All it takes these days to call yourself a "social media expert" is to have an Instagram account. Or so it seems, from the sheer number of people who are promoting themselves that way. But the truth is, there's a much smaller number of trainers who have actually done the work and experienced real results and are therefore qualified to speak on the subject of social media.

If you're wondering which voices you should listen to in this very noisy field, here are 25 professional keynote speakers who have been in the social media trenches.

1. Joel Comm--A New York Times best-selling author and speaker, Joel Comm launched his first website more than 20 years ago. For much of the past decade, he has helped other Internet entrepreneurs build successful businesses, publishing more than a dozen books about online marketing, including the top-selling book Twitter Power. His speaking style is a unique blend of content, inspiration, and humor, delivered in a down-to-earth manner that is relaxed, friendly, and always engaging. From Fortune 500 marketing departments to entrepreneurial events for home-based entrepreneurs to a profoundly transparent TEDx Talk given in Denver, Comm's message resonates and sticks. Speaker page

2. Chris Brogan--StatSocial has ranked Chris Brogan the third most powerful influencer online, and his eight business books are packed with information and advice about the most effective social media marketing methods. He's given talks to Disney, Coke, Google, and Microsoft, interviewed Richard Branson, and presented to royalty, but when it comes to describing his own marketing, the New York Times best-selling writer is a little coy. "You basically have to primp yourself up and act all pompous and important and make sure people know why you're worth it," he says. "I'm just a really approachable and nice-seeming guy." Speaker page

3. Jay Baer--Ask Jay Baer what has given him the biggest sense of pride, and he'll bat away the question. "This is my real pride and joy," he'll say, and point to the bar in which he keeps his world-class tequila collection. Having built five multimillion-dollar businesses and penned Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help not Hype, which became a New York Times bestseller, Baer certainly has much to drink to. The only thing he lacks is the time to indulge. His current firm, Convince & Convert, has him delivering as many as 50 talks a year about social media and content marketing, and he has invested in or advises a dozen early-stage technology and social media firms. Speaker page

4. Bryan Kramer--The Boy Scouts don't give badges for marketing, but if they did Bryan Kramer, CEO of digital agency Purematter, would certainly have one. Since 2006, he has been an active Silicon Valley Rotarian and is currently the VP of marketing for the Santa Clara County Boy Scouts of America. They didn't give him a badge, but they did give him a silver medal for community impact and volunteerism. The effect that marketing has on people and communities has most inspired Kramer's marketing ideas. His #H2H hashtag was intended to show that successful companies aren't B2B or B2C but H2H--human to human. The Writer named it the No. 1 buzzword of 2015. Speaker page

5. Mari Smith--At more than six feet, Mari Smith is hard to miss. And that's before she starts to speak. Get her talking on her favorite subject, marketing with Facebook, and you soon realize you're listening to someone who is head and shoulders above most social media experts. That's not just because of the Scottish lilt in her voice (Smith was born in Canada but spent two decades in Scotland); it's because her suggestions always manage to be practical, original, and effective. Fast Company has described Smith as "the Pied Piper of the online world," and Forbes has placed her on its list of the Top 10 Social Media Power Influencers for four years in a row. Speaker page

6. Guy Kawasaki--Guy Kawasaki's first job after he completed his psychology degree at Stanford was counting diamonds. He's been counting them ever since. He worked at Apple when it was a diamond in the rough, returned when it first lost its gleam, and as the company's chief evangelist helped to give it new polish. He has invested in or advised a stream of successful businesses, including Evernote, Ustream, and Microsoft's Motorola division, and built and run several successful technology companies. He sits on the board of Wikimedia, and he now spends much of his time traveling and talking to audiences to help them find their own diamonds. Speaker page

7. Scott Stratten--Somewhere in Scott Stratten's own pile of marketing material is a picture of him with long hair and the kind of hipster beard that makes him look more rock star than social media maven. It's an unorthodox look that comes straight out of his unorthodox background as a music marketer--and that forms the foundation of his original approach to marketing. Stratten made his name running an "Unagency" that practiced "Unmarketing." He places an emphasis on engagement over interruption and relationship-building over broadcasting. "It's all about positioning yourself as a trusted expert in front of your target market," he explains, "so when they have the need, they choose you." Speaker page

8. Brian Carter--Brian Carter brings a background in standup comedy and improvisation to his speaking gigs. But audiences don't have to sit through any rambling, funny stories about his flight to the venue when he takes the stage. Instead, they get a talk focused on the very latest marketing and social media techniques, customized to Carter's audience and sprinkled with just enough humor to make listening fun as well as effective. Speaker page

