Here’s hoping we don’t get #ratioed: PPAI Media is back once more to unveil promo’s best on social media.
Today’s list recognizes the industry’s 18 top individual influencers – whether they embrace that term or not – who are crushing it on one or more platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or TikTok). Last Friday we announced the #Online18 Best Organizations On Social Media; in the first six years of this project, organizations and individuals were combined by list organizer Dale Denham, MAS+, now the president and CEO of PPAI. But with PPAI Media taking over the #Online18 for the first time, we’ve split the honors in 2023.
While everyone wants to see their company and coworkers earn high honors, let’s be honest: Personalbranding is the heartbeat of social media. Me, me, me. This is the big one.
And these folks are good. Not a single one of them will ask that age-old question, “Who sells this pen?” All 18 are consistently giving more than they’re taking, elevating the industry and entertaining or inspiring their fellow pros at the same time.
Our picks and rankings for both lists were hotly debated by our team in a process using nominations and recommendations from industry insiders, PPAI staff and others, including each of the 2022 honorees. We must note, once again, that this countdown from No. 18 to No. 1 does not include any PPAI staffers. But we’re out there, so please feel free to slide into our DMs.
An undertaking like this always produces its interesting little side notes. It’s worth mentioning that eight of these 18 individuals are first-timers on our list, 11 are distributors and at least four help to oversee social media at companies that made this year’s list of organizations.
As far as the leading platform goes, LinkedIn is the clear winner here. While most on this list use at least three social media platforms at least to some degree, all but one hosts their largest audience of followers on LinkedIn. TikTok remains a curiosity for most of the industry’s best, which is just as well, since it might very well be #cancelled soon enough.
Drumroll, please. Here are this year’s picks for the 2023 #Online18 best social media influencers:
18. Erin EberhardtFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 2,150 Followers Erin is a new name on our list, but she’s been building a devoted fan base, especially on LinkedIn, for some time now with her pithy and instructive posts. Her content selection and tone make readers feel they are getting some free, expert advice – and that positions her as a pro clients want to work with.
Kirby has long been a favorite on our list – last year he shared spot No. 9 with Bill Petrie. No list of influencers would be complete without him, because his posts are an appealing blend of industry thought-leader, personal coach, skilled distributor and storyteller. There’s always a brilliant takeaway from Kirby’s posts, especially those linking to one of his latest podcasts (Delivering Marketing Joy has more than 430 episodes, and he’s produced The Monday Minute since 2020).
Mitch is another returning favorite to our list (No. 15 last year), and he first grabbed our attention with posts featuring simple and clever images backed up with quick and brilliant points about promo. Mitch knows what he’s doing with social media, and, judging by the number of followers, we’re not the only ones who think so. He also stands out by posting only on LinkedIn – that’s it! When you find something that’s effective, give it everything you’ve got. That’s how Mitch rolls, and it’s working.
It’s Sergio’s first time to make our list, and he gets the gold star for having a record number of followers on a single platform. His posts are a fascinating mix of things that are important to him: the promo industry, his employer (Debco), his family and friends. His posts are thoughtful, authentically Sergio with raw enthusiasm and emotion – the kind of posts that draw people in.
14. Swire HoFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 2,231 Followers Swire is another first-timer who brings his magnetic personality to social media. Among his mix of content is a new blog he and his wife Shirley launched last year called My Promo Story – interviews with an interesting selection of industry folks. His posts also feature The Small Business Show, a live podcast with industry guests. Together, these resources yield a great deal of original content and something new to learn every time we click on Swire’s posts.
13. Katie KahlerFollow On: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTokLargest Account: LinkedIn – 1,304 Followers For the past couple of years, Katie has been a popular poster with an engaged following, but this is the first time she’s made our list as an individual. However, last year she was recognized when her employer, American Solutions for Business, was ranked No. 1 on our list (it’s No. 4 on this year’s organizational list) thanks in large part to Katie’s creativity. On her own pages, she grabs our attention with eye-catching product videos coupled with plenty of people pics and posts from company and industry events.
12. Charity GibsonFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 2,827 Followers One of the industry’s undisputable queens of social media, Charity has been at the top of her game and on our list for years, and few do it better. Not only does she create posts and engaging original videos in which she freely shares her thoughts and expertise (she’s a former distributor turned supplier), along with personal insights as a mom, but she sees social media as a two-way street, posting conversation-starter questions and getting huge engagement. In fact, she’s the only person we know who can publish a text-only post (about Super Bowl commercials) and get 23 comments, 60 likes and 11 shares … and counting! If anything, though, we want more. Charity’s accounts fell mostly quiet for months, but she has re-engaged with emphasis more recently.
11. Bill PetrieFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTokLargest Account: LinkedIn – 2,174 Followers Bill ranked No. 9 on last year’s list, sharing that spot with Kirby Hasseman largely because of their weekly Promo UPFront podcast, but we felt both guys had truly earned their own ranking this year. Bill knows his followers well and puts in the time to provide highly sharable content that’s educational and thought-provoking, often linking to the podcast he hosts with Kirby or to his Brandivate blog. How did the voting shake out for Bill to earn the higher spot of the two this year? Well, we can’t wait to hear the duo talk it through, but here’s a theory: No matter the topic, Bill is willing to offer a hot take, always bravely putting himself out there in a way we can all relate to. The two make a great pair, however, and their voices are stronger together than apart. (We’re holding thoughts and prayers for Bill’s former Twitter account @billpetrie, which was apparently hacked and became devoted to NFT mining. Cool stuff, Mr. Musk.)
