Wikipedia defines a thought leader as
…an entity that is recognized by peers for having innovative ideas. Thought leaders often publish articles and blog posts on trends and topics influencing an industry.
I often get asked who are the true “thought leaders” in social media. In a world of voluminous tweets and blog posts, with many contributors simply compiling lists of other’s content or rehashing of other’s ideas, it really is hard to decipher who are those that are not only recognized by their peers but also have “innovative” ideas with regards to various aspects of social media.
An interesting conversation in my Social Media Strategies for Business LinkedIn Group, which you should all join if you haven’t already, led to the list which I am going to publish below. It all started by this question from a member:
Aside from you of course Neal! Who would you (those in group) identify as the hot thought leaders and/or users of social media. Those who have just been getting it right in terms of providing insight, information and utlization.
Considering that those in the group are social media practitioners and thus could be considered “peers,” below is the list of everyone who was mentioned. This is by no means an authoritative or comprehensive list – as there weren’t too many contributors – but it is a good (and eclectic!) snapshot of some that have been recognized and are good to follow to get top advice from perceived thought leaders on a wide variety of social media-related topics. Note that everyone is listed here in order of when they appeared in the discussion, earliest being on top.
Brian Solis – Brian is the prolific author of Engage!, The End of Business As Usual, and Putting the Public Back in Public Relations. More importantly, though, he is someone who is always pushing the ball forward on our understanding of social media, and provides new and unique insight with every speech.
Jeremiah Owyang – While Jeremiah hasn’t written any books (I wish he would!), he is the leading industry analyst at the leading social media think tank Altimeter Group. If you go back to Jeremiah’s blog posts from a few years ago you will recognize the tremendous insight that he has – and if you have the chance to see him speak here and today, you’ll be on your way to better understanding the future direction of social business.
Charlene Li – Charlene is the founder of the above mentioned Altimeter Group and is also the co-author of one of the historically groundbreaking books on social media: Groundswell. Her more recent book, Open Leadership, is also a highly recommended read.
Seth Godin – As group member Jennifer Bulman eloquently wrote, “Parse a post by Seth Godin. Every sentence is useful and every sentence is tweetable.” Although Seth is known more for being a general marketing guru, I’ve already blogged at length at what Seth Godin taught me about social media marketing. Seth leads while everyone else follows. Seth has written a plethora of books, but I would start by reading what I believe to be his classic 3: Tribes, Purple Cow, and Permission Marketing.
Jeff Bullas – Jeff is an amazing blogger hailing from Australia who is constantly giving out very concrete advice to help us all in our social media marketing and was mentioned by multiple people in the discussion as being worthy of being on this list. It is a shame that Jeff is our only non-American on this list – please do share in the comments who else from outside the United States deserves a place here!
Beth Kanter – Beth is without a doubt a thought leader often mentioned in relationship to the realm of social media for nonprofits. Author of the classic The Networked Nonprofit, Beth brings to us knowledge and experience that can be utilized for any organization, not-for-profit or for-profit.
Katya Andresen – Another thought leader in the nonprofit space is Katya Andresen, who wrote the classic Robin Hood Marketing back in 2006 and still is active in blogging at her Non-Profit Marketing Blog.
Mark Schaefer – Mark has made a name for himself in social media by not only being extremely active and engaging both within social media and on his blog, but also through the publication of his recent book Return on Influence. His first book, The Tao of Twitter, was also recently republished if you didn’t get a chance to read it the first time around.
Geri Stengel – Geri runs the unique Ventureneer site, where she offer advice for the social enterprise, nonprofit, and small business. Her advice combines a unique combination of content for nonprofits and entrepreneurs, all woven with the thread of social responsibility. A refreshing leader to follow – for social good.
Mari Smith – Although her best-selling book might be The New Relationship Marketing, Mari is also co-author (with Windmill Networking contributor Chris Treadaway) of a book regarding the platform that she is most famous for: Facebook (Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day). Not only is Mari the most-tuned in expert for advice on Facebook, but she is also one of the friendliest (and interesting!) people you will ever met in socialmedialand.
Lee Odden – Lee is best known for his Top Rank Blog but also became an author with the release of his recent book Optimize, which looks at the intersection of social media marketing, search engine optimization, and content marketing.
Michael Stelzner – Michael was talking about content marketing before the term became popular, but he is best known for his leading social media website Social Media Examiner. Author of the classic Launch, Michael is also a genuinely nice and giving person who reveals all that he knows in a truly selfless way. A true thought leader who is also a role model to emulate.
Gary Vaynerchuk – Gary Vaynerchuk is probably the one person on this list that has more chutzpah than Mark Zuckerberg. The guy famous for the quote, “What’s the ROI of your mom?” Gary is one of the most successful entrepreneurs who utilized social media as a main platform to propel his business with Wine Library TV. The author of the classics The Thank You Economy and Crush It!, Gary is also one of the most engaged people on Twitter – and speakers – that you will ever meet. When Gary talks, people listen!
Jason Falls – Jason has been traditionally known for his leading social media blog Social Media Explorer, but the publication of his first book No Bullshit Social Media clearly placed him as a leader in insightful and practical advice for businesses of all sizes to better leverage social media. I had a chance to meet Jason at Blog World and can tell you that he is in person as down-to-earth and thoughtful as is his advice in his book and speeches.
So there you have it. I expect you all to have your favorites, so here is your chance: Do you think the above is a representative list? Who is missing? Who are you glad was listed? Chime in and have a say!