Marketing Briefing: B2B marketers invest more in influencer marketing as channel proves itself

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

B2B marketers are adding influencer marketing to the toolbox. 

As influencer marketing has continued to grow and normalize for B2C brands, marketers behind B2B brands have taken notice. Influencer marketing shops say they are seeing notable increases in request for proposals and interest from B2B marketers over the last year. Often the B2B marketers are seeking support to from influencer agencies to help find influencers or potential influencers within their B2B niche — everything from auto technicians to healthcare to SAAS brands — to create content for channels like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and podcasts as well as some interest in Reddit though LinkedIn is typically the primary channel.

“Influencers are traditionally associated with B2C brand campaigns because of their ability to reach audiences in an authentic way that brands can’t,” noted Ed East, global CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing shop Billion Dollar Boy, in an email. “But influencers can be effective in a B2B environment for similar reasons, B2B brands have just been a little slower to adopt the approach.”

Over the last year, Billion Dollar Boy has seen B2B influencer marketing inquiries double year-over-year and 20% of the total RFPs “now include a B2B ask,” according to East. Billion Dollar Boy isn’t alone in seeing an increase in B2B. B2B work has gone from roughly 10% to 20% of the business for influencer marketing shop Obviously, explained Mae Karwowski, CEO and founder. Meanwhile Chelsea Goodson, head of creator economy, Find Your Influence, has similarly seen “an uptick of about 25% of B2B brands looking to get into influencer marketing over the past year.” 

“We just submitted two proposals last week for B2B, which is unusual,” said Danielle Wiley, founder of Sway Group, when asked if she had seen an increase in interest from B2B marketers. “It used to be maybe one or two a year so to have two in a week, it is significant.” 

Influencer marketing shops see it as a recognition of the success that B2C brands have had with influencer marketing and a desire from B2B brands to find ways to integrate similar strategies into their marketing mix now. While B2B marketers are often looking for influencers to post across various platforms and channels, there is a focus on LinkedIn for some, as Digiday previously reported the platform is having a moment

“Brands are becoming aware of the fact that a business person doesn’t just consume business content,” said Brendan Gahan, CEO of the newly launched Creator Authority, a creator agency focused on LinkedIn. “They’re multi-faceted. They’ll binge watch TikToks. They go down YouTube rabbit holes just like anyone else. And, they follow influencers.”

Marketers for B2B brands are recognizing that working with influencers can help them with brand building, which can be especially helpful as the B2B sales cycle is typically longer than that of a B2C brand, noted Taina Palombo-Price, senior director of product marketing at LinkedIn. “There have always been pretty significant and robust B2B influencers on LinkedIn,” said Palombo-Price. “There’s always folks who are teaching the foundational principles of what works in B2B, whether it be demand generation or brand or great content. We’re really starting to see the product of that through some of the products that we’re bringing to market.” Earlier this month, LinkedIn announced that brands can now put paid media behind its Thought Leader Ads.

Figuring out the platform for the content is typically easier than finding the right influencers for B2B brands. While there have been workplace influencers like Corporate Natalie that may work for some brands, others may want influencers more specific to their brand’s offering. That can make finding the right influencers for B2B brands more challenging than for B2C, explained Karwowski. “You’re finding someone with a specific job in the medical field or specific job in AI [or whatever it may be], which is a much more advanced ability to identify creators,” she said, adding that finding niche creators is a shop specialty. “We’ve been picking up a lot of work there.”

Requests for the kinds of creators vary by brands. “They could be as niche to them as their own businesses, like an electrician based in Northern Arizona, but they could also be very general so they could share to a wide variety of people: for example, a lifestyle influencer who [is] based in the same area who talk about everything from motherhood, to home building, favorite products and more,” noted Goodson.

As more B2B brands add influencer marketing to the toolbox, there’s a sense that it may help change the perception of their brands.

“There’s perhaps a perception that B2B influencers are ‘dull’ compared to their B2C counterparts,” said East. “But that doesn’t need to be the case. LinkedIn’s user base is growing younger and skewing increasingly towards a demographic which is born into a social media age and used to seeing all types of content across different platforms. Embrace this new user behavior with fun and playful content that cuts through the corporate messaging that dominates the platform.”

East added: “People want to see the human behind the business.”

3 Questions with Fabiola Torres, CMO and SVP of the energy category at PepsiCo

How has Rockstar adapted its strategy recently? 

We use a lot of Meta channels. We’re a digital-first brand. We do Google to make sure that we get into more optimization of our ads and make sure that we get more eyeballs, and then we get the conversion. Then, we have a lot of fun with Snap, with TikTok, making sure that our younger consumer can see us and fill us in a different way. When we do these broader channels and for longer forms, is YouTube. It’s not one content [size]  fits all. We want to make sure that the right strategy with the right channels and the right tactics go into that.

How has Rockstar’s media investments changed with the adapted strategy?

[We have] not taken away dramatically. But there’s some digital channels that we have decreased our investment [in] due to some results in terms of the audience segmentation. What I don’t want is this brand to get diluted into trying to get too far out and then you don’t go deep enough. For that reason, we have divested or decreased our investment in certain channels that work for certain projects better than others. We have increased some of our investment in certain channels as well like Meta. We feel like Meta as a whole gives a little bit more eyeballs. Google Search and some Google platforms can kind of give us more of the consideration and conversion rates that we want with a product campaign. But we always continue to see which one works for us. During the period of the campaign, we can actually pivot or be more agile because it’s a digital campaign.

TikTok is scooping up more ad dollars. How is Rockstar thinking about its own TikTok strategy? 

TikTok continues to have us impressed in terms of how they actually move the ladder, in terms of how they connect with consumers. We make sure that it’s not, again, one vertical [in] the way that we approach it. We’re doing the influencer route and making sure that there’s voices talking about our innovation more than the campaign — our product innovation that we just launched. That is Rockstar’s focus. They help us to authenticate the product. Second is we do paid media to really launch a campaign [with] different banners or six seconds [Focused View optimization] and really making sure that we adopted the right format. Then, we do organic. We have our own channel, trying to connect with our audiences, making sure that we create that organic push for the brand.  — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Brands aren’t shy about tapping into influencers and creators for a word-of-mouth-style way of getting in front of social media users. Snap has made big swings in the creator space, including revenue programs and ways for creators to monetize their presence on the app. (A look at how social media platforms are willing to shell out to creators here.) Still, according to recent research from Snap and IPG Magna, global media investment and intelligence company, “the opportunity for marketers to tap into creators is huge.” See key details from the report below:

  • The vast majority of users (87%) are open and receptive to brands sponsoring creator content. This is even higher (91%) among the Gen Z audience.
  • Brands and creators should take action to build trust — 55% of users say they somewhat trust creators, giving creators the opportunity to further build that trust. Users say creators can build trust by sharing mistakes and lessons learned (60%), showing evidence and facts (58%), and portraying a realistic life (57%).
  • Transparency is a must when it comes to creator marketing – 89% of users say it’s important that creators make it known that content is sponsored by a brand. This transparency leads to consumer trust in the creator and engagement with the brand. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“It just heightened the urgency of what was already in play of leveraging our first-party data to make decisions rather than rely on third parties.”

— Joelle Park, svp and CMO at Best Western, when asked about the focus on first-party data amid the third-party cookie truly crumbling.

What we’ve covered

More in Marketing

In the marketing world, anime is following in the footsteps of gaming

As marketers look to take advantage of anime’s entry into the zeitgeist, they might be wise to observe the parallels between the evolution of anime as a marketing channel and the ways brands have learned to better leverage gaming in recent years. 

With the introduction of video ads and e-commerce, Roblox looks to attain platform status

Roblox is expanding into more areas than just ads in 2024. Much like platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have transcended their origins to evolve from their origins as online marketplaces and social media channels, Roblox is in the midst of a transformation into a platform for all elements of users’ virtual lives.