Whether you personally love or hate listicles that mention industry influencers and people to watch, you can't deny the value of knowing who your audience pays attention to. Anyone your audience follows closely and perceives as influential is someone who should be on your radar. Knowing who these people are is a simple first step to encouraging those influencers to advocate for your brand (and even landing yourself on a list of marketing influencers).

This week, an Apollo Research report on followers of digital marketers in the U.S. came across my desk. It's a fairly detailed report with good data about various influencers and the number of followers each has in the digital marketing space.

The report found that nearly 7,500 digital marketers in the U.S. follow almost 1.2 million unique Twitter accounts. The top 300 accounts in the report are followed by more than 75 percent of the sample audience, and this graph visualizes the top 20 people who are followed by digital marketers in the U.S.

A lot of factors go into obtaining and building influence, and this data specifically focuses on how many people are following each influencer, not necessarily how engaged those followers are. Still, it's a strong point of data about who your audience is paying attention to -- especially when you consider the fact that these U.S.-based marketing decision makers will manage more than $100 billion in digital marketing spend by 2019.

Each digital marketer on this list has developed a solid personal brand and built relationships with his or her audience, and that's not exactly easy to do. I've spent the past several months growing my Twitter account, @johnhall, from the ballpark of about 5,000 followers to close to 50,000 through a stronger content strategy, consistent tweeting, tapping into my networks, and following and engaging with more influential people -- but building an impressive following doesn't happen overnight.

Whether you love or love to hate these kinds of lists, they are valuable. True influence is hard to nail down, so it's good to look at the big picture and keep these people on your radar:

1. Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz

In 2004, Rand Fishkin co-founded one of the top marketing software companies in the world, Moz. He was the CEO from 2007 to 2014; today, he serves as "The Wizard of Moz," speaking all over the world about SEO and digital marketing. If you haven't seen his "Whiteboard Friday" videos, you really should.

Follow Rand on Twitter: @RandFish

2. Ann Handley, Founder of MarketingProfs and Author

As the world's first chief content officer, Ann Handley speaks and writes about how you can rethink the way your business markets. She's the CCO of MarketingProfs, the co-founder of ClickZ, and the author of several books, including "Everybody Writes" and "Content Rules."

Follow Ann on Twitter: @AnnHandley and @MarketingProfs

3. Jay Baer, CEO of Convince & Convert and Author of "Youtility" and "Hug Your Haters"

Jay Baer is a renowned business strategist, an inspirational keynote speaker, and the author of five books on The New York Times Best Sellers list. He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a strategy consulting firm, which is home to the No. 1 content marketing blog in the world.

Follow Jay on Twitter: @jaybaer

4. Larry Kim, Founder of WordStream

Larry Kim is the founder of WordStream, an online advertising platform for Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and keyword research tools used by more than 1 million marketers. He's a top columnist at Inc., Search Engine Land, and Social Media Today, and he's also a keynote speaker.

Follow Larry on Twitter: @LarryKim

5. Matt Cutts, Google

Matt Cutts is the former head of Google's webspam team and is currently working with the United States Digital Service.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattCutts

6. Walt Mossberg, Editor-at-Large, Recode

Walt Mossberg is an American journalist who was the principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal from 1991 through 2013. He is currently the executive editor of The Verge and editor-at-large of Recode, websites owned by Vox Media. He is also the co-producer of the annual Code Conference.

Follow Walt on Twitter: @WaltMossberg

7. Avinash Kaushik, Author, Blogger, and Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google

Avinash Kaushik is an entrepreneur, an author, a public speaker, and the founder of Market Motive. In his writing and speaking, Kaushik has championed the principle of aggregation of marginal gains and has encouraged simplifying the perceived complexity of data analytics. Kaushik has been the digital marketing evangelist for Google since 2007.

Follow Avinash on Twitter: @Avinash

8. Danny Sullivan, Co-founder of Third Door Media

Danny Sullivan started his career as a newspaper journalist. He then created Search Engine Watch and left to found Third Door Media. TDM puts on the popular SMX conferences, which includes the MarTech Conference. Danny also co-founded Search Engine Land and Marketing Land.

