Ask: Engage influencers to collaborate

Reward: Show recognition or compensate for influencer contributions

Be thoughtful about how you ask and how you reward when working with influencers. @leeodden Click To Tweet

How to Find the Right Influencers to Partner With

An essential key to influencer marketing success is to find the RIGHT influencers to partner with for content co-creation. Here’s how:

Topic: Determine the topic (aligned with audience needs) that you’d like influencers to contribute to.

Research: Based on the defined topic, begin searching for experts who are influential.

Validate & Refine: It’s best to use multiple tools (which pull from different sources) to validate the list you’ve created. Use tools like Onalytica, Traackr and BuzzSumo to research and correlate this information.

When you are creating content, think about which influencer you could include who might be willing to contribute and then share. @leeodden Click To Tweet

A Maturity Model for Influencer Marketing

As with any digital marketing tactic, it’s important to know where you are now in order to understand what it takes to get to the maturity level you’d like to be. Use the sample influencer marketing maturity model below to identify where your brand lands today:

What to Do Next

If you’re ready to begin your influencer marketing journey, or just want to mature your approach, follow the three steps below:

  1. Get Expert Help: Research the market and identify who your potential influencers are. Then develop a strategy to lead your efforts.
  2. Invest in Technology: Finding the right technology (or partner that has the technology) is essential to developing and scaling a successful influencer marketing program.
  3. Activate Influencers: Begin by interviewing your internal experts, clients and existing online community. Then you can identify what works best and scale your efforts.

To see some examples of great influencer marketing in action read: How to Succeed at Great B2B Content Marketing with More Credible Content

How to Succeed at B2B Content Marketing with More Credible Content

Creating Credible B2B Content

Ask any B2B marketer about their top digital marketing challenges and one of the first answers you’ll likely receive is: Getting in front of the right audience at the right time. In fact, Ytel’s 2018 State of B2B Marketing Communications survey revealed that 55% of respondents agreed that they have a hard time getting their message and content in front of their target audience.

Why is that? Well, there’s more content at buyers’ fingertips than ever before, search engines are getting in touch with their human sides, and organic visibility on social media is effectively extinct. But, let’s real talk for a minute, marketers—this is all old news. In today’s digital marketing landscape, creating meaningful connections with your audience on any channel really comes down to trust and credibility.

Consumers are increasingly numb to advertising and marketing messages—and they’re actively trying to avoid it all. Last year, PageFair reported that adblocking usage had grown by 30% globally. In addition, Facebook’s recent decision to de-emphasize brand content was in response to users saying that posts from businesses, brands and media were crowding their News Feeds.

However, buyers are increasingly looking to those they know and those they think they know for insights, answers and recommendations. Multiple reports have shown that somewhere around 90% of consumers trust influencers or individuals over straight branded content. In addition, according to a recent report from CMI and SmartBrief, 40% of B2B decision-makers say that credibility trumps the source of the information.

This means B2B brands and marketers need to double-down on creating quality, credible content to drive marketing objectives and wins. But how? By infusing credible voices, perspectives and insights from influential sources—namely industry experts and thought leaders—into the content marketing game plan.

#B2B brands & marketers need to double-down on creating quality, #crediblecontent to drive #marketing objectives & wins. Click To Tweet

To highlight how creating more credible content with influencers can help your B2B brand get in front of interested buyers, create an engaging experience, and inspire action, take a look at these three examples from the TopRank Marketing playbook of successful client influencer content marketing programs.

Case Study #1 – Introhive: Reaching, engaging and inspiring a niche audience.

Introhive is a leading customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider. Working across a variety of industries, Introhive aims to help their clients gain and effectively leverage customer intelligence in a way that can grow their business.

The Situation: The legal sector is one of Introhive’s focus industries. However, it’s an industry that’s been reluctant to adopt CRM technologies. Why? Oftentimes business development isn’t an established department within law practices, making it hard to justify investments in a “sales” technology. But law firms large and small have growth aspirations—and Introhive wanted to empower them to realize those opportunities.

Another challenge with attorneys and other legal professionals is that they often build their careers on evidence and witness testimony. Essentially, this industry is by nature hard to reach without offering credibility, authority and proof.

