The New York Times recently published a rather naïve opinion piece by a guy named Cal Newport that said you should quit social media because there’s no value there and it can only hurt your career.
This article followed one by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine, in which he lamented his constant need to publish and post, and have a presence on social media, and how that was making him feel disconnected and inhuman.
Casual observers might have looked at these two articles and had their assumptions confirmed: Social media is a waste of time. But it’s not true.
As it turns out, Cal Newport admitted right up front — in the lede paragraph, even — that he’s “never had a social media account.” So he’s hardly qualified to dismiss social networks like Twitter wholesale, and his entire piece should be taken with a grain of salt. (Tweet that.) And Sullivan, as a popular and much respected writer (he’s a frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, too), naturally has a different take on social media’s purpose.
For the rest of us, social media can serve a legit purpose and can provide real value — if you use it correctly. Now, I realize that saying “correctly” is already setting me up for snickering. What’s correct to me is not correct to everyone. There are multiple “right” ways to use Twitter, et al. Yadda yadda yadda … And I get that; it’s one of my favorite things about social media.
But here’s the thing: After more than seven years of being on Twitter, I’ve learned that if you want to get real value out of social media, you need to engage with other people. (Tweet that.) You need to use Twitter to build relationships. Not to push a never-ending stream of content at your followers. Not to post about your employer and very little else. And definitely not to be an ego-centric self-promoter. You need to use social media to be social.
Yes, there is value in sharing content on Twitter. But I’ve found there is even more value in sharing yourself — in being a person who selflessly interacts with others and does it regularly. Not to gain “followers,” but to build a community. (Tweet that.)
What people like Cal Newport haven’t learned yet is that effective use of social media can lead to job opportunities, business leads, creative idea generation, professional development … even marriage. The key is to focus on building relationships.
With social media increasingly, sadly, becoming more automated, it’s people who engage who break through the noise. It’s that behavior that is often most noticeable — and most influential — because it gets your community to care more about everything else you share. Which makes your content even more valuable to them. (Tweet that.)
So in that spirit, I sought to create a list of some of the best people on Twitter — “top influencers,” if that’s the click-baity term you prefer. Those who appreciate the value of being social and who make using Twitter truly worthwhile.
To compile this list, I used a highly scientific process: I analyzed all 313 million users of Twitter, comparing their Klout scores with their kavorka measurements, weighing their jigawatt counts against their number of followers. I fed all this into a giant algorithm that factored in the characters used per tweet and then divided the result by the day of the week each month when they tweet most often. And that produced an average score for each user.
No. I didn’t do any of that. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. And in fact, when it comes to social media engagement, numbers often don’t really matter. (Tweet that.) Case in point: If someone interacts with you, and provides real value, does it matter if 743,000 people follow them, or if they post a tweet 187 times every week? No, it doesn’t.
What I did was look for people who reply when people tweet at them (ideally, in a timely fashion). People who contribute to the overall engagement of Twitter. People who share content in a context that gets people to care. People who don’t fill up the Twitter stream with self-promotion or automated tweets that randomly push random quotes or non-sequiters, or months- and years-old content. People who don’t spend all their time complaining or being critical of others. People who don’t use “replybait” to get others to answer them, and then never acknowledge it. People who are present, not just building a presence.
Is this list biased? You’re damned right it is. Show me a list of “must follow marketers” or “top influencers” that isn’t. (Tweet that.)
So you’re not going to find a lot of “usual suspects” here. Yes, there are some. But for the most part, those popular folks already get enough attention. I wanted to highlight a diverse group of lesser-known people, including some beyond my industry group; after all, if you’re using social media to engage, then you’re more than what you do for work.
Alright. Without further ado, here is a list of 65 people I think are worth connecting with on Twitter — numbered and alphabetical, but in no particular order.
1. Aaron Kilby (@Kilby76)
Vice president of sales and marketing at Artisan Colour in Scottsdale, AZ, Aaron is also the founder and host of #MediaChat (Thursdays at 10pm EST), a coffee addict, and a major lover of bacon.
2. Adam Music (@MusicAdamT)
Adam is a content and social media pro at the American Bar Association in Chicago, but also a husband, dad, geek, gardener, and very funny guy who loves a good trending hashtag.
3. Alissa Trumbull (@AnOrchidInBloom)
A Chicago native now living in Denver, Alissa describes herself as a “Thinker. Writer. Graphic designer.” But she’s also a foodie and a co-founder of the weekly #BizGalz chat (Mondays at 1pm EST).
