Robert Scoble blazed a big trail by blogging and producing video as a technical evangelist for Microsoft from 2003 through 2006. No longer at Microsoft, Scoble now produces media for media's sake at FastCompany.tv. Others have followed his lead, knowingly or not, and job titles like "social media evangelist" are no longer nearly as rare as they used to be.

Still, many companies wonder what kind of work an employee like that could do for them. We asked around and found seven shining stars engaging in online social media at work.

Big Picture

Two of the most striking things we learned by asking (on Twitter, in the middle of the work day, you'll note) were these.

There are now a whole lot of people doing this kind of work. An overwhelming number of people and companies were offered up as examples - we picked the following seven the best we could but there are many other people doing great work in this field that aren't mentioned here.

Second, there may be even more people doing this kind of work internally in large organizations. If we were to count the growing army of people evangelizing for social media use inside companies in an unofficial capacity, then there would be a far larger group still. We'd love to write another post later highlighting some of the people who've been most successful at getting their own co-workers excited about the benefits of using social media tools.

Without further ado, though, here are seven of our favorite examples of people doing public-facing social media work from inside companies today.

Sam Lawrence

When we asked for examples of people doing this kind of work well on Twitter, the first name that flooded our replies inbox was Jive Software's Sam Lawrence. A veteran marketer for big technology firms, Sam is now the Chief Marketing Officer for Jive, a Sequoia-funded enterprise collaboration suite.

On Twitter, but more prominently on his blog Go Big Always, Sam has quickly mastered the art of providing interesting value to the work lives of his readers and drawing in established social media leaders in a dignified way.

He's gently but firmly combative with competitors, sometimes challenges his own PR representatives and calls out Analyst firms the company has subscribed to. Designed by consultant Justin Kistner, Lawrence's blog is striking in appearance and is filled with oversized graphics, charts and videos.

The blog has drawn competitors and potential partners into the company's sphere of engagement through a remarkable number of comments for an enterprise exec's blog. Though Go Big Always is only a handful of months old, Lawrence has used it to rocket to prominence among thought leaders in emerging the social media market.

Daniela Barbosa

Daniela Barbosa is the Business Development Manager, at Synaptica, a division of Dow Jones Client Solutions. Barbosa is one of the most prominent advocates of semantic technology and data portability inside of a legacy institution.

Her personal blog leverages almost every bleeding edge web technology you can think of.

She's a frequent conference speaker, makes regular appearances on blog aggregator Techmeme and is an active participant in the Data Portability Working Group. Talk about Business Development 2.0!

"Daniela is the kind of change agent that is saving big corps whether they like it or not," Chris Saad, chairman of the Data Portability Working Group, told us. "She is leading by example and making waves of change both inside and outside the company. Everyone's very glad she is, too."

Photo by Mario Sundar

Jeremiah Owyang

Probably the first blogger ever to become an Analyst, Jeremiah Owyang now specializes in and produces extensive social media for the analyst firm Forrester. He's a widely loved Twitter user and a prolific blogger.

Owyang publishes blog posts with magnetic titles like "A List of Companies and Services That Provide Live Web Video Streaming," "Many Forms of Widget Monetization" and "Explaining OpenSocial to Your Executives."

Jeremiah is a great example of someone who offers to teach others as a way to draw them in. He's built a reputation as a generous contributor to social media conversations and thus has become a hub for business and tech professionals. That's a good place for an analyst to be.

Linda Skrocki

Linda Skrocki manages the community venues at Sun Microsystems, including the many Sun blogs, forums, media and Planets (RSS aggregation).

Skrocki writes a highly engaging Sun blog herself, where for example she recently announced that Sun blogs had just received their reader 100,000th comment. That on 97k blog posts on 4143 blogs. That's pretty remarkable for an enterprise focused community.

Asked about her social media work at Sun, Skorcki described it as follows.

"Along with a colleague, we have sessions that we conduct inside and outside of Sun. The sessions typically cover the benefits of leveraging the venues, do's and don'ts, and how to get started. The sessions are usually small (groups of 25 or so) and conducive to informal discussion while hitting the key points. External organizations that we've shared our experiences with include the United Nations in preparation for their Youth Summit, the DoD, other tech companies, etc. I'll be presenting to a Reuters Women's Group soon -- the group consists of women at various levels in their career and in various sectors."

In addition to being an active Twitter user, Skrocki is also working on putting Twitter to use for Sun events like the forthcoming JavaOne conference.

Disclosure: Sun is a consulting client of mine, though I haven't had the pleasure to work with Linda directly.

Paul Miller

Paul Miller is the community evangelist for UK informatics vendor Tails, one of the biggest library software companies in that country. Miller specifically evangelizes for the Tails semantic web platform.

Miller is one of the hosts of the often fascinating Talking With Tails podcast series, he has done one episode of what we hope will be a series of podcasts on the semantic web here at RWW and he recently started covering the semantic web in a ZDNet blog dedicated to the topic.

While this list of social media power users could be described as Scoble 2.0, Miller insisted that he is actually Scoble 3.0 (a joke about how the semantic web is referred to as web 3.0 - Miller is a very humble man).

Miller is part of a whole crew at Talis that uses social media to bring value to the lives of their audiences - including Talking co-host Richard Wallis and Danny Ayers who writes the excellent This Week's Semantic Web series of blog posts.

Kristie Wells

Kristie Wells does social media for app development and hosting service Joyent. She administers the company's well followed Twitter account, in addition to her own. She runs the company's Facebook group for customers, is a contributor to the user blog and is preparing to launch a How-to podcast series.

Is there any work being done over there with all this media socializing? There sure is; Joyent provides app hosting for thousands of companies, including some big ones like MLB.com, Oprah's Ambassador program and the LATimes. That history of success made good ammunition when Joyent recently faced criticism for former-customer Twitter's scaling issues. That break-up got talked about on blogs around the web, but social media savvy and the company's own blog came in very handy in response.

Aaron Fulkerson and the MindTouch Team

MindTouch, the makers of the DekiWiki platform, is a social media company that eats its own dog food very publicly. Every member of the team contributes to the company blog, discussing not just product developments but also general interest industry news.

The company's active developer forums are filled with media that users are able to repurpose for their own evangelism. The company integrates with a substantial number of other developer-level social media technologies.

They also use the sophisticated Viddler video platform so their videos can be tagged and commented on. See the down-home 4 minute example demo video below, the only thing missing is audio quality.

As a result of all this material being made available and the company's high degree of visibility in several social media fora, the marketability of the widely appreciated wiki software is further amplified. Mindtouch says their enterprise wiki software is downloaded 3,000 times every day.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the most successful recent examples of companies employing social media evangelists in order to communicate with existing users and bring new attention to their services. While many, many companies today know they ought to "have a blog," most are still unsure how to use them and are not sure why they would employ a specialist in making putting these new media to use.

This isn't entirely new ground, though. Many companies are finding the ROI of social media engagement to be essential to their momentum. We've highlighted just seven here, though, who are your favorite social media evangelists?