How B2B Marketers Can Catch Up On Influencer Marketing

 

 

Why B2B Companies Need to Embrace Influencers

 

Working at my current company (Sideqik) steadily for the past year and being involved with their growth over the past few years has taught me a lot about influencer marketing. From industries in nutrition to pharmaceuticals and even to electronic goods and services, all brands are using influencers in some capacity whether they realize it or not and it’s really incredible to see the results from B2C and B2B brands alike.

B2B marketing has been pretty boring for a while now. Oh wow, Tiger Woods is inspiring just like your brand’s consulting services!? Damn, they must be pretty good then- we should use them too, maybe Tiger will actually come by the office for our consulting session (but for real can I outsource my golf came to him, my handicap is pretty bad)! That hasn’t been too overused for the past 25 years, right? He’s obviously just a fan and isn’t being paid tens of thousands for each advert, right?

As if marketers don’t already know, almost everyone is active on social media, that goes for those VPs and decision makers too (They’re normal people too? Who woulda guessed?!). So why aren’t more businesses trying to tap into those authentic, brand advocates? That’s a great question and I wish I could answer that more concretly.

I think a lot of it has to do with perceived risk. Posting an image of some technology with features and specs and “educating the consumer” is a much more comfortable pitch for marketers, their bosses, and their companies; as boring and un-innovative as that might be.

B2B influencer marketing can also be a pretty intimidating market to get into. Having large Instagram and Twitter profiles push out content about your product makes sense, product placement isn’t really groundbreaking. So how does a service provider or a B2B company use influencers to drive awareness, long-term sales, and ROI? Well, let me learn you up on some stuff to get you brainstorming and understanding how your brand can effectively implement influencer marketing into a B2B environment.

Identifying Fans

The easiest way is to start by understanding your current following and brand advocates. This is assuming your company has a decent social following (if you don’t I’m going to need to write a separate post about building up your brand). People who already respect your brand or are users of your services/offerings are prime targets to collaborate with. Looking through that audience to see what they’re talking about, making sure they’re driving engagement around those topics, and what size of following they have is important, but even trying to target potential customers and converting them to be advocates works in the same way.

Understanding their audience is important too. They could be talking about topics your brand focuses on like IT, which is ideal, but their audience is comprised of males 18-25 (who knows, is there an @SexyITGal out there?). Unless things have changed, not a lot of VPs or decision makers are in that age range. Audience is important, but we could also argue that could be a good viral move or a long-term play to engrain your brand into the minds of future purchasers.

What about their content? Make sure the content they create is on target and in-line with your brands’ cause and goals. Check that they have no profanity (unless you’re “hip” and “cool” I suppose), are professional, and consistently on target with their messaging on all platforms including any personal accounts that might be affiliated with the ambassador.

I know, searching through posts on all their platforms can take time, but it’s incredibly important to know. Having Angelina Jolie post about IBM’s Watson technology just because her audience matches up is obviously not a good play and screams ingenuity. Slip-ups can be very costly and damaging to your brand, especially when they post something that could have been avoided easily with some diligence, so check those influencers thoroughly.

I Know a Few People That I’d Work With, So Now What?

Let’s say your company has a big hosted conference coming up. As a marketer, you should go to those top fans of your brand with large audiences and high engagement and talk to them about how much you appreciate their support (and/or their business) and want to offer them a free ticket and accommodations to come and experience the conference and talk about it. From this you’ll get a ton of content, awareness, and engagement with their audience that should be in-line with the content your brand looks to promote authentically. On top of the benefits of spreading content, you’re creating an experience with fans and clients that will never be forgotten- and that’s how you build brand loyalty. Knowing their Earned Media Value per post and the estimated amount of content you can expect will help you map out a good idea of an average ROI from content that they create.

Want to make those big influencers and key opinion leaders who create a lot of content feel really special and talk about you? Buy their plane ticket, hotel arrangement, and watch that ROI soar as you create a true relationship and deep connection you can continue to leverage. In addition to that, let them create the content they think is organic and authentic. If it’s negative, you know how to improve and if it’s positive it doesn’t feel forced and fake.

