Is social media nothing but snake oil? Sometimes it can seem that way. As economies shift and trends emerge, would-be experts start popping up like weeds. Really good social media experts are a treasure - and they're not always easy to find.
In this post we highlight seven social media consultants that consistently bring tangible value to the table. These folks aren't full of hot air - they use their blogs to offer clear examples, links, tutorials and other resources you can put to use. If the goods you can see for free are so solid, that's all the more reason to investigate paying for these peoples' services. We hope this list will help you get smarter and maybe save a whole lot of money and anguish.
Unfortunately, most of these people have been so successful already that only a few of them are easy to hire for small consulting engagements. Whether that happens or not, we believe that just reading their blogs is a great way to learn from these experts.
Note that ReadWriteWeb does not have a financial relationship with any of these individuals or the companies that some of them work for. While some other leading tech blogs have preferred consultancies they recommend, we offer this post in the same spirit all our posts are written in - simply as content we hope you'll find useful and interesting.
All of the people below can help you or your organization learn how the mechanics and strategies of social media work. Smart people can learn these things by themselves, but it's pretty smart too to learn from those early adopters who made mistakes first, can communicate well about their lessons learned and who specialize in learning and teaching about these technologies.
We'll tell you about the down side of each of these experts as well, because we have no interest in being anything but honest about it. (And we think that mixed reviews, even of great people, are more fun to read.)
Who are some of your favorite social media consultants? Please feel free to share your recommendations in comments. Here are ours.
Chris BroganBuilding your personal brand, celebrating your community.
Chris Brogan is on the top of almost everyone's list when asked about high-value social media consulting. He's smart, he knows his stuff, his blog posts are like levers you can pull to advance your own career and he's incredibly likable. His blog is a great place to get introduced to new and social media strategies though clear, tangible examples. Brogan is a walking example of smart social media strategy.
These days Chris is employed by CrossTech Media, an events company that offers some training of its own. On his personal blog Chris writes a lot about "personal branding," blogging and website usability.
If Chris's blog has a shortcoming it would be that it sometimes ends up looking like an eye-roll-worthy list of lists - but who are we to criticize a man for that in a post like this? People love lists.
Jeremiah OwyangExplaining new tech to the business world.
Web-Strategist offers a truckload of resources for businesspeople wanting to start using social media in an informed way. He's a great connector and aggregates news and resources from around the web.Jeremiah Owyang is an analyst at Forrester and a prolific blogger. His site
Jeremiah's services are available for hire through Forrester and that means his time's not cheap. He also focuses more on large businesses than on tactics for startups, for example. His series explaining complex technical announcements in language accessible by executives is vintage Jeremiah. This can leave more technical people or people who don't work in marketing, PR or a C-level suite a little frustrated.
We love him for things like his continually updated list of companies and services that provide live web video streaming. He forecasts trends well and compiles lists of resources that fill the needs arising from those trends.
Charlene LiTelling it like it is, in new territory.
Charlene Li recently left Forrester after co-authoring the book Groundswell with analyst Josh Bernoff. Li offers things like an empirical study of the effectiveness of Facebook flier ads and frank tips on personal networking at tech events. She's not afraid to say out loud what others are thinking - like that actor Ashton Kutcher's new startup Blah Girls is crap. Li is very connected, points out great resources around the web and is definitely worth subscribing to.
The down side here is that Li's experience is focused on big companies so that's who her advice is best suited for, she's only doing limited consulting these days and there's something about her tone that can be a bit off-putting some times. A Twitter bio that reads simply "thought leader," when combined with a blog with no commenting allowed, seems downright arrogant. She's got the chops to back it all up, but detailed two-way conversation is one of the best things about the blogs by other people on this list. (Update: Li responded within minutes of this post going live to let us know that it was a technical error that kept her comments from appearing on her blog. We apologize for being presumptuous - you know what they say about the faults you see in others!)
We look forward to learning from Charlene in her new capacity as an independent consultant and blogger.
Dawn FosterCommunity and tech hacks.
Fast Wonder is already pumping out the usable information and tools.Dawn Foster is a relatively new entrant into the consulting world but her blog
While Foster's work with research and tools is exciting, we feel less inspired by the parts of her discourse that are short on detailed examples. Her years of experience at Jive Software, Compiere and Intel are clearly helpful in consulting but we hope that with more consulting experience she'll be able to offer a wider variety of examples to back up the advice she gives.
Dosh DoshGenerating content and revenue online.
Dosh Dosh is a blog about online marketing written by a Canadian Philosophy student who goes by one name, Maki. The blog is a marvel to behold. It's the best looking site on our list (we're not into anime, either) and one of the most useful.
Popular posts on the site include How to Become An Authority in Your Niche: Eight Content Development Tips and 17 Ways You Can Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners, Marketers and Business Owners.
Dosh Dosh is not nearly as high-minded as many of the other blogs here, in fact it gets downright slimy if you take a look in the corners. Maki's ambiance on Digg is comparable to top user MrBabyman's (see our write-up on the scene), but with Maki the reason for the hangers-on is just as clear. MrBabyman is the champ at Digg, Maki is successful there as well and writes a compelling blog with the sub-title "Making Money Online."
Hopefully this philosophy major will grow up to be something other than a nihilist, but for now he sure writes a good blog full of useful tips.
Gary Vaynerchuck"Work your face off!"
On his personal blog, though, Vaynerchuck produces video blog posts explaining his rise to glory and sharing tips with fans. He takes the same advice into limited corporate consulting engagements. His perspective on the internet industry is fascinating and backed up by experience.
Gary recaps a lot of his best advice in the video below. It starts out slow, but his first talking point is patience!
In this video Vaynerchuck rightly emphasizes that his success online is substantially attributable to the fact that he's an experienced businessperson offline as well. Many viewers will also immediately recognize that his super-high-energy approach to communication isn't universally accessible. Likewise, Vaynerchuck sometimes gives terrible advice like "stop reading books" (you should just be producing content all the time, he says). He is, to some extent, the foil against the otherwise ubiquitous advice: listen, listen, listen.
Want good advice on working the internet, though? Gary V. is a must-see.
Nancy WhiteFull Circle Associates
Nancy White is an experienced consultant to nonprofits in online communication. Her most well-known project was working with Lee LeFever of CommonCraft on the March of Dimes social network ShareYourStory.
Her blog posts are a great mix of communication tips and social media advice. She specializes in online community, training educators and working with Communities of Practice. Her blog is very readable and has a sense of humor.
If there's any down side to working with Nancy it may be that she specializes in working with nonprofits and thus may be unavailable for many of our readers here.
Who Are Your Favorites?
We love discovering new high-quality consultants online. We looked at a lot of uninspiring consultant blogs in order to finalize this list, though. Rest assured we looked at plenty of others that looked good, too.
Who did we miss? We hope you'll share your favorite social media consultants with the RWW community in comments below. Who consistently delivers information you can put to use? Who leaves you feeling inspired on a regular basis?
Photo credits: Brian Solis took the first three photos, Josh Bancroft the one of Dawn Foster and Beth Kanter the one of Nancy White.