Differentiating yourself in the digital space is more important today than it’s ever been. Solo entrepreneurs and businesses alike have realized that content is king, which means a lot more content for consumers to sift through before they find you and your business.
While content may be king, it isn’t everything. It’s just as necessary to understand the more technical aspects of online marketing as well as how to strategize for it. The digital marketing experts at the top of the heap today are there because they’ve figured this out.
Need help understanding SEO? They’ve got your back. Need to know what type of content is best for you to create? They’ve got that covered, too. How to figure out and reach your target audience? You can probably tell where this is going.
Below, we’ll look at seven of the top influencers in the world of content marketing, what they’ve done, and why you should be following them. By the time we’re done, you'll have a treasure trove of knowledge at your fingertips that can help your business stand out.
Let’s get started. These are seven of the best digital marketers to follow right now.
Our Top 7 Digital Marketing Experts
1. Neil Patel
This name probably won’t be a surprise to anyone even slightly familiar with the world of digital marketing. Patel has been a top marketing expert for years, and continues to be at the head of the class today.
With a following on Twitter alone of over 340K, and a collective social media following of over one million, Patel’s message resonates with people looking to get into the digital marketing space.
Patel distributes his advice as a digital marketing expert across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, his personal website where his blog is housed, and LinkedIn, where his skill endorsements are maxed out at “99+.”
Patel is a NY Times bestselling author, and has received impressive accolades for his work, including being named a top 100 entrepreneur under 30 by former President Barack Obama. He’s also been honored by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the UN. He’s consulted for massive companies like Amazon, Microsoft, AirBnB, Google and Reuters.
According to marketing blog Red Fern, Patel had the entrepreneurial bug at a young age, selling CDs for extra cash while in school after seeing older members of his family start businesses of their own. His first major success was a software app called Crazy Egg, which tracks user engagement by mapping where on a web page users click the most. After that, he went on to found Kissmetrics, which took web analytics even deeper for use in digital marketing.
Patel’s first effort, a job board called Advice Money, was actually a flop. But he kept going, and today has built a digital marketing empire.
2. Gary Vaynerchuck
No list of the best influencers in digital marketing is complete without a mention of Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuk, or “Gary Vee,” is a relentless entrepreneur, speaker, author, and creator of business-themed content online.
Before founding the powerhouse ad agency VaynerMedia, Vaynerchuk turned his parent’s wine business into a multimillion-dollar company. How? Through early adoption of digital marketing techniques. Vaynerchuk got into email marketing long before anyone else was doing it, and as a result, he was able to get his product right in front of customers.
At the time, it was the late '90s. No one was using the online space to push their business. But Vaynerchuk saw opportunity there, and went for it. He’s continued that pattern of early adoption and experimentation throughout his career, always staying on the leading edge of trends in the digital space. He consistently serves up helpings of real talk via his podcast “Ask Gary V,” the videos he puts out on YouTube, and his daily email newsletter the Hustler’s Digest.
He’s also a five-time NY Times bestselling author, a member on countless boards and organizations, and has his hand in everything from restaurant reservation apps to charity organizations. He was an early investor in some of the biggest companies around today, including Facebook, Twitter, and Venmo, and he shows no sign of slowing down. He is, as he says, “in love with the hustle.”
3. Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is another prolific entrepreneur, with a blog and podcast that reach millions of listeners, and multiple books on the NY Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. His content is geared toward helping others start and build their own businesses, as he details in his popular book The 4-Hour Workweek. Four out of his five books have reached the number one spot on the bestseller lists, and he’s been named one of Fast Company’s most innovative businesspeople. He also made Fortune’s “40 under 40” list.
Ferriss has a Twitter following of over 1.6 million, and episodes of his podcast have been downloaded over 300 million times, according to his website. His writings on success and personal health and wellbeing are published on Medium for more than 107,000 followers.
Ferriss regards entrepreneurship as “lifestyle design,” a way to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. He’s been invited to speak at MIT, Google, and Harvard Business School, and Wired named him the “Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008.” He’s also guest lectured at Princeton, been a Henry Crown fellow at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies in 2009, and delivered two TED talks on the subject of overcoming fear in one’s professional life.
4. Ann Handley
Handley has been writing since 1985, first as a journalist and then as a marketer. She made the transition to marketing in 1997, and she and her husband noticed a trend: digital marketing was on the rise. More people were taking advantage of it, but there was still room to innovate within the space. She and her husband created a company called Clickz, a directory of resources for those looking to learn more about online marketing, then sold it for $16 million three years later.
