B2B influencer marketing essentials: How to identify your influencers | B2B Marketing

From identifying the right types of influencers to recruit, to using social listenting tools, through to refining your influencer list, this blog will show you how to nail influencer marketing list creation.


rise of influencer marketing

as a B2B channel is clear. A 2017 global study of enterprise businesses found that

49% of B2B marketers were experimenting with influencer marketing.

The basic steps for planning an effective influencer progamme look like this:

  1. Decide the topic you want to be influential about. Make sure it matters to your customers as much as to your brand.
  2. Find the right tools. Do some research on influencer marketing tools to help you better identify, qualify and recruit the right influencers.
  3. Create your influencer list.
  4. Romance prospective influencers by following them on social media, commenting on their posts and including them in your content.
  5. Make a relevant offer to collaborate or co-create content in a way that provides value to the influencer. 
  6. Make it easy to contribute and even easier to share the resulting content that’s created. 

Here we will focus, step-by-step and in practical detail, on one key stage in the process:

creating your influencer list

Picking your people

There are a number of influencer identification methods available, ranging from the scientific (social network analysis and influence scoring algorithms) through to the less-so (desk research, anecdotal, intuitive). 

These different methods can demand varying levels of resource requirement, and some will yield more reliable results than others.  Before jumping in, take a step back and define the type of social media influencer you want to engage with. 

Types of influencers 

In the broadest sense, an influencer can be defined as somebody who, through their expertise, thought leadership or track record of success within a sector or topic, has sway among a wide network of one or more audience groups. 

Influencers can be categorised into different groups, ranging from professional influencers to micro-influencers.


We’re not necessarily talking about a partnership with Kim Kardashian here, although that may be what many think of when it comes to social media influencers. In fact, this focus on B2C celebrity influencers may be most of the reasoning behind

the myth that influencer marketing is not suitable for B2B


However, there is certainly scope for B2B brands to use celebrities to engage and influence their audience. 

Knorr’s ‘gravy train’ influencer marketing campaign 


Knorr’s award-winning social media influencer marketing campaign

with celebrity chef Phil Vickery.

Targeting restaurant chefs, Knorr employed TV chef Phil Vickery to demo their gluten-free products to the trade across social using video, to great success.

Knorr social media influencer marketing campaign

Professional influencers (or ‘brandividuals’):

These are people who have successfully created their own personal brand and who may even make a living out of being influencers.

They’re likely to be keynote speakers at industry events, and/or published authors, and often have a significant social media following (tens of thousands of followers).  They can in some cases be considered ‘celebrities’ within their profession or industry: think Martin Sorrell, Duncan Ballantyne, Karen Brady.

professional B2B influencers

“Brandividuals are professional influencers who make choices that result in them being seen in an influential way. There are also subject matter experts who have influence and who’ve earned it, but who don’t necessarily want to amplify that fact. They don’t have a problem receiving the recognition, but they absolutely have a lot of influence. Both are very valuable for B2B influencer marketing. It’s a recipe that works.” 

Lee Odden, Founder, TopRank Marketing

General influencers

These people aren’t yet published authors or keynote speakers, but will have a significant level of influence.

They’re likely to be journalists, bloggers or perhaps senior employees at big industry brands. You may even have influencers in your own organisation.

Here, Thomson Reuters created an influence campaign based on their own list of top 30 UK social influencers in risk management.

Thomson Reuters Top 30 UK Social Influencers in Risk, Regulation and RegTech 2017 #TRRiskUK30

Subject matter experts

These are experts on a particular topic area who haven’t necessarily focused their efforts on building a personal brand. They’re more likely to be academics, for instance.


These people will have a smaller social following but are likely to have a more engaged audience (as explained here).

You should look at micro-influencers – they could be great because they haven’t matured yet, so you can grow with them. I think it’s nuts that you’d always go to the top and not think about who the influencers of the future could be.” 

Tim Gibbon, Regional marketing manager at ServiceMax

Your customers

Your customers could also be influencers – they will certainly have authority among your audience – but they won’t necessarily have focused on building their authority or social following publicly.

However, it’s worth keeping an eye on particular customers whose voices resonate within your sector.

Your employees

Don’t underestimate the potential of your own employees. Those active and well connected through social media can form a highly effective employee advocacy programme.

Your influencer criteria

Once you’re aware of the different types of influencers and those you want to target to support your marketing outreach, you can start putting together your influencer list.