It’s the golden rule: Treat others the way you’d want to be treated and you probably wouldn’t want to be forced to publish content on your cherished social platforms that you didn’t create or know was tailored for your audience.

Another idea that can work well is creating programs where you produce content pieces with clients that to talk about their successes and put them (not your technology or company) in front of the spotlight. Give them something they can share that’s hosted by you or has references to your brand. This way they feel genuinely appreciated (as any client should) and will want to share that out within the company, across various platforms, and their network to drive exposure.

This idea can even be expanded one step further into creating advocate groups that can demo product, write pieces to be featured on your site as contributive content, interview series, and ultimately free events, services, and platform access in exchange for some social engagement. Some of our clients are even using promotions and rewards to incentivize employees to post and generate social engagement and awareness by producing social content around certain topics and events. By creating campaigns with objectives and tracking points and creating rewards and giveaways for companies that are fun, engaging, and relevant each week, employees are sharing more content that is informative and fun- and by integrating point systems through your business your employees don’t feel pressured to share everything so they can build up points and rewards over time.

 

Now What?

The fun part- measurement and optimization! Now that content is created you can compare the earned media value of those posts and ROI numbers to understand what sort of value your program is driving to compare it to traditional ad spend and ROI. A good idea is breaking out that value by influencer to understand which ones you should continue to engage or where your investments should be emphasized. Some may drive high value on Facebook, but fail to create any value from YouTube reviews as their channel is growing. In that case, you can reallocate spend in further campaigns to perfect how you work with those influential people in your industry. Whether it’s a client, a reporter,or just a YouTuber who has a deep knowledge of the industry there are so many opportunities to get in front of your target audience in authentic ways and I see B2B brands in general missing so much opportunity because of an inability to think outside of the box in how they can leverage and work with influencers.

The first B2B brands to use influencers in a compelling way will capture a huge portion of untapped ROI and potential revenue that small startups are stealing away from brands who won’t innovate upon their marketing strategies.

 

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Why I Hate Snapchat

 

 

 

This is going to sound incredibly contradictive to my title, but I love Snapchat- I love it a lot.

Let me explain. Snapchat makes up a huge portion of my social media life. I send snaps constantly, share stories (as lame or irrelevant as they can be), I actually like the interaction from Bitmojis, and I even use their messaging system intensively. When Snap IPO’d, I bought around $1,000 worth of stock at $22/share. This was a hefty bit for someone just out of college, but I knew they were going to soar and blow investors away with all their great advertising capabilities and tools for brands to drive revenue growth so it was a no-brainer. Well, I sold my shares for $700 when a few months later I just couldn’t stand seeing report after report continue to tell me about how SNAP was continuing to drop and miss numbers, not by a little, but by A LOT, like by MILES.

 

It hurts me so much to write about this because Snapchat has so much potential. It’s so confusing as to why they don’t embrace things that can drive value for them (advertising, influencer measurement, open APIs) to innovate and push boundaries on things that drive user growth. Sure, Facebook and Instagram probably were sitting back on all these features waiting for the IPO to make sure they could beat Snap at their own game, but damn are they doing it well, and in some cases, even better than Snapchat is.

 

I bought a pair of Snapchat Spectacles at Ultra Music Festival Miami in March and, wow, for a first-generation-tech pair of glasses they’re great. The lenses are nice enough to feel high quality, the plastic is sturdy and weighty, and they don’t look too ridiculous (although pretentious might be another thing). However, as amazing as they were at that festival, I sit in an office for the majority of my weeks. Nobody really wants my 360-degree, 1080p snaps of me browsing my email and LinkedIn. So, when the weekend rolls around, I could use them when I do things like go to the park and play with my dog or even when I hit up a brewery with some friends, right? Ehhh, wrong. I don’t want to be that guy wearing these crazy glasses just so I can take a snapchat more easily. I may care too much about what other people think about me, but in the age of social media I can guarantee I’m not the only one.