The Solution: With two unique challenges to overcome, our team knew that engaging other legal professionals to share their expertise and insights on business development, we could not only showcase the Introhive brand, but also needed to provide their audience with unique, relevant and trustworthy insights.

TopRank Marketing worked with the team at Introhive to develop an integrated influencer content program that began with a survey of legal community members. Conducting the survey helped facilitate building influencer relationships, while also collecting valuable data that could be used to further bolster campaign content. Other pieces of the integrated content marketing mix included an eBook—our anchor asset—blog posts, organic social amplification, paid social, and email.

Introhive Credible Content Case Study

The Results: For starters, we saw 15% more eBook downloads in the first month than the benchmark asset had in its lifetime. During the same time period, the accompanying blog content garnered over 600% more views compared to benchmarks for average blog content. Finally and without specifics available, the Introhive team reports that the program has delivered “medium to huge” marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Suffice it to say, this program leveraged credible content within influencers and research to generate substantial results. 

Read the full Introhive integrated influencer campaign case study.

Case Study #2 – Cherwell: Increasing brand visibility and thought leadership in a competitive space.

Cherwell Software is a leading IT service management (ITSM) company with a mission to help their customers leverage intuitive technology to enable better, faster and more affordable innovation.

The Situation: Since its inception a little over a decade ago, Cherwell has been rapidly gaining traction in the competitive ITSM space—but they’re still one of the newer kids on the block with other new competitors emerging rapidly. To continue their growth and fend off competition, Cherwell wanted to expand its marketing channels, increase brand awareness, engage industry thought leaders and—of course—eventually drive leads.

The Solution: Given Cherwell’s position in the competitive ITSM space, the team at TopRank Marketing worked to design an influencer content campaign that was highly-targeted to key the decision-makers they wanted to reach. How? We knew in order to stand out in news feeds and build near-instant credibility with our content, we needed to understand what influences the target audience the most.

To uncover the people, publications, and content topics and types that “moved” our audience the most, as well as where they spent time on social media, we designed a new research tool—the RITHM report. 

Using insights from the RITHM report to inform the content marketing approach, the resulting campaign included an eBook anchor asset, blog posts, an SEO-driven landing page, paid and organic social media.

Cherwell Credible Content Case Study

The Results: According to Alison Munn, Social Media and Digital Marketing Lead at Cherwell: “Not only did this program meet the defined goals and objectives, but the results and process exceeded my expectations!”

With this campaign responsible for 22% of new revenue for Cherwell in 2017, it was a recent winner of the B2B Marketing Exchange “Killer Content Award”.

You can learn more about this program in the case study video below:

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Case Study #3 – SAP SuccessFactors: Driving awareness and action by connecting to a specific audience pain point.

SAP SuccessFactors is a leading human capital management (HCM) suite that helps human resources (HR) professionals unleash the full potential of their workforce through transformation and engagement, and ultimately drive results across the business.

The Situation: For this niche human resources audience, employee wellness programs are part of the strategy to unleash the potential of their employees. However, the pain point for many organizations is finding a holistic solution in one place that also provides understanding of the true impact their efforts can have on the workplace. SAP wanted to drive awareness around their holistic solution, while also educating and engaging their audience.

The Solution: TopRank Marketing partnered with SAP SuccessFactors to craft an multi-pronged, influencer-driven content campaign that would not only raise awareness around their solution, but also provide their audience with credible, relevant, and actionable insights.

This campaign was anchored with an influencer eBook that featured insights from 10 top workplace culture, wellness, and technology experts, as well as internal experts from SAP SuccessFactors. In addition, other tactics such as a well-optimized landing page, social media promotion, and customized motion graphics were part of the mix.

SAP Credible Content Case Study Example

The Results: For downloads, we saw a  272% increase over SAP’s established benchmark. In addition, the accompanying landing page boasted a 68% conversion rate. Lastly, organic social promotion of the content—from the brand and influencers—drove 86% of overall views and 69% of overall conversions.

Read the full SAP SuccessFactors influencer-driven content campaign case study.