There are three widely accepted aspects to consider here:

  • Reach
  • Resonance
  • Relevance


How relevant are the influencer’s areas of expertise/interest to the topics that you want to be talking about with your audience?


How big is the influencer’s reach, and how much of an overlap is there with your audience? How big is their social following and how well known are they across the industry?


How much does the community care about what they say? Do they tend to lead and shape industry conversation?

Answering these questions should help you evaluate whether an influencer is the right fit for your brand.

Other factors to bear in mind

It may well be, for example, that you’ve found an influencer who’s the perfect fit for your audience and a true subject matter expert, but their biggest presence is on YouTube, which isn’t a strong channel for your audience.

Identifying what you want from your influencers is just as important as identifying who they are – don’t skip this step, as it could prove costly later on.

Identify your existing influencers

Before investing in

social media analysis tools

and martech, start making your list by keeping the reach, relevance and resonance questions front of mind, and asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who influences your customers?
  • Who are your top customer advocates?
  • Who recommends you most often within the industry?
  • Who do you wish recommended you within the industry?

“Asking all of these questions is influencer marketing – if you’re taking advantage of the individuals you’ve identified by asking these simple questions, you’re taking advantage of some form of influencer marketing.”

Lee Odden, Founder, TopRank Marketing

Social network platform monitoring

It’s likely you’re already doing some degree of social media listening/monitoring to inform your marketing and/or content strategy, in which case you should already have an idea of the sorts of discussions that take place around topics relevant to your audience, and any influencers who regularly get involved.

There are numerous

social listening tools

out there, with the most straightforward free option being a simple Twitter hashtag search.

Many social media monitoring tools such as BuzzSumo offer simple search tools for free (with more advanced tools part of their paid offering).

Social media tools

The key thing to remember with social media platforms and tools is that not all social networks are equal when it comes to your particular brand or audience.

While some influencers may have a strong presence on Twitter, LinkedIn might actually be a more important network for your particular audience.

Or it might be that you’re more interested in influencers who are regular bloggers, in which case a tool like GroupHigh (a tool used to find influential bloggers) might be the best option for you.

Don’t lose sight of the real world

Though it may seem old-school in an increasingly digital world, events can also be a good way of identifying influencers, especially those who use public speaking to develop their own personal brand.

Even if you don’t do this at the beginning of your influencer marketing programme, regularly attending industry conferences or other events can be a great way of finding new and upcoming names in your sector.

“You can find influencers in a variety of ways, whether it’s by attending industry-relevant events and making connections at conferences or using social media listening tools to find content and discover the key influencers your prospects are listening to. You need to take an always-on approach to this, because the content that’s trending today may no longer be relevant in six months’ time.”

Chris Palmer, Regional marketing manager at ServiceMax

Refine your list

Once you’ve created your initial influencer list, you’ll need to refine it in order to identify which influencers are truly the best match across the reach, relevance and resonance points mentioned above, as well as any other factors you might want to bear in mind.

This step is important as you can’t expect to engage and work with your entire list of influencers at once.

Select those who have the closest relationship to your brand already – who’s already talking about you and who has influence with your audience?

While you may not have a direct relationship with these people yet, it’ll be much easier than engaging influencers who haven’t heard of you.

“You’ve got to find the ‘low-hanging fruit’: of all the people you’ve surfaced in your research, which of them are already talking about your brand? Which of them are talking about the topics your brand cares about? Who is talking about these things and the channels where you’re already very strong? This identifies opportunities fairly quickly.”

Lee Odden, Founder, TopRank Marketing

The importance of ‘background checks’

It may seem tedious and time-consuming (and it probably is), but it’s likely that you’ll need to do a bit of work to check out the influencers on your list.

The first reason for this is because some influencers may not be genuine (this is not something social monitoring tools can always detect), although a quick Google search will soon clear up whether or not somebody is who they say they are.

The second reason for doing background research on your influencers is to explore channels where they could have a presence that might not have been picked up by your social tools (e.g. their own blogs), as well as any existing connections they might have with competitor brands.

“Use the tools as a really strong indicator to guide you to influencers, but then you’ve got to drill down, and go granular, and the tools don’t allow you to do that – you should be visiting those different social environments and platforms that they’re across, and reading what they’re about, to see if they’re a really good fit.”

Tim Gibbon, Regional marketing manager at ServiceMax

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