When our blog changed its name from Analyst Equity to Influencer Relations, we did so to reflect the two-fold role that analyst relations established in integrating communications: enabling relationships with similar business-to-business (B2B) influencers, sourcing advisors and consultants; and developing messages and materials that enable internal capacities like sales, marketing insight and marketing. Many B2B firms use the phrase similarly, including Microsoft and Wipro, to indicate building relationships with non-analyst influencers. In our book, Influencer Relations: Insights on Analyst Value, we use the term to describe analysts and non-analyst B2B influencers, such as sourcing advisors and consultants.
Four years is a long time. Today ‘influencer relations’ is primarily a business-to-consumer (B2C) term for using social media influencers as a marketing channel. It is the science of rewarding millennial social media celebrities for reviewing or endorsing luxury products and consumer goods on Instagram and other social media. It can be a grubby business. Fundamental conflict of interests can exist: social media producers expect to the given goods or services, or paid to mention them, but pretend that these are honest, third-party endorsement.
For some time, there has been a brave rearguard battle to separate these B2C and B2B activities into influencer marketing and influencer relations. This approach to B2B influencer relations is recognisably what analyst relations and sourcing advisory relations professionals do already, but it now has expanded to paying attention to the long tail of influencers. Mozilla offers an example of this approach, reflecting the exceptional ubiquity of social media in North American business: it equates influencer relations with social media. The underlying assumption that this long tail influences through social media and can be influenced by it alone.
In the meanwhile, B2B influencer relations is the best term available for the totality of analyst, advisor and consultant relations. In the medium term, the underlying assumption of social-only engagement and of material incentives for influencers will only continue to influence the B2B activities which are increasingly called influencer relations.
Eventually, this blog will change its name from Influencer Relations. There are a few choices: this blog is about our research, and the insights in it are driven primarily from our two surveys, the Analyst Value Survey and the Analyst Attitude Survey. But it’s much easier for us to change our name than it is for B2B influencer relations professionals to deal with the risks posed by B2C notions of buying influence.