Dale Denham, MAS+, has released his annual list of the top 18 industry influencers who leverage online tools and social strategies to drive value to their businesses as well as to the promotional products industry. Denham, senior vice president and chief information officer at distributor Geiger, and former chair of the PPAI board of directors, has been publishing the list for the past five years.

He explains how the 2020 #Online18 list was developed. “I leveraged everyone on last year’s list to help me identify new influencers and to double-check my own perceptions. This year’s list also includes companies, as well as individuals, so you’ll notice a few brands mixed in this list. My rule is to only allow one person per company, but I did make one exception.”

Engaging content is a primary driver in determining who makes the list, Denham says. “I include the link to where I consume the most valuable content, but nearly everyone is on more than one channel. Facebook remains dominant in the industry, so I tend to default to Facebook for most. Instagram is the growing influencer trend for our industry which seems to continue to shun Twitter. We’re starting to see some growth in TikTok, but I still refuse to log into the viral sensation for fear of wasting my time.”

Here are Denham’s 18 most influential online influencers in the promotional products industry for 2020:

  1. Charity Gibson – Charity was the clear winner for 2020 and was probably overdue as she has been an influencer for a long time. Last year, Nick Lateur came out of nowhere to snag the No.1 spot, and Charity playfully created fun out of being “Number 2” and wore a t-shirt that said “Twos-day” during last January’s Expo. Her personal social media is excellent, but where she shines is the number of organizations for which she drives their social media including her employer, Peerless Umbrella. Charity was the most frequently mentioned person cited by those listed on the 2019 #Online18.
  2. Britney Godsey – Britney continues to have extremely high engagement with followers, and like others on this list, she seems to have mastered the mix of business and personal posts. She’s brought some great video into the mix and is a lot of fun to watch, while providing great content that inspires.
  3. Danny Rosin – Danny is likely to be a lifetime member of this list. He manages to strike the perfect balance of being authentic and still representing his business or causes. So many accounts are more oriented towards products or towards family. Danny strikes the perfect balance and delivers meaningful content and engagement in both areas. I also respect how he uses the platforms differently so that I see varied content depending on the platform.
  4. Taylor Borst – So much engagement! Taylor almost made the list last year, and this year she rocketed to the top five. Clearly, I made a mistake not recognizing her last year as her name appeared so many times from the other influencer recommendations. I’ve personally enjoyed her posts, and she may be one of the most creative at selling promo in the industry via TikTok (she reposts her videos on Facebook). She brings a creative, professional and unique approach to all her social.
  5. Kirby Hasseman – I tried—oh, how I tried—to move Kirby farther down the list as he has been on so long, but the engagement Kirby has with his followers is extremely high. He also delivers a ton of interesting and valuable content—a great mix of personal, business and just generally insightful stuff.
  6. Nick Lateur – Oh, how the mighty have fallen! But only a few spots isn’t too bad … it’s not like he fell completely off the list as some people did last year (I’m talking to you Kenny Ved). The reality is that it is very hard to stay No. 1. Nick has continued to deliver engaging content with his “Mondays with Nick.” He’s more than Mondays with Nick but that remains his primary gig. I just hope in 2021 we see a little less cleavage from Nick.
  7. ASICentral – Last year, I recognized Vin Driscoll who is the primary account manager for ASICentral. However, this year the recognition goes to the entire team of CJ Mittica, Vin Driscoll and Melissa Newman with a special recognition to Melissa. Not only have I really enjoyed her content, but several other influencers named her specifically as well. Follow them all on Twitter.
  8. Megan Erber – Last year, Megan was ranked No. 16, but I clearly should have ranked her higher. She was probably the most-mentioned person online when last year’s list came out. I’ll probably wish I had ranked her higher again this year, and she probably deserves it, but no harm in a slow climb (unless she sees me in person and hurts me …). Megan is a giver on social media with high engagement from followers and with those she follows.
  9. Michele Bell – I’m violating my own rule here because Michele really should be mixed in with ASICentral since she works at ASI (and is responsible for editorial). However, I absolutely love following Michele on Twitter for her mix of business insights and direct insights which is unmatched. Be warned though, this is Michele unfiltered, and I don’t think anyone else could pull off what Michele does. Michele does follow the rule of being authentic, and if you have the pleasure of knowing Michele personally, you will see her authenticity online.
  10. Jon Norris – Starline has great content and Jon is a big part of it, so Starline was a strong contender for the recognition. However, Jon’s continued role in leading PromoStandards and helping to shape the future on online transactions in the industry is too significant to not directly mention him. Plus, Jon is one of the very few who consistently recognize the industry technologists for their industry accomplishments. There’s a fun mix of personal and industry stuff on Jon’s Twitter feed and be sure to check out PB&J episodes from Starline too.
  11. SnugzUSA – SnugZ has beautiful images, great videos and engaging content. Their posts are great examples of staying top of mind while not always selling—a tough balancing act done well.
  12. Paul Bellantone – He’s leaving PPAI, but he won’t be forgotten. He’s tagged more than just about anyone I know while still providing good content and engagement. Most everyone follows Paul already but if you don’t, he’s worth your time. Hopefully, he won’t completely leave us on social when he leaves PPAI.
  13. Goldstar USA – The Simplicity Brothers, Kenny Ved and Charles Duggan, have created a brand that works and have tied it into their business promotions. They are good guys who work hard and continually reinvent their approach on social to keep things interesting. They are always engaging online and in ways that leverage their social but not exclusively social.
  14. commonsku/Bobby Lehew – In the past, I have recognized principals, Mark Graham or Catherine Graham, but this year the recognition for commonsku goes to Bobby and for two reasons: First is that Bobby creates a ton of compelling and engaging content for commonsku. Second is that Bobby was somewhat vindicated this year. Several years ago, Bobby dropped Facebook and focused his energy elsewhere. I’m still not sure it was the right time to do so and he did come back, but in hindsight, Bobby was seeing the challenges (perhaps the dangers) of Facebook before others and was willing to invest his full energy elsewhere.
  15. Jay Busselle – Still the primary driving force behind Promochat at 3 pm ET on Wednesdays but he does so much more. Highly engaged with PromoKitchen, he’s constantly giving of himself to others on social media. And of course, tacos.
  16. Maple Ridge Farms – Beautiful imagery and content. It’s really great stuff to inspire you and your clients.
  17. Bill Petrie – Bill is another original on this list who continues to have high engagement with his followers and provides content worth your time. Bill is tagged quite often by his followers as well which shows he stays top of mind. Bill does a great job of staying in front of people in engaging ways to stay top of mind, plus he stopped talking about pumpkin spice even if everyone still thinks of him every September…
  18. Javier Melendez – You probably haven’t heard of Javier, but he is fun to follow. Not for everyone, but he proves that you can be silly and engaging at the same time. Like most others, his posts are authentic as well as occasionally insightful.