Thought Leaders