9. Kim Garst--For Kim Garst, small businesses are beautiful. And big ones are pretty good too. As the CEO and founder of social media firm Boom Social, she delivers talks to both, focusing not just on social media but on the branding and customer care that social selling should deliver. "To win on marketing with social media you have to attract or 'pull' people toward you," she says. "People are attracted to you via your message and the content you share on social media." Speaker page

10. Ted Rubin--While much of the advice offered by social media speakers involves good ideas that haven't always been tested, Ted Rubin has solid practical experience. He's been the chief marketing officer of at least three companies where he's applied techniques in the field and discovered for himself what works--and what it means when social media works. "Listening is finally getting the respect it deserves through social media," he says. "Listen and adjust your message to make it relevant to your consumer." Speaker page

11. Peter Shankman--Most professional speakers like the adrenaline rush that comes when facing an audience, but few need it as much as Peter Shankman. After starting his career as a senior news editor for AOL, Shankman created Help a Reporter Out, a source bank for publicity-seeking businesses and journalists looking for quotes. He sold it in 2010. He's now an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University, the CEO of the Geek Factory, a social media boutique, and when he's not doing all that, he completes triathlons and has jumped out of a plane (with a parachute) more than 400 times. The New York Times has called him “a public relations all-star who knows everything about new media and then some." Speaker page

12. Brian Solis--What does a "like" on a Facebook page actually mean? According to Brian Solis, principal digital analyst at the Altimeter Group, not much. What really matters, he argues, is the nature and depth of the engagement a customer feels with a brand he or she needs to regard as a person. He's written three best-selling books, including The End of Business as Usual, and spends much of his time analyzing the effects of disruptive technology on businesses and people. His talks are intended to educate, inspire, and align leadership teams around a common vision. Speaker page

13. Mark Schaefer--If you've studied marketing at one of 50 business schools in the U.S., there's a good chance you've already met Mark Schaefer. His five best-selling marketing books are used as texts in business schools across the country, and he himself is an adjunct professor at Rutgers University. You wouldn't guess those academic achievements when you meet him though, as he would fit in as an agency head. Creative thinking rather than ivory tower thoughts. Snappy suits, not elbow patches. Schaefer is all marketing guy, even when he's sharing his knowledge. Speaker page

14. Marsha Collier--The greatest pleasure business people can feel is when they look at their accomplishments and say, "I did that." For Marsha Collier, that comes not just when she looks around her office and sees the signs of her success--her series of books (one million in print); her Small Business Person of the Year award, won when she set up her first advertising and marketing firm; the DVDs of her PBS show Making Your Fortune Online. It also comes when she sees her daughter's degree certificate. It was the profits that Collier made online that paid for that degree, and her work now is teaching other people how to turn their ideas and effort into revenue. Speaker page

15. Jeremiah Owyang--A look through Jeremiah Owyang's list of companies reveals a career that started in convention (Cable & Wireless, Wells Fargo, Hitachi Data Systems) but which quickly led to the forefront of new developments. As the founder of Crowd Companies, he now helps big companies deal with the rise of the collaborative economy, an entirely new world in which assets are made more efficient and sharing has replaced some ownership. "I live at the edge of technology but map it back to what it means for businesses," he says. "My career mission is to help corporations connect with customers using web technologies." Speaker page

16. Shelly Demotte Kramer--You know you're about to get something different from Shelly Demotte Kramer the moment you sit down with her after one of her talks. While other speakers might order a coy white wine or a brash bourbon, for Kramer, there's only one choice: beer. Why? Because she likes beer. It's that honesty that marketing clients and audiences have come to appreciate from Kramer. She has no front and, for someone who's spent the past 20 years helping businesses sell things, a remarkable degree of frankness. For Kramer, marketing today is all about finding an authentic voice in a new world that gives every business an audience. Speaker page

17. Ann Handley--When the most important form of marketing communication is content, marketers have a whole new challenge. Brand messages have to be packaged, not pushed, and articles have to engage while building both relationships and sales. In Ann Handley, marketers have a whole new solution. Handley started her career as a journalist, and she still pens a monthly column for Entrepreneur, but as the chief content officer of MarketingProfs and the author of two books on creating content, few people have a better grasp of modern marketing's most important format. Speaker page