The Big B2B Takeaway for Credible Content

We’re in an era of a distrust and indifference to B2B marketing messages—which means if buyers don’t find your content credible and trustworthy, they’ll move on.

From skepticism to standing out in a crowded and more seasoned field, each of the aforementioned brands were living the trends and looking for a way to capture the attention of their audiences.

By cleverly leveraging influencers to create more credible and authoritative content and more trusted amplification, these brands were able to deliver their audiences with thoughtful opinions and diverse insights, bolster brand authority and make more meaningful connections with their audiences. But perhaps the most exciting campaign result was that building credibility led to audience activation—or conversions in other words.

To put it simply, with the right strategy, insights and influencer infusion, credible content can help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey.

With the right strategy, insights & influencer infusion, #crediblecontent can absolutely help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey. @CaitlinMBurgess Click To Tweet

Want to learn more creating more credible content? Check out our post on building credibility and authority with content marketing.

9 Upcoming Events to Learn All About Content and Influencer Marketing

Learn Content Influencer marketing

According to a new study from eMarketer, in 2018 nearly nine in 10 business-to-business (B2B) companies in the US will use digital content marketing. At the same time, influencer marketing has become one of the hottest topics in the marketing world: The L2 from Gartner reports that over 70% of brands used influencers in their 2017 marketing plans and 95% found them to be effective.

We know how this goes in marketing: a strategy or tactic becomes popular with every opportunist repeating the echo chamber of best practices until it’s unclear what’s really relevant for your business.

We’re seeing firsthand, the impact content and influence is having on marketing and have been working with many of the top B2B brands in the world to plan, implement and optimize content marketing programs with highly credible and connected influencers.

That expertise didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been working hard on B2B influencer marketing strategies, process and workflow, measurement and reporting for the past 6 years. In addition to helping clients develop and implement influencer content programs, we’re also teaching our community about this impactful intersection of disciplines.

In fact, over the next 2 1/2 months there are 9 events happening online and in cities including Scottsdale, Boston, San Francisco, Ft Lauderdale, San Diego and Minneapolis where you can learn the strategies and tactics of influencer and content marketing, presented by team members from TopRank Marketing. Find one that works with your schedule.

B2B Marketing Exchange
Feb 19-21: B2B Marketing Exchange – Scottsdale, AZ  #B2BMX

Millennials & Influencer Marketing: How to Organize & Optimize for B2B
Not only are Millennial aged professionals more trusting of social influencers when making purchase decisions, they’re also more likely to participate as influential content creators. B2B brands that can master working with internal and external Millennial talent to co-create content and engage on social channels will reap rewards now and into the future.

This presentation by Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing and Alexandra Rynne of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions will help B2B marketers understand the influencer marketing opportunity with Millennials in multiple ways:
– Understand influencer engagement models from seasoned brandividuals to rising star Millennials
– Bust myths about working with Millennials and how B2B brands can create win/win relationships
– Learn from examples of B2B influencer content in action

Demand Gen Strategies Summit
Feb 22: Demand Generation Strategies Summit (BrightTalk) – Onlin
e
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success
Content and influencer marketing are hot topics for B2B marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. What many marketers don’t realize is how collaborating with influencers can create even more credible, relevant, and optimized experiences for target accounts. Join Lee Odden to learn how working with influencers and their communities can help scale quality B2B content that gets results.

Digital Transformation Days - SEMRusn
Feb 22: Digital Transformation Day (SEMRush) – Online  #DTDconf
Barry Schwartz and Lee Odden interview each other
Barry Schwartz, President of Rusty Brick, News Editor of Search Engine Land and Executive Editor of Search Engine Roundtable will interview Lee Odden and Lee will interview Barry about trends in the search and digital marketing world.

SMMW
Feb 28 – Mar 2: Social Media Marketing World – San Diego, CA  #SMMW18
How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation
Content marketing and influencer marketing are hot topics for marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. But how do you find the right influencers? What kind of content should you collaborate on? How do you best measure influencer and content success? Join Lee Odden to learn from his experience working with brands big and small to develop efficient and effective formulas for influencer content success.

everything content minneapolis
Mar 22: Everything: Content – Minneapolis, MN
Converging Content & Influencers to Stimulate Marketing Impact
For years we’ve seen celebrities plastered on magazine covers, perform in television ads and pimp out their social media networks for pay. But is that really influencer marketing?