4. Amanda Pensack (@RoxyDigital)
A marketing pro with a serious case of wanderlust, Amanda has made the world her office. She’s from Boston, but you never know where this “digital nomad” will be from week to week.
5. Anh Nguyen (@AnhTNguyen)
Anh is a Houston-based “marketing chick” who loves coffee, cool tech, vodka, travel, and great food. She hosts #MobileChat (Wednesdays at 9pm EST).
6. Ann Handley (@AnnHandley)
Author of must-own books Content Rules (with C.C. Chapman) and Everybody Writes, and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs — not to mention a tiny-house enthusiast and awesome person — Ann is “waging a war on content mediocrity” and someone who should be on every top social media people list.
7. Anthony Randall (@TonyXRandall)
A self-described “business casual goth,” Tony is an SEO strategist in Boise, ID, and a dog lover.
8. Arielle Tannenbaum (@ArielleMargot)
The community manager at Buffer and host of #BufferChat (Wednesdays at 12pm EST), Philly-based Arielle is a “lover of vegetables, yoga, cooking, being outdoors, dancing and handstands.”
9. Beki Winchel (@BekiWeki)
The co-editor of PR Daily, Beki is an Amerian ex-pat currently living in Sweden who loves travel, social media, and the Green Bay Packers. She hosts #RaganChat (Tuesdays at 3pm EST) and co-hosts #NostalgiaChat (Sundays at 7pm EST).
10. Bree Kelley (@SmartSuiteBree)
Community manager at Casual Fridays, Bree is a Cleveland-based marketing pro obsessed with all things social media — and a lover of selfie sticks.
11. Brett Pucino (@BPucino)
A self-described “multi-passionate millennial blogger,” Brett is based in Hudson Valley, N.Y., and often tweets about personal branding, career development and social media trends.
12. Brian Stelter (@BrianStelter)
The host of CNN’s Reliable Sources and the network’s senior media correspondent, Brian is one of the most interactive media personalities in the business.
13. Carmen Hill (@CarmenHill)
The director of marketing for Connective DX, Carmen is a “strategic storyteller & content mixologist” in Portland, OR, who has an affinity for open browser tabs, Post-It Notes and AP Style.
14. Cathy McPhillips (@CMCPhillips)
The vice president of marketing for the Content Marketing Institute, Cathy is a Cleveland-based advocate for the Orange Effect, No Kid Hungry, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
15. C.C. Chapman (@CC_Chapman)
A Boston-based keynote speaker and photographer, and the author of two excellent books, Content Rules (with Ann Handley) and Amazing Things Will Happen, C.C. lives according to the motto in his Twitter bio: “I try to leave it better than I found it.”
16. Chris Barrows (@CBarrows)
A social media and mobile strategist at New York University, Chris is also the host of the excellent podcast Why I Social, co-chairperson (with Joel Renner) of the annual Edu Web Digital Summit, a devoted Marvel and Doctor Who fanboy, lover of Mean Girls GIFs, and collector of Funko Pop! figures.
17. Chris Jones (@SourcePOV)
A self-described “Thinker. Instigator. Dad. Explorer of edges,” Chris is the Charlotte, N.C.–based author of The DNA of Collaboration and host of #SMChat (Wednesdays at 1pm EST).
18. Dave Cutler (@CutlerDave)
Boston-based Dave is the vice president of client services and digital at Influence Central and the social media director for Boston Tech Jam, but also a sports nut, Casey Neistat fanboy, and father to four great kids.
19. David Pepper (@TheDavePepper)
A frequent chatter, Dave is a Washington, D.C.–based digital content and strategy professional who focuses on social media, brand, video, animation, analytics, and social good.
20. David Poland (@DavidPoland)
A longtime and highly opinionated film-industry blogger, as well as host of the DP/30 interview series, David will often interact with readers — whether they agree with him or not.
21. Deb Filcman (@DebFilcman)
A New York native now living in Chicago, Deb is a content marketer who is obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, Hamilton, Jon Stewart, Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, and other cool arts and culture.
22. Devin Boudreaux (@DevDawg)
A Midwestern SEO professional and music fan, Devin is someone who tells it like it is.
23. Eric Kabakoff (@EricKabakoff)
A New York media professional and baseball fan who loves to share amusing anecdotes about being a new father, Eric wrote the book Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages.
