Will “B2B Influencers” become a norm?

The follow spot on digital marketing and communications has gotten bigger and brighter. Marketers and PR professionals find themselves being asked about their thoughts about “influencers” and if it’s going to be a part of their strategy.

While commonly associated with lifestyle bloggers and Instagramers, the influencer trend has crept into the B2B space. Likely some 3–5 years ago (depending on which region you’re in) with Twitter and I’d assume, the emergence of more device reviewers and gaming live streamers.

The B2B influencer arena is still rather new and my hunch is that everyone’s just trying things and figuring it out. So I reached out to Stanley Kan, a marketer I met in Singapore who manages so many agencies, I can’t keep count.

I met Stanley at one of the Brand Builders Lunch I used to co-host with Joe Escobedo (read the interview with him here), whom I met during my time as a HubSpot Ambassador (read the Brand Builders Lunch summary with Dave of HubSpot here). See how this network example maps together? It all started with an organic B2B engagement of ambassadors. It’s interesting, looking at connections and how they’re formed in the B2B space, influencing decisions — from the marketing world to the telecoms world and more.

Back to Stanley! To give you an idea of why I wanted his thoughts on this topic: he works the full spectrum of marketing and PR, and I previously worked with him on the China market (via Seconds Media) and he’s recently expanded into Korea. In his words:

I am a passionate brand evangelist with a decade of experience in branding, marketing & advertising for Fortune 500 companies. I hold multiple hats ranging from a regional role as a partnership & relations director at an upcoming All Things Korean digital publication, to leading and advising marketing agencies, students from Singapore Management University and angel investing in projects such as Xian Dan Chao Ren (Food & Beverage salted egg kiosk) etc.

— Stanley Kan (简登耀)

Gerry: How do you feel about the ‘influencer’ label?

Stanley: I think its just another work role, just that this “work title” is conferred by the society upon people.

Gerry: You’re also kind of an influencer (referring to Stanley’s videos and all the agencies he runs). How do you feel about being named an influencer?

Stanley: I am okay with it as it does bring certain business and lifestyle perks — people/brands like to be associated with individuals like ourselves with perceived societal impact/influence.

Gerry: Should brands consider working with B2B influencers as part of their PR / social selling / marketing strategy?

Stanley: I would say yes, as B2B Influencers have high societal perceived value, and it gives additional weight/credibility to brands looking to serve the businesses listening to these Influencers regularly.

Gerry: Now, the million dollar question for agencies: how to sieve out the ‘bad eggs’?

Stanley: Trial and error would be key — or work with agencies like one of mine that already have a network of highly valued B2B n B2C influencers.

Gerry: You’ve experience in Singapore, China, Korea and more. Any pro-tips for B2B marketers in these markets? Influencers, media, analysts, CEOs, as target audience buckets, what’s your recommendation?

Stanley: My recommendation would be to immerse ourselves into platforms such as LinkedIn and keep a lookout for latest business trends, which would change the way we engage in marketing — from the type of influencers to engage, the content format and direction, to what keeps people’s attention peeled etc.

Gerry: How do you see this ‘influencer thing’ evolving?

Stanley: B2B Influencers especially will gradually become a norm, and we will soon see greater brand acceptance — so prices/market might go up for the latest entrants!

Gerry: Any final misunderstandings/myths to debunk?

Stanley: The misunderstanding that influencers don’t deliver ROI for brands — that is not true.

— Back to Gerry —

I feel that we’re starting to see a trend here. We’ve heard from folks in USA, Europe and Asia (Diana Adams, Sarah Gratton, Joe Escobedo). There’s a general consensus on the function of the ‘influencer’ role, conscious of the different labels it has (thought leaders, experts, etc) but somewhat certain of the value and its place in the future of marketing and public relations.

Got any thoughts? Questions you’d like me to help you ask in my next conversation about this topic? Drop a comment or DM :)

Disclaimer: this piece is done out of personal curiosity and in no way related to my capacity as an employee of my previous or current employers.

Media & community relations at Ericsson Network | Singaporean in Sweden | B2B Comms | I think tech is magic | mad social scientist