10 Top LinkedIn Open Networkers and Connectors to Follow in 2011

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It has been almost two years since I wrote my blog post recommending a list of 10 LinkedIn LIONs and Connectors to connect with, and I still receive thank yous from my readers for writing it.  Well, it’s 2011, this blog has changed, my life has changed, and LinkedIn and social media in general have changed.  If I was going to do a new list finding 10 new super-connected open networkers who I recommend that you follow or contact on LinkedIn, who would they be?  That is the objective of this post, and because I have had the chance to personally meet or directly or indirectly interact with so many of these connectors, I can weave my own personal experiences to better illustrate who they are.

Before I introduce these 10 great open networkers to you, I need to remind you that it is against LinkedIn’s User Agreement to invite someone in your network who you don’t personally know.  This is because LinkedIn was created to be a trusted network of professionals.  I also understand that every LinkedIn user has their own personal connection policy, so I am not going to preach one way or the other.  I will say that LinkedIn has added a Follow feature which gives you the ability to follow Group discussions of others before connecting with them, so even if you are not a LinkedIn LION, feel free to Follow them or join the same Group and engage them in discussion.  You should also know that of these 10 members, Gerald Haman has probably already reached the 30,000 LinkedIn connection limit, so do not be disappointed if he cannot accept you into his network.  Gerald, if you’re reading this, please confirm!

Note that the following are all based in the United States and industry stats are based on U.S. rankings as of the time writing this post:

1. Gerald Haman – #9 – in United States

Gerald is better known as the “Solutionman” on LinkedIn as well as the creator of tens of “Innovator” LinkedIn Groups, including his largest “Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators” which has over 100,000 members and is at present the 14th largest group on LinkedIn.  Gerald is also an adjunct professor of innovation at Northwestern University, but he is most famous for the company he founded called SolutionPeople.  He is recognized by clients as “Solutionman” because of his ability to quickly help people develop breakthrough solutions. Since launching SolutionPeople in 1989, Haman has helped clients generate more than three million ideas valued at over two billion dollars.  SolutionPeople has helped over 160 of the Fortune 500 companies and customers in 26 countries.  One person I’d love to have a chat with someday at a Starbucks…

2. Thubten Comerford – #65 in United States

Thubten is someone that I am proud to say I had a chance to meet last year in Portland, Oregon.  Someone who has deep spiritual experience (his past experience includes being an ordained monk for a Tibetan temple) as he does a successful track record in business, Thubten is one of the most genuinely nice and caring individuals you will be lucky to meet.  A social media consultant, he is someone you should definitely check out should you have a chance to get to Portland.  Here’s the video of me interviewing him last year in Portland to get a better feel for who he is and what he does:

3. Gary Zukowski – #78 in United States

Another top connector who I have had the chance to meet is Gary Zukowski.  We both presented at the Gov 2.5 conference put on Bob Fine, who’s social media case studies book I contributed to.  I had a chance to hear the whole history of Gary’s company, TweetMyJOBS, came into existence as well as how Gary himself is personally trying to help so many through their job search by paying it forward in a variety of ways.  TweetMyJOBS, by the way, is the largest Job Board and Recruiting Solution on Twitter.  With worldwide presence, it is said to be the most effective solution to reach candidates in the twittersphere.  Connect with Gary, then check out his website.

4. Chris Brogan – #19 in Marketing and Advertising

Chris and I seem to always miss each other, because whenever he’s in Orange County I’m out of town!  I assume that you already know who Chris Brogan is, so I believe no introduction is necessary.  Although I haven’t had a chance to engage with Chris on LinkedIn, I have had the chance to tweet with him a few times where he clearly pointed out that he was a “promiscuous connector” on LinkedIn.  After reading a lot of Chris’ blog posts on LinkedIn, I think he is a closet Windmill Networker ;-)  Regardless, Chris is a genuinely intelligent and awesome open networker who you would be foolish not to want to be part of you network.  Chris, that offer to send you my book is still on, by the way ;-)

5. Chris Perry – #32 in Marketing and Advertising

Career Rocketeer is one of the leading personal branding and job search blogs that exist.  The site was founded and run by Chris Perry, and Chris is one of the brightest Gen Y branding strategists out there.  Connect up with Chris and check out his website for the latest career tips.  I personally look forward to meeting him for the first time next time I am in the Big Apple.

6. Olivier Taupin – #6 in Internet

Linked:HR is the largest of the more than 850,000 LinkedIn Groups that exist, boasting a membership of over 350,000 professionals.  If you have ever created your own social media community, you can only imagine that this was not an easy task.  I have never had the chance to meet or speak to Olivier, but I plan to be in Seattle this summer and hope to have the chance to have a cup of java with him at Pike’s Place Square and absorb his knowledge.

