The ascent of digital communities and B2B influence woman with colorful umbrella image

Just how important have digital communities become today, and why does the rising trust we place in them harmonize so well with B2B influencer marketing?

It’s no secret that the world has become digital-first during the pandemic, but one change that may surprise many is just how important online communities have become.

People have shifted to identifying the most closely with their online communities, for the first time surpassing traditional non-digital community groups, a change borne out by recent survey data.

A simultaneous pandemic change has seen trust in brands and marketers falling significantly, with 50 percent of U.S. consumers finding it difficult to trust brands since the pandemic began, according to report data from Salesforce.

The public’s perception and trust of the advertising and public relations industry has fallen to new lows according to one recent Gallup poll. A scant 26 percent of U.S. adults said that they see PR and advertising in a somewhat or very positive light, bottoming out even more than the previous low of 27 percent in 2008, with net-positive ratings now even lower than during 2003’s previous record low, according to the newly-published poll data.

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Thankfully, just as brand and advertising trust has fallen, the ascent of the importance of digital communities has created a counter-weight — one that is well-poised to take advantage of the power of influence and trust: B2B influencer marketing.

“Consumers need to be able to trust the content they engage with, so expect 2023 to show an increased demand for integrity and authenticity that brands and social media channels will have to adapt to,” Elizabeth Wiredu recently observed for PRWeek in “What are the top 10 social media trends for 2023?

“Brands will move further away from personas and target their broader brand communities. In these spaces, it’s less about the influencer broadcasting content and more about the exchange between all community members,” Wiredu added.

“Consumers need to be able to trust the content they engage with, so expect 2023 to show an increased demand for integrity and authenticity that brands and social media channels will have to adapt to.” — Elizabeth Wiredu @elizasjournal Click To Tweet

B2B influencer marketing is the business-oriented cousin to the B2C Instagram entertainment and lifestyle influencer. In B2B, some influencers go by creators, subject matter experts, industry experts, or other terms that disassociate them from the B2C influencer.

Whichever term is used, B2B influencer marketing provides an ideal way to combat disintegrating brand trust, especially when combined with the ascendancy of digital communities.

It’s no wonder that by the end of 2022 the B2B influencer marketing vertical is expected to reach $11.7 billion in revenue, with over 38 percent of B2B firms exploring influencer marketing for lead-generation and more, according to AdAge.

Let’s take a look at some of the creative ways that B2B influencer marketing is continuing to utilize digital communities to elevate brands and their audiences.

“B2B influencer marketing provides an ideal way to combat disintegrating brand trust, especially when combined with the ascendancy of digital communities.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis Click To Tweet

1 — The Ascent of Digital Communities

The professionals who make up the majority of B2B influencers are well aware of the importance of digital communities, as they play a major role in amplifying the voice of industry experts, and provide valuable feedback from engaged audiences that are often hyper-focused on particular topics.

Digital communities, whether in the form of major social media platform public or private groups, or on brand or publisher websites, are one of the most important communication channels for B2B influencers — and for today’s brand audiences and potential customers.

72 percent of U.S. consumers said they believe that publishers should host digital communities, with 91 percent having said that they actively read comments on digital communities that are hosted on publisher websites — while 84 percent said publisher communities were healthier than those hosted on dedicated social media platforms, according to OpenWeb’s 2022 Online Communities Report.

Subject matter experts have often spent years or even decades actively participating in online communities or various types, and have built a history of trust among those communities. These B2B influencers know when and where it’s appropriate to share relevant content from the brands they work with — and when not to.

2 — B2B Influencer Marketing Thrives With Digital Communities

B2B influencer marketing is a many-faceted digital diamond that when done well shines brightly, however brands need to be wary of treating it like its vastly different B2C counterpart.

Becoming a part of a B2B influencer’s community is a great way to find potential subject matter experts to work with, but what makes a good B2B influencer?

Ursula Ringham, head of global influencer marketing at SAP, sees digital communities as an important opportunity for finding potential influencer partners.

“How do I know if an influencer is authentic, trustworthy, and credible to partner with for a campaign?

First, I figure out who they are as a person. And that is when I become a detective. I like to read, watch, and listen to their content. Is their content engaging, innovative, and does it tell a story in an interesting way? What separates them from other influencers?

Then I become part of their community. I discover who follows them and how those people engage. Does the influencer create an experience I want to continue to come back and learn from?

Finally, I like to take them out for coffee or set up a Zoom call. You can learn so much from this one-on-one interaction.”

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Ringham has shared additional insight as one of the dozens of top influencer marketing practitioners from major B2B brands who have contributed to our comprehensive free 59-page 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, rich with survey insights, case studies from B2B brands, 2023 predictions from top B2B marketing experts, and more.

“To understand if an influencer is authentic, trustworthy and credible to partner with, first figure out who they are as a person. Read, listen and watch their content. What separates them?” — UrsulaRingham @UrsulaRingham of @SAP Click To Tweet

The report also revealed that community building is a key part of a successful B2B influencer marketing strategy.

An active digital community can help influencers network with each other, get to know the brand and customers better, and co-create great content, and the report found that a fifth of respondents said they maintain such a community, but an additional 50 percent said they would like to do so.

For those who maintain a community, most (76 percent) said they provide a platform for connecting with the brand, and include influencers in communications between the brand and community. Only 41 percent, however, said they provide a platform or social outlet for influencers to connect with each other, representing a substantial opportunity for improvement; helping influencers network is a major way for brands to offer value.

3 — Rising Above Record Distrust With The Power Of Influence

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In 2023 the ascent of digital communities — whether private or public — combined with the power of B2B influencer marketing, will increasingly help brands overcome and rise above the record distrust audiences have for marketing.

We hope that this look at the rising reliance on trusted digital communities and how their use in B2B influencer marketing is increasingly helping brands will help you in your own efforts in 2023.

More than ever, creating award-winning B2B marketing that elevates, gives voice to talent, and humanizes with authenticity takes considerable time and effort, which is why more brands are choosing to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today and find out how we can help, as we’ve done for over 20 years for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and many others.

Download 2022 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report

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