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With great power comes great responsibility: choose 
your B2B micro-influencer wisely

Roberta Fuke, CEO of Speed Communications, analyses the pivotal role that small but mighty social media influencers have in the B2B marketing mix

Today we have multiple routes to customer engagement, and influential advocates are playing an increasingly important role in providing real return when it comes to translating your brand and messaging into a long-term sales uplift.

Where once a celebrity may have been engaged to help drive awareness, or a technical expert to drive credibility, today the landscape has changed – with micro-influencers providing a valuable means of engaging and inspiring the B2B customer. Ensuring you are working with the right voice to maximise and accurately direct your reach is key to success. Brands such as audio-technology giant Bose have engaged celebrities such as F1 supremo Lewis Hamilton, with his 5.39 million followers, to produce quick and impressive results in the B2C space. But when it comes to the most effective B2B marketing, the need is not to spread the net wide and hope something sticks, but to engage and inspire very distinct audience groups.

The impact on influencer selection of this precision marketing need is clear – it’s not the number of followers that counts, but the relevance and engagement that’s key. Specifically, ‘micro-influencers’ – individuals with a credible voice, but a smaller immensely engaged and relevant following, can be hugely powerful in driving awareness with specific audiences and delivering meaningful engagement into the bargain. But choosing the right micro-influencer takes focus. Indeed, it is the difference between investment that delivers business return and investment that delivers little more than noise.

Authentic engagement

Global B2B publisher Motor Trend, which connects the vehicle manufacturing and maintenance supply chain, has achieved impressive results using micro-influencers. Its focus on ensuring that the promotion of its customer’s products to their followers is authentic and believable has underpinned the success of its strategy. Most recently it has engaged Mike Finnegan, the star of cult reality TV mechanic show Road Kill, to authentically endorse its customer’s tooling and equipment brands to great effect through his YouTube channel (452,616 subscribers), Instagram account (379,000 followers), and Twitter feed (34,500 followers). Mike simply uses the products specified by Motor Trend’s key sponsors, such as global car parts supplier JEGS, to repair or modify the vehicles featured in his content. For example, when needing to remove a seized bolt from an engine mount he will drop into his running commentary that he is using a special anti-seize lubricant from JEGS to assist in the process.

In doing so he exposes these brands and the efficacy of their products to a highly targeted and engaged global audience of mechanics, racing teams, and downstream car parts suppliers. At the end of Mike’s videos he references JEGS as a sponsor for the purposes of transparency, which is of course a well-advised course of action. Does it work? You bet it does. Look at his feeds, and you’ll see hundreds of professional mechanics from around the world commenting on his posts and referencing these product-focused hints and tips. What makes Mike Finnegan so effective as a micro-influencer is that he can naturally, credibly and authentically present the products and services offered by Motor Trends customers – weaving them into his posts, photos, and videos while still openly referencing the fact he is commercially endorsing them.

In simple terms, followers trust Mike. Break that trust by ‘forcing’ unbelievable advocacy or endorsement and at best it fails to succeed, at worst it damages both the brand and the influencer. B2B brands should be careful to avoid creating content that has very obviously been produced as the vehicle for a placed endorsement, as it runs the danger of causing an adversely negative perception. Indeed, if Mike Finnegan’s group of highly engaged followers felt he was compromising the quality of his content at the expense of placed endorsements, then he would run the very real risk of affronting their perceived ‘insider’ status and alienating them for good.

A clear connection

What is highlighted by Motor Trend’s approach is that it is not the number of followers that’s the key to success, it’s the connection they have with their audience. A micro-influencer with a very connected, engaged target group of followers can be just as powerful – if not more so – than an influencer with limited engagement but a mass general following.

As it’s the connection that counts, working closely with a micro-influencer to understand what drives and motivates their network will undoubtedly pay dividends when it comes to delivering return on investment. The micro-influencer knows his audience well, so always seek their active input when creating content rather than simply supplying content that you want them to share. By using their knowledge, seeking their input, and developing content based on feedback, B2B brands and businesses stand to reap rewards. Only through truly working with your influencer will the content created deliver the level of relevance and credibility required to strike a chord – and inspire the end audience to act.

Content is king

When it comes to effective content, relevance is of course crucial, but so too is content that inspires. Taking a creative approach to producing relevant but inspirational content, Dell is a fantastic example of best practice. Partnering with explorer Mike Libecki, of National Geographic fame, to sponsor the creation of content for its Technologies World YouTube channel, Dell has set the bar for inspirational but relevant content development. With his status as a Dell brand ambassador clearly referenced, Mike uses Instagram, where he has 42,900 followers, as his primary source of social media engagement – sharing his experiences in exploring the arctic using products from Dell’s ‘Rugged’ range.

Inspirational and relevant, Mike Libecki is a highly credible micro-influencer for Dell with a highly engaged social following from the professional exploration business community. Showing Dell’s Rugged technology in use in challenging environments is entirely natural and authentic and it is this believability that makes the relationship such a credible success. In effect, it’s endorsement and real-time proof that Dell’s marketing claims live up to scrutiny in the field.

A strategic necessity

Considering such partnerships between major brands and micro-influencers, there can now be little doubt that their status as the lords and ladies of their own social media fiefdoms is becoming an increasingly accepted norm. As such, building alliances with credible micro-influencers is a strategic must in today’s fast-changing marketing landscape. Critically, always remember that number of followers does not translate into effective engagement. Far more important is to judge whether there is a natural affinity between your brand and the followers of your chosen micro-influencer. Put simply, place the numbers to one side, it’s believability that boosts benefits.

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