The Difference Between B2B and B2C Influencers

by: Dustin Hawley | Monday August 19, 2019

Influencer marketing has come a long way, but the industry has endured more than a fair share of trials and tribulations. The disastrous Fyre Festival — and its accompanying documentaries released on Hulu and Netflix — tainted many people’s perceptions of influencers and put influencer marketing into the international spotlight...for all the wrong reasons.

Instagram influencer marketing is expected to hit $8 billion in spend by 2020, and the growth trajectory of the industry as a whole is not limited to just consumer brands. B2B companies have come around and begun realizing the value of collaborating with influencers for their marketing endeavors.

Many B2B brands are considering engaging influencers for marketing but are not clear on exactly how or what the best practices are. 

Why influencer marketing is interesting for B2B companies

As is true with many things in life, concepts, in theory, are often vastly different in practice. This ideology can also be applied to working with influencers. In theory, influencer marketing revolves around the idea of companies using the reach and trust of influential people for their own benefit. Multiple factors of influence and trust are based on an influencers vast knowledge and following they have acquired. Anyone who is particularly interested in a topic usually follow people on social media who are particularly familiar with that topic. And when these experts share their opinions and insights with their audience, they can influence opinions and even purchasing decisions.

However, in practice, the process is far more multi-layered, and you must peel back the onion to achieve full context: In this instance, the focus is usually on the people themselves and not necessarily on their knowledge of a specific topic. While this may very well work even in the B2C sector, the reach of these influencers is often little help to B2B companies. With B2B marketing, however, its usually not about multi-faceted complex campaigns with goals to achieve large scale reach and brand visibility. Instead, it is intended to deliver specific information directly to a brand's target audience to help them make more useful, educated decisions. And this is exactly where 'expert' influencers in the relevant target group can come into play and be effective methods of transporting this specific information or brand message.

B2B influencer marketing requires different standards

You may be asking yourself "how do you find these experts? Which platforms do they operate on?" There is no straight across the board answer to this question. The specific industry in which you operate has a large influence on a number of the factors that determine that answer. However, one thing is certain: as is true in most things in life, it's still a relationship-based business. So building relationships with thought leaders within your industry, or partnering with an influencer marketing agency, are great practices for finding these industry experts and building a relationship with them. 

B2B influencers also differ from B2C influencers in terms of range and channels, but often also in their general attitude towards themselves and brand relationships. They rarely ever call themselves influencers, and would most certainly never aspire to pursue being such as their chosen profession. Instead, they often strive to acquire more knowledge rather than reach. They seek to make valuable contacts, not necessarily land valuable campaigns

This attitude is precisely the reason that these influencers are so interesting for B2B companies. In the same light, these marketing managers themselves must also adopt a certain attitude if they wish to benefit from the unique qualities of B2B influencers. Brands must also learn to effectively network, share knowledge and build discussions within their respective communities, and do so with useful contributions. At the end of the day, it’s about building relationships with industry experts. Essentially, influencer marketing is essentially influencer relations.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Influencers

Influencer Marketing for B2C  Influencer Marketing for B2B

Typically expensive. You'll have to pay each influencer or give them a product. There will also be an agency fee or you'll pay a percentage of total spend.

Also expensive, and can also take longer to execute given all the steps of identifying and activating the right influencer.

Fairly easy to measure if you are tracking your campaign correctly.

More difficult to measure due to the complexity of the B2B purchase process.
A majority of influencers are consumers or they are referred to as "creators" with thousands of followers on social media. Many of these influencers are journalists, analysts,  and influential entrepreneurs who sometimes work internally for brands.

Influencers are usually active on major platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, depending on the industry.

Many of these influencers are also active on the major social networks, but heavily lean more towards LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and contributed articles and white papers.

Must work with an influencer agency in most cases to scale.

Typically managed in-house or by utilizing influencer talent agency and managing content creation.

You must consider the FTC restrictions they have placed on celebrities and influencers who are weaving branded content into their personal feeds without disclosure (though they have cracked down substantially).

The FTC is not as applicable to technology and B2B influencers. While there are always exceptions to the rule, it's not as "wild wild west" as B2C influencer marketing.
   
   

IN CLOSING

When it's all said and done, B2Bs and B2Cs are two very different groups: companies and individuals. Yet no matter which group you are marketing for, you must always market to people first and foremost. Differences between B2B and B2C marketing are not always cut and dry, and not all the same. There are certain situations where similarities turn into differences or vice versa.

Do away with the old B2B vs. B2C stigmas and imagine the person you want to address. Think about how you can address that particular persona as if they were standing right in front of you. As we touched on multiple times throughout this article, its all about creating interpersonal connections and market your brand in a human way.

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