B2C and B2B influencer marketing are similar in some ways, and not so much in others. But there is one very large difference between them.
More generally speaking, the similarities and differences between B2B and B2C marketing overall were detailed previously in B2B vs. B2C Marketing: Four Myths, Six Differences, and One Key Similarity.
Tactically, there’s a fair amount of crossover. Best practices in SEO, for example, apply to pretty much any website, though ecommerce sites rely more on schema markup while B2B sites rely on thought leadership.
Both disciplines make heavy use of social media. B2B marketers focus on LinkedIn; B2C marketers make more use of platforms like Pinterest and TikTok. Both use Facebook and YouTube. Instagram is primarily relied on for consumer marketing, though B2B marketers are beginning to embrace it.
According to Google Trends, interest in influencer marketing started taking off in the fall of 2015, and has exploded since then. Here are three similarities and differences between B2B and B2C influencer marketing, plus one very big distinction.
B2B vs. B2C Influencer Marketing: General Similarities and Differences
As detailed previously in 12 Crucial Do’s and Don’ts for B2B Influencer Marketing, there are a few characteristics similar to both groups as well as some that distinguish them. Key similarities include:
- Perceived expertise: Whether it’s cosmetic products, BBQ grilling, IT service management, or cybersecurity, influencer in both the B2B and B2C worlds are viewed as experts in their specific subject area.
- Charisma: Like the best teachers you remember from your school years, influencers don’t just know their subject matter, they know how to make it interesting. People want to hear what they have to say.
- Multi-platform: Though there are some influencers known for their presence on specific platforms (e.g., TikTok influencers and YouTube influencers), most are active across multiple networks (particularly Facebook on the B2C side and LinkedIn for B2B influencers).
Among the noteworthy differences are:
- Content vs. imagery: Though there’s some overlap of course, B2C influencer content tends to be image-driven, heavy on photos and video. B2B content is generally more text-based, supplemented by infographics, charts, and diagrams. It’s rare to see selfies used on the B2B side.
- Scale: It’s not unusual for the top B2C influencers to have hundreds of thousands of social media followers, and the top celebrity mega-influencers have a million or more. By contrast, in specific B2B niches, it’s possible to have a large impact with fewer than 10,000 followers. Even elite B2B influencers—like Ray Wang and Dr. Sally Eaves in enterprise software, Meghan Biro in HR tech, or Lee Odden and Shelly Kramer in B2B marketing—just top 100,000 followers. Blogger and author Neal Schaffer is an outlier at 220,000. Leadership expert Lolly Daskal is one of extremely few B2B influencers to break the one-million mark.
- Decision maker: B2C influencers are almost always trying to impact an individual decision. B2B influencers share insights, opinions, and judgments that are inputs for collaborative, research-based decisions by buying teams.
B2B vs. B2C Influencer Marketing: The One Big Difference
But beyond all those comparisons and contrasts, there is one huge difference between these two disciplines:
B2C influencer marketing is transactional while B2B influencer marketing is about building relationships.
On the consumer side, there are generally accepted rates for influencer posts. According to the WebFX pricing guide, the going rate for Facebook posts is $25 per thousand followers, meaning an influencer with 10,000 followers there could charge $250 per post.
On YouTube, the going rate is $20 per 1,000 channel subscribers. On Instagram and Snapchat, it’s $10 per thousand followers. And on Twitter, likely due to the fleeting nature of tweets, it’s just $2 per thousand followers.
There is no such “price list” on the B2B side. Indeed, unlike in the consumer world, recognized experts in business rarely even call themselves influencers or “creators” as on the B2C side.
And while there are some independent influencers in the B2B world who will negotiate pricing for certain activities (e.g. co-hosting a webinar or conducting a podcast interview), many B2B influencers are analysts, journalists, or work for brands, and may not even view it as ethical to charge for their endorsement.
That makes B2B influencer marketing more transparent but also more complex and more of a long-term strategy. Trust is built up over time by demonstrating expertise and providing mutual value. B2B influencers will acknowledge and even endorse brands that are authentic and have either proven their value over time or bring some uniquely innovative new technology to the market.
It’s more work, but also more rewarding. B2B brands and influencers provide each other not only validation but with new contacts, education, ideas, insights, perspectives, and opportunities to collaborate. All of that is worth far more than an Instagram post, and isn’t something you can simply buy by dropping a few hundred bucks into a B2B influencer’s PayPal account.
Understanding how to do B2B influencer marketing right can help brands expand their online presence, enhance their brand reputation, and ultimately grow their businesses.