As content marketing continues to dominate discussions and the steady increase in the use of content marketing continues across all disciplines, you may be asking yourself, “Where are we going next?”

What I foresee is a confluence between ever-evolving content marketing and influencer marketing. The momentum for both continues to grow -- and, if you look toward the top content marketers, you'll gain insights into where things are headed, and what you can learn along the way.

Here’s a look at the top five content marketers (in no particular order) and a peek into what you could pick up from following them.

1. Lee Odden

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, based in Minneapolis. His organization provides digital marketing that specializes in content and influencer marketing, SEM, PR, email and conversion optimization.

He’s held a number of keynote speaker roles at major marketing conferences, sharing a great deal of insight while also providing a wealth of marketing information via the Top Rank Blog.

While Odden covers a variety of topics, there are some important things to learn from his insights -- particularly, the need to be the best answer when someone is searching for information. That’s because content isn’t great until people find it, consume it and act on it.

2. Guy Kawasaki

Once upon a time, Guy Kawasaki was the chief evangelist for Apple, and he’s since moved on to join the board of trustees for Wikimedia. He’s a brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz USA and now the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool.

You might wonder, “What does any of that have to do with content marketing?” In fact, Kawasaki has also published more than nine books, including The Art of Social Media and Enchantment. Something that has always stood out to me about Kawasaki is the authenticity he maintains. It comes across in his interviews, his books and certainly his social media.

From Google+ to Twitter, Kawasaki never uses automation. The posts come from him directly -- something that defies the advice he receives from a lot of experts.

The result? When Kawasaki shares content, he's the one who's doing the talking. You can emulate that, and build a great deal of trust and respect from your audience by being transparent and authentic in the content you yourself share. That’s something all content marketers could benefit from.

3. Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a longtime veteran of creating content that focuses on building relationships. She has long held the role of chief content officer with MarketingProfs, and co-wrote one of my favorite books on content marketing, Content Rules.

In all of the content Handley has shared, what I keep coming back to is the idea that we need to create bigger, braver and bolder content marketing, with an emphasis on storytelling.

She is one of the influencers I believe is helping drive the industry away from short, soft content with little value. If any content marketer could teach you how to be a better storyteller, it’s Ann Handley.

4. Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas is a respected speaker and author of the best-selling book Blogging the Smart Way -- How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media. He also has a long list of achievements that include being recognized as the number one global digital marketing influencer, and being listed in "top" lists for content marketing and social media, for Onalytica and Huffington Post, among others.

His blog reaches more than 4 million people each year.

If you look at Bullas' meteoric rise, you’ll begin to see how content played a huge part in his success.

When he launched his blog in 2009, he was unemployed and $50,000 in debt, but he used insights he gained from books by Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek) and David Meerman Scott (The New Rules of Marketing and PR) to overcome those obstacles and find success.

When you dissect his content, you can see how he analyzes the science of distribution and promotion to best reach his audience.

That shows you that it’s not just about the quality of the content -- it’s also about the art and science of optimizing for search, understanding available tools and using content promotion resources like social to best reach the people you’re targeting.

5. Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, an organization that leads the charge in content marketing training and education. It also oversees the largest annual in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World.

He’s the author of several best-selling books, including Content Inc. and Epic Content Marketing.

Most importantly, and one of the reasons Pulizzi makes this list, is that he may be seen as the poster child for content marketing. His organization put a solid name to a rising category of marketing -- a new way of thinking -- that has changed the way brands and professionals engage with their audiences.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from following him all these years is the need to be different. When you’re creating a content strategy, producing new content, and taking stock of what you have, ask yourself: “Is the content I'm creating and distributing any different than anything else out there?”

In everything you do, it’s critical to give your customers a reason to care. Be different -- like these five people -- in how you provide value.