The next thing that irks me is that even though Snapchat has been out for almost 6 years (September 2011, I just checked), it is still god-awful on Android. If you are using an iPhone you probably love the quality of pictures and don’t notice too much of an impact on battery, but on Android it absolutely massacres my battery life. It also doesn’t even use the camera. It takes a screenshot of what my camera sees without processing it through my amazing Nexus 6P camera. Can you not give a little love to Android users after 6 years? Please? Evan are you out there?!

 

As far as new ideas for Snapchat go, the new map feature is cool in theory, but all it does is tell my friends that my life is pretty. I can go look at happening spots, but in Atlanta it’s really just the Aquarium and maybe a concert or the pink trap house (ATL Rap is where it’s at). I don’t see much use for the feature and it seems to me more of a, hey you’re missing out on this than a useful feature I want to go look for things to do nearby, but maybe there are grander things in mind.

 

All in all, the race between Snapchat and Instagram is awesome in theory. I love seeing each other fighting to innovate faster and with better tech, but Instagram puts out amazing stuff to build communities of content and brand engagement whereas Snapchat just makes some cool new filters. The hotdog meme thing is funny (and extremely lucky that it blew up), but they’re going to push it too far (mark my words here) and their target audience is gonna hate it. I’m torn between my millennial love of Snapchat’s simplicity, their possibility of the future technologies and innovations in cameras, and simple messaging functionalities, and my professional-minded respect for Instagram’s long-game focus around giving the people who drive real money to the company the tools they need and want, brands.

Snapchat, I want to support you and love you so much, but damn, there’s a million warning lights flashing in front of you that you’re missing out on. I hope I’m just naïve and Evan Spiegel is fooling us all, but until then my investment money and faith is staying with Zuck’s consistency and his proven fluency to drive big dollars for his companies.

 

 

 

 

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Why Fyre Festival Proves How Dangerously Effective Influencers Are

As everyone already knows, Fyre Festival was one of the biggest flubs in festival history (this hilarious documentation of the disaster will catch you up if you weren’t aware). They used flashy models and influencers to promote to a bunch of millennials who wanted to “live the dream”, meet their idols, and party for a weekend on an exclusive island once owned by the infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Music, parties, babes, and sun? Sign me up!

 

Their marketing strategy (see the video below) has been ridiculed, called deceptive, and even hailed as the “death of influencer marketing.” As someone who has been involved in influencer marketing for years, I couldn’t disagree more.

While it was shameful and fraudulent to promise so much and deliver nothing, I think the underlying principal remains that the overwhelming ‘success’ (by that I mean getting tens of thousands of people to spend insane amounts of money to fly to a brand-new festival to the point where it’s overbooked and embarrassingly under-delivered) of the festival came from an amazing marketing strategy fueled by influencers.

 

Let’s take a step back for a second and think about how many 1st year festivals would love to charge $13,000 VIP Packages and sell so many that they can’t even handle the demand. The timing of Fyre coming right off the heels of Coachella is also amazing. I mean, maybe their target audience could afford to do both, but let’s face it; as a music junkie myself, the lineup for Fyre wasn’t exactly polarizing.

 

Let’s not forget this lineup includes Blink-182 who dropped out early.

 

Influencer marketing has been around for over 100 years even though it went by a different name, celebrity endorsements. The hype behind it now comes from the way consumers can feel more closely connected on a day-to-day basis with their idols in a more humanizing way. Influencers now are getting paid for their followings and sure, they can seem like walking billboards, but they have an audience. As a marketer, the only reason you would hate on them for having a large audience is because you can’t generate that buzz on your own or because you don’t think the cost is worth it. Industry “professionals” and marketers want to use excuses like “fake” and “disingenuous” because the real focus only goes towards the few influencer ads that are losing.

 

“Wow they took money or product to post on their feed?! That’s so shameful. How could they promote such a scam?” “I told you influencer marketing was ridiculous!” Influencers have bills. Influencers can choose what goes on their feed and in most cases companies are coming to them with the copy and pitch. Companies who use them are still getting massive ROI, audience engagement, and exposure in front of millions of people. Let’s remember, it’s ultimately up to the influencer. In the case of Fyre, they had no idea it was going to flop, but they were certainly sold the dream, paid a lot, and promised all these things by the company, but how is it their fault?

