The following post was written between two flights: Sept. 27, 2017 in an American Airlines EMB140 at 36,000 feet above Pennsylvania and Ohio; and Oct. 10, 2017, in an American Airlines 737 over a similar stretch, heading to Chicago.
As I head to my second Social Media Day event of 2017, I can’t help but think of the people I look up to in the social media industry who have not only inspired me, but lent me their time, energy and attention to help me get where I am today.
The cliché phrase “Follow Friday” doesn’t do this group justice. My friendships with them transcends any button on a digital platform. My philosophies are very much an amalgamation of their unique approaches. I highly value the generosity of their time — not just individually, but the ways they interact with everyone they know. I guarantee if you get to know them as I have, you’ll feel similarly enriched.
So who are they? In no particular order:
I can’t say enough about the impact Brian has had on my career, which is why I’ve written about the guy several times prior to this post. I knew of Brian well before he’d heard of me, and in a world where data-based “leaderboards” can — for better or for worse — camouflage people’s genuine personalities, I’d have never imagined I’d even get to speak with the guy. Now, more than two full years after the glory days of Meerkat, Brian and I will share a stage together tomorrow in Ohio.
Brian’s a terrific conversationalist and an exceptional connector, but even among this group, his thought processes on the business side of social media are industry-leading and prospectively transcendent. I have “borrowed” — with proper attribution — his “Think like a fan” catchphrase in dozens of meetings, but even more important, culturally, is his new mantra of “Be Yourself.” It’s remarkable how two phrases can redefine a listener’s approach, but Brian’s thoughtfully sharpened ideas have made a difference for dozens of businesses, tens of thousands of fans (“fanz?”) — and me.
Follow Brian: www.twitter.com/iSocialFanz
Dan was the first of this group that I met. In fact, he was one of the first “social media people” I ever met, at The Social Shake-Up in Atlanta in 2014. We first communicated via Twitter, through a hashtag-based conversation about millennials, and kept in touch into 2015, as I embarked on a trip to visit 50 states in 100 days.
Dan and I agree on some things — go Cubs go, of course — but what I value most about our friendship is our propensity to disagree on quite a bit, but always be open to conversation and debate. For example, Dan knows in his heart that the tomato-sauce-and-mozzarella-cheese-soup they serve in Chicago is not pizza, but he’s consistent willing to refer to it as such for the sake of debate. (I kid. Or do I? A native New Yorker knows his pizza.)
On a more serious note, Dan has proven himself as one of the most influential and well-respected digital thought leaders on the planet, with high-profile roles at Discover, Humana and now McDonald’s. Dan’s push for innovation while at Humana earned him a prestigious award — and a keynote slot on stage — at the Shake-Up Show 2017, where our friendship came full circle at the same hotel where it began three years earlier.
(Edit: I flew to Chicago this week to attend a Cubs playoff game with Dan, and even though the weather kept us from seeing them clinch the NLDS, it was well worth the adventure.)
Follow Dan: www.twitter.com/dgingiss
It’s been fascinating to watch Geoff’s ascension as a live-streaming thought leader over the past 2.5 years. Geoff approaches his digital endeavors a bit differently than the others in this post, but certainly not to any less effect.
As one of the earliest adopters of both Meerkat and Periscope, Geoff not only jumped in early but with complete enthusiasm. Not only was he one of the most consistent live broadcasters around, he quickly carved a niche as the face of New York City — while hardly ever showing his own face. Instead, Geoff focused on building a tremendously engaged and dedicated community, splitting time between delivering tons of valuable content and supporting others who were doing the same thing.
