As the world’s largest social network for professionals, LinkedIn* lies at the epicenter of people and business. 

Profiles on the platform put a real face on our professional brands, allowing visitors to learn about our interests, career experiences, and personalities. Emphasizing this human element, and creating a genuine sense of community among members, is paramount to LinkedIn’s brand mission according to Marketing Manager Judy Tian

“As a platform where so much of people’s job opportunities and personal and professional development takes place,” she says, “we really sought to humanize the brand and make it a more community-based platform, where real stories can be told and people would feel like they have relatable experiences there with others.”

We really sought to humanize the brand and make it a more community-based platform, where real stories can be told. @judytian07 on @LinkedIn’s #InfluencerMarketing strategy #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

A key aspect of this initiative was launching an ambitious influencer campaign, helping LinkedIn connect more deeply with its audience of marketers and salespeople by highlighting the human side of these professions, through partnerships with recognizable and respected pros from both fields.

In her interview with TopRank Marketing President Susan Misukanis, Judy provides a behind-the-scenes look at that campaign and LinkedIn’s overall influencer marketing strategy. She unpacks one specific empathy-driven campaign, where influencers shared personal struggles and trials in their careers and how they overcame them. She also offers her views on measuring the seemingly immeasurable, aligning with influencers around shared values, understanding the crucial difference between reach and relevance, and more. 

Break Free B2B Marketing Interview with Judy Tian


If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • 0:30 — Growth and progression of influencer marketing
  • 1:15 — Understanding relevance and why it matters
  • 2:15 — Tracking shared values with influencers
  • 4:00 — Example of a human-focused LinkedIn influencer campaign
  • 7:00 — Measuring the success of an influencer program
  • 10:45 — The difference between reach and relevance
  • 12:00 — The “four Rs” as influencer selection criteria
  • 14:00 — Overcoming internal skeptics to launch an influencer program
  • 16:45 — Paid vs. unpaid influencer initiatives in B2B
  • 19:30 — Where will influencer marketing evolve in the next 2-3 years?
  • 21:00 — Nurturing micro influencers and integrating offline tactics

Susan: Can you give an example of how LinkedIn is working with influencers at a campaign or ongoing relationship level?

Judy: We did a really exciting campaign around telling stories of our influencers. We work with marketing and sales influencers, and so we really wanted to celebrate who they were as a person beyond just their profession. We developed this social campaign called “My Marketing Story” and “My Sales Story,” and we asked each of these marketing professionals and sales professionals about, what were some of the most vulnerable moments in their careers? What did they learn from their failures? Maybe some career mistakes or bumps along the way. What we got were some really honest answers about people being fired, people being let go unexpectedly, people learning a lot of business lessons from working at Little Caesar’s, and that actually shaping their career in a different trajectory.

Susan: Where do you think marketers who are just getting started with influencer program might be heading down the wrong path in terms of how to measure, and how would you counsel them?

Judy: I would say that one of the biggest traps that I’ve seen when it comes to measurement in influencer marketing is really caring about the reach metrics, and trying to understand: if we’re working with an influencer how big is their network, and how many followers do they have? I’m really excited that now we’re changing the conversation a little bit more to relevancy. When I first started partnering with some of the internal stakeholders that were excited about the influencer programs as this new shiny object, many of the questions were around, ‘Okay, if we do this one post with them, how many impressions are we gonna get? Is it a million per influencer?’ Even though I think reach is part of the equation, and we want to work with influencers who have a substantial amount of reach, I think I’ve had to do a lot more internal education of: actually, the relevancy and engagement are what’s important. Are the influencers actually experts in the areas you wanna talk about? And are they gonna have credibility with their end users? And then are they going to shed credibility onto your brand as a result?

Even though I think reach is part of the equation, and we want to work with influencers who have a substantial amount of reach, the relevancy and engagement are what’s most important. — @judytian07 #InfluencerMarketing #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

Susan: Who do you admire in terms of influencer marketing?

Judy: Mindy Kaling was somebody that I really respected and really enjoyed hearing from at Content Marketing World. There was a question of how does she choose working with a variety of brands, and for her it has to be something that she really cares about. For instance, she loves shopping, so DSW was one of the partners that she chose to work with, because that’s something she already feels passionate about. And I just love that she chose to do something that would be authentic and true to her. I think right now there’s a lot of backlash that celebrities and influencers are facing because they’re accused of being sellouts, and they just promote brands or products that may not necessarily be something they believe in, but they just want the checks. I think the more we can push the conversation, and influencers, to think about it in that way, and brands to also think about partners that will have authentic, true passion for your products and your business, the better it will be for us as consumers. 

Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite:

* Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

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