 

If I came to you (yes, you reading this) and said, “I want to give you a free vacation in Ibiza, at this nice hotel (drinks and food included) and even pay you to go there and relax! The only thing you need to do is post a few tweets and Instagram posts about my brand.” Would you say no? Either you’re lying to yourself or you’re thinking, “Great, when’s my trip?”

 

Now let’s imagine you’re getting 1000 of those requests a day because you’re a top-tier influencer. How do you decide which brands to work with? You’re probably going to do one of a few things: either work with brands you like already, brands you’ve wanted to work with, or you’re going to determine what content seems most beneficial for you and your audience. Think Kylie Jenner’s audience would have loved to see her rocking out on a yacht at a music festival? I’m sure she did too.

 

Just some Instagram influencers posing for Fyre… Hold on, I think I’m gonna go get my ticket for next year

Heidi Cohen published a post about Seth Godin’s 7 truths at the heart of marketing. Let’s see how they relate to this debacle and what you can stand to learn.

  1. People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want
  2. Choose your customers, choose your future.
  3. Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
  4. Why waste a sentence saying nothing?
  5. Social Networking that matters is helping people archive their goals. Doing it reliably and repeatability so that over time people have an interest in helping you achieve your goals.
  6. The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset. 
  7. Good marketers measure.

 

How many of these apply to Fyre?

  1. They wanted the luxury music festival packed with influencers
  2. They got to target the wannabe, high spending, festival millennials.
  3. They told a fun story about an event that’s never happened before.
  4. They made the content easy to digest, you got the picture- be there or miss out
  5. I saw this ad a million times. The attendees got the ads, got the influencers, got the festival hype, they got the content and ate it right up.
  6. They are promising refunds and extending free VIP to next years festival – while they haven’t refunded anyone just yet, I’m sure that’s coming before the lawsuits put them out of business.
  7. They saw the demand and you can bet they’re gonna be prepared for 2018 (they’ve already stated it’ll be in the US. Gee, that’ll make more logistical sense).

 

Fyre Festival might have been a huge flop, a scam, or just an embarrassment to marketers, but think about this- it’s been about a month since all of this came out and you probably haven’t even thought about it. Attention spans are short and, while they might have a tough time putting a festival together next year with influencers, you can bet it will still be sold out from all the hype of this controversy and promises to do it right.

 

Say what you want, influencer marketing works.

 

 

 

Til next time.

Rylan Albach

 

Thoughts on the Modern Marketer

 

 

 

The marketing landscape is changing dramatically. With all new marketing technologies, insanely deep metrics, and new platforms to reach consumers as old ones are quickly dying, it’s enough to make your head spin. Just like with any job in the 21st century, marketers have to stay quick on their feet and be able to adapt to anything and everything at a moment’s notice.

 

Marketing software to measure things like impressions, sentiment, engagement, earned media, and even identifying and predicting the success of campaigns before they begin are making marketing much easier to quantify, but also much more demanding. No longer can you send some mailers and hope people go buy your stuff or put a TV ad and hope that people were actually paying attention as your precious 30 seconds ran by.

 

It’s pretty amazing though, isn’t it? Now we know exactly who sees our content, how long they were looking at it, and what that can average out as far as value. On top of all that, it’s never been more cost effective to run campaigns by utilizing digital channels. Modern marketers must take advantage of these costs as first movers will see massive increases in the value they get from doing so. Facebook ads are still a steal, but think about how long they’ve been around- they’re getting so targeted and precise that the value will be, has to be, increasing in the near future.

 

Metrics have also been exploding in access and are only getting more deep and insightful. Marketers not only need to be creative, but understand statistics and numbers that can align to create and analyze campaign effectiveness. Risk taking becomes more difficult as numbers are more accessible so even understanding the pitch as to why you should try something is challenging. Why should we try a magazine ad that has no idea how many people will actually do something with it when we can do a PPC google ad (although those are arguably way overpriced for the use). These metrics can also be powerful as well and using them to measure campaign impact can be extremely useful in understanding the value marketing is bringing to your team and organization.