From there, she went on to become a successful author, keynote speaker, and the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a company that teaches aspiring entrepreneurs everything they need to know about marketing in the digital age. Handley was, according to Red Fern, the first person ever to hold a Chief Content Officer position.
She’s also been named a top LinkedIn influencer and Top Thought Leader by Forbes. IBM called her one of the people shaping the world of modern marketing.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given her background, Handley is adamant that you cannot be a good marketer if you can’t write, and authored a bestseller on writing improvement called Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content. She also blogs on the subject of writing, with an emphasis on how good writing can improve your marketing performance, and co-authored the best selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Bogs, Podcasts, Videos and Webinars That Engage and Ignite.
5. Seth Godin
For the past three decades, Godin has been writing, speaking, and inspiring others on the subject of unconventional entrepreneurship. 18 of his books have been bestsellers and are on the must-read list for anyone coming into their own as a business owner. The Dip and Purple Cow are two books you’ll hear people particularly recommend. He’s currently working on his newest title, This is Marketing.
Godin’s blog, where he posts his insights on all things marketing, is immensely popular. He also runs the podcast Akimbo, offers courses on Udemy, and books regular speaking engagements. You can find his writing on Medium and his speeches on his YouTube channel. One of his most famous speeches, his TED talk "How to Get Your Ideas to Spread," has over 1.5 million views.
In 2015, Godin launched the altMBA Program, a four-week online leadership and management workshop for budding entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Graduates include managers and communications officials from Chiobani and Sony Music.
Godin has been inducted into both the Direct Marketing and the Marketing Hall of Fame, in 2013 and 2018, respectively, and his website is riddled with useful information and links to other resources.
Follow Seth on his website.
6. Guy Kawasaki
A self-described “chief evangelist,” Kawasaki is famous for his marketing work at Apple in the '80’s, and today works at online graphic design company Canva in much the same role. He’s also, according to his website, a brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz and an Executive Fellow of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He holds degrees from Stanford and UCLA.
Kawasaki grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. In school, his first job was for a jewelry company called Nova, and after graduation, his Stanford roommate secured him a job with Apple. He worked there for years before leaving, started a couple of software companies, and eventually returned to the company as an Apple Fellow before he moved on to work with Canva.
In addition to the Chief Evangelist job at Canva, Kawasaki has written 13 books, including The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start 2.0, and Ape: How to Publish a Book. He gives 50 keynote speeches a year, and has given a TEDx talk on The Art of Innovation. He’s also recorded classes on how to grow a business for Udemy and Skillshare.
In short, if anyone knows how to get people excited about a product, it’s Kawasaki.
7. Shama Hyder
Hyder is the up-and-comer on our list, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t achieved as much as her peers. The founder and CEO of Zen Media has been called the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by Fast Company, and the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine.
Her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, is a best seller, and Hyder has delivered international keynote speeches. She’s been featured as an expert in her field on major television networks like CBS and Fox, as well as in major publications like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and more.
The success of her company earned Hyder a spot on both Forbes and Inc.’s “30 Under 30” lists, and she was named one of the top 25 entrepreneurs under 25 by Business Week. She’s also been honored at the White House and United Nations as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in North America.
In addition to being an online marketing expert, Hyder advocates for youth entrepreneurship and gender equality in the business world, publishing articles like “Top 2 Reasons #girlbosses Are Better for Women” via social media.
The Next Step
You’ve read our list, followed these excellent entrepreneurs, and are ready to soak up everything they have to offer. Great. But you can up your digital marketing game even further by downloading our free ebook, The Content Strategist’s Playbook: How to Save Money, Drive Traffic, and Win Big. It'll teach you:
- How outsourcing saves you time and thousands of dollars
- How to write a job description that attracts top talent
- What types of content are most effective for your business, and why
- How to convey your content goals to your writer
- How to establish professional working relationships with freelancers
- How to outsource SEO-friendly content that ranks #1
As multiple people on this list have pointed out, if you don’t have good writing, you don’t have much of a chance of marketing yourself, your product, or your business. Our guide can connect you with the right people to craft your message and get it to the public. Pay us a visit and download it—did we mention it’s free?—today.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer John Bogna and originally published in September 2018.