7. Christopher Penn – #44 in Internet

I have never met Christopher in real life but feel like I have already had lots of conversations with him through his newsletters.  Chris Brogan recently wrote a blog post on newsletters that he’d pay for, and Christopher’s was one of them.  His newsletter also influenced the recent revamping of my own which earned me my highest click-through rate ever!  If you haven’t joined my own social media strategy newsletter you should, but more importantly you HAVE to join Christopher’s newsletter, which covers advice on all things marketing and social media, if you are a reader of this blog.  Christopher’s a true open networker who even goes out of his way on each newsletter to include the following text:

As always, if we’re connected on LinkedIn, I will gladly forward any job connection request to anyone else in my network that I can help you reach.

I haven’t met Christopher yet, but seeing how popular of a speaker he is, I’m sure I’ll be meeting him sometime soon somewhere in the near future…

8. Jay Deragon – #34 in Online Media

The name Jay Deragon might seem familiar to you if you remember my post on 10 new social medial bloggers to follow in 2011 which mentioned him.  He reached out to me for the first time after publishing that post, and I realized that Jay is on a mission to change the way we all fly with an exciting new venture called Social Flights.  I won’t go into details here, but Jay is an incredibly intelligent, savvy and thought-leading social media strategist who I highly recommend you connect with as well.

9. Vincent Wright – #80 in Online Media

Early in LinkedIn history, there was a powerful Yahoo Group community created for professionals on LinkedIn who wanted to engage in active open networking called My LinkedIn Power Forum.  That strong community still exists and is now called Brandergy, but even more vibrant is the founder of the group Vincent Wright.  Vincent is someone who has personally touched the lives of many networkers in a positive way, and when I reached out to him recently knowing that I was going to be in his home base of Hartford, CT, he responded to me as if we had known each other for years even though we have never met.  Vincent reminds me of how real the people are behind so many LinkedIn profiles…

10. Miles Austin -#32 in Professional Training & Coaching

Although Miles and I have never met, a discussion in a LinkedIn Group prompted a phone call from him as if we were childhood friends.  This gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, and allowed me the opportunity to understand how Miles is helping so many businesses through his consulting and speaking with effectively maximizing their use of web tools (his nickname is “The Web Tools Guy”), one of them being social media.  In fact, Miles is recognized as one of the leading authorities on web tools for sales and marketing success.  Miles is for real and is a great example of an open networker who is both intelligent and understands the value of being open and connecting with others.

If you were curious, my ranking would be #38 in the United States, and of course if we are not already connected on LinkedIn, you would send me an invitation by accessing my LinkedIn profile.  You should also know that my LinkedIn Group for social media education and open networking is on a growth spurt, so if you’re looking to expand your network with other real professionals who share a similar interest in social media, please join!

The minute I post this, some of you are going to start recommending other LIONs & Super Connectors that did not make my list.  I welcome all suggestions for open networkers to recommend, so please drop a comment below.

Happy Networking Everyone!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
@mqtodd Thanks for sharing Michael! - 55 mins ago
Neal Schaffer
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Comments

    • says

      Hi Erin,

      You make a valid point. That being said, not that I made an attempt to exclude women from this list, but of the top 50 connected American individuals on LinkedIn, only 4 are women, and 1 of them, Stacy Donovan Zapar, made my original list.

      Why women represent only 4 out of the top 50 connectors on LinkedIn is a subject worthy of further investigation.

      On the other hand, as I mentioned at the end of the blog post, if I missed anyone that you would recommend, please add them to the comments!

      • says

        Neal, first of all, thank you for including me on your list. I still feel as if I am fumbling around with LinkedIn, taking my direction from you and many others on the list. I am honored with your kind words.

        Erin’s comment gave me one of those “huh” moments, and point well taken. I would definitely consider Viveka von Rosen of @SmartBlondMedia and #LinkedInChat one of the top LinkedIn Connectors and one of the top women. She exemplifies what LinkedIn is all about and shares her knowledge every week on Tuesday at 8:00 pm EST/5:00 pm PST on #LinkedInChat.

        • says

          Thanks Miles – and, after contacting Stacy Donovan Zapar on Twitter, she recommended Viveka as well as @LinkedInQueen for mention. I’ll work on a follow up concentrating on those women who exemplify what open networking, and LinkedIn, are all about.

  1. says

    Neal, thanks kindly for including me in #Linkedin Connectors. Minor correction: though there is a 3 year old version on Ning, that original http://www.MyLinkedinPowerForum.com (February 9, 2005) was/is on YAHOO groups.

    These are the two respective links:
    1. http://MyLinkingPowerForum.ning.com (3 years old (5,000 members)) and
    2. http://Brandergy.com (Originally http://www.MyLinkedinPowerForum.com and 6 years old (8,200 members))

    As always, let me know if I can ever be of help, ok?

    Keep STRONG, Neal!
    +Vincent Wright

  2. Bob Dunn says

    Looks like a great list, but I clicked on Miles Austin’s link and ended up someone else’s page. Bummer : )

  3. says

    Congrats to my buddy Thubten. I met Thubten when he lived in Denver.
    He is one of the good people, he always has a kind word and a gentle smile for you.

    Yes good guys can finish first!

    -djm

  4. says

    This is a great list, Neal. I think when connecting with someone you don’t know, except through participation in a group, it is important to personalize the invitation. Why you want to connect with that person and whey s/he should want to connect with you.

  5. Dc says

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