Why video conference app Webex is betting big on influencer marketing

Illustration of two people standing back-to-back in colorful clothing and taking selfies.

Web conferencing company Cisco Webex is betting big on influencers, having recently made it part of core marketing strategy in a move to capture a wider audience and drive online revenue. The brand is doing so as part of a shift from focusing marketing to IT professionals to individuals and entrepreneurs who could want to use their services.

“We’re working closely [with influencers] to make sure [people] understand our products and how to use them,” said Deana Singleton, global brand marketing leader at Webex. “We’re not necessarily trying to sell them on it today. We’re just trying to be part of what they understand as they move into the professional field.”

The efforts come as part of Webex’s recent rebrand, which was launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic and remote work making web conferencing tools more available to corporate and casual environments alike. It includes new product features such as real-time language translation, a new logo and global campaign, which rolled out earlier this summer with broadcast and cable television, connected television, online video, digital, print and paid social.

Overall, the brand plans to increase ad spend on digital marketing efforts (Webex declined to provide further details on said ad spend), relying on influencers to better help them reach the everyday user, especially Gen Z and millennial entrepreneurs who will soon enter the workforce, said Singleton.

Like many other brands, Webex is using a hybrid approach, leveraging both paid and organic social strategy across platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. So far, they’ve worked paid sponsorship deals with influencers such as TikToker influencer Jenna Ezarik, who has more than 93,000 followers on the app, and Instagram influencer Helen Wu, who has nearly 70,000 followers.

To get traffic back to the website and increase digital sales, the influencer campaigns link to Webex.com, where online shoppers can purchase products. While Webex declined to provide details on ad spend, a spokesperson for the brand said they’ll continue with digital efforts, especially when it comes to influencer marketing. According to Kantar, Cisco’s Webex spent an estimated $4.9 million on media in 2019 and $6.2 million in 2020. So far this year, the brand has spent an estimated $6.8 million on media. Those figures exclude spending on social channels, however, as Kantar doesn’t track social media spending.

“We are doubling down on digital marketing efforts for Webex. For instance, we’ve increased our spend year over year and you’ll see us continue to invest in this area,” the spokesperson said.

It could be considered an unconventional approach for a business-to-business brand like Webex, and a strategy the brand hasn’t used before, according to Aruna Ravichandran, Webex Collaboration CMO and vp. But as the business-facing brand’s rebrand marketing efforts move forward, Webex is hoping influencer marketing will get them in front of the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“With the pandemic, so many people have created new businesses and business models,” Ravichandran said. “We used to actually do campaigns [geared] toward the IT decision makers, but given the shift and change which happened during the pandemic, we believe that end users’ voices are important.”

And influencer marketing plays like Webex’s have become increasingly important to nearly all brands due to Apple’s privacy changes, Google’s crumbling of the third-party cookie and other privacy and data factors, said Courtney Spritzer, co-founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Socialfly.

At present, at least half of Socialfly’s leads pertain to influencer marketing offerings, up from an estimated 30% in years prior, Spritzer said. And it’s not just B2B businesses looking to get in on the action. Medical professionals too have inquired about influencer marketing strategy, she said.

“When people think about influencer marketing, they’re thinking about the fashion influencer, the fitness influencer. But there are many many types of influencers, specifically in the business community or gaming community,” Spritzer said. “There’s basically an influencer for almost anything you can think of.”

And there’s no slowing down any time soon. As the influencer ecosystem continues to grow, Spritzer predicts brands will expect influencers to incorporate platform technologies like livestreaming, short form video and e-commerce features into their strategy.

“There’s a lot of demand for this type of service, and e-commerce capabilities are increasing as well because a lot of brands are selling direct-to-consumer,” she said “Before, they were reliant on retail. That’s a change that I believe is here to stay,” she said.

As for Webex, they’ll continue to forge the path ahead, said Singleton. In the future, there are plans to fold Out-of- Home advertising into the core strategy as vaccine rollout continues to usher in the new normal. However, Singleton says digital and social, increasing shaped by influencers, will continue to take the lead.


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