Follow Danny on Twitter: @DannySullivan

9. Brian Solis, Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group; Author; and Keynote Speaker

Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders, speakers, and published authors in new technology, digital marketing, and culture shifts. He is the author of "X: The Experience When Business Meets Design," along with three other bestselling books.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianSolis

10. Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, Four-Time NYT Bestselling Author

Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur in the truest sense. He founded his first business as a kid, selling baseball cards at local card shows. He helped his family's liquor store, Wine Library, grow from a $3 million business to one valued at $60 million. He co-founded VaynerMedia, a digital media agency, with his brother AJ in 2009. He is the author of four books and the creator of the #AskGaryVee Show.

Follow Gary on Twitter: @GaryVee

11. Seth Godin, Author, Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Public Speaker

Seth Godin is the author of 18 bestselling books that have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about everything from the post-Industrial Revolution and the way ideas spread to marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books "Linchpin," "Tribes," "The Dip," and "Purple Cow."

Follow Seth on Twitter: @ThisIsSethsBlog

12. Cynthia Johnson, Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Columnist

Cynthia Johnson is an entrepreneur, speaker, and columnist focused on personal branding and digital marketing. She was the managing partner and head of marketing for RankLab, which was acquired by American Addiction Centers, and she is now the director of brand development. She is also a member of the Global Board of Directors for the Social Media Club.

Follow Cynthia on Twitter: @CynthiaLive

13. Guy Kawasaki, Entrepreneur, Author, Former Evangelist of Apple

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva and the co-founder of Alltop. In addition to his work at Canva, he is a writer (of 13 books), speaker, startup advisor, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia), Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador, and executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley.

Follow Guy on Twitter: @GuyKawasaki

14. Matt Heinz, Marketer and Entrepreneur

Matt Heinz focuses on B2B demand generation, pipeline management, sales enablement, and content strategy. Heinz held various positions at organizations such as Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, the Seattle Mariners, Market Leader, and Verdiem. In 2007, he co-founded Heinz Marketing to help clients focus their businesses on market and customer opportunities, then execute a plan to scale revenue and customer growth.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @HeinzMarketing

15. Mari Smith, Author and Facebook Marketing Thought Leader

Mari Smith has been building her platform on a strong background in internet marketing since 1999. She is widely known as a Facebook marketing expert; she's also a bestselling author and brand evangelist. Mari is a keynote speaker who has shared the stage with people like Richard Branson, the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, and Tony Robbins. If you have a question about Facebook marketing, she can answer it.

Follow Mari on Twitter: @MariSmith

16. Joe Pulizzi, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Lover of All Things Orange

Joe Pulizzi is an author, a speaker, and an evangelist, as well as a content marketing expert dedicated to helping companies grow profits by creating better content. One of the founders of the content marketing movement, Joe launched what is now Content Marketing Institute back in 2007 as a true online resource for those interested in content marketing and brand storytelling. Joe started using the term "content marketing" back in 2001. His latest book is "Content Inc."

Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoePulizzi

17. Chris Brogan, CEO, Owner Media Group; Advisor; Author; and Speaker

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Chris Brogan is CEO of Owner Media Group, providing strategy and skills for the modern business. He is also a highly sought-after professional speaker and the author of nine books and counting on The New York Times Best Sellers list. His latest is "Find Your Writing Voice."

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

18. Neil Patel, Author, Marketer, and Entrepreneur

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Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics, and Hello Bar. He enjoys helping small- and medium-sized businesses grow using innovative marketing techniques. He is an entrepreneur, an investor, and a columnist for Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, and The Huffington Post.

Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilpatel

19. Travis Wright, Author, Entrepreneur, and Marketing Technologist

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Travis Wright is the CMTO and co-founder of CCP Digital with more than 20 years of marketing experience. He was the former global digital and social strategist at Symantec for the Norton brand. Wright is a marketing keynote speaker, a columnist at Inc., and the co-host of the Venture Beat VB Engage podcast. He has also performed stand-up comedy since the 1990s. His first book, "Digital Sense," publishes in January 2017 through Wiley.

Follow Travis on Twitter: @teedubya

20. Jeff Bullas, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Blogger

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Jeff Bullas is a digital entrepreneur, marketing blogger, keynote speaker, digital strategist, consultant, and bestselling author. He works with companies and executives to grow their online personal brands and businesses through social, digital, and marketing automation. He has spent most of his business career involved with information technologies, telecommunications, and the web. His blog, jeffbullas.com, receives more than 5 million visitors a year.

Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffbullas

Published on: Dec 8, 2016