Should your brand build partnerships with creators? The short answer is yes, but the longer answer takes us deeper into the why and how of Influencer Marketing.
TopRank Marketing's 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Report found that 86% of respondents found their Influencer Marketing programs either moderately or very successful. The top three things it helped with were improving brand reputation, brand awareness, and generating new leads.
At the Metadata.io Fast Forward 2022 event, Chris Cunningham, Head of Influencer Marketing at ClickUp, a project management/productivity solution, shared his experience finding and working with creators and different social channels.
Cunningham said that influencer marketing has evolved a lot, especially for B2B. It's niche-based (particularly with tech brands) and is about thought leadership and providing value. The TopRank report agreed with this, stating that 70% agree that customers rely on advice from industry experts and insiders. For ClickUp, Cunningham said they wanted to work with influencers working in jobs where their product would be helpful. They trained these influencers to use their product, so they understood how it worked and its value to companies.
Building an influencer strategy
Brands need a documented influencer strategy just as much as they need a documented content marketing strategy. Unfortunately, the TopRank report found that less than half have documented their strategy, and one quarter has no strategy at all. In addition, over 35% struggle to find the right influencers.
Not every influencer is going to have thousands of followers. In HubSpot and The Tilt's report, The Business of Creators, 84% of business and marketing creators (influencers) have under 10,000 followers or subscribers. Thirty-nine percent have under 1,000. And these niche creators can drive impact for a brand. But, equally, if not more important than the number of followers, is a creator's credibility and trustworthiness.
Cunningham selected ClickUp's influencers based on the platform on which he wanted to reach audiences. He shared his strategy for each platform.
YouTube is an important platform because the content is evergreen, Cunningham explained. It is the main place people go to learn, and it's great for SEO. He focused on customer influencer YouTube channels. For example, ClickUp created a partnership with Keep Productive, a channel focused on productivity. Together they created the channel Keep Productive with ClickUp, where Frances from Keep Productive did a product comparison/review, showed people how to use the templates, and shared customer stories. Cunningham also recommended creating YouTube Shorts to help you grow your channel.
LinkedIn is a long-term strategy, according to Cunningham. It's a channel where people go to read and learn, so the key is to find influencers who share this kind of content, especially through video posts. Chris Walker of Refine Labs is the perfect example of an influencer who had incredible success with LinkedIn video posting. Walker is the CEO of Refine Labs, but his content isn't about his company; his posts are packed with his views on demand generation and what's working and not working in marketing.
LinkedIn Live, LinkedIn's event offering, is another way to create great content and bring influencers in to talk about important topics. Also, with LinkedIn Live, if you use Steamyard, you can push your live even out to Facebook or YouTube Live simultaneously. He shared brands Gong and Hootsuite, which do a great job with LinkedIn Live events.
Instagram and TikTok
Cunningham talked about each of these separately, but they are very similar in terms of influencer strategy. You don't want to create random Instagram reels, he said. Instead, you want to tell a story. You can do that by involving your employees or your customers. With influencers, Cunningham suggested hiring a creator as part of a long-term strategy where they make your brand part of their day.
One example he shared was having a creator run tutorials every two weeks on ClickUp. The topics for the tutorials come from learning what areas customers want the most help with, ensuring the topics are important to customers. TikTok (which I have written about) is a similar strategy, where creators show how to use the app for a particular use case. The brand isn't always mentioned; sometimes, it works better to allow watchers to ask what tool was used and share the brand in the comments.
Twitter Spaces and Twitter threads were Cunningham's two recommendations for this channel. He hosts a biweekly chat with Spaces, bringing in thought leaders and experts. With Twitter threads, find an influencer who is great at creating threads (not every person can do this well), and find a way to mention the brand in the thread. (Events since this article was written may or may not sway opinion here!)
Finding the right influencer
Sometimes it's hard to find the right influencer for a brand to work with. The TopRank Marketing study showed that popularity metrics are becoming less important. Instead, brands look at relevancy, audience relationships that match the brand's objectives, and the ability to create good content.
Those influencers aren't always outside the company either. In this study, there was a mix of internal and external influencers, from industry experts to internal executives and employees, customers, professional influencers, and niche experts. Chief Evangelists also fall into this area (Jen Allen, Randy Frisch, and Nick Bennet are three I follow).
Ann Handley is another well-known influencer/creator. She shared her perspectives on working with influencers in the TopRank report. She shared two things that she has seen change with influencer marketing in the last two years:
- Brands are more open to showing their personality and sharing their point of view, and
- They are more collaborative, often letting the influencer guide the project.
"But their [influencer] real gift is ultimately in their ability to help their own audiences: Offering perspective. Shining insights into murky corners. Giving clarity to the complex. All of that translates into action. ("Influence affects action," as the Great Lee Odden says. )"
Another important finding in the report involved the type of influencer engagement: periodic or always on. The study showed that brands that build "always on" influencer programs were more successful than periodic campaigns. This suggests that finding and working with an influencer on an ongoing basis has more impact than one-off campaigns.
A successful influencer marketing strategy is all about the right influencer (creator), the right channels, and the right content. Sometimes the channel dictates the best influencer, but always, it's about the content and the influencer's ability to share that content in a relevant, interesting way.
Cunningham shared a lot of good information on how he approaches influencer marketing for his company ClickUp. It was tactical advice marketers could use when thinking about their own programs. It would have been nice to see the performance metrics around his programs to understand if one was more effective than another - or at least how to measure effectiveness.
Even the TopRank report didn't dive into performance, instead recommending working with an experienced agency that understands how to measure performance. But there was a lot more in that report, so if you are interested in influencer marketing, it's a good read.