Over the years, I've read hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles about social media marketing best practices. Separating the wheat from the chaff can be difficult even when you're as immersed in the industry as I am.

If you're just starting out in social marketing, it can be downright intimidating to figure out who actually knows his or her stuff and is worth listening to.

To save you some time, I've selected 16 of my favorite quotes from some of the smartest people in the business. These quotes summarize some of the best of what I've learned, without the fluff.

1. "People want what's best for them, and they can switch on a dime, because there's always a new disruptor disrupting the last disruptor. So companies should just strive to keep changing and adapting to their customers' needs."--Ben Chestnut, MailChimp, @benchestnut

2. "The best feature of a product should really be the customer service."--Jason Fried, Basecamp, @jasonfried

3. "Don't interrupt what people want to consume, be what they want to consume."--Mike Volpe, HubSpot, @mvolpe

4. "In the digital space, attention is a currency. We earn it. We spend it"--Brian Solis, Altimeter Group, @briansolis

5. "The first 'soft' skill marketers needs to develop is empathy."--Mari Smith, @marismith

6. "Social media is our new megaphone to the outside world so it should be managed by someone who fully understands your brand's voice."--Renee Blodgett, @magicsaucemedia

7. "Humanizing your brand is a requirement, not an option, if you want to survive in business today."--Pam Moore, @pammktgnut

8. "Email may not be "sexy" to Pinterest-obsessed marketers ... but it's still the most consistent, reliable digital messaging medium out there."--Deanna Goldasich, @goldasich

9. "Engage, enlighten, encourage, and especially...just be yourself! Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset."--Susan Cooper, @buzzedition

10. "Make the customer the hero of your story."--Ann Handley, Marketing Profs, @marketingprofs

11. "My #1 tip for being a leader in the social media realm is no different than being a leader in real life and that's to focus on being a giver."--Shelly Kramer, @shellykramer

12. "On the social web you have to connect first before you ever even attempt to sell something and in most cases the real value comes from the connections you make, not the sales you make."--Paul Barron, @paulbarron

13. "What is the ROI of your mother?"--Gary Vaynerchuk, @garyvee

14. "Without personality social media is not social."--Glen Gilmore, @glengilmore

15. "You don't have to learn to be fascinating, you have to learn to be unboring."--Sally Hogshead, @sallyhogshead

16. "Awesome gets spread around pretty quickly."--Scott Stratten, @unmarketing

Published on: Oct 20, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.