Imagine you’re at a conference and on the stage for the opening keynote is a C-suite advisor and author – maybe someone like Bill Jensen, for instance.
You’ve never read his work, but both his delivery and his message inspire you to change all that fast. Mid-speech, you’re so intrigued you even make a note to contact him for possible consulting. Like those to your right and left in the auditorium, you also tweet out a whole bunch of leadership wisdom from Bill’s outstanding talk.
Now, Bill is no IT analyst, but his talk about the Future of Work is naturally peppered with examples of what companies much like your own are doing to catch up with – and get back ahead of – the curve, and sure, technology is a huge part of that. From the Internet of Things to internal collaboration software to using analytics to sift through and make sense of all that messy Big Data you have available in your private cloud. You can’t go more than a few minutes without using technology at work, can you?
Even more intriguing to you than all those shiny mobile clouds, though, is how some of the IT vendors are positioning themselves to actually be in business by this time in 2025 – Cisco, for instance. And this part of Bill’s talk has nothing to do with Cisco’s Internet of Everything technology. Rather, it’s how that firm’s somewhat-social CEO, Chuck Robbins, is doubling down on his firm’s commitment to remain one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for. Yes, the Future of Work is less about technology than it is about attracting the top talent any company will need to… you know… stay in business.
As an enterprise IT customer yourself, it’s kind of important that you select vendors that will still be in business a few years from now. From Bill’s description of some of the non-IT things going on at Cisco, you feel more comfortable buying IT products and services from them.
Okay, story over. What have we learned?
Yes, I do recommend my friend Bill, and my friends at Cisco (who did not sponsor this post, though I’m proud to say Cisco is a client of Meddle’s).
But neither are they the point of this story. Rather, what I hope you notice is how, in this example, Bill Jensen, a management expert, has proven himself an absolutely invaluable influencer to Cisco (at least in this entirely hypothetical scenario).
That is the modern state of Influencer Marketing.
Think for a moment how it might benefit your company for the person giving a speech to use your organization, rather than some other firm, as an example.
All of the business leaders in the auditorium will hear his message, same as it’s always been at conferences. So that’s good for you. Let’s say there are five thousand people present. Not bad exposure.
In the Industrial Age, that was the extent of a speaker’s reach: the people in the room. As a result, in the Industrial Age, you wouldn’t have found it useful to have authors like Bill in your influencer program. Back then you’d consider just two cohorts to be “influencers” – industry journalists and industry analysts.
But this is the Social Age, and all the rules have changed – including how Influencer Marketing works.
- Remember the tweets you yourself shared with your network while Bill spoke about great Future-Strong companies like Cisco?
- Same goes to those people to your right and left. And many more of the 5,000 present for Bill’s talk: they were tweeting too.
- Live streaming is ubiquitous, so it’s guaranteed that Bill’s talk was shared via Blab and Periscope and Meerkat by other attendees.
- If the event sponsor was smart enough to invest in a film crew, then they’ll be sharing Bill’s nicely-edited talk a couple of weeks after it’s over – as will many of the attendees and Bill himself. That’s more exposure for Cisco and the other companies Bill held up as examples during his talk.
- And just how many blog posts will people write after this conference? Surely some will discuss Bill’s rousing keynote, and of those there’s a fair chance that some posts will make favorable mention of Cisco.
I’ve probably left out some avenues of reach, but here’s the main takeaway: in the Social Age, influencers come in many shapes and sizes. The old school duo, analysts and journalists, are still entirely relevant in shaping opinion and driving sales. You can’t stop courting them. Not at all.
But today, if you’re selling anything relevant to a B2B audience, then your influencers have to include all sorts of previously barely-influential people who have the ear and the trust of B2B buyers.
Not just speakers, either. Bloggers, too. Consultants. People with large, engaged B2B social media followings. Podcasters. YouTubers.
Let’s face it, the days of Mad Men have been over for a long time now, since way before the Social Age got underway in 2008. People no longer trust advertisers, marketers, PR pros and the like. Do you?
What we do trust is each other: people just like us. And influencers like Bill Jensen? Sure, they may have achieved semi-celebrity status in business circles, but they’ve been very careful not to break that trust, that “just like us” status that made them (somewhat) famous in the first place.
Trust sells. Influencers have the trust of their audience. Companies? Not so much.
So that’s the modern face of influence. Next time, we’ll dig into how companies can make sure that influencers like Bill are talking about them. How that works – when done well – is a beautiful thing.
For more on the topic of Influence, we recommend The CEO’s Guide to Influencer Marketing.