I've been called curmudgeonly. I've been called negative. I've been called snarky. I've been called bitter. Honestly, I'm not. Ok, I'm snarky, but that's mainly in jest. It's my sense of humor, and I won't apologize for that. Sorry. Oh crap, I just ... nevermind.
Anyway, this has been said over and over again by people who have a much bigger Twitter following than I do and who are clearly more important than me because of that. But ... it's true. Social media is not a godsend. It's not special. It's not a magic bullet to help your marketing efforts. In fact, in most uses, it's not even best utilized as a marketing channel. It's a set of tools to communicate in different and (sometimes) interesting ways. It allows people to interact with people, companies, fictitious characters and figments of imagination. Yeah, it can be really awesome or really annoying, but for those of us who are "early adopters" or whose ADD leads themselves to carry on numerous conversations at once, or voyeurs who like to watch peoples lives from afar, or the wallflower who can be bold and outgoing behind the safety of their screen, it brings new and interesting people into our lives.
One thing about social media is that it allows for communication in bite-sized, digestible bits. You might say that it leads to the dumbing down of society, as we trend even further into the soundbite abyss, but as Shakespeare said, "brevity is the soul of wit", and social media channels force brevity (said the guy penning the ridiculously long opening to his list).
Speaking of lists, social media people love lists. They get high traffic, large # of retweets and comments. As such, they are great conversation starters. But that's the point right? Start a conversation? Say what you want about the "list of influencers" or Judy Grundstrom's "Twin Cities Top Ten Titans in Social Media" but it started conversation and led to a real life gathering of people who communicate with each other through tiny windows in the smartphones or computers. As such, good on her. Now, should we really focus on the winners or losers? As someone who lost, I say NO! (I'm really not bitter) Instead, let's talk about what the people did that makes them innovative. Let's talk about how they use these channels to converse with others and provide eye-opening insight, or hell, even just make you laugh or think.
With that ... The list
Let me just start this by saying that nothing irritates me more than people whose opinions and experience and expertise is an inch wide and a mile deep. They're boring. As soon as you reach outside their comfort zone, you've lost the ability to communicate with them.
Who influences me? Who cares? The real question is "Who are the people with whom I like to converse using various social channels (or IRL even)?" They're the Renaissance men and women. I love talking with people who can step outside the box and take a conversation from work to current events to politics to music, theater, movies, art, sports, fashion, beer, food, wine and back to work. These are the people who are truly interesting. These are the people whose opinions are well-established because they are well-versed. These are the people who are wise instead of smart. These are people who learned how to think rather than what to think. More importantly, these are the people who will be around after Facebook and Twitter and all this crap is gone. These are the people with whom you can have a glass of scotch or a pint and a real, old-fashioned, chat. The people on my list (aside from one) I didn't know before social media allowed me to get a glimpse at their personality, style and life. I met them (or want to meet them) because of the way they come across on social media channels. If it's all about conversing and communicating, that should be the goal, right? You should want to seek them out and meet them.
These are the people with whom I have conversed (or even if I haven't conversed with them, I would like to) through social media and I with whom I would like to have a cocktail and a conversation.
@russostrib - The Star Tribune's Minnesota Wild beat writer, Michael Russo, uses Twitter and his blog, Russo's Rants, to bring a special insight and analysis of the NHL, the life of a sports journalist, and has brought together fans across the country. He carries on conversations with other NHL journos, fans, athletes and even lowly bloggers. He has given "life" to a newspaper. Sure, he drives traffic to startribune.com, but his interaction with fans is what sets him apart. He retweets and answers questions, he offers his opinions and allows a typically one-way medium (the newspaper) to become a two-way channel through his interaction.
@jakenyberg - Sometimes a lightning rod, Jake can be seen as brash or even off-putting to some. However, he's opinionated, he is open and honest, he talks about sports, music and pop culture in addition to business. If you don't know, Jake runs a stellar video production company (Three Volts), behind some of the more interesting web-based campaigns you have probably seen. But Jake doesn't talk about that, because for him it's all "doing the business." Nyberg's goal is to make his client's marketing efforts better, not to name drop his client base. As a MIMA board member, he is among the group responsible for making people better at their jobs. Plus, he's a good dude, kind-hearted and talking with him is always enjoyable.