25. Gabriel Cattani (@GabrielSurfCat)
A gymnastics coach and surfer, Boston-based Gabriel is the creator of the daily comic strip Surf’N Turf.
26. Garrett Gonzales (@Roheblius)
Garrett heads up neighborhood operations at Nextdoor in San Francisco, and is also an obsessive fan of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, and The Challenge on MTV.
27. Glenda Vaquerano (@GlendaVee)
The “coffee-chugging, vintage-style loving, cake-obsessed PR & social media manager” for SexyHair, Glenda is a pun-loving, SoCal-based bundle of awesome.
28. Gregg Weiss (@GreggWeiss)
The vice president of social media and digital content at Mastercard in New York, Gregg is an advocate for smart use of social media and a frequent live-streamer.
30. Ira Haberman (@IraHaberman)
A Toronto-based content and social media strategist, marketer and storyteller, Ira is a lover of the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen, and a fan of the Blue Jays.
31. Jade Phillips (@LifeofaWorkGirl)
A self-described social media marketing geek, Jade is the London-based co-founder of #BizGalz (Mondays at 1pm EST) and co-host of #bizheroes (Tuesdays at 2pm EST)
32. Janice Heil (@ChestnutHell)
This obsessive, devoted Boston-sports live-tweeter also likes “pretty things, beautiful places, good food and baseball…not necessarily in that order.”
33. Jason Viglione (@JayVig)
The associate director of global technical support at Olapic, Jay is a longtime technology professional, U.S. Air Force vet, and lover of the New York Jets and hot sauce.
34. Jay Miller (@KJayMiller)
The founder and host of Productivity in Tech, San Diego–based Jay also does “python, productivity, and community management while I should be sleeping.”
35. Jeff Smith (@TheComicHunter)
A small business owner in Charlottetown and Moncton, PEI, Jeff likes comic books, music, movies, cruises, playing bass, and engaging in good conversations on Twitter that (hopefully) don’t include too many GIFs.
36. Jeremy Bond (@JeremyDBond)
Jeremy is a Connecticut-based writer and educator who focuses on digital citizenship, media literacy, the arts, social justice and humanity.
37. Joel Renner (@JoelRRenner)
Joel is the manager of digital strategy and career systems at GWU in Washington, D.C., and co-chairperson (with Chris Barrows) of the annual Edu Web Digital Summit, but his true passion is using social media tools to build relationships and take them offline, which he does through his #SocialRoadTrip chat (Tuesdays at 9pm EST) and meetups — and his frequent use of GIFs.
38. John Lewis (@JohnWLewis)
An innovation strategist in the U.K., John focuses on “enabling people and organizations to innovate effectively,” which is the focus of his weekly #innochat (Thursdays at 12pm EST).
39. John Patrick Pullen (@JPPullen)
A tech columnist for Time and freelancer for “everyone else,” John is a friend and former coworker who loves a good Apple product just about as much as he does living in the Portland, OR, area.
40. Josh McCormack (@JoshMcCormack)
A Dallas-based web developer, blogger, and speaker, Josh is a big fan of building relationships through fun discussions, not automated social media posts. His book, Helping is the Sales Pitch, provides a smart strategy for effective social selling. Fun facts: Josh managed the domestic and international websites for Batman Begins and made Billboard’s website interactive.
41. Julie Gurner (@DrGurner)
A doctor of clinical psychology with a focus on business and media — “Human behavior is my jam,” she says — Julie is a Connecticut-based animal lover and one of the more interesting people you’ll come across on Twitter.
42. Ken Gordon (@QuickMuse)
As his handle suggests, Ken is a quick-witted content, conversation, and community strategist who always seems to be at a keyboard — whether that’s a computer or a piano — “busking in the keys of innovation and humanism.”
43. Ken Murray (@MurrayMaker)
A Boston-based writer, actor, and producer, Ken is a lover of all local sports teams, as well as The Walking Dead and The Simpsons.
44. Lauchlin MacDonald (@Lauchlin)
Writer, propagandist, and “history’s greatest monster,” Montreal-based Lauchlin is also a lover of hot wings, sunshine, and talking to strangers, who does digital marketing for LinkNow Media.
45. Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel)
Despite creating and starring in one of the best and most popular Broadway musicals of the past 20 years, Hamilton, and being an in-demand actor and songwriter, Lin-Manuel always seems to have time to interact with his fans on Twitter.
