The power of B2B influencers…in numbers

Here at Apollo Research we have an extensive program that analyses the groups that our clients target such as CIOs, Network Managers, Developers, Marketers, etc. to identify not only who influences those groups but also the extent to which they influence them.

The program, which we call Apollo Target, has been running for over a year now and many of our clients use the information we have compiled on a daily basis to improve their influencer relations programs.

The data still continues to surprise us and giving us real insight into who the really important influencers are, and the extent to which they individually and collectively penetrate our clients’ target groups.

In this article we look at two discreet influencer groups that influence Chief Information Security Officers in the USA. The first group are technology news sources such as Threatpost and Dark Reading. The second group are  security professionals such as HD Moore and Jack Daniel.


To get a real understanding of how any group of influencers affect a target audience we need to consider both their individual and their collective ability to impact.

For example, we know that the news source with the greatest reach amongst USA based CISOs is Threatpost which reaches 18.3 per cent of them, and the source with the second highest reach is Dark Reading (with a reach of 17.6 per cent.) So, does it follow that if a company got a mention in both sources its total reach would be 35.9 per cent? Sadly not, because many CISOs read both sources the actual total reach is just 21.4 per cent. So if the company has already been mentioned in Threatpost and are then successful in getting another mention in Dark Reading then they will only reach an additional 3.1 per cent of CISOs.

But its exposure (impacts) per CISO rises from 1 to 1.7. This means that each of the CISOs that read either, or both, of the two sources have had the opportunity to see the company name 1.7 times.

So is it better to reach 21.4 per cent of CISOs 1.7 times or get two articles in Threatpost and reach 18.3 per cent of CISOs twice? I don’t know the answer, that’s one for the strategists. But the crucial point is that this data is now available and it’s great to see our clients using this data to shape their media schedules and direct their valuable advertising, sponsorship and PR budgets to the areas that will give them the greatest return on their investment.

The chart below shows the top fifty media sources read by CISOs in the USA.

The green dots show the reach for each of the sources organised in descending level of reach. For example, the source ranked number one is Threatpost with a reach of 18.3 per cent and next to it is the second highest ranked source, Dark Reading, with a 17.6 per cent reach…and so on.

The blue line is the combined reach of each source as you add each of the sources together. For example, when you add Threatpost to Dark Reading the total combined reach is 21.4 per cent and when you add in the third ranked source the reach increases to 24 per cent… and so on.

You can see how quickly the law of diminishing returns applies to combined reach. The top ten sources will deliver a reach of 36 per cent, while the next 40 sources will only deliver a further 7 per cent of CISOs. That’s a lot of effort and expense for a very small return.

The red line is the number of exposures (impacts) if you were to get one mention in each of the sources. This is important when measuring ‘effective frequency’, an advertising term, which is the number of times a person is exposed to a message before eliciting a response and before any further exposure would be regarded as a waste. The number varies depending on which theory you subscribe to, but it’s important to understand how the incremental exposures grow as the combined audience reach increases.


So if you thought news sources were tricky then the influencer marketing issues become a great deal more complex when we look at the actual security professionals that influence CISOs.

Notice the extraordinary difference between this data in the chart below and the technology news source data.

Starting with the individual reach, all fifty of these influencers from HD Moore at Rapid7 (1st) to Allison Miller at Google (50th) reach nearly 9 per cent of USA based CISOs. In contrast only the top ten news sources have a higher reach than Allison Miller! Any of you who don’t think influencer marketing is important then you might want to re-consider.

Now, if we look at the combined reach we can see that overall the combined reach across all fifty is less than the top fifty news sources but look at how shallow the combined reach curve is compared to the news sources.

In this group HD Moore has a reach of 22 per cent (which is significantly greater than Threatpost’s reach) whilst the second ranked specialist, Jack Daniel at Tenable, has a reach of 19.6 per cent (also higher than Threatpost). But their combined reach is 24.1 per cent. So if you were lucky enough to get HD Moore to mention your company and then, by extraordinary coincidence, Jack Daniel also mentioned your company then you would add an extra 2.1 per cent of CISOs.

So what we see here is a slightly smaller number of CISOs following many different security specialists and this is reflected in the impacts line. As an extreme example, if you were completely brilliant at influencer marketing and you managed to get all these specialists to mention your company then despite the fact that your overall reach would be 6.8 per cent lower than if you got in the top fifty news feeds, each CISO reached would have the opportunity to see your message an average of 17.2 times – three times higher than the news feeds.

There is now an enormous opportunity for all marketing and PR practitioners. A few years ago we all had a reasonable idea of where to place our advertising or PR to get maximum return for our effort and investment.

Today, however, it’s much tougher thanks to the explosion in social media. Who would have thought a few years ago that Dark Reading would have fewer CISO followers than HD Moore at Rapid 7? The key to influencer marketing is knowing who to target and engage with. With so many points of influence it is easy to spend a lot of resource engaging with influencers who appear to be authoritative but actually deliver a negligible or inappropriate audience.

In our experience, many technology companies flounder as they try to make sense of this incredibly fragmented influencer landscape. As a result some have headed off in the wrong direction which has been both expensive and unrewarding. They now view influencer relations with an understandable level of doubt and cynicism. But others, armed with the right information are making tremendous headway.