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The Rise of B2B Influencers

By Emily Neal05/06/2023December 21st, 2023No Comments
The rise of B2B Influencers

Last updated: 21st December 2023.

By now, everyone has heard of influencer marketing.
Over the past few years, it’s been one of the fastest growing industries, predicted to become worth $21.1 billion by the end of 2023.
When imagining an ‘influencer’, most people likely picture an Instagram model promoting beauty products and clothes. Or a gaming YouTuber promoting the latest games and tech.
These influencers typically have mass market appeal, and work with brands in the B2C space. They’re selling consumer goods.
But, influencer marketing lends itself well to the B2B sector too.
Think about it…
How do B2B businesses earn new clients/customers?
Through word-of-mouth. Recommendations.
Building relationships is fundamental in the B2B space.
If anything, B2B influencers have existed as long as B2B has existed. They’re the people who hold influence within companies, have large networks, and reach stakeholders. The ones who give keynote speeches at conferences.
It’s the social media aspect that’s new.
Today we’re examining the rise of B2B influencers on social media. I’ll cover how they differ from “traditional” influencers, recent trends in the B2B influencer space, and best practices.
I’ll also reveal how you can take it to the next level with employee influencers.

What are B2B Influencers, and How Do They Differ from B2C Influencers?

We’ve established that B2B influencers have always existed, because word-of-mouth is essential for B2B success.
But how do we define a B2B influencer on social media? And how do they differ from traditional influencers?
A B2B influencer is someone who has:
a) Expertise, often holding a senior position with a company.
b) Connections, reaching decision-makers in other companies.
c) Authority, internally, or externally.
Though having a large social media following is beneficial, it’s certainly not an essential for B2B influencers.
As B2B industries are often incredibly specific, a person can have a huge influence without thousands of followers.
They simply reach the right people, and benefit from having authority within an often small, niche community.
It’s all about who they reach, rather than how many people.
This is where they differ from B2C influencers.
When looking for a traditional social media influencer to work with, brands tend to view follower count as one of the most important metrics. The higher the number, the better.
What makes a B2B Influencer?
Due to these differences, marketers working with B2B influencers will need to adjust their campaign goals.
B2C influencer campaigns usually focus on these two goals: 1) brand awareness, and 2) generating sales.
While the first goal of ‘brand awareness’ is often shared between both B2B and B2C campaigns, the latter differs.
The B2B buyer journey is much longer than its B2C counterpart. So you’re unlikely to see immediate sales, but instead, suitable leads for your sales team to follow up with.

Why Work With B2B Influencers?

By leveraging their expertise and reach, B2B influencers help companies reach their target audience, building trust and awareness in their brand.

Whether it’s through creating and sharing content, social media campaigns, or events and webinars, B2B influencers can help your business stand out in today’s competitive market.

Here are just some results you can expect to see from a B2B influencer marketing campaign:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Improved trust with your audience
  • More website traffic and email subscribers
3 Top B2B Marketing Influencers

3 Examples of B2B Influencers

So who are the B2B influencers? Got any examples?

Here are three B2B influencers who are absolutely smashing it in the digital marketing sector.

Entrepreneurs in their own right, these individuals have built their personal brands alongside their businesses.

They’re the definition of B2B influence!

Ann Handley

Ann Handley is the Queen of digital marketing. She created MarketingProfs, a marketing training and education business, and currently acts as Chief Content Officer. MarketingProfs has huge influence, with more than 600,000 subscribers.

As a digital marketing pioneer, Ann herself has built an audience of a whopping 465,000 on LinkedIn, and 455,000 on Twitter.

Ann regularly gives keynote speeches at events, and her book ‘Everybody Writes’ is an international bestseller with multiple editions. Let’s not forget that MarketingProfs’ B2B Marketing Forum is the ‘premier global marketing event for business-to-business marketers.’

Her personal brand blends the digital world with the physical world, and she’s become a household name among marketers.

You can find her @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley across social media.

Rand Fishkin

Anyone familiar with SEO will have heard of Rand Fishkin.

Best known as co-founder and CEO of SEO software Moz, and more recently SparkToro, the audience research platform.

Rand has built a personal brand on social media, demonstrating expertise in SEO, digital marketing and building startups. His influence in the B2B marketing world is vast. If Rand endorses a software, digital marketers know it’s good.

You can find him @RandFish on Twitter and @RandFishkin on LinkedIn.

Jeff Bullas

Described by Forbes as a ‘Top Influencer’ of Chief Marketing Officers, Jeff’s blog and social content educates and inspires marketers across the globe.

Jeff reaches over 25 million people each year through his blog and podcast, with a social following of over 700,000. He covers everything from social media marketing and SEO to Personal Growth.

Jeff’s role as a B2B influencer is clear, with prominently displayed links to ‘Sponsored Content’ and ‘Influencer Services’ at the top of his website.

