My wife is a fitness and healthy living buff. She follows various online fitness folks. Natalie Jill really seems to be doing a decent job of promoting herself in the space. My wife happens to follow Natalie on Facebook.

When my wife decided she needed a new pair of cross-trainer shoes, she posted her question to Natalie about her cross-trainer shoe preference. Natalie responded that she’s not a shoe expert; but, she liked a particular pair of Nike cross-trainers, the Nike Free.

Now, my wife has yet to make a purchase at the time of my writing this anecdote. But I can assure you she was duly influenced. She’s already researching more about Nike Free shoes, and maybe she will even go try a pair on for size and feel.

Does Nike have a relationship with Natalie Jill?

No (at least none that I can identify)

She was asked an honest, candid question about something in her domain of expertise. Even though the question was about a peripheral topic, she still expressed it (even with a full disclaimer about not being a shoe expert), and consequently transferred influence onto a future purchase transaction. Maybe she even acted as a catalyst to convert a new brand buyer for life.

  • What is the average customer lifetime value for Nike to acquire a new customer through a casual mention on a social media engagement?
  • What is the value of this kind of influencer marketing to a company like Nike?

Even though the company has a rich tradition of sponsoring athletic super stars, the commercial advertisements meant nothing in this instance.

My wife valued Natalie’s opinion because of Natalie’s perceived knowledge across the entire fitness market, not because she was paid millions of dollars to appear in magazine ads wearing Nike product. Natalie and my wife share a close demographic. So whatever the perceived expert’s opinion might be, that can resonate closely with the influencer’s self-identified following.

  1. How does that translate across an entire marketplace with many influencers?
  2. What is the value of influence to a company trying to sell products or services into their market?
  3. How does a company identify those influencers, and then create a systematic effort to engage the movers and shakers in the market?
  4. How does a savvy marketing leader develop a model of influence for his or her market?

Not Just for B2C

Of course, this is an example of influencer marketing in a B2C setting. But this doesn’t mean leveraging the concept of influencers is exclusive to the consumer arena.

There’s a gap between the current state of social media marketing inside of companies operating in a B2B vertical. The effort to influence purchasing decisions has radically changed, and continues to evolve as social constructs are altered and re-patterned as a result of the changes in communications and business as a whole.

At one point, it was enough to understand the internet was changing everything, and be dressed for the game, ready to play. Creating social media accounts and participating in the conversation was intuitively understood by the early adopters looking to leverage the social media paradigm for business. But widening the effort beyond the individual to the organization as whole has remained a challenge.

As the social web continues to mature, the conversations are less like the stiff, “lean forward” efforts by lab researchers experimenting with the various ways we can exchange ideas online.

Now those engagements are mirroring genuine social communication patterns as the use of technology becomes so ingrained and intuitive, it no longer represents a hurdle for the individual to seamlessly transmit and receive ideas.

In the B2B world, a large percentage of companies are failing at influencer marketing.

Poorly targeted campaigns distributing irrelevant, meaningless content that fails to garner any sustainable attention clutters the web – and that wasted effort carries a very real cost to each organization. Meanwhile, companies struggle to quantify the return on investment for their social media efforts.

This is where I believe a model of influence can be established, and used by a company as a framework to develop the marketing operations workflow that targets the influencers in a particular space. By having a quantifiable model in place, a company can establish the necessary metrics to measure the impact of their marketing efforts.

By targeting the influencers in a space with relevant, appropriate content (that further enables them to feed timely, interesting information to their own audiences) a company can focus their investment in content development that matches the needs of the wider market by leveraging the influence patterns already in existence in a vertical market.

This allows an organization to implement its own model of influence, and influence the influencers.

It’s always better to have others say great things about YOU than it is for you to say great things about yourself.

Do you understand your channels and potential influencers?

Do you have a success story about your own model of influence and/or leveraging social media influencer marketing in your B2B marketing?

 

Michael Hiles

GenX writer, speaker, mentor, C-level digital, & tech business guy. Sold my first website project in 1994. The rest is history. Serial entrepreneur. I work with lots of startups as managing director of Founder Institute Cincinnati. Bourbon, coffee, Legos, things that explode. Husband & daddy.

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