2024 No-Nonsense Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing

December 24, 2023 0 Comments

2024 No-Nonsense Guide to B2B Influencer Marketing

As we enter a new year, we wanted to sit down and share what we’ve learned in the world of B2B influencer marketing in 2023. It was a year of trial, error, and massive growth, and we wanted to share our most valuable insights with you. You won’t find these types of learnings almost anywhere else right now, so consider yourself on the inside!

1. This is not consumer influencer marketing

In the B2B influencer marketing world, it’s not just about who’s spreading the word, but where they’re doing it. Unlike consumer influencer marketing, where platforms like Instagram and TikTok reign supreme, B2B marketing requires a different approach. Although there is often overlap between the social platforms used on B2C vs. B2B influencer programs, business messages and content naturally perform better in professional environments such as LinkedIn.
Content marketing strategy also plays a large role in how B2B partnerships take shape. In some instances, content will already exist (ie a whitepaper) and is being promoted. In others, new content is created by influencers such as guest blogs, Youtube videos or short-form meme content. Read more on content strategy and influencer marketing from us here, and remember that ‘hero’ content in B2B looks much different than in consumer influencer campaigns.
Lastly, we want to drive home that working with just one or two influencers on activity initially can still make a big impact. This is not fashion or ecommerce where dozens or even hundreds of collaborations happening simultaneously is the norm.

2. Content (Alignment) is King

The old adage content is king is a major driver in the B2B creator space because it’s the major currency that drives collaborations. B2B partnerships often centre on influencers sharing and commenting on brand research, whitepapers, ebooks or pre-recorded or written announcements (as compared to the consumer space where there is a lot more original content creation seeding partnerships).
So what have we learnt? Across B2B sectors, the best performing posts happen when the content being promoted aligns very closely with an influencer’s personal brand. We know this from campaigns such as this one, where two influencers shared a series of 3 reports across LinkedIn and X. In both cases, the reports that received the most reach and engagement were the ones where the content alignment was the MOST on point with the influencer.
In the context of influencer marketing, quality brand content can still fall flat with audiences if the alignment piece isn’t well thought through. It can even do more harm than good for both brand and influencer if content shared seems inauthentic. Particularly for campaigns where existing content is amplified rather than new content generated. Take care in sourcing and matching the right voices for your influencer marketing partnerships. And remember, in niche industries like financial services or construction tech, this may take some time!

3. The Power of the Niche

Working with an influencer with a huge global following? That’s great, but this year taught us that often the real gems are often found in smaller, more engaged communities. It’s not about shouting into a crowd; it’s about having a meaningful conversation with the right group of people. Better to have 50 (or even 25!) quality engagements than 1,000 ‘great post’-type comments. Here at Custom Influence we see that labelling creators by Following size differs slightly than the general guidelines set for the consumer market. You can read more about how we see macro, micro and nano creators in B2B on our blog.
In addition, we’ve seen enough instances of social platforms limiting reach of influencer-promoted posts to question the actual size of the opportunity when partnering with tier 1, macro influencers. We previously said content alignment is King – perhaps that makes Optimising-for-the-Algorithm Queen!

4. Humanised Enterprise

At the end of the day, business is still about people. In a year where social and traditional media were owned by headlines of AI and automation, we have leaned into the fact that in B2B influencer marketing is still very much human-centric.

And we believe in and see this from two different vantage points.
Firstly, in the B2B creator marketing space, it’s not just about content produced, but the people delivering that content. Those in senior, decision-making roles at high levels want to have as human a relationship as possible with big ticket business purchases.

Influencers work to humanise brands by getting under the skin of corporates and showcasing the people and values behind the brand, and it’s this ability that will ultimately cut through the noise. Solid examples of this in action are independent podcasts led by industry experts and brand executives. Audiences listen in for the long-form, informal conversations that make them feel like they’re a fly on a wall, not part of a pitch. This type of humanised marketing will continue to see growth in 2024.

In addition to influencers actually putting some original ‘thought’ in ‘thought leadership, it is also important for the brands and agencies putting together partnerships to do so in a bespoke and considered manner. Attempting to use the likes of ChatGPT, Bard or other AI assistants to automate key aspects of campaign planning and influencer sourcing just doesn’t work at this point in time.

The space is new, growing, different from B2C, and there are no hard or fast rules for what makes a winning B2B influencer marketing campaign overall. In fact, from our experience it’s different every time. Social media algorithms are changing constantly, LinkedIn make it hard for third party tech platforms to access their data, and the human creativity behind partnership and collaboration concepts can be aided by, but certainly not replaced by an influencer marketing platform or LLM.

5. Think Global, Act Local (and Vice Versa)

Our world is more connected than ever. A voice in London can echo in Los Angeles. This year, we embraced the global stage many creators stand on whilst taking into account the importance of localisation.
When selecting partners, B2B brands should expect that the audience of most influencers is multi-market, with a skew from the region where the creator is located. Influencer marketing is not the same as paid social, display ads or lead generation campaigns where precise geo-targeting can be easily applied.

A word to the wise – don’t work off of one, blanket ‘Follower’ count alone from influencers. See how their audience breaks down by geo as an absolute minimum to make more informed planning decisions.
A global mindset can also be balanced out by choosing to work with niche, nano creators with more focussed followings and communities. One of our campaigns even went so far as to have an influencer create two versions of their video content – one in English and one in Dutch that the brand could repurpose as User Generated Content (UGC) for their paid and organic social activity.

6. Play the Long Game in Collaborations

Short tactical influencer marketing can be fun and grab attention, but the real magic happens in long-term partnerships. When you partner with influencers for 3+ months rather than a one-off, you’re not just selling a product or service; you’re telling a brand story and building trust and credibility with prospective buyers. That’s the stuff that helps drive decision making for sectors where 95% of target buyers are not currently in-market.

In addition, having established long-term partnerships with influencers means that brands have more opportunities to seek advisory in developing the partnership style, terms and deliverables.Tactical campaigns where influencers are merely executing on a rigid, pre-defined brief could be missing out on making a good partnership great. Long term collaboration also gives creators, thought leaders and influencers the space to deliver messages that educate and inspire beyond just a simple product or service.
Both approaches have their place, particularly in a channel that is experimental. Our recommendation at this stage is to take a long-term view as soon as the concept is proven, in order to realise cost efficiencies and create more memorable brand messages over time.

7. Just Getting Started

Let’s be clear: B2B influencer marketing is still finding its feet, especially here in the UK and across Europe. But we’re on the brink of something huge and there is definitely no shortage of aspiring and established business creators out there. Despite stats being published which declare that the channel is already widely adopted, most brands and agencies we speak to are still very much in the test and learn phase.

The next few years will see more industry experts taking brand partnerships seriously, forming their own micro publishing companies that encompass digital content, creative, distribution and promotion. We have seen tremendous maturation already in the space of a year…. *Media Packs have entered the chat*
Due to the opportunities for economies of scale (ie platforms like Substack and Acast), low barriers to entry and user preferences changing y/o/y as B2B social media use continues to rise, we see a space filled with changemakers that are moving their industries forward in the most innovative and creative ways.

When done right, B2B influencer marketing isn’t just another paid ad campaign; it’s a conversation starter in the right circles, a thought leader’s endorsement, a strategic alignment of content and context. This is the art of reaching professionals not just as consumers, but as thought partners and industry peers. It’s a different game altogether, and playing it right means understanding these fundamental differences.
Want to learn more in 2024? We’d love to have a chat, you can contact us here.