Social media and influencer marketing have each significantly impacted the work of B2B marketers. But the two combined have changed B2B marketing in profound, evolving, and still not completely understood ways.
It’s a fascinating story, and to even try to fully grasp it, one must do what the King advised the White Rabbit to do in Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning.”
Prologue: The Reign of Print
For five and a half centuries, right through most of the 1990s, the quote in the image at right rang true.
In the B2B marketing world of the late 20th century, it was possible for independent industry experts, forward-thinking executives, and even marketers with an interesting point of view (those we’d collectively call “influencers” today) to get published in business and industry trade magazines.
But print space was an expensive and finite resource. A few journalists, analysts, and business-book authors in any industry segment stood out. They were invited to write about trends and speak at industry trade shows.
Still, the large majority of potentially interesting voices went unheard, or were rarely heard from. They had no platform. They didn’t own printing presses.