Find him @JeffBullas on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Where To Find B2B Influencers

The key to successfully finding B2B influencers is to be specific. Find out who is influential in your niche.
LinkedIn is the perfect place to start. Use the search filters to find the experts you’re looking for.
Another excellent place to find industry thought leaders is at in-person networking events, or conferences. B2B influencers are the types of people who would run workshops or give keynote speeches.
And don’t forget about your customers. The power of referrals is real! Some of your best brand advocates are likely to be existing clients. They’re the ones sending others your way, leaving positive reviews, and engaging with your social content.
3 Challenges of B2B Influencer Marketing

The Challenges of B2B Influencer Marketing

No marketing strategy is without its challenges, but influencer marketing can be particularly tricky. These are the common challenges we see with B2B influencer campaigns:

1. Demonstrating ROI

Influencer marketing can be difficult to track, as a lot of the results aren’t tangible.
For example, a client might have seen content about your brand on social media, before Googling it. This is what we call dark social, where the impact of social media isn’t directly attributable.
In B2B, it’s more difficult to show ROI, because the sales journey is a lot longer and more complex. Can you really say “this new client signed a contract due to social media”, when your sales team worked hard building a relationship over months?
You’ll need to develop a multi-touch attribution model to get over this hurdle.

2. Not Having Clear KPIs

This goes hand-in-hand with proving ROI. What often happens with influencer marketing campaigns is that they have a general goal of ‘increasing awareness.
You need to establish clear KPIs that show how this activity is helping you reach business goals.
Example KPIs for a B2B Influencer Marketing Campaign could include:
  • Newsletter signups
  • Marketing-qualified leads
  • Website clicks
  • Opt-in downloads
  • Impressions & Engagement on Social Media

3. Finding The Right Influencers

If anything, you need to be more careful with who you choose to work with as an influencer in the B2B space than B2C.
You’ll want to choose influencers that genuinely hold authority within your industry, and have the expertise to create convincing content about your business.
By nature, most B2B influencers have full-time jobs. This means they’re more restricted than traditional influencers in several ways.
While traditional influencers often work on content full time, with B2B influencers, their job, of course, takes priority. They may even have restrictions on what kind of work they can take on.
They may also have conflicting partnerships, such as with a competitor of yours.
Trust is everything, so if they’re promoting various solutions to the same problem, it won’t come across as authentic.
Finally, influencers you work with need to truly understand your product/services. Factor in the time it’ll take for them to become familiar with what you offer.
Rather than simple ‘unboxing’ videos or surface-level reviews often seen in traditional influencer marketing campaigns, the B2B audience expects detailed analysis and expert knowledge.
Percentage of Employees Sharing Content on LinkedIn

How Employee Influencers Take B2B Marketing To The Next Level

What if instead of spending time and budget on external influencers, you could have your own in-house influencers?
The benefits are huge.
Your employees know your product/services better than any influencer ever could. You won’t need to spend hours (and dollars) onboarding them.
They’ll also be much more motivated to drive results compared to your standard B2B influencer, as they have a vested interest in your company succeeding.
Depending on their role within your organization, employee influencers’ social media activity can directly contribute to their responsibilities, for example by nurturing leads if they work in sales.
When analyzing 100 different industries, we discovered that tech unicorns have an average of 18.65% of employees sharing content on LinkedIn. Compare this to the average of 5.9% and you can see why the unicorns are unicorns!
Our research revealed the clear link between company social media presence and stock price.
There’s simply no easier way to generate awareness and interest than on social media.
Top candidates for employee influencers

Top Candidates For Employee Influencers

Your CEO / Senior Leadership Team
People expect leadership to be active on social media. It’s no longer a bonus, it’s a must. Alongside corporate-social responsibility, buyers nowadays expect accountability and visibility. Show the human side of your brand, and you’ll be rewarded for it. No more hiding behind corporate accounts!
Sales teams are likely to see the biggest return from building their social media presence. They’ll have a vested interest in growing their network. Ultimately, sharing content on social helps attract an audience, nurture existing relationships, and will allow your sales team to be ‘front-of-mind’ among prospects.
It goes without saying, but when starting your employee influencer journey, marketing should be on-board. They’re your expert content creators, and they want your content seen. Their job performance KPIs are likely to align with the goals of your employee influencer program.
Customer Success / Account Managers
Who knows your clients better than your customer success team?
They understand the pain points of your target audience, and how your product/service alleviates them.
Customer success managers are pros at building relationships. An active social media presence will also help them maintain relationships with existing clients.
As most B2B companies have fewer clients, but with a higher value, your goal should be to maintain current partnerships alongside bringing in new clients.

The Future of B2B Influencers

What’s in store for B2B influencers?
In a word: growth.
The number of people creating content on LinkedIn is growing daily. It has evolved from a job-searching website, to a fully-fledged professional social media platform. Early adopters will reap the benefits, just like those who starting creating Instagram content back in 2016.
Companies that encourage social media use at work will build trust much faster than those who restrict it.
As the industry grows, it’ll become more competitive. The quality of content produced will improve, as will the number of B2B influencers.
Start now, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Ready to start an employee advocacy program that your team will actually want to participate in?

Book a demo of DSMN8, the all-in-one Employee Advocacy Platform.


Emily Neal

SEO and Content Specialist at DSMN8. Emily has 10 years experience blogging, and is a pro at Pinterest Marketing, reaching 1 million monthly views. She’s all about empowering employees to grow their personal brands and become influencers.