Image by nunodantas via Flickr.

Image by nunodantas via Flickr.

When there were only a handful of social platforms and fewer people jockeying for online authority, all a clever B2B brand marketer had to do was write really well on one topic.

From my experience, today niche appeal doesn’t cut it. For a B2B brand to be relevant in today’s content marketing landscape, you need to be followed, fanned and adored by lots of people from lots of places. You need to be genuinely popular. You need to be a rock star.

Unfortunately, chances are your own potential to rock the masses is limited – you’re busy running a company, managing a team or doing the million other things required to build your (or your client’s) brand reputation.

Thankfully, there is a solution: Hire a rock star (or a few). In content marketing terms, that means tracking down influential, authoritative voices in your industry and wrangling them in to be part of your brand-publishing band.

As a B2B marketer, your job is to identify those authoritative voices and narrow them down to the handful who can move the meter on your brand advocacy. Here are a few truths I’ve learned to keep in mind as you begin the recruitment process.

Influence is based on psychology

Robert Cialdini, renowned expert of influencer psychology, started researching the power of influence long before influencer marketing became popular.

In his research, the two core principles that relate to influence are:

  • Social proof: People will do things they see other people doing, especially if those people seem similar to them.
  • Authority: People defer to experts and to those in positions of authority.

It’s human nature to be influenced by others. Marketing campaigns that work are those that are tied to the psychological mechanics of influence.

Not all influencers are created equal

The right influencers for your brand boil down to three things: reach, relevance and resonance.

  • Reach: How many people are in the influencer’s network of followers.
  • Relevance: Their semantic relation to your brand.
  • Resonance: How well their “voice” is carried.

It’s okay to incentivize influencers

Two thirds of bloggers in the U.S. received up to $10,000 for contributing toward influencer campaigns, according to Technorati. Payment should boil down to:

  • The type of engagement you secure with your influencer;
  • The size of audience they reach;
  • Their level of influence: How they matchup with your own audience (relevance) and how the content they produce is shared and evangelized (resonance).

There is more to influencers than popularity

Just because an influencer has an army of followers, doesn’t mean she’ll be the right fit for your brand. Never forget to vet before you send out a request. Here are two key things to look for.

Writing style: You may or may not care that the influencer has the writing chops of Faulkner. That’s what your editors are for. But you should be concerned about the type of content creator you’re bringing on-board.

Are you looking for a deep-dive instructional piece? Don’t hire the funny girl and force her to wrestle with dry subject matter. Save her for the punchy opinion pieces.

Some creators are better with didactic material and some are better suited for the entertaining, lightly educational posts. Identify the type of content you want and get the right person for the job.

Voice alignment: Influencers are often outspoken, opinionated, even irreverent. But if they tick people off publicly – whether on social media or blog comments – consider whether they’re style is appropriate for your brand.

Influencer marketing is quantifiable

Yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect instant gratification from your influencer partnerships. The beauty of working with influencers is that your content will typically get an initial spike when it’s promoted and shared by the influencer.

Be sure to track that response and compare it to other influencers and contributors you’ve collaborated with. Was it worth it? How does one influencer stack up against another? You’ve either found the perfect match for your brand or it’s time to cut your losses and move on.

The bottom line is that influencers fuel content amplification. Align your brand with the right voices with the right connections and empower them to help drive your content marketing efforts.