 

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Platforms and channels are also increasing in number and therefore adding pressure to be creative in order to appeal to the users in those channels. Let’s take musical.ly for example. Musical.ly has the possibility to be the hottest way to hit the preteen generation, they love it. It eerily reminds me of Vine 2.0, with people singing, doing skits, and creating humorous videos. Celebrities and influencers are tapping into it to get their fans directly involved and performing alongside with thousands of people. How cool is that? Being featured on someone you adore’s quick video because you were rocking out or playing along too? That’s so impactful, especially to a younger demographic who get to have their 5 seconds of fame and brag to their friends. Brands haven’t entered the platform in any significant way just yet, but think about the interaction possibilities there.Ford could put on a dance off with a celebrity, tapping into two audiences for someone to win a car in a series of competitions spaced out over a month. It’s American Idol where everyone has a chance to be on it- that’s a pretty simple idea, but I’m excited to see what marketers come up with to fully utilize the engaging platform (sidenote: I think this engagement is the future, Facebook Live and Twitter Live is a stepping stone into actually being a feature of the programs).

All in all, there’s more change than ever. TV isslowly dying to platforms on demand like Netflix Facebook and YouTube, Ad spend is switching from traditional to digital more and more each year (and by a massive margin), and our insights into how we are impacting and affecting consumers is more detailed and not at the mercy of the channel in many cases. Consumers have more power than ever and more ways to express their opinions and spend on brands, but so do brands. As marketers, we can now reach out and impact consumers in so many ways and find more and more personal, engaging methods to do so. We just have to learn to adapt, be ok with change, and go where our customers are. It’s a wild world right now, but we are living in a time that hasn’t experienced this much change since TV and radio came out, and that’s really amazing to think about.

 

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Why eSports and Twitch Will Change Marketing

Originally Published: July 13, 2015

As a kid I grew up playing lots of video games from Halo to Call of Duty to World of Warcraft always carrying some interest about the industry with me. Nowadays League of Legends is all the rage (followed by Counter Strike, Hearthstone, DoTA2, and World of Warcraft). As a student, I’ve been lucky enough to realize a way to link my talents and professional interests with my hobbies.

Most Sundays when relaxing after the events of the weekend, I’ll get a chance to check out Twitch.tv and catch one or two games of the NA LCS (North American Professional League of Legends games). This is quite similar to a typical Sunday NFL as games range from 45 minutes to 1 hour long and have commentators pre-game shows, post-game shows and interviews, as well as highlights. In total, 10 games are played across Saturday and Sunday with 5 games each day. This time frame lasts from around 2:30pm to 8:30pm or 6 hours of League of Legends.

While this may seem like no big deal or some nerd and geek filled day of video games it’s not. It’s serious business for the company who created and maintains the events that transpire around their game, Riot Games. Riot has reported earning around $200 million per year from their only game, League of Legends, but the number is undoubtedly higher as that was reported 2 years ago. During the World Championship for 2014, Riot stated,

“Fans around the the world joined us for 15 days of competition, all adding up to over 100 hours of live content broadcast in 19 languages via 40 broadcast partners.

In total, across all stages from Taipei to Seoul, we saw 288 million cumulative daily unique impressions. This is a familiar metric that’s calculated by taking the unique viewers every day and adding those numbers (but as most fans watched more than one day of the competition, it counts every day they tune in).”

Damn. If you don’t think that’s impressive or worth a deeper look at the demographics you might want to think about a career change. The final match for 2014 Worlds for the coveted Summoner’s Cup was hosted at the Sang-am World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, the venue of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and was sold out by 40,000 League fans. The final was broadcasted on Twitch.tv and ESPN3 and the winning team from Korea walked away with $1,000,000.

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2013 Worlds at the sold out Staples Center, in Los Angeles.

