9 songs to help boost your B2B social influencer outreach

Some 83% of brand marketers cite influencer marketing as a top priority to “identify and build one-on-one relationships with industry key influencers,” yet only 49% of B2B marketers are experimenting with it, according to recent research

More and more, we get asked to run social influencer programmes alongside media and analyst relations campaign - and rightly so. After all, the B2B buying process is longer than ever before, and traditional sources of insight are less trusted than they have been. People are relying on networks of recommendation more than ever.

However, engaging social influencers whose full-time job is rarely 'being a social influencer' is a different kettle of fish to dealing with media and analysts who are paid to cover the space.

Here, in nine song lyrics/titles, are some of the challenges organisations often face, and what can be done to address them:

Tell me what you want, what you really really want. Often, comms teams treat social influencers like journalists - sending them press announcements and hoping against hope they'll write them up on their blog or promote them on their social feeds. This rarely has the desired effect; however, a little thought into what your influencers might want could help considerably. Would they like to put questions to a developer of the product you're launching, see an exclusive video, have an opportunity to contribute to the product design, or become a closed beta tester?

I am the one and only. Related to this is the need to personalise your engagement with these influencers. BCC-ed email blasts to everyone from a technical blogger through to a compulsive event-chattering Twitter-fan will be unlikely to develop relationships for a company, nor result in an output either party is happy with. Fewer, stronger relationships will be better and more realistic as an ambition than bringing hundreds of influencers into the fold. Unless you have endless resources, of course. Endless resources would be nice.

Money for nothing. This is a challenging one to balance; on the one hand, many PR and comms teams historically stay away from 'paid' activation, and often B2B influencers may be unfamiliar with the offer of payment. On the other hand, asking people to give up precious limited free time, to take it away from friends and family obligations, even to take time off work - is not a small deal. But asking for support and engagement with your brand without any kind of incentive will rarely work. This doesn't have to be cash money - it can be an experience, exclusive access, a credit in a final product, some kind of opportunity, discount vouchers for their social community, an opportunity to make something together (more on this soon) and so on - it has to be something, though.

I said, what about, breakfast at Tiffany's? Breakfast can work. Lunches less so, drinks and dinner best of all. If people are working full-time jobs, remember that conferences are a big ask, as are other daytime events. This is especially hard when trying to run global influencer events; running virtual events at lunchtime in the UK obviously puts things at mid-afternoon in Europe and the start of the day on the East Coast (and very anti-social hours on the West Coast and in Asia). Finding a way to tailor your influencer programmes to these individuals' needs is critical, though it won’t be possible to get a perfect fit for everyone.

You gotta keep 'em separated. Don't ask an influencer to do something without making clear they need to declare they're doing something for you, if there's any incentive involved - whether that incentive is a product loan, a payment or covering travel expenses to an event. Anyone that's ever done this sort of thing before will normally know and understand the word of mouth marketing rules that require people tp declare their commercial interests when promoting products and services, but some may not - and you're better off giving them a helping hand to keep their organic advocacy and interests a little bit separate from their paid work. Often declarations like [client] or [ad] in a tweet or FB post will be all it takes to do this.

If I had a million dollars. If you approach a celebrity with 50 million followers and offer them £100 to tweet a product picture, they probably won't do that. It's like Dr Evil asking for £1 million in the present day - it's not really money, so no-one takes him seriously. So aiming for the mos' influential people in any given space is probably not a sensible aspiration. Satya Nadella is very influential in technology circles, as is Elon Musk. Neither of them are likely to tweet something just because you ask them to…

Come on, come on, let's work together. Often, marketers ask influencers to promote something they've developed, or ask them to create something based on our news. Instead, looking for opportunities to collaborate can often be more productive, and more appealing: think of it as a partnership that benefits both if you rather than a transaction; one example from (cl) Gemalto happened when it identified and collaborated with two established IoT gurus in the European comms scene to develop a paper on accelerating IoT deployments, drawing on their real-world experience into a challenge Gemalto's customers faced. Influencers need content too, and often like working with well-established brands and third parties. It’s not all about the Benjamins…

Girls just want to have fun. Make it fun! Sure, you'll have to invite them to the occasional conference and send them your opinions and news from time to time, but if there's an opportunity to turn the mundane into something exciting, do it. These are real people, with real passions and interests, and not just drones looking to source and reproduce content. This rings true even more so than with traditional media influencers, whose day job it may well be to cover the sector in which you operate, social influencers need a reason to want to give up their time for you. So find a way to make that conference track a little more engaging.

I wanna dance with somebody... somebody who loves me. Okay, 'relevance' was a harder theme to find a song lyric for, but hopefully you'll appreciate the sentiment. You need to ensure there's a good fit between the brand/product/proposition/content and the influencer you're trying to engage with, otherwise it'll be confusing for the influencer and your collective audiences too.

For bonus credit, and possibly a chocolate bar in the post/mail (depending on which side of the Atlantic you're on), leave a comment with all the band names without resorting to Google. And feel free to tell me how awesome my taste in music is.

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