Geoff’s a masterful relationship builder, perhaps the best I’ve ever met. He’s a dedicated creator who isn’t afraid to call out BS, and stand up for his morals and convictions. In fact, ironically, he’s currently banned from Periscope for publicly pointing out the app’s hypocritical practices regarding its community standards. Having gotten to know Geoff personally over the years, I stand 100% with him and am among many who feel he deserves to have the ban lifted. But with or without Periscope, Geoff’s stature and reputation in the social community sphere are cemented. He’s an industry standard-bearer who’s positioned himself at the forefront of the live video wave, even while declining almost every podcast request, Twitter chat invite and the like. I’m proud to call Geoff a close friend and am extremely grateful for all the help, advice and support he’s provided over the years.
Follow Geoff: www.twitter.com/GeoffGolberg
What does the face of live-streaming look like? One look at Mario Armstrong and you’ve got your answer.
Mario, the uncannily accessible, ultra-transparent, unfailingly charismatic host of his dream-turned-reality Never Settle Show, hit his stride in 2017 after years of hustle, spotted with flashes of greatness. For almost any aspiring entertainer on the planet, a recurring drop-in role on NBC’s TODAY Show would be the proverbial top of the mountain, but Mario’s world-changing dreams didn’t stop at Rockefeller Center.
And while most entrepreneurs seek a tribe to cheer them on, Mario does one better, genuinely involving his devoted fans and followers to the party. Through weekly “co-producer” meetings on Facebook Live, Mario and his team draw legitimate direction and guidance from the audience, which makes each live broadcast of the show feel like a genuine culmination of a futuristic approach to crowdsourcing.
While broadcast networks and digital content factories scramble to figure out ways to make viewers feel involved, Mario’s already one season deep into a brilliantly schemed, industry-leading, award-winning solution, and there’s no slowdown in sight: Season 2, fresh off a summer of reflection and innovation, is just around the corner.
But what matters most in a world of mounting transparency is attitude, and nobody brings more genuine positivity than Mario Armstrong. I rarely watch Periscope replays, but in the rare instance I do miss Mario live, I’m grateful for the chance to captively catch up. No one does it like Mario, and as his stock rises in the months and years ahead, I’ll be grateful for the chance to say I know the guy.
Follow Mario: www.twitter.com/MarioArmstrong
While the others on this list may yield bigger names, more speaking engagements or a higher profile, I’m not sure there’s anyone in the space I truly respect more than Joe Wilson.
In state after state this year, I’ve been blessed to take the stage and there’s only one slide I reference in every talk or presentation I give — be it mic’d up in front of a crowd, in a board room with nonprofit execs, on the phone for a podcast or even in person.
“We are all famous to a few people.”
I look at Joe’s wisdom — which stretches well beyond those eight words, just to be clear — as many of you might see Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek or Elon Musk. Joe’s unflinchingly grounded approach has inspired me to grow in ways I would have never dreamt imaginable, and I’m just one of thousands who look up to him.
When I find myself at a career crossroads, I call Joe. His long, windy career path has led him to, what appears at a distance, at least, self-actualization, even if the dollar signs and speaking engagements haven’t materialized yet. Joe’s a brilliant relationship-builder with a heart of gold (and a truly remarkable woman, KZ, by his side). So many of the relationships I see budding online share the Joe Wilson linchpin, a constant testament to his gravitas as a creator, a speaker, a confidant and a best friend.
Joe is an incredibly kind, funny, creative, talented and supportive guy with a sterling reputation, and I’m blessed to have gotten to know him over the last few years. Among my personal career goals is to be in a position to give back to those who’ve helped me get where I’m going, and Joe Wilson is at the top of my list.
Follow Joe: www.twitter.com/JoeWilsonTV
So how does this list help you? Easy. Jump on Twitter, follow these five gentlemen, and send a Tweet saying hi. Feel free to name-drop me and/or this post. Find a podcast they’ve guested on, listen in and absorb. I promise you, if you get to know these five guys as well as I do, your career, and your demeanor, will be better for it.
Chris Strub is the first person to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states, author of ‘50 States, 100 Days: The Book,’ and creator of the online course ‘Livestreaming for Nonprofits.’ Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, @ChrisStrub, and learn more about his adventures at www.teamstrub.com .