Referrals and word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing are effective ways for B2B companies to drive growth, with an estimated 91% of B2B transactions influenced by WoM. In the past, WoM recommendations and referrals occurred offline at conferences, industry events, and via conversations with peers.
But these days, B2B buying is increasingly digital. When buyers are looking for a new product or solution, they spend nearly 30% of their time independently researching it online.
According to a recent Gartner survey, just over 60% of buyers rely on peers, current users, and review websites like G2 and Capterra when evaluating a new purchase. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter come into play during this review process in a few different ways, as follows:
- Conversations about a product or service on social media threads
- User generated content in the form of product/service reviews
- Testimonials on company websites and social media pages
- Influencer recommendations and reviews on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn
Instagram influencer marketing may not be the first thing you think about when developing your B2B marketing strategy, but it should be. Instagram is popular with businesses and is an effective way to generate buzz and awareness for B2B marketers.
Why Instagram for B2B?
One survey by IDG found that more than 90% of C-level executives ignore cold outreach, compared with 84% who use social media in their decision-making. Instagram tends to be a platform where B2C marketers flock, with more than 200 million Instagram users visiting at least one business profile each day.
But interest in Instagram is growing with B2B marketers, with about 30% of B2B companies leveraging Instagram in their marketing campaigns. While this is a relatively low percentage compared with B2C marketers, it presents an opportunity for B2B companies to stand out on the platform. Just like any other social platform, Instagram attracts a variety of high profile thought leaders with dedicated, niche followings.
Tips for identifying B2B Instagram influencers
Influencer marketing, loosely defined, is when a respected or high-profile expert endorses your product, company, or service on social media. This can be achieved organically—for example, when a company or thought leader champions a product they like on their feed without being asked.
Influencer marketing can also be a form of paid media that is more intentional. Paid influencer campaigns require reaching out to influencers either directly or through an influencer platform to create sponsored posts by thought leaders who promote a company, product, or service on their feed.
B2B marketers can identify relevant influencers using several approaches, as follows:
- Tap your existing network: Your existing network of clients, staff, and peers is a great resource for identifying industry influencers. Most thought leaders have a comprehensive social media presence, so if they’re presenting at conferences and events or writing articles in your favorite industry publications, the chances are they also have an Instagram profile with a decent following.
The below post is from MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley’s, Instagram feed. The post from her keynote at Social Media Marketing World Conference. She’s promoting herself, but also the conference and the venue, The San Diego Convention Center, simply by mentioning them in her copy.
- Use external tools: Platforms like Find Your Influence facilitate influencer discovery using various targeting criteria such as keyword, content type, similar influencers, and more. These tools can be effective and efficient ways to unearth influencers relevant to your business. They also enable users to create and run paid campaigns with selected influencers, which is an easy way to begin testing your influencer strategy with minimal time spent on outreach.
- Follow thought leaders: Following thought leaders on Instagram can give you an understanding of how influencers promote themselves and the brands they work with (and champion). The below post is from Sparktoro Founder, Rand Fishkin (formerly the Founder of Moz) and features a candid shot of him at a video shoot for video-hosting platform Wistia.
Monitor your competitors’ Instagram feeds: Following your competitors’ corporate Instagram account not only exposes you to potential influencers that you can reach out to, but it gives you a good snapshot of their social media and content strategy (or lack thereof). Corporate accounts promote events, lead magnets, memes related to their industry and corporate culture, and more. This is a wealth of free competitive intelligence that you can leverage for your own influencer marketing strategy.
Important considerations for B2B influencer campaigns
B2B influencer campaigns typically target a niche audience of buyers compared with B2C campaigns which tend to be broad and focused on celebrity culture and influence. Thus, there are some important factors to consider when implementing influencer campaigns for a B2B audience.
Additionally, B2B solutions require a much bigger investment in time and capital (as a rule) versus B2C products and services. Thus, the specifics of influencer marketing for B2B versus B2C differ somewhat. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
- Focus on relevancy over follower count: It’s tempting to look for influencers with a very large follower count so that you can get the most from your influencer endorsement, but bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to targeting a niche audience. Case in point: Rand Fishkin has just under 8000 followers on Instagram, but his impact in the search engine marketing industry is significant.
- Set clear goals for your campaign: As with any marketing initiative, it’s important to set clear goals for your influencer campaigns that are tied directly to relevant metrics (e.g., revenue, new customers, qualified leads, etc.)
- Don’t get hung up on going viral: Everyone wants to hit the social media jackpot and go viral. This is, after all, one of the most compelling reasons you might consider influencer marketing in the first place. But your goal here is to make sure the right buyer sees the right ad, piece of content, or post at the right time so that you can get them into your buying funnel. Thus, don’t obsess over vanity goals like going viral – a successful influencer marketing campaign is all about quality over quantity.
- Test and optimize: Though you may get lucky, you probably won’t get influencer marketing exactly right on the first time. That’s why it’s critical to test messaging, creative, hashtags, and the mix of influencers you work with to see what drives the best return. Then, optimize your approach accordingly.
Influencer marketing is absolutely a viable and effective B2B marketing strategy. It ensures that your company, product, or service is part of the overarching conversation across a wide network of peers, competitors, and potential customers.
Influencer marketing is also a good way to leverage word-of-mouth, testimonials, and reviews. It puts your brand in front of buyers as they research new solutions and ensures that you’re present at every stage — and touchpoint — of the buying journey.
Freelance contribution especially written for Find Your Influence by Ryan Gould. Ryan serves as Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services with Elevation Marketing. From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.