10 Top B2B Influencer Marketing Predictions for 2020
In late 2018, B2B influencer marketing was on the industry watch list as predictions for what this year would hold began popping up. And what we saw were some major advancements in what B2B marketers had planned for influencer marketing in 2019 including:
Some of these initiatives rose to the top for 2019, while others got lost in the day-to-day shuffle. However, 2019 was the year that B2B marketers really LEANED IN on influencer marketing in a way they hadn’t before. Many of the predictions from last year have become best practices for some of today’s top brands.
What does 2020 hold? To help turn your B2B influencer marketing dreams into a reality, we’ve tapped 10 influencer marketing leaders to share their top predictions for 2020.
The Integration of Influence in 2020
TopRank Marketing has been in the business of B2B influencer marketing since before it had a name. We’re constantly iterating on our approach and finding new ways to help our clients achieve influencer marketing success, and we’re proud to have been named by Forrester as the only B2B marketing agency with influencer marketing capabilities.
In 2020, I predict that we’ll see EVEN MORE brands integrating influencer marketing into strategic marketing initiatives in a way that supports multiple objectives (and even departments or business units). The intersection of business priorities, search demand and influencers is what we like to call the “Content Sweet Spot”.
And, by integrating these three areas (and keeping an eye on trending data), influencer programs have the opportunity to create strategic and long-lasting impact for your business on an even grander scale. So, what do our other experts predict will change in 2020? Read on to find out!
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to influencer reach. Brands are finding more value in the ways in which followers engage with influencers rather than in how many people might see a piece of content. Measuring likes, comments and shares show that an influencer’s audience is listening and the content is resonating. Tapping into influencers who may not have millions of followers but do have a loyal audience can be meaningful to brands, particularly those who are trying to reach very specific audiences.
I predict organizations are going to lean more heavily into fostering deep, personal relationships with influencers. Influencer marketing was largely borne from leveraging an influencer’s scale and mass appeal, but consumer savvy and skepticism have resulted in greater importance on authenticity.
As a result, I anticipate organizations will focus their efforts on building lasting, ongoing relationships with a more targeted group of influencers. In addition to working with influencers more as partners and collaborators, the investment in an always-on program focused on uncovering/sharing true, authentic messages and insights that resonate with customers will make influencer “reach” less of a priority.
I predict that brands and influencers will have an increasingly collaborative relationship, with influencers being brought in even earlier in the process. We’re already seeing collaboration at the content and creative development stage, but I predict that influencers will partner on even earlier work such as brand messaging, idea validation, and campaign brainstorming – ultimately in service of better content for the end-consumer.
Rani Mani Head of Social Influencer Enablement, Adobe
Despite the fact that today’s technology makes it beyond easy to connect with people around the world virtually, there is something profoundly special and different about in-real-life (IRL) activations. Shared, in-person experiences facilitate a sense of community and form bonds between people that no amount of emails and social media likes can possibly come close to.
Though it is often a substantial time and financial investment, we at Adobe are always looking for IRL influencer activations. It can be as simple and informal as grabbing a bite to eat together or something a bit more planned like a visit to HQs to meet with the corporate strategy team and participate in product demos.
My favorite was our AdWeek related Nasdaq interview experience followed by our group cooking class. We were able to support each other and build on one another’s thoughts and later let our hair down and engage in some good, old-fashioned fun. We all left so energized and invested in one other’s lives in ways that you simply don’t get with online interactions alone.
Janine Wegner Global Thought Leadership Program Manager, Dell Technologies
The biggest challenge for brands is the break-through of key differentiators like their USPs, values and the benefit to their stakeholders – online and offline. Besides engaging key spokespeople, brands will increasingly collaborate and co-create content through real-life activations with external experts that influence their target audience.
It takes a “mesh” of the right voices to bring the stories and proof points to live. For instance, at key events, brands can partner with influencers to shape audience engagements by providing key audience and industry insights, as well as be a participant to elevate the conversation and/or be an amplifier of the activation digitally.
Amisha Gandhi Vice President, Influencer Marketing & Communications, SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass
In B2B, the emphasis will focus on building “communities of influence” around industry experts, employees and brand advocates/customers. The communities will act as watering holes where people can learn, share ideas and find value through authentic interactions vs. one-way content. This will play well with ABM efforts to personalize content by making it more interactive and engaging. The effect will be to attract target consumers rather than push content to them.
Content is the currency of value that B2B brands and influencers exchange. However, as more buyers become numb to information overload and brand marketing, it’s not enough for B2B companies to inform buyers with expert quotes, interviews and webinars.
To truly stand out in 2020, B2B influencer marketing programs must optimize beyond reach to experience. Influencer-driven content experiences—from audio to video to interactive—deliver engaging information that inspires buyers to action. When content is experiential and influential, everybody wins.
Ryan Bares Global Social Programs Lead: Social Influencers & Employee Advocacy IBM Systems, IBM
I’m building brand ambassadors by enabling employees to be active on social media.
Any influencer strategy must incorporate employee advocacy.
… It’s no longer one or the other.
I’ve seen success with my tailor-made social media education for IBM subject matter experts. This included social media 101 (i.e., building out a profile), to more advanced topics like social listening and producing long-form content. I then served-up great influencer content (topic-based) to interested IBMers so they can join the conversations and engage online.
I highly expect to see more brands focusing on employee coaching and mentoring to elevate their influencer strategy in 2020. Employees are an important part of the mix so don’t overlook them.
2020 will be the year of B2B influencer marketing, with companies finally understanding how to use video, podcasts, and long-form content such as blogs to tell their story and reach new audiences. And storytelling will be key to this success, having the influencer tell the brand story through their lens.
Even as recently as five years ago many B2B marketers didn’t understand how influencers could bring value to a brand if they weren’t endorsing it. They didn’t understand that the essence of an influencer’s value is in their neutrality.
To be a trusted advisor an influencer must remain objective. So, for the sake of authenticity, it’s important that brands don’t expect influencers to regurgitate a brand message which is fundamentally detrimental to the brand, the influencer and the consumer. If you’re collaborating with an influencer who is the right fit then their vision should be in sync with your vision. Give them free rein to do what they do best; to educate and inspire.