10. Samantha Fullerton Follow On: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 2,529 Followers Samantha is a new addition to our list, and we give her props for making it into our top 10 on the first go-round. Her posts bring out her passion for the industry and she knows what her audience wants, with lots of cool products, trend updates and promo ideas crafted to pique the attention of her clients and position her as the promo guru. We love how Samantha rolls!
How we have missed including Jenna on our previous lists is a mystery because she’s a true powerhouse on social. She’s the force behind KNOSS Apparel’s formidable presence, which ranked No. 9 on this year’s list of organizations, and most of her posts are co-branded. She loves to share selling hacks and insights about branding and entrepreneurship, as well as fitness, being a mom and other topics. Her huge following on LinkedIn confirms that she’s doing a lot of things right.
8. Nick LateurFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTokLargest Account: LinkedIn – 3,558 One of the most consistent contributors to social media and No. 6 on last year’s list, Nick has gained a popular following over the years with his quirky and long-running “Monday” video posts (kudos to Nick for maintaining this consistency – that’s hard to do). If your Mondays need a little kickstart, check out Nick’s posts and start the week with a smile.
7. Nadav RavivFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 6,024 The poster’s poster: Nadav is a brand-new face to this list after earning more recommendations from previous #Online18 honorees than any other individual. Nadav has a massive LinkedIn following, which is a true testament to the value of his messaging. Worlds regularly collide on Nadav’s social platforms as he shares personal faves (he’s a huge NASCAR fan) along with shoutouts from industry shows and new product ideas, plus lots of inspiration along the way. Follow Nadav and chances are good that his positive attitude will rub off on you.
6. Javier MelendezFollow On: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTokLargest Account: LinkedIn – 883 There’s probably no one who has mastered the short-form video on social media like Javier. He has a lot of fun with these, and so do his followers (check out the one below). Despite having the second-smallest number of followers on any platform, he moved up from No. 12 last year because we love what he does with video on social media, and so do many of his fellow influencers. Javi is an up-and-coming voice in promo (honored as one of 12 PPAI MagazineRising Stars last year) who has something to say about an industry that his generation will soon take over.
One of our favorites last year (at No. 3), Meg remains in our top five because she’s simply everywhere on social media in such a relatable and enjoyable way. Meg’s posts sport a fun, conversational vibe with content that’s incredibly relevant whether she’s highlighting a recent episode of podcast Industry Insider (she’s one of the hosts), promoting an activity for the industry group PromoCares (she’s a volunteer) or just celebrating the completion of a set of reps at the gym. She always lets us see the real Meg, and that draws us in.
4. Danny RosinFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn – 6,424 Danny has a whopping 6,424 followers just on LinkedIn (almost 18,500 on all four of his platforms combined), and that alone should qualify him as a top influencer. But he brings so much more to his pages than just numbers. One of the co-founders of BrandFuel (No. 1 on our best organizations list), he’s deeply engaged in the industry and passionate about the causes he and the company support – and he uses social media to share those passions and influence others to join in. We can count on him to be authentic and vulnerable in his posts – it’s a quality that’s earned him a deep and devoted fan base.
If you are not yet following this young dynamo, start today. In short order she’s become the social media face of American Solutions for Business, although her marketing leadership extends far beyond social. She has established herself as perhaps the industry’s leading voice on women’s promo apparel trends and continues to improve and surprise us with killer content. The product videos she does for ASB showcase some of her best work. These are slick in a good way, entertaining and instructive without being salesy. The example below is our latest favorite.
2. Josh Pospisil Follow On: Facebook, LinkedInLargest Account: LinkedIn - 813 “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” Each week you can count on Josh to post himself wearing a pink shirt or jacket and a huge smile, channeling Mean Girls. It’s his signature post. Sometimes he’s alone or pictured with co-workers (all wearing pink) in the office, at a show or on the road, but if it’s Wednesday, it’s pink day for Josh. Consistency is Josh’s thing, and he’s mastered it, becoming a constant and bright presence in industry feeds. His followers expect it, and he always delivers. He’s also the inspired talent behind his employer, Hirsch, which nailed the No. 13 spot for the first time on this year’s best organizations list. Josh brings a magnetic personality, creativity and loads of personal cred to his own platforms and Hirsch’s.
1. Jeremy PickerFollow On: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTokLargest Account: LinkedIn – 6,326 What does it take to be the No. 1 individual influencer on the #Online18? There’s not an exact formula. It’s not about having the biggest follower count, or the most posts, or the greatest engagement levels, or the most insightful and interesting posts, or reflecting the industry in a positive light, or modeling industry expertise, or creating content across many platforms … or just sharing cool pictures of branded T-shirts. It’s about allof those things and more, which is what Jeremy brings to the table in an authentic way. His content is always thoughtful and worth sharing, and the greater branded merchandise industry is better off to have him as an unmistakable leading voice.
Congratulations to all of the #Online18 honorees, and thank you for leading the way as we all work to elevate the conversation around promotional products. Click here to view Part 1 of the #Online18 for 2023, honoring the industry's best organizations of social media.