That’s the question I had in mind going into the TechTO event on February 19, dedicated to influencer marketing. In exploring this topic, I found the presenters all brought something different to the debate. Alexandra Panousis, the host for MarketingTO, did an excellent job managing the discussion and pulling out key insights from the presenters. It was great to be back at the TELUS office in Toronto for the event.
From the presentations at the event and my views, there are a few significant problems marketers need to consider before adding influencer marketing into their marketing mix. Let’s start with pricing.
Influence Marketing Challenge: Pricing
Compared to established digital marketing platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads, influencer marketing pricing is challenging to understand. From my discussions at the event, it looks like magazine-style rate cards and cost per thousand impressions are the most popular pricing models. Beyond traditional transactions, some brands pay with product samples. The ambiguity and wide range of practice in pricing means there is more work involved to make this channel work.
Influence Marketing Challenge: Transparency
No matter how you approach it, transparency is a significant problem in influencer marketing. Thankfully, some solutions are coming to the market to help with this problem. #Paid, a SaaS company based in Toronto, brings analytics to help brands in their due diligence process. While this data is helpful, there is still no replacement for old fashioned due diligence efforts like picking up the phone and meeting the person.
Influencer Marketing Challenge: Trust & Authenticity
If you pay an influencer in kind or with money, does that impact whether you are authentic to your followers? This is not a new problem. It emerged in the 2000s when bloggers started to take off in popularity and compete with traditional journalists for access, perks, and attention. Increased disclosure and measurement tools will help.
Does B2B Influencer Marketing Exist?
My marketing practice focuses on B2B technology companies. Alas, most of the influencer marketing examples we see in the market come from the consumer space. For B2B, the primary example of influencer success comes down to founders and executives promoting their own company like Russell Brunson’s expert promotion of ClickFunnels. Would an executive at a Fortune 500 company be able to accept a traditional, paid influencer marketing arrangement to promote a product? Possibly! However, such arrangements would probably require clearance by compliance and legal professionals. The return on effort might not be worth the effort.
Now For Something Different: TikTok
TikTok, the emerging social media platform, was also highlighted in the event. It was my first time seeing the platform in action, which I found helpful. In functionality, it looks like a cross between YouTube and traditional social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. From a marketer’s standpoint, the full-screen app experience and the default “sound on” are exciting. However, I am skeptical if the “sound on” default settings will stay because that may be perceived as a less than ideal user experience when other platforms let users control this feature. On the other hand, millions of Canadians, Americans, and others are finding value in the platform. Thanks to Joshua Bloom at TikTok for sharing his perspective on the platform.
The Final Word on B2B Influencer Marketing: Experiment With It
In most areas of marketing, I like to use the 80/20 rule. Allocate most of your marketing effort (the 80%) to proven marketing efforts that work for your goals. Reserve 20% of your resources to experiment with new media, offers, and messaging. If you are pursuing influencer marketing in a B2B context, reserve this strategy for experimentation. From a B2B marketing perspective, I don’t think influencer marketing is ready for prime time, but it is well worth experimenting with it. Many companies will be reluctant to pursue it due to the challenges outlined above. That means there is an opportunity if you work at making the channel work.