Dec 7, 2009


 By Jeffrey L. Cohen

Many B2B industries are small with a handful of influencers and thought leaders. It is relatively easy to discover the influencers in these types of niches, but if you are operating in a larger arena, or you want to connect with others in the larger sector from where you operate, here are some ideas for doing that. Kipp recently wrote a post about commenting on blogs as a way to connect with other bloggers and build community within your industry. These connections help get the word out about your products and services.
Before you can comment, you must find top blogs in your industry. The bloggers are one set of influencers in your industry. Here are nine steps you can take to find the influencers, both online and offline.
1. Google Search
Every search begins with a Google search and this is no exception. This is a good way to get the lay of the land and find the top results. Search for niche industry terms, answers to questions, and even customer complaint topics. Google will return individual posts, articles and sites that are relevant to your searches. Since Google’s search algorithm takes into account traffic, links and relevancy, the top results are the ones that others will see in response their searches. The writers of these top sites are influencers.
2. Google Blog Search
In addition to searching the general web, Google allows you to search just blogs. Follow the same procedure above to limit your search to just blogs. Many of the higher ranked blogs will show up in a general web search, some others will rise to the top of the blog search, that would otherwise get lost in a full web search. Again, search for a variety of industry terms, questions, solutions, and problems. Since many blog post titles are written to answer some of these questions, expect more specific results than were returned above.
3. Other Search Engines
According to comScore, Google provided approximately 65% of search results in the US in October. Without even taking into account the rest of the world, where Google is a bit lower (and might be where you are located), 35% of online search results use other sites to find their results. That is a huge percentage to ignore if you are looking to find results across an industry. And don’t just look at Yahoo and Bing, but consider local sites too. For example, Baidu, China’s leading search engine is responsible for 62% of the country’s search volume.
4. Twitter
If you are reading this blog, there’s not much to say about using Twitter to find influencers. Make sure you use Twitter search to find people tweeting about your industry or niche, find Twitter lists using Listorious, and use tools like Twitter Grader and TweepSearch to find users by location, keywords and bios.
5. LinkedIn
Review your LinkedIn connections for industry leaders. You may already be connected to some, and it is time to build those relationships. Search for known influencers and see if you connections are linked to them. Stay on top of industry groups and look for interaction from thought leaders or references to thought leaders. Connect with people through LinkedIn and take those relationships to other means of communication for nuturing and strengthening.
6. Technorati
One of the original blog directories, Technorati, is still a good way to find blogs in your area. You can search for both posts and blogs, and Technorati shows an authority ranking for each blog from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest.
Authority is calculated based on a site’s linking behavior, categorization and other associated data over a short, finite period of time. A site’s authority may rapidly rise and fall depending on what the blogosphere is discussing at the moment, and how often a site produces content being referenced by other sites.
7. Industry Publications
Even though their publications may be struggling as they try to find the right balance between print and online, the publishers, editors and writers of trade publications are the original B2B influencers. While their influence has waned, they are still probably the most well-connected people in your industry. Develop and cultivate relationships with them. They are very accessible, and willing to connect, but make sure you give in return. Sign up for their webinars and email newsletters. Share their content on your social networks. Place real value on their relationship, because you don’t know where they might wind up next. They could become your next customer or competitor.
8. Trade Shows and Conferences
Are trade shows and conferences a holdover from the old school world, or have they been strengthened and re-invigorated by online connections? Networking has always been an important part of these events, but now you can go with an agenda and a list of influencers to meet in-person. Contact several of the people you found online and arrange to meet for coffee or lunch. Read Chris Brogan’s post about preparing for conference for more suggestions who to get more out of the conference besides real life connections with industry influencers.
9. Talk to Company Executives
And finally, don’t overlook your own company executives. Some may be industry influencers themselves, but they also have connections that they have met over the years. Make sure you mine those connections and ask for introductions, whether by email, phone conference or in person. The more ways you can connect with people, the stronger those relationships.
Once you find these influencers, develop relationships with them, whether through blog comments, twitter messages, answering questions on LinkedIn, or meeting for coffee at a trade show. Think of this process as a bit like the sales process where you develop leads and work them for a result, which in this case is the spreading of your message or content. You can manage this informally, or even consider a basic CRM system to keep you on track.
How are you mining you industry and contacts to find your B2B Industry Influencers?