What if instead, there a way for B2B and B2C brands alike to develop a structured influencer driven content program that is less about paying a famous face and more about helping your audience see themselves in the content that you create?

This presentation from Ashley Zeckman will cut below the surface to uncover top ways to work with influencers in order to create a memorable content experience for your customers, build brand authority and generate marketing ROI.

Three key things the audience will be able to do after attending this session:
– 3 stories of content + influencer marketing success
– Key steps for creating a stellar experience for influencers and customers alike
– Scrappy ideas for co-creating with influencers

AMA Iowa
Apr 4: American Marketing Association Iowa Event – Des Moines, IA

Influencer Marketing is only for B2C Brands (And Other Lies Your Parents Told You)
For years celebrities have been gracing the covers of magazines, acting in commercials and pimping out their social media profiles for pay. But should that really be considered influencer marketing?

While it may seem like B2C brands have influencer marketing all figured out, there is even more opportunity for B2B brands to begin building meaningful influencer relationships.

One way to do that is by developing influencer driven content programs. These programs provide a unique opportunity reach and build credibility your audience by working with experts that they can relate to and trust. In this presentation, Ashley Zeckman will share:
– A dive into 3 stories of successful content and influencer marketing in action.
– Steps for creating a stellar experience for your audience and your influencers.
– Scrappy ideas for collaborating with influencers when you have limited time and resources.
– Bonus: Formulas for determining content and influencer marketing ROI.

Pubcon
Apr 11-12: Pubcon Florida – Ft Laudedrale, FL  #Pubcon

Participation Marketing: The New World of Content Co-Creation, Influencers and Integration for PR
The converging roles of PR and communications with content and marketing is creating rapid demand for new strategies, skills and expectations. As earned and owned media intertwine, communications professionals who fast track their ability to adapt and evolve will gain a competitive advantage in their roles in the new world of PR.

In this session, you’ll learn tested and proven models, strategies and tactics for content marketing based on an integrated and cooperative approach. Some of the key learnings include:
– Content marketing and what it really means for earned, owned and shared media.
– How content co-creation enables content quality at scale.
– Redefining what influence and working with influencers mean for content.
– Key opportunities to integrate the best of PR and marketing for meaningful digital communications that deliver an impact

Marketo Marketing Nation Summit
Apr 29-30: Marketo Marketing Nation Summit – San Francisco, CA  #MKTGNATION

Content Marketing Integration 
Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media, influencers and advertising in a way that helps the brand become “the best answer” wherever customers are looking. This presentation from Lee Odden focuses on how to plan, produce, promote and optimize content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. 🙂

Content Marketing Conference
May 2-4: Content Marketing Conference – Boston, MA  #CMC18
The Keys to Successful B2B Content and Influence Programs
While only 11% of B2B companies are implementing ongoing influencer marketing programs, 55% of marketers plan to spend more on influencer marketing in the coming year. Even with growing budget commitments, many B2B brands are not entirely sure about how to execute influencer marketing. Fortunately, brands with mature influencer marketing programs like SAP are elevating the practice. In this presentation with Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing and Amisha Gandhi, Head of Influencer Marketing at SAP, you will learn through several examples about the strategies and best practices that can unlock success for an Enterprise B2B content and influencer marketing program.

Whether you would like to learn most about Millennials and B2B influencer marketing or content integrated with influence, SEO and social media, there’s a topic for you in the schedule above. Not only can you learn from Ashley Zeckman and myself, but our clients from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (Alex Rynne) and SAP (Amisha Gandhi) are presenting as well.

If you are already attending one of the events above, please do be sure to let us know!

Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

Facebook Zero Influencers

Earlier this month, marketers were shocked to learn that Facebook would be making more major changes to its News Feed, effectively bringing brand and publisher organic reach to zero by prioritizing high engagement content from family, friends and groups.

In a formal statement posted on his own Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. … Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook.”

