However faddy influencer marketing might have become, the concept of influence is a useful one – anything that gets us away from vanity metrics (Get me 1m followers now – I don’t care who they are!) and onto something more meaningful has to be a bonus.

Influence is a metric social media marketers can actually work with – and something non-experts can easily understand. Well, hooray for that.

This week Brandwatch soft-launched Audiences, a product that trawls data from user bios and content on Twitter to bring you instant, real-time insights into who’s leading the conversations that matter to your brand.

Audiences is super-easy to use. It’s been designed with social networks in mind, rather than the typical analytics tool which requires fiddly Boolean inputs to get results. You can search for key influencers in any group you’re interested in by profession or interest. And refine your results using location, account type and gender.

Role models are good to have, and my clients often want to know who’s doing Twitter right. So I used Audiences to search for the best CEOs on Twitter right now, in terms of UK influence. Here’s what the top five looks like (there’s at least one glaring exception in Richard Branson – but I guess that’s what happens when you describe yourself simply as “Dr.Yes”):

Top UK CEOs on Twitter
UK CEOs on Twitter – top search results

The important thing is who these CEOs are actually speaking to. The most influential CEO in the UK appears to be the American leader of a global entertainment company. His audience is mostly made up of diehard wrestling fans. Influential he may be, but his success isn’t something CEOs of smaller UK businesses could immediately emulate.

By contrast, Kaz Aston’s influence is almost as strong. And the people she’s talking to are all in themselves highly influential in her field – medical PR and journalism. So she could be someone worth looking at – seemingly creating a virtuous circle.

The trouble is when you get to these heady heights of Twitter, being an influencer in itself can be a lucrative revenue stream. So number 4 on the list, Caroline Receveur, while setting up and running a perfectly respectable detox tea company, now uses her Twitter feed (like her Instagram and Snapchat) to mostly endorse other people’s products.

Which takes us back to the sticky issue of influencer marketing. It can be something of a hall of mirrors. At what point does an influencer become just another salesperson? And what about career “influencers”? You need to dig deep to find value.

Here’s that list of the top 100 UK CEOs on Twitter (handily exportable from Audiences in .csv format). In amongst worthy people I know – such as Jacqueline Gold (genuinely supportive – above), Jorgen Sundberg and Lucy Marcus – there are others who definitely shouldn’t be there. Which I guess is a reflection of many situations in real life. And a good reason to never take any automated results at face value.

Audiences is available to existing Brandwatch customers as an affordable add-on. If you can access it, it’s definitely worth a play. If you can’t, well, I’d love to know what you think of my top 100 UK CEO influencers!