Top 10 Social Media Mentors that PR Students and Publicists Need to Know

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Just a few months ago, I was speaking to undergraduate students at my alma mater, West Virginia University, and asked a direct social media question:

“How many people know who Chris Brogan is?”

Not one person raised their hand (Please omit WVU jokes). And not that I think Chris is the absolute authority on social media, but with 121k followers on Twitter, the author of several books, and a blog ranked in the top 5 of the Advertising Age Power150, it’s safe to say that he’s a person worth paying to attention to.

This got me thinking that maybe students, and professionals alike, could use a little help. So I came up with this idea to put together a beginners list of important social media influencers.  However, before jumping into this list, let me first say that I am the last person that would ever call himself an ‘expert’ on social media. I also want to state for the record that I know for a fact that there are many others deserving to be on this list that will get overlooked. This is where you come in. At the end of this list, please provide the names of other influencers that you feel should be included, and eventually I will post an updated, master list later this year. I want this to be a helpful resource for students and PR pros everywhere.

Now, without further ado (note that this list is in random order), 10 names that every student and publicist should pay attention to:

10. Robert Scoble – @Scobleizer – A blogger, tech evangelist, and author, Scoble is best known for his blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure at Microsoft. He currently works for Rackspace and is building a community for people fanatical about the Internet called Building 43. He is the co-author of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers with Shel Israel.

9. Seth Godin – @ThisIsSethsBlog – Godin is the author of 10 books that have been bestsellers around the world. Permission Marketing was an Top 100 bestseller for a year, a Fortune Best Business Book and it spent four months on the Business Week bestseller list. It also appeared on the New York Times business book bestseller list. He is also a renowned speaker and was recently chosen as one of 21 Speakers for the Next Century by Successful Meetings and is consistently rated among the very best speakers by the audiences he addresses.

8. Peter Shankman – @skydiver – An entrepreneur, author, speaker, and worldwide connector, Peter is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about Social Media, PR, marketing, advertising, creativity, and customer service. He is best known for founding Help a Report Out (HARO), which is currently the largest free source repository in the world. He is also the founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc.,  a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm.

7. Guy Kawasaki – @GuyKawasaki – Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer, Inc. and was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh  in 1984. He is noted for having brought the concept of evangelism, initially focused on creating passionate user-advocates for the Apple brand, to the high-tech business. He is also the author of nine books including Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way.

6. Soraya Darabi – @sorayad – Recently left her positions as manager of digital partnerships & social-media marketing at the New York Times in order to work on the collaboration site,,  as product lead for their new PR tool, PressLife.  She was influential in helping to build NYT’s Twitter presence, and was also behind the NYT’s multimedia Inauguration Day Facebook campaign, which won first prize at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) Awards for excellence in marketing.

5. Gary Vaynerchuk – @garyvee – After primarily utilizing traditional advertising techniques to build his family’s local wine business into a national industry leader, Gary rapidly leveraged social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to promote Wine Library TV, his video blog about wine. Gary’s landmark seven-figure book deal with Harper Studio was featured in The Wall Street Journal and he was recently profiled by The New York Times and Market Watch.Recently, Gary was named #18 on’s Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2009.

4. Jeremiah Owyang – @jowyang – As a Web Strategist, he delivers insight on disruptive technologies and their impact on how companies communicate with their customers. Technobabble 2.0 rated his analyst blog as no. 1 in the industry. He’s currently Partner of Customer Strategy at Altimeter Group, a strategy consulting firm that provides thought leadership, research, and consulting on digital strategies. Previously, he was a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, and has over 10 years experience as a practitioner on both the vendor and brand side.

3. Charlene Li – @charleneli – The Founder of Altimeter Group and co-author of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell (a personal favorite). She is one of the foremost experts on social media and technologies and a consultant on leadership, strategy, social technologies, interactive media, and marketing. Charlene was named one of the 12 most creative minds of 2008 by Fast Company, and one of the most influential women in technology in 2009

2. Brian Solis – @briansolis – Principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning New Media marketing and branding agency in Silicon Valley. Solis is globally recognized for his views and insights on the convergence of PR, Traditional Media and Social Media. Considered one of the original thought leaders who paved the way for Social Media and PR 2.0, Solis is co-founder of the Social Media Club and is an original member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup. is among the top 1.5% of all blogs tracked by Technorati and is ranked as one of the leading voices in the Ad Age Power 150 index of worldwide marketing bloggers. Solis is also the publisher of, and is also a contributor to TechCrunch,  BrandWeek, and Mashable.

1. Chris Brogan – @chrisbrogan – I stated some of his background earlier, but also worth noting is that he’s an eleven year veteran of using social media and both web and mobile technologies to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. He is also co-author of the New York Times bestselling book Trust Agents.


9 comments on “Top 10 Social Media Mentors that PR Students and Publicists Need to Know

  1. Lot of influentials out there – two others to consider – Josh Bernoff @jbernoff and Tara Settembre (When Tara Met Blog) @tarametblog

    If we want to drill down, there are tons in their respective niches.

    That’s what makes our field wonderful – social media is taking up a big piece of the pie chart. It is no longer the traditional (figures “approximate”) Print 40%, Online 40% Broadcast 20% that clients expect.

    With Twitter, we can have a semi-scientific perception if a reporter/blogger is A or B list based on their following.

  2. Here are 10 more names you could also include here (also random order, of course):

    -Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel)
    -Valeria Maltoni (@conversationage)
    -CC Chapman (@cc_chapman)
    -Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra)
    -Peter Kim (@peterkim)
    -Loren Feldman (@1938media)
    -Todd Defren (@tdefren)
    -Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving)
    -David Armano (@armano)
    -Greg Verdino (@gregverdino)

  3. This was so enlighting – admittedly some of these were not on my list but are now.

    I would add @prsarahevans to your future list.

  4. This is an excellent list. I agree with all of the names mentioned here. As someone who has recently realized the immense learning opportunities of social media aside from just the sharing of photos and status updates, I thank you for turning me on to these people in the industry.

  5. Pingback: 10 Communications Professionals Who Deserve More Twitter Followers « PR at Sunrise

  6. Pingback: Do’s and Don’ts of a PR Internship « PR at Sunrise

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