This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more
How influencer marketing can increase your whitepaper and ebook success
November 23, 2021
While influencer marketing continues to take the B2C world by storm, CMOs at companies of all sizes find themselves wondering whether this rapidly evolving marketing strategy can be implemented for their specific use cases whether their focus is DTC, retail B2C, or yes even B2B. For the latter, influencers can help promote whitepapers and ebooks, two of the favorite content formats within the tech industry.
Primer on influencer marketing
First, what exactly is influencer marketing? An easy way to understand the concept is to distill it down to the digital equivalent of having someone tell your story for you. Using influencers is akin to having a word-of-mouth campaign exist within a specific social network of choice, preferably using the individuals that either most closely resemble your buyer persona or are influential to your customers in some aspirational or authoritative sense, in the category you're focused on.
Before diving into using influencers in and around whitepapers or ebooks, it's important to ensure you're working with the right type of influencers depending on the phase of your campaign.
Difference in influencer types
Different platforms and experts provide different audience size breakpoints as a mechanism for separating out influencers, typically in a macro, micro, and nano format. However, the size of an audience only tells part of the story; there are other aspects related to their reach and focus to consider.
Celebrity or aspirational influence: This is the most common example of influencer, used typically to describe a celebrity or Internet famous individual that has amassed a significant following on at least one social platform. Following the AIDA framework, celebrities and large unfocused audience demographics are best suited for the attention phase, acting as a top-of-funnel carnival barker. In the B2B world they are used sparingly, excepting, of course, for celebrity CEOs and business coaches.
Peer or micro/nano influence: This is the where most influencers actually are. These individuals are everywhere because technically anyone can be an influencer as long as they have at least one follower. Our neighbors, family, colleagues, and passive Internet friends would all classify as peer level influencers. When their categorical and buyer personas are similar enough, they can be exceptionally useful in driving sales. However, another fantastic use case is utilizing peer influencers in amplification phases of a campaign, once the heavy lifting is done by an expert.
Authoritative or expert-level influence: This is going to be the most useful influencer type for B2B brands, especially in a format that is best suited for expertise. These individuals are recognized in their specific industry as those who are knowledgeable enough to provide actionable advice. Their audience size can vary from relatively small (nano-to-micro level of sub-10,000 or even 1,000) to relatively large (near macro 1,000,000+). The most significant attribute they possess is an untarnished reputation within the field you're operating in.
Difference between whitepapers and ebooks
While used somewhat interchangeably depending on whether the content is gated and how technical in nature the content is, there is a difference between whitepapers and ebooks that should be addressed.
Most critically, whitepapers are usually associated with a company's specific products and services whereas an ebook will typically focus on industry concepts that are not directly specific to a company. Both can be gated, be presented in multiple formats, use a variety of styles and are used to generate leads. They simply have a slightly different direct versus indirect selling approach. So how can influencers be used within these content types?
Case 1: Appealing to authority
The first method in appealing to authority is by leeching off of the existing authoritative influence of someone else. Having an existing expert create an e-book for your industry that strongly favors your products or services can help a company gain authority via direct influence of that expert. In this example, the influencer is practically reviewing your solution to an industry-wide problem.
Case 2: Sponsoring ebooks created by a known expert
Less expensive of an endeavor is sponsoring existing content. In this example, the audience should already be quantifiable and from a lead perspective provide some degree of calculable ROI; it is, however, less direct than an authority transfer.
In the eyes of a prospect, the writer is still the expert and the sponsor is more of a possible expert by proximity, however a degree influence does still exist.
Case 3: Co-writing asset alongside an expert
This method is the next step up from the first case, where the expert is creating a portion of the content alongside a potential expert from the brand. Ebooks still work best in this example because the target can be industrywide solutions whether or not the company's expert is elevated to the same level as the original expert. What makes this case ideal is the dual audience approach, wherein the authoritative influencer and brand presumably have unique audiences to promote the material to.
Case 4: Expert endorsing / writing forward of your whitepaper
Forwards and written endorsements contained within the content work best on whitepapers as these assets are company specific and therefore should focus on the company's internal expertise which is then given a stamp of approval from an industry expert. It is the whitepaper equivalent to co-writing an ebook.
Case 5: Attracting authoritative sponsors to legitimize your own expertise
When attempting to establish one's own authoritative expertise, the proximity approach can work in reverse by attracting the sponsors most closely associated with the embodiment of the qualities you wish your own brand to be associated with. This is usually used by individuals as a mechanism for improving their own profile in the industry.
Case 6: Syndication to authoritative sources to further convey authority by association
In this example, the asset is usually gated across multiple publications and priced on a lead basis. Though there is additional value beyond just the lead, as this can be thought of as backdoor branding, given your company is still being associated with the publication in an expertise by association mechanism, regardless of whether or not a prospect decides to go through the gating process to read your whitepaper or ebook.
Using peer influencers to maximize spread
Once the assets are created with assistance of authoritative influencers, consider viewing their creation as part of a campaign and not something done in a vacuum for content creation's sake. There are a couple areas in which peers can now be utilized:
1.) Reviewing the content on the networks where the buying audience exists. While a B2B brand may attempt to utilize authoritative influence directly on LinkedIn (given its role in the B2B world), it is also possible to have influencers within the broader industry provide short reviews of the ebook or whitepaper created on LinkedIn.
2.) Have different influencers share review URLs to signal demand and further spread. Piggybacking on the previous point, the available pool of influencers can now expand out to any influencer with a LinkedIn profile in order to share or even comment on the reviewed posts.
Continue pushing your created assets in as many formats as possible, across the various mediums your buying audience may use to interact with you. One such mechanism would be using newsletters to extend your influence reach. So long as a company includes the asset URLs in as many mediums as possible (per the authority concepts described above) and tracks the effectiveness by the chosen campaign's specific KPIs, both influencer-assisted whitepapers and ebooks can end up being a fantastic tool for B2Bs.