Thought leaders you have to follow on social media

Virtually everything I read about social media and small business these days focuses on marketing and very little else.

Now, I get the fact that building your brand and generating leads for your business is important. No sales, no business. But if that’s all you use social media for, you’re missing out big time on the opportunity to enrich your mind with the myriad of stories, ideas, opinions and philosophies that experts, authorities, and thought leaders locally and overseas expound regularly via blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Used properly — with passion and purpose — social media can help you professionally by broadening your perspective on a number of fronts, more so than at any time in our history.

Why? Because it’s never been easier to interact with thought leaders — to check out the links they share, read their blog posts, listen to their podcast interviews, or get involved in their conversations online.

While it’s incumbent on small business owners to stay up to date with what’s happening in their profession or industry, you will only grow as a professional by constantly expanding your horizons and challenging your thinking.

If you want to gain an edge over the competition, you really need to be in tune, not just with what’s going on in your industry specifically, but also with the business world generally. What are the thought leaders saying, what trends are bubbling under the radar, what are the new challenges facing companies, where is technology heading and what opportunities will emerging new media bring?

Thought leaders online

By all means continue to read the mainstream press, listen to the radio and watch television. But set aside part of your day to absorb the words and actions of people such as:

Try listening to podcasts such as Entrepreneur On Fire, The Engaging Brand, Six Pixels of Separation, The Human Business Way, Social Triggers and Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life.

It takes roughly a minute to read one of Seth Godin’s daily blog posts, but the power of his words will rattle around inside your head for days. Watching Gary Vaynerchuk prowl the stage for a keynote presentation will challenge the traditional way you think about marketing. Losing yourself in the conversations Mitch Joel has with an array of interesting and forward-thinking guests on his podcast program will inspire you to investigate further.

Watching Jonathan Fields interview all sorts of thought-provoking guests on his Good Life Project web video series might take 40+ minutes out of your day, but it will take your mind out of your business and help you to see the world in a different way.

Following someone like Brian Solis or Mark Schaefer on Twitter will provide you with endless inspiration and links to more great material. And if you’re after even more inspiration and progressive ideas, check out LinkedIn’s influencers section where you can subscribe to regular posts from any number of globally recognised entrepreneurs, authors, politicians, journalists, experts and thinkers.

When running your own business, it’s very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the day to day. But by following the right people on the social web — the progressive thinkers, disrupters and mischief makers — you will become a smarter business person with a sharper edge to your game.