Having cut my teeth in the communications industry in the early 1990s, the ability to influence an audience was something that had to be done with a solid media relations campaign. This meant developing, and maintaining, strong relationships with key journalists who would effectively act as gatekeepers to the key target audience that you wanted to engage with. Social media effectively launched with the introduction of LinkedIn in 2002, forever changing the way that businesses communicate with their audiences.
Whilst the majority of social media platforms are geared towards a b2c relationship, there are a number of different places where CEOs and other experts are establishing their voices and learning how the power of influence can create a new channel for their business. This blog looks at the phenomenon of influencer marketing and how this can be applied in the b2b arena by harnessing the power of your CEO.
What is an influencer?
The first challenge is to define what an influencer is when it comes to the scientific and technical industries. A b2b influencer is not necessarily looking to get an audience to buy a product or service, instead they are interested in engaging with peers, customers and other audiences who can help to share knowledge and connections to facilitate discussions around particular topics. To establish a CEO as an influencer means sharing valuable content (curating content), helping to educate and inform others through personal insight (creating content) and growing reach by actively engaging with others in the same industry to share ideas and experiences.
Step 1 – Choosing the right platform
Identify the platforms on which your audience is most active. They may be seeking answers to questions, discussing the latest research or having conversations that are designed to create debate. We have found that the most effective online platforms for scientific and technical organisations are LinkedIn, Twitter and WeChat. Whilst social media is a key element of this step, b2b marketing is still very traditional in some respects so influencer forums such as conferences, exhibitions and print media still have a vital role to play.
The oldest social media network, LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and has approximately 450m users worldwide. This platform is primarily a professional social network where people can connect with other professionals, exchange ideas, join relevant professional groups and increase credibility through sharing content. LinkedIn also offers you an option to write your own articles. This facility allows you to share a unique take on your industry, debate a hot topic or share insight that others can then comment on and share. This is a great addition to the LinkedIn network and one which should not be overlooked by those wishing to influence.
Founded in 2006, this platform was meant to be used for sharing instant news. Companies and individuals tend to use Twitter to amplify their messages rather than as the sole broadcast mechanism but many businesses forget about it. There are some basic rules to follow on a Twitter page:
- Use search tools to look for your brand mentions, competitors and relevant discussions to keep you ahead of the curve
- Use creative descriptions – be bold, intriguing and ask questions of your followers
- Use rich content – videos and images get shared more than standard text.
This is a Chinese multi-messaging and social media app that is used by over one billion monthly active users, 90% of which are Chinese, although you don’t have to be in China to have a WeChat account – it is also the fastest growing social communication platform in Africa. In China, this is the platform of choice for those wishing to influence and educate. TSP China has extensive knowledge of this platform and how it can be used as part of an influencer marketing strategy for business to business customers.
Step 2 – What to post
When looking at online platforms, we find that a number of our clients are already actively engaged with LinkedIn and Twitter either in a personal or business capacity. LinkedIn is primarily a business-focused platform with around 450m users worldwide (70% outside of the USA) that can help people to extend their reach and influence by connecting with the right individuals, contributing to the right forums and posting interesting material.
There are two different types of content your CEO should be posting on LinkedIn:
- Curated content: taking a particular subject and filtering out the noise around it and sharing the valuable content
- Created content: using your own point of view on a subject to create unique, insightful and shareable content.
Both types of content have a place in an influencer strategy. Curation is efficient as it appeals to those looking for a single source on a specific topic, it helps to grow awareness of your CEO as an authority and helps to create interest and engagement in your CEO’s profile. Content creation on the other hand offers a chance to express your CEO’s unique business voice, to establish thought leadership and its shareable content.
Step 3 – Controlling the message
One of the major challenges with any social media strategy centred on one person is the lack of control that it offers to the marketing team. If you do not have control of your CEO’s profile, how can you prevent them from going rogue? Once you have given your CEO a voice through platforms such as LinkedIn, the key is working with them to help them to stay on message, but not totally changing their online personality as this could be part of the reason why so many people want to engage with them.
A simple way to control the message is to create a social media programme that provides your CEO with suggestions for shared content and key themes to base original content on. These can be a part of a four week rolling programme to ensure continuity and will help marketing to steer the conversation in the right direction.
We would also recommend ensuring that you have notifications set up for all of the social media platforms that your CEO uses to enable you to monitor activity and respond quickly if there are potential issues such as adverse comments or your CEO posts off-message.
Human to human interactions
Whether you are looking to influence in the b2c or b2b space, it’s all essentially human to human interaction. The key to being a good influencer is to understand the humans that you are trying to influence, what they are interested in and then provide them with what they want and more. This approach will see your followers and interactions increase, bringing associated benefits to your CEO and your business.
Interested in finding out how TSP could help you harness your CEO’s influence? Give us a call on 01477 539539, or drop us an email.
By Claire James, Account Director at The Scott Partnership