18. Amy Porterfield--It's hard to imagine Amy Porterfield in biker leathers. But that was where she started: marketing dropped handlebars and ear-splitting events for Harley-Davidson. It was when she moved to her next job, though, that she really found high gear: as director of content development for Tony Robbins, the world's leading self-help guru. She couldn't have received a better grounding in what it takes to succeed--and how to use content to build that success--than at his shoulder (or in Porterfield's case, elbow). She ran Robbins's online marketing campaigns before taking his advice, burning her boats, and setting up for herself. She's the author of Facebook for Dummies, has built her own successful online business through webinars, and if you need help, she can change the oil on a low rider. Speaker page

19. Jason Miller--Jason Miller has been behind the scenes. In 2011, when he was just a happy music blogger, he was given a photo pass to a Mötley Crüe concert. He bought himself a fancy new camera, boned up on photography techniques, and shot what was probably the worst sequence of concert photos ever. He's done a lot better with the camera since, but he still spends time behind the scenes, now in social media as LinkedIn's Global Content Leader. He's the author of Welcome to the Funnel, an Amazon bestseller, and while Mötley Crüe might not be inviting him to shoot their portraits, he is frequently asked to speak about content and the ROI of social media. Speaker page

20. Mark Fidelman--Squint a little and you can see the Tom Cruise in Mark Fidelman. There's the boyish good looks, sure, but there's also the background in sports marketing. You half-expect him to jump on the table at any moment and demand that you show him the money. In practice, he's more likely to talk to you about money, a conversation that will take you through social media marketing, content production, revenue generation, and all the other topics he covers in his best-selling book Socialized!, his columns for Forbes, and his work as CEO of leading digital agency Evolve. Speaker page

21. Ekaterina Walter--Big businesses often struggle with social media. While small firms and startups can speak with one voice, communicating a single message in a signature style is much harder for companies with thousands of employees. Ekaterina Walter has met that challenge head-on. At Intel, she led the company's charge into social media, and as the co-founder and CMO of Branderati, she built a social media agency from scratch to sale. She's now the chief evangelist for social media software firm Sprinklr, and the author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a paean to Facebook's founder. "My peers call me Superconnector, as I believe that there is no such thing as a 'self-made man' and we can all benefit from smart partnerships," she says. "I enjoy social media because it allows me to do just that." Speaker page

22. Joe Pulizzi--Every few weeks, Joe Pulizzi will receive a package in the mail and out will come something orange. It started by accident. When he delivered his first talks as the founder of Content Marketing Institute, he wore orange to associate himself with his company's colors. But addressing a keynote in Brussels, he was asked to wear all black with a silver tie. The result was people at the event and on social media asking why he didn't wear his usual brash color. "I immediately thought that this could be a differentiator for our company," he says. "From that moment on, I went over the deep end in wearing orange: shoes, shirts, suits, pocket squares--everything," he says. Look beyond the color though, and you'll find plenty of content. Pulizzi is the author of four leading books on content marketing and now spends his time teaching businesses how to create content that stands out like an orange suit at a business convention. Speaker page

23. Marcus Sheridan--The usual advice when you're in a hole is to stop digging. Marcus Sheridan ignored that advice and was able to turn a pool installation company from a couple of friends and an old pickup truck into one of America's largest pool installation companies. That success came by digging up more than gardens. He was also able to dig up plenty of customers, even during the housing bust, through inbound and content marketing. Through talks and his blog, The Sales Lion, he now shares those techniques, enabling any small-business owner to dig deep and build strong foundations. Speaker page

24. Gary Vaynerchuk--Most people would consider being born into a family wine business as a lifetime's worth of luck. They could relax and spend their days checking the grapes and enjoying the fruit of their labor. Not Gary Vaynerchuck. Within five years, he'd turned a $3 million business into a $60 million business. He set up his own digital agency and co-founded a $25 million angel fund. He's the author of a series of books on business and content marketing, and has been profiled in The New York Times, Fortune, and Inc. You can talk to Vaynerchuk about business and turning a passion into profits, but you can also just pour the wine and let him tell you all about nose and vintage. Speaker page

25. Evan Carmichael--Evan Carmichael teaches entrepreneurs to #Believe in themselves. At 19, he built then sold a biotech software company. At 22, he was a VC helping raise $500,000 to $15 million. Now he runs EvanCarmichael.com, a popular website for entrepreneurs. He is also a popular YouTube personality with more than 95,000 subscribers. He says, "I breathe and bleed entrepreneurship. I’m obsessed." Carmichael was named one of the Top 100 Great Leadership Speakers for your Next Conference by Inc. magazine. Speaker page

 

Published on: Sep 4, 2015