While the announcement seemed to be the final nail in the organic News Feed coffin, the death of organic reach on Facebook has been a long time coming. Back in April 2015, Facebook announced it was updating News Feeds to strike a better balance between friends, public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations. Then in late June 2016, Facebook said it would be making further refinements to ensure users don’t miss updates from their friends and families.

Now, after an intense year of political and social upheaval — not to mention the emergence of the fake news engine and the Russian advertising scandal — it’s no surprise that Facebook is re-examining things yet again.

But What Does It All Mean for Marketers?

Naturally, disappointed marketers all over the world are wondering how this change will truly impact their social marketing efforts. From our perspective, the change:

  • Ends the organic reach of the News Feed and increases the importance of adding pay-to-play to your marketing mix — something that will likely require a bigger budget.
  • Bolsters the importance of channel diversification.
  • Makes it more important than ever for you to zero in on who your audience is and what motivates them, so you can share content and create an environment that will pique interest and engagement.
  • Means Instagram will more than likely follow suit in the near future.

The Influencer Implication

Since Zuckerberg’s announcement, there’s been one implication in particular that’s captivated our attention. The way we see it, the value of influencer engagement on Facebook will increase even more.

Our CEO, Lee Odden, has long been an evangelist for working with influencers, believing that influencers can help brands bypass several obstacles. AdBlocking, for example, is in use on over 600 million devices, costing business over $22 billion in ad revenue, according to PageFair. Working with credible influencers who are trusted amongst an audience allows brands to bypass the adblocking obstacle and better connect with buyers.

Lee has also talked about other challenges such as distrust of brand advertising. In fact, 69% of consumers don’t trust ads, according to research by Ipsos Connect. And yet another obstacle is information overload. Americans are confronted with an average of 63GB of media on a daily basis (USC/ICTM).

All of these obstacles, according to Lee, are addressed by working with industry influencers. The virtual elimination of organic News Feed visibility for brands and publishers on Facebook is no different and marketers would be smart to think about how influencer engagement can keep organic Facebook visibility alive.

So, to sum it all up: Now that the organic News Feed is effectively dead, new life is being given to influencer marketing opportunities. Here are a few key considerations:

#1 – If you’re not in the influencer marketing game yet, you can no longer afford to wait.

Last year, we saw influencer marketing explode — becoming one of the most talked about topics among marketers and arguably our most-requested digital marketing services among both B2B and B2C clients. In addition, our own research shows that 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next three years.

This quote from Lee sums it up well:

“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say. In many cases, [audiences are] far more interested [in an influencer’s insights] than in what the brand has to say.”

With Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers — which can have an impact across all social platforms.

With #Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Influencers now hold more power than ever to more strategically align themselves with brands of their choice.

Influencer marketing was already poised to be big in 2018, but this change to Facebook’s platform will absolutely spur more brands and businesses to dip their toe into the water. As a result, influencers will see an uptick in requests, giving them more power to be very choosy about which brands they lend their time, insights and audience to.

Influencers have more power to be very choosy about the brand they lend their time, insights and audience to. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

#3 – Influencer nurturing will be more important than ever.

As illustrated by the previous two points, the Facebook change will lead to an increased adoption of influencer marketing, giving influencers more options. So it’s no surprise that it’ll be time to double-down on your commitment to influencer nurturing.

Now, we’ve always said that when it comes to building relationships and rapport with influencers, it’s critical that you put the time and effort into nurturing — rather than simply reaching out when you have a need. There has to be shared value.

But I think most marketers would admit that they have significant room for improvement in this area — and there’s no time like the present to recommit yourself.

With #Facebook’s recent algorithm change, it’s time to double-down on your commitment to nurturing your influencers. #influencermarketing Click To Tweet

Capitalize on the Opportunity

Let’s face it. This “major change” to Facebook’s platform isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. As a result, now is the time to fully capitalize on the opportunity by better working with industry influencers. Now is the time to refocus on connecting with your audience — and influencers can help you do just that by adding authenticity, credibility, unique insights and new eyeballs to your content.

What else is in store for influencer marketing in 2018? Check out these rising influencer marketing trends that you need to pay attention to.

What do you think about the latest Facebook News Feed algorithm change? Tell us in the comments section below.