Marketers, We Need To Talk About TikTok

tik tok


In late 2021, TikTok surpassed Google as the world’s most popular domain. For marketing professionals developing strategies and setting budgets for the year ahead, that was a big wake-up call.

Consumer brands were early adopters of using social media and influencer marketing to connect with their customers, but experts in a recent piece by The Drum predict that we could see B2B brands account for nearly 50% of the influencer sector in the year ahead. But what about B2B tech specifically? After all, enterprise technology influencers aren’t dancing on social media—they work at research firms and provide us deep insights on product features, performance, and pricing. Can B2B tech marketers tap into influencer marketing to reach their audience? And should they?

The Creator Economy

While “influencers” with large followings have been around since the rise of modern social media, the era of the creator economy has been defined by a rapid expansion in tools and platforms that allow anyone to monetize their creations. A “creator” is essentially anyone who makes content online, and the most successful creators amass followings in the millions, which has turned the heads of marketing pros. To capitalize on that reach, they started offering creators money to insert their brands and products, and the creator economy was born.

Being a creator has turned into a legitimate profession, with creators earning income through things like subscriptions, selling exclusive merchandise, affiliate marketing, and brand sponsorships, among many other methods. According to Forbes, “more than 50 million independent content creators, curators, and community builders” are now fueling the creator economy. This “generation of micro-entrepreneurs” is valued at $20 billion, with estimates that the industry could grow to a more than $104 billion market in 2022.

The Influence of Influencers

The biggest metric of success in the creator economy is authenticity—the more “real” you are or appear, the more you build trust with your audience, and the bigger your following grows. The same is true for brands, and there is careful thought put into who brands partner with for this content. It’s somewhat easier for B2C brands to identify potential creator partners because they target consumers according to broader factors such as age and gender. But reaching more niche B2B tech customers requires a more tailored, targeted approach.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re interested in tapping into influencer marketing tactics and the creator economy to reach your enterprise tech customers.

1. Think Creatively About Customer Connections

According to recent research, finding the right influencers remains the biggest challenge for marketers. B2B tech brands traditionally build campaigns around their enterprise products and features, but shifting to an influencer marketing strategy requires a renewed focus on the customer that considers their needs and motivations beyond the business world. This is where persona mapping can come in handy.

As marketers know, persona mapping is a good way of developing a holistic view of your customer that covers personal attributes, motivations, and attitudes. For B2B tech brands, their customer is a decision-maker, usually senior level, typically more skeptical in nature, and prone to weigh multiple options before spending the company’s budget. So, how can you influence these customers?

It’s reasonable to also assume this audience is more inclined to use word-of-mouth referrals from people they already know and trust when making their decisions. And we tend to trust those close to us with similar interests. So, if your target customer is a 50-year-old woman living in the Cleveland area, who is influential in her everyday life? Who might she follow on social media? What TV shows does she watch? All this information will give you clues on who to partner with for your content, even if those clues have nothing to do with the features in your tech products and services. After all, people are still people.

The B2B Tech Benefit: The same way that account-based marketing (ABM) aligns sales and marketing efforts to deliver personalized content to high-value accounts, understanding the personalities of your customers can have a big impact on how your influencer marketing campaign connects with them.

2. Think Targeted Rather Than Mass Appeal

Remember that influencer marketing doesn’t just apply to social media channels like TikTok and Instagram. The creator economy runs deep, and it’s important to match the channel and creator to the maturity of the audience. Podcasts offer terrific outlets for a more relaxed, cerebral experience, and B2B brands often partner with academics, authors, and other thought leaders who command a strong following of listeners.

Whatever the channel you choose, make sure you give your campaign a purpose. A great example is from the Cisco Champions campaign, which invited top experts from the IT industry on a podcast to speak on topics relevant to Cisco end-users. This provided a way for Cisco to resonate with potential clients who might not be familiar with a particular Cisco product but might follow the IT influencer and stumble across the podcast.

You should also consider “customer adjacent” channels to find creators who might share the tendencies of your target audience. For example, if your tech product is compelling to someone who is numbers-oriented, there is an Excel TikTok community of popular influencers who talk about spreadsheets. Or if you’re in the automation field, there is a YouTube channel called Two Minute Papers with 1.15 million subscribers who geek out over AI and machine learning topics.

The B2B Tech Benefit: Micro-influencers working within the relevant online communities are potentially even more important for B2B brands than celebrity influencers with mass appeal, especially because micro-influencers can often attract a higher engagement rate. For example, IBM has long cultivated its own employees as micro-influencers on its behalf to great success.

A Brave New World

It can be tough trying to influence enterprise clients with long-term vendor relationships, but a whole new generation of customers is growing up and rising in the workforce. By experimenting with influencer marketing now, you can help create new markets, introduce your brand to new audiences, and attract new talent for recruitment. If you monitor the data from your influencer marketing efforts and are quick to pivot, you might just capture some of the magic going on in the creator economy.

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