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Considering the incredible diversity of people and professions involved in social media, it's shocking to me that so many folks turn to the same small set of social media luminaries.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Chris Brogan, David Armano, Jeremiah Owyang and the rest of the top-tier thinkers in the social space. But I get just as much or more inspiration from my own subset of thought leaders, and I think you will too.
One warning: this is a marketing-oriented list because, well, that's what I do. But even if you just do social media for fun, you should still give these folks a read. No matter where the industry and technology shifts, I find that each of them keep me feeling excited about the opportunities.
(Want to follow them all on Twitter with one click? Here's an easy way to do it.)
• Leigh Householder, brand strategist and author of Advergirl.com. I can never say enough good things about Leigh, a longtime friend and confidant. Her perspectives on social media are meticulous enough for the executive set and clear enough for the rest of us.
• Shannon Paul, community manager. If you could get a cup of coffee with any social media pro in the country, Shannon would definitely be a top pick. As insightful as she is approachable, Shannon always offers a candid take on the human side of technology.
• Brian Morrissey, Adweek digital editor. Brian brings a much-needed skepticism to social media. In a world where bloggers are the primary source of news on all things social, it's nice to have Brian to scrape away the bull and talk about what companies are really grappling with as they struggle to reach new audiences online.
• David Stutts, Luckie's director of brand planning. I'm not one to glorify coworkers willy-nilly, mostly because I work with a lot of incredible people and would have a hard time playing favorites. But I'm constantly learning about trends and emerging ideas from David, who posts his many findings on Twitter and Tumblr. If you're not already subscribing to his free e-mail newsletters, Trend Trackers and Generational News & Views, you really should. Just drop him an e-mail, and he'll start sending it to you each month.
• Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich. For an executive, much less a PR executive, Gini is always refreshingly honest on her blog, The Fight Against Destructive Spin. She offers a fantastic mix of practical tips and big-picture thinking. She's even re-imagining what her agency "does," and anyone is welcome to chime in on their transition from PR to social engagement.
• Alan Wolk, creative strategist. I've long been a fan of Alan's sharp and witty takes on the marketing industry, which he posts on his blog, The Toad Stool. What's nice is that Alan's never afraid to go against the grain and disagree with the big-time social media gurus. Some people do this just to inject themselves into a conversation, but Alan's restless insight comes from a more earnest and experienced place, making him always worth a read.
• Mack Collier, social media consultant. My biggest problem with Mack is that we agree way too much, on issues as small as Twitter semantics and as large as corporate marketing strategies. His zeal for transparency and customer-focused conversations have made him a hero to many of the unsleazy social media pros around the country. Be sure to check out his blogs, The Viral Garden and MackCollier.com.
It's always hard to create a list of smart folks like this, because I end up wanting to include dozens more. But if you follow this crowd, you're bound to find my other favorites soon enough.
Who are your personal, somewhat-under-the-radar thought leaders? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.