46. Lucy Rendler-Kaplan (@LucyRK78)
Chicago-based Lucy is an actress and the founder of Arkay Marketing & PR, who in her limited spare time can be found cooking, walking her adorable dog, rooting for the Cubs and Green Bay Packers, and dreaming of her next trip back to Los Angeles.
47. Maddie Yardley (@MaddieYardley)
Maddie is a Boston-based photographer and digital organizing specialist who loves watching MTV’s The Challenge and Are You the One?
48. Mark Salke (@MarkSalke)
The co-founder, co-moderator and content strategist/writer behind #SMXChat (Tuesdays at 3pm EST), Mark is a Dallas-based communications professional.
49. Mark Shaw (@MarkShaw)
A London-based author, keynote speaker, consultant, and trainer, Mark believes the time has come to “bring the social back to Twitter.” (Preach!)
50. Matt Black (@MattBlackInk)
An engagement and communications specialist in Toronto, Matt also helps entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized businesses create content that inspires customer action and shapes brand stories.
51. Maureen Jann (@MaureenOnPoint)
Director of marketing for Point It, a digital marketing agency in Seattle, Maureen is a podcast hostess and blogger who enjoys the meta concept of marketing to marketers.
52. Michele Costa (@CrochetMichele)
Chicago-based Michele is living her dream, combining her life-long love of fashion with her yarn skills, and in the process, reinventing modern crochet and knitwear through her business, 144 Stitches.
53. Mike Myers (@MikeMyers614)
As he’s quick to point out, this Mike Myers is not the guy from Shrek, SNL, or the Halloween movies. (Nor does he actually wear a hat.) This Mike is a marketer by trade, currently with Nationwide. Significantly, he was the first-ever #CMWorld Community Champion Award winner.
54. Monina Wagner (@MoninaW)
A good friend to content marketers everywhere, Monina is a model community manager, the role she holds at the Content Marketing Institute, and the host of the #CMWorld chat (Tuesdays at 12pm EST). When she’s not tweeting, Mo can either be found at one of the Disney parks, a Cleveland Cavaliers game, or cheering on her daughter’s basketball team.
55. Nycole Hampton (@MsNycole)
Chicago-based speaker, writer, and social/influencer marketing strategist, Nycole is currently a director at Weber Shandwick who loves photography, good food and drink, and her pup.
57. Randy Thio (@IdeaBloke)
The founder of his own Portland, OR–based consulting firm, Randy focuses on social media and content marketing strategy, as well as brand/reputation management.
58. Remy Bergsma (@RemyBergsma)
Remy is an email marketing geek and awesome photographer and videographer, based in the Netherlands, whose love of astronomy and astrophotography means things are always looking up — literally and figuratively.
59. Rob Zaleski (@RobZie_)
Austin-based self-proclaimed “marketing nerd” Rob is passionate about people, coffee, gnomes, and Post-It Notes — not to mention his beleaguered Cleveland Browns.
60. Sam Cohen (@CineTalksSam)
A Boston-based film critic and big fan of Michael Mann, Sam is also a writer for the Jewish Advocate and says he’s “fascinated by the changing digital media platform that journalism is today.”
61. Sarah Nagel (@Sprout_Sarah)
Community outreach manager at SproutSocial and the host of #SproutChat (Wednesdays at 3pm EST), Sarah is a dog-obsessed Chicago resident who loves getting away to spend time in the mountains.
62. Scott Ontiveroz (@ScottOntiveroz)
A social media marketing professional in San Antonio, Scott is into tacos, sports tech, Excel, web culture, and live-tweeting Kansas City Chiefs games. He is also a co-host of #Luv4Social (Thursdays at 2pm EST).
63. Stephan Hovnanian (@StephanHov)
Boston-based Stephan heads up advocacy solutions for Bambu, Sprout Social’s employee advocacy platform. He is a lover of email marketing, value nurturing, advocacy, coffee, cognac, tequila, ribeye, and family.
64. Toby Metcalf (@Toby_Metcalf)
A Boston-based community manager for PTC, Toby is a hockey player and fan, and a foodie who loves grilling, craft beer, wine, and deep-drying turkeys.
65. Wayne Hendry (@IdeaKid88)
Toronto-based Wayne identifies himself as “a storyteller first, communications engineer second.” His passions include UX, SEO, SEM, conversion rate optimization, relationship building, learning and techno music.
It goes without saying, but I hope you won’t follow all of these people — you’ll connect and engage with them. (I’ll make it easy for you: Here’s a Twitter list I created.)
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