Let’s face it. There’s a lot of fluff content out there. And if you’re relatively new to social media and online marketing, it can be a real challenge to filter through all the junk to find the really good stuff. I’ve been kicking around the social media universe for 5 years now (read: I’m an old timer!), and boy oh boy I’ve seen my share of junky blogs. You know the kind, the ones that just regurgitate all the same garbage day in and day out, or just repeat what all the so-called “gurus” say, trying to make it sound original. Ugh.

That’s why I’ve put together this (very short) list. These are four blogs that I turn to regularly because they are consistently great. The articles are exceptionally written, well thought out and full of substance. If you don’t put anything else into your Google Reader, put these four blogs, and you’ll be well on your way to getting a handle on this crazy online world.

Six Pixels of Separation
http://www.twistimage.com/blog/

This is my go-to blog for deep-thinking. Mitch Joel is one of the pre-eminient thinkers in the world on the topic of online marketing. The author of a great book by the same name, Mitch’s style is accessible, but meaty. He writes pretty well every day (which inspires me to try and do the same) and not only that, but he has a terrific weekly podcast to go along with all this great written content. This blog is chock full of great articles, amazing insights and excellent conversations in the comments. It is required reading for all my students and if you have any interest in learning more about what this fundamental shift in communications called social media really means, it’s required reading for you too. Oh, and by the way – Mitch is Canadian, and that’s yet another reason to love him!

The Next Web
http://www.thenextweb.com
This site is like my social media newspaper. It covers way more than just social media, but I tend to focus mostly on the social media sections. It’s blessed with a team of great writers and I find that TNW really cuts to the chase. This isn’t a site full of cheesy “Top Five Ways” lists. It’s the latest news on trends, tools, issues and practical advice. Prepare to skim on this site – there’s a LOT of content. But the cool thing is, you can customize your subscription feed for the site to only grab the sections you want to see, and you can even break it down by region.

Social Media Explorer
http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com

I can’t say enough good things about SME, and it just keeps getting better. I’ve watched Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer evolve over the past few years into an amazing source for learning and insights from a fantastic team of some of the top social media writers in the business. The amount of free advice being dolled out on this site is incredible. The articles are quick reads, super bookmarkable, and they don’t pull any punches – this is tell it like it is social media, and is also required reading!

Awaken Your Superhero
http://www.christopherspenn.com

Christopher S. Penn holds a special place in my heart as exactly the 2nd person I ever met who knew anything about social media. Since then, his amazing blog has been a true source of education and inspiration for me on an almost daily basis. Awaken Your Superhero is part social media, part personal productivity and part spiritual enlightenment. It’s a winning combination and I guarantee every trip you make to Chris’ blog will result in you knowing a bit more about not only social media, but life, too.

Those are my must-read blogs, I highly recommend subscribing to them, consuming them, and getting involved in the great conversations happening there. You’ll learn a tonne and your eyes will be opened to many new things.

What’s on your social media reading list?