Looking back on this past year, there are a handful of individuals who have accelerated their branding expertise to the forefront of the social media scene. These innovative folks and their companies have helped a wide range of individuals and businesses discover their true potential and thrive as their own brand name in this continuously evolving market.

And as we enter 2017, the importance of personal branding has hit an all time high. Personal branding has now become a requirement for any marketing plan in 2017. As more and more executives build their followings on social media, using your personal reputation to secure business will be a crucial channel for building leads.

Here are some personal branders who rose to the top of their game in 2016:

Brian Lischer

Brian Lischer is the founder and CEO of Ignyte, an award-winning branding agency that specializes in brand strategy, identity, and storytelling. With over a decade of experience in branding, digital marketing, and design, he has transformed brands in the industries of health care, life sciences, technology, financial services, and more. His work has been published in major publications, such as Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.

Jessica Rhynalds

Jessica Rhynalds is the Senior Social Influencer and Brand Strategist at Maker Studios Inc. (A Walt Disney Company). She has worked with some prominent names in YouTube and social, as well as some of the biggest brands in the world, including Microsoft, Hulu, and Sprint. Jessica has brought awareness to the viral commonwealth with her brand amplification on many social platforms.

Beth Doane

Beth Doane is an author, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker who has created her own line of apparel, Raintees. Her line provides ethically manufactured accessories that have helped send children to school in twenty different countries and planted thousands of trees in helping the environment flourish. She is currently a managing partner at Main & Rose, an award-winning branding and communications firm in Los Angeles. Beth has been a speaker at Capitol Hill, Google, and The United Nations as well as a writer for The Huffington Post and Darling Magazine.

Henna Sherzai

Henna Sherzai is the co-founder of Need Vegan, which is a stage for clothing, beauty products, and accessories that are cruelty-free and good for our planet's well-being. She is currently the Director of Marketing and Communications for The Downtown Center Business Improvement District in Los Angeles. Henna leads PR achievements that promote a positive image for Downtown Los Angeles in order to bring residents, workers, visitors, and investors to the up-and-coming downtown area.

Anthony Sarandrea

Anthony Sarandrea is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and philanthropist who runs a profitable portfolio of websites ranging from commerce to content blogs, without ever raising outside funds.

Anthony bootstrapped his way to building a large digital advertising agency, Siteflood.com, and consults for several Fortune 500 & Fortune 1000 companies on branding, sales, and direct marketing strategies.

Anthony is a sought-after company advisor in the ecommerce and marketing technology industries. His work has been featured on Forbes and Entrepreneur magazine, among other publications.

Kemoa Frederickson

Kemoa Frederickson is the Director of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Wags Hotels (state-of-the-art pet care facility) in San Francisco. Kemoa is highly experienced in digital advertising, promotions, events, and campaigns throughout the city. He is extremely enthusiastic about bringing memorable experiences that connect brands with their audiences. His past experiences include working for brands like Ubisoft and Gap Inc.

Ryan T. Sauers

As President and CMO of Sauers Consulting Stategies, LLC, Ryan T. Sauers understands the importance of your individual growth as well as the growth of your business. By helping to grow your brand with an integrated approach, he develops an organizational strategy that will more likely result in profitable sales. Ryan is also a featured writer in many global publications, such as Brand Quarterly.

Andrew Medal

Within six months of being released after two years in prison for a fight he got into in his early 20s, Andrew Medal built a successful software development company called Agent Beta, by teaching himself how to code. He and his team have developed products for and consulted with big brands like Warner Bros., Inc Magazine, the CA Education Department, and Microsoft, among others, for all things digital. Through his experience and story, he has reached millions and mentors thousands of entrepreneurs across the globe.

Dan Simons

For restaurant owner and advisor Dan Simons, staying true to his personal and professional brand means maintaining corporate and community responsibility. This includes building and operating environmentally-friendly restaurants where the source of your food matters, as do the people who make and serve it. Majority owned by 42,000 family farmers, Founding Farmers -- and its siblings Farmers Fishers Bakers, Farmers & Distillers, Founding Spirits -- all prioritize scratch-made, source-matters food and drink.

To Simons, "everything matters." Your brand shows up in your buildings, in your people, in your food, all influencing the experience your guests have. Simons has shown that a principle-centered, conscious capitalist approach to business is a platform that resonates with consumers. This is proving successful for their growing group of restaurants in and around the nation's capital. Their flagship DC restaurant has been OpenTable's most booked restaurant in the U.S. since 2011 and was recently named as one of The 10 Most Sustainable Restaurants in America.

Although they are very unique, all of these individuals have two things in common: they are excellent storytellers and they believe in a strong company culture. To build a brand requires more than a logo or a website. A brand is about the people, the experience, and the way a person feels when they come into contact with each aspect of your business. These nine brand experts crushed 2016 and we can't wait to see who follows in their footsteps in 2017.