@keithprivette - Keith isn't a "social media professional", but he uses the social channels to bring visibility to causes he supports, he shares articles and information and insights from a business professional outside the marketing world and discusses the ramifications they have on corporate life. He talks about life as a father and husband. He's honestly one of the most positive people I've ever met without being fake, and it can be refreshing. It seems that Keith's goal is to bring people together to talk about life. He's a great conversationalist, though his golf game leaves something to be desired.
@derickson - David Erickson is the director of eStrategy at Tunheim Partners. But that doesn't mean he only talks about emarketing or agency life. David is passionate about the Minnesota Vikings. He even started his own daily email about the Vikings aggregating articles written across the internet and comments culled from Twitter. His @MNVikingsChat discusses all things Vikings, and he passionately discusses the franchise. He also rarely talks about work in specifics, but rather shares insights from his experience and posts information that educates. A smarter client makes for a better relationship and more creative agency experience, right David?
@rstanzel - Ryan Stanzel is the media relations & team services coordinator for the Minnesota Wild, but that's not the only thing he talks about on Twitter. He brings the life of the under-appreciated professional sports franchise employee to the masses. He talks about food. In fact, as much as he talks about his hunt for the best dive restaurant in the country, you fear for his GI system. Ryan converses with fans, journalists, PR folks and isn't afraid to join a conversation that has nothing to do with sports or food. He's also just a really nice guy. One down side to Ryan? He's a Yankees fan.
@mnheadhunter - Paul DeBettignies wants two things: 1) A Gopher Rose Bowl and 2) You to be happily employed. Paul brings his years of experience as a recruiter to the masses, teaching recruiters how to be better at their jobs and teaching job hunters how to get recruiters to notice and hire them. It's thankless, difficult and time-intensive, but it's worth it for Paul. Paul brings people together who seemingly have disparate goals, but whose experiences can work together in harmony, and helps those people learn from each other. But that's just the business side. Paul also is one of the two biggest Minnesota Golden Gopher supporters I know (and he happens to have had seats at TCF Bank Stadium next to the other). From his @Gophers Twitter account, Paul shares his opinions on all things Goldy. From live coverage of football and basketball games to his stories on road trips, Paul bleeds maroon and gold, and isn't afraid to enter into conversation with anyone and everyone on the topic of University of Minnesota athletics, even people from Wisconsin. He's a fantastic person, passionate, helpful and friendly. I am lucky to consider Paul a friend.
@PMac21 - Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN isn't afraid to offer his opinion on the local sports franchises. I may find his liberal use of sabermetrics annoying, but he's consistent with them. He doesn't just talk at you, he talks with you. Sometimes you have to wonder if some of what he says is just to fuel the fire, but he's always open to the discussion and conversation. He's also self-deprecating in regards to his personal life, but that only adds to his appeal as a foil. He seems genuine and honest and real. I'd like to get Phil, Jake Nyberg, Jesse Lund (@twinkietown) and Jon Marthaler (@jmarthaler) in a room, have a few beers and talk for hours.
@michelle_eide - Yeah, I'm naming my wife. Deal with it. She talks about color theory, usability, product management, design, aesthetics, being a new mom (never sugar coating the fears and insecurities as well as not being afraid to boast about Ingrid), television, music, pop culture, English football, news, politics, her lousy husband and life. Sprinkled liberally with snark, sap and self-deprecation, Michelle provides an open window into her life, with no window dressings. Hell, she even went on TV while 8 months pregnant to talk about it. My wife is awesome and I love her.
So that's it. I'm not naming 10. I'm not apologizing for my list. These are the people who came to mind this morning when I thought about the people with whom I'd like to have a beer and conversation. Who are yours? Who are the people who have become your friends in real life thanks to your interactions in social channels? Who do you want to seek out and meet (in a non-creepy way)?