The Digital Coast’s List of Social Media Influencers

Adobe Firefly-created image of person staring at a computer monitor with lights flooding around her.

I’ve now spent a whole year here on the West Coast and have made a lot of new friends and connections…but some really stand out and I’d like to share with you these individuals who either blog, tweet, vlog, podcast, lecture, etc online and can teach us all a good valuable lesson on how to succeed in doing business online.

These are all people here on the West Coast — some you may know and some you don’t. I suppose it’s something more like Twitter’s #FollowFriday, but I’d like to think that there is more meaning behind this selection because you’re not following them because of interesting tweets, but they’ve done something remarkable for business.

Brian Solis

Inbound Marketing Summit - Brian Solis

We start off the list with someone who I’ve come to admire: Brian Solis. He’s the principal at one of Silicon Valley’s premiere PR agencies, FutureWorks PR, and is the co-author of “Now Is Gone” and “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” which I think has been a great book as it relates to using social media to reach out to your audience and community.

A sought-after speaker, Solis has contributed to Twitter’s #prchat and also has appeared on panels at Blogworld, the Society of New Communication Research’s NewComm Forum, South by Southwest, and many others. You can find Solis usually at any of the major conferences and is very personable and approachable. His work is beyond reproach and his insights on his blog — note that he doesn’t talk all the time about Twitter or Facebook, but much more conceptual topics relating to communications and social media, have landed him on the AdAge Power 150 rankings.

Ben Parr

Ben Parr is probably better known as an editor of one of the Internet’s most popular blogs, Mashable. He’s covered many of the latest news and was the only reporter on Facebook’s campus during the highly-desired Facebook vanity URL “land grab”. As one of the editors of Mashable, Parr’s job is to report on some of the latest developments happening out of the social media scene, whether that’s a Blackberry outage, Twitter getting hacked, RockYou being compromised, or perhaps the Muppet’s singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As a self-described entrepreneur, Parr is usually on the scene of most major events and reports back some of the cool things that have the potential to take the social media world by storm – or maybe some that are just duds.

Jeremy Toeman

Under The Radar - Nov 2009

I work for Jeremy Toeman (disclosure). But he knows what he’s talking about. As the founder of Stage Two, Toeman has worked with companies to help them figure out the right strategy to launch their product and understands the right approach towards reaching influencers across a variety of media. He emphasizes the relationship over blind pitching — it’s never a random message or “spray and pray” mentality. Instead, he encourages his team and others to build connections and friendships that make it easier to have that important conversation. Toeman is also an experienced speaker talking about technology and social media, having spoken at Dealmaker Media’s Under The Radar conference multiple times, the 140tc Twitter conference, the fbFund, CommunityNext, and many others.

Tony Hsieh

I first met Tony Hsieh at South by Southwest when he gave his keynote which captivated me. As the CEO of, Hsieh has instilled a new sense of customer service in the community — putting customers first and their satisfaction is paramount. He has been the subject of news broadcasts, blogs, and probably interviewed countless times. His influence on customer service is probably a really good model to follow

Stefan Weitz

Earlier this year, a surprise new search engine emerged from the ashes to take on the industry’s global giant, Google. That “phoenix” turned out to be Bing and was created by Microsoft.

Leading that charge was Stefan Weitz and his Bing team helped change the way that we look at search engines. The premise here was that when people searched for things online, they wanted to avoid the noise and get to what they wanted — often needing help in making a decision. So Weitz and his team went to work in changing the way business was done and Bing now is more contextual than its predecessor Live Search and shows much more relevancy.

As it relates to social media, Weitz has led his team to force Google to change the way they view the real-time stream. Bing was the first major search engine to display Twitter results right on the results page and is continually growing by releasing mobile applications for all major platforms like the Blackberry, iPhone and Android phones. Granted that there’s still a long way to go before Bing can topple Google, but they are slowly increasing their reach. But Weitz is leading the way.

Krystyl Baldwin

Krystyl Baldwin has done a lot for the community and is a big influencer, both with a large network of followers and people she knows, but also a big heart. As one of the organizers of the 2009 San Francisco Twestival, she has worked to gather sponsors, secure a venue and do so much to help raise money to benefit Operation: Smile. But aside from that, she has helped to promote other events like the San Francisco Music Tech Summit, and SNAP Summit and is also a consultant helping to promote startups like Zannel.

Chris Heuer/Kristie Wells

Chris Heuer's Birthday Party 4.0 - Kristie Wells & Chris Heuer

When you say social media, you would be remiss to not talk about these two people: Chris Heuer & Kristie Wells. As the founders of Social Media Club, both Heuer and Wells are in the trenches of social media. They are constantly putting together events relating to the issues plaguing the industry, whether it’s the FTC’s new policy on disclosure or case studies on successful startups, and if you want to know who to reach in social media or find a major champion, then these are your people.

Drew Olanoff

This year is probably bittersweet for some people. I think it might be really bad for Drew Olanoff…or was it? You see, earlier this year, Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, but the thing is that he didn’t take it lying down. Instead, he created a movement called “Blame Drew’s Cancer” where you could use any means to blame things on his cancer. Whether it was Twitter, Facebook or any social network, it all got back to Drew and he drew (no pun intended) strength from that to withstand this terrible disease and fight back.

Now in the closing of 2009, he is cancer-free. But that hasn’t stopped him in his pursuit to “kick cancer’s ass”. He’s teamed up with the Livestrong team to help raise money for cancer research and has auctioned off his Twitter name (@drew) to the highest bidder — with the money going to Livestrong.

That winner was TV’s Drew Carey who has recently upped his ante by saying that if the combined number of followers for Livestrong and Drew Carey reach 1 million, he will personally donate $1 million towards fighting cancer.

So when you talk about social media for social good…you tell me who has done better in 2009 in fighting the war against this disease?

Jeremiah Owyang

Blogworld - Day 1 - Sponsored Conversation - Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang has been at the forefront of social media for the past few years. An accomplished speaker, he has been a major resource for information long before his days as a research analyst at famed Forrester Research.

Now as one of the partners at Altimeter Group, Owyang travels around the country talking about the next innovations in social media and also works to help clients execute their strategy. And let’s be honest here, it’s probably not all about Twitter and Facebook, but maybe more deep-rooted into other applications.

Owyang has also used his blog to help promote and share information with others — both as a job resource and to highlight those who are changing jobs or advancing in their career.

There you have it…a list of people that you should get to know and follow. I’ve had the chance to meet all these people in 2009 and think that they are just a small number of people who influence the industry.

Who are some people you think have influenced the social media & marketing industries in 2009?

This is a cross-blog post from Network Solutions’ Solutions Are Power website that I guest wrote. Originally posted on on January 4, 2010.

3 responses to “The Digital Coast’s List of Social Media Influencers”

  1. linkwheel services Avatar

    Social media has really been powerful. There are many people who have been using it, might be a celebrity, a businessman a politician or even an ordinary person. It has already made a mark on every individual.

  2. Jeremiah Owyang Avatar

    I know I'm late responding, but THANKS Ken for the mention.

  3. Jeremiah Owyang Avatar

    I know I'm late responding, but THANKS Ken for the mention.

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