Moving onto this year the final event at Worlds will be hosted throughout Europe, in Brussels, Paris, London, and the finals in Berlin. A reddit user, farenknight, posted after trying to buy tickets to the first group stage in Paris that the tickets sold out in 10 minutes. This all happening almost 4 months before the event even takes place. You can bet your pants that this year’s world championship will be even more exciting and important.

As LCS teams duke it out each weekend to earn a spot at Worlds, they are cheered on by adoring fans in the masses. How much are in the masses? Around 200,000 consistently, for the 6 hours each day on the weekend. However, these numbers can be lower during breaks or bad team matchups and higher up to ~350,000 when fan favorites like Team SoloMid are playing. Quantcast houses some really interesting information about Twitch.tv and its demographics. Ages range from <18-34 with a majority being in the 18-24 range. Largely male, 50% of the users are regular users and with 56,000,000 unique hits in the past month from 30,369,898 people you can imagine what some good ads could do for a company.

The Twitch user is also quick to flash a credit card by donating money to the streamers which usually flashes the amount they donated and a message of their choosing to everyone else watching the stream. These can be of any amount and if you watch any popular stream you will see an almost never-ending barrage of donations flashing up. Users can also subscribe to get updates on when the streamer is live, gain access to playing games with the streamer, and unlock special emoticons and perks for the stream. This comes with a $4.99 a month price tag though.

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Imaqtpie, a league streamer, with almost 37,000 live viewers makes almost $8,000 a month from streaming.

This impressionable demographic could be huge to any company that can figure out the proper way to leverage it. Currently companies advertise under the streamer’s video, through shoutouts from the streamer, or by displaying ads during breaks between games. However, the last option can be difficult with many tech savvy people using Adblock software for their browsers.

What would an advertising deal with Riot Games be worth? Well as Coca-Cola renews its partnership with Riot Games, getting some juicy ad coverage during the company’s events you can expect Coke to see great returns from the viewers every weekend and especially during Worlds.

Let’s assume 350 million unique people will watch Worlds this October, in 2015. Coke could utilize their fantastic Share a Coke campaign (Share a Coke with: Team SoloMid anyone?) to create different items for the teams brandishing the League of Legends logo and giving a small in-game reward to gamers who buy a coke to support their favorite team, for example a profile logo of the team, or a 1-in-20 chance to win a certain skin (read a custom outfit for a champion players fight with) of the winning team. Now assuming 20% of viewers buy a coke to try to win a skin while supporting their team that makes 70,000,000 purchases. Now, assuming a bottle of coke costs 20 cents to produce including shipping and handling and a bottle sells for $1.50 we can estimate Coke taking home $91,000,000 from a deal using a current campaign.

This could be extended to registering a serial number to support your team by purchasing their specific Share a Coke can and rewarding fans of the team with the most shared Cokes with an icon or exclusive content from the team itself. That said, assuming our imaginary circumstance happens, the benefits would be intangible and unparalleled as a gaming partnership of that scale hasn’t occurred. This would be hugely beneficial to not only Coke, but Riot as they could potentially pay their victors with the sponsorship money from their deal.

ESports can be a huge boon to companies interested in not only Western markets, but also Eastern markets. Korea, China, and Japan are wild about eSports and have been since the early 2000s when Starcraft and Dota were the only names in the space. Getting well targeted ads into the Eastern markets will be incredibly important as eSports continues to see year after year growth. I’ll state one more statistic if you still aren’t convinced at how important eSports will be for marketing. League of Legends, in 2014, saw 27 million viewers during the World Championship which was higher than the final round of the Masters and only second to the Super Bowl.

So how can you leverage the eSports opportunity? Well start by looking at advertising on Twitch. Identify how your target market could identify with the product or service you offer and what you can do to properly create a unique campaign targeted at them. Remember, the Millenials and Gen X demographics are very adverse towards ads and require creative/masterful tactics to encapsulate, but as they move into financial independence you can expect spending to soar even higher in the coming years. This means the eSports industry will grow rapidly from its current worth of $194 million to $465 million in 2017, more than double its current value!

There’s no need to finish with more convincing, the proof is already there.