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Influencer marketing in the US is booming and will reach $4.1B in 2022

According to this report from Insider Intelligence & eMarketer, forecasted budgets for influencer marketing will be $4.1B in 2022. The exponential growth will continue in double-digits until 2023 when spending on influencer marketing programs approach $5B.

So the next question is an obvious one.

Why aren't more B2B brands making more significant investments into influencer marketing?

There are a lot of ways to slice and dice this question. I would bet that many marketers and PR pros say they do influencer marketing when they don't. Let me explain.

Language is essential when talking about influencer marketing. And depending on who you ask, the definition will be completely different. Within the context of public relations, many like to classify influencer marketing as a more advanced method to media relations. In other words, a media strategist will reach out to an influencer and pitch them a story just like they would with a reporter. This is more influencer relations.

In a different scenario, a PR pro might reach out to an influencer and send them free products or a free annual subscription to a service. In exchange, they might ask for social media promotion or content collaboration. It could be argued that this is organic influencer marketing, and I might agree. But free products and services will not buy influence long term—money talks.

In the simplest of terms, influencer marketing is when a brand hires an individual or a group of individuals to perform a particular set of tasks. It’s a value exchange of money for influence. This is what the forecasted budget in this report is accounting for.

B2B influencer marketing campaigns don’t get much media attention because they don’t have the same appeal or glamour as consumer brands. You’ll never see a B2B campaign on the cover of Adweek or mentioned by well-known marketers or thought leaders either. I can understand, though. Enterprise software and data centers don’t have the same “wow factor” as a pair of sneakers or lip liner.

And while the definition of influencer marketing remains the same for both B2B and consumer brands, the execution is very different. On the consumer side, influencers create lifestyle, cultural and creative content. They use photography and short-form video on social networks like TikTok, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, and Pinterest. B2B influencers are creating more thought leadership content in articles, blog posts, videos, and micro-content on Twitter.

I would argue that B2B brands have one distinct advantage over consumer brands, which comes down to social listening and data.

Let me explain.

B2B and tech influencers are already thought leaders. Unlike consumer influencers, they are more influential on specific topics important to B2B companies and their buyers. From a technology perspective, topics like AI/ML, NLP, data science, 5G, enterprise security, and digital transformation are relevant to the business community and drive many conversations on social media and searching in Google.

Outside of deep-tech-related topics, everything from construction management, commercial real estate, travel management, supply chain, and packaging are all topics that drive the same behavior.

Influencers within these topic areas and verticals are being mentioned in the media, cited in Gartner and Forrester analyst reports. Many of them are principal analysts of their firms. They produce unique content on their channels, and may also contribute to traditional media outlets like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

Because of their influence, their content ranks exceptionally high in Google for high volume, highly competitive keywords and phrases.

We all know that the B2B buyer journey typically starts in Google, and business decision-makers spend 12-18 months researching information and seeking validation from peers and colleagues.

Perhaps the B2B advantage and opportunity is becoming a little more clear.

Brands who understand this dynamic can use targeted social listening to analyze influencers and their communities' topics, trends, language, and vernacular. They can use this data to inform the keywords and phrases, hashtags, headlines, ad copy, and content they create on paid and owned channels. The result is two-fold.

When brands start to use this data driven content, they become that much more relevant to influencers and their community. Relationship building is built on communication. And the way brands should communicate to influencers is to speak the same language.

Also, over the long term, branded content will begin to rank well in Google for these keywords and phrases, reaching the B2B buyer directly.

In B2B, influencer marketing doesn’t always have to cost money. So again, what are you waiting for? There are several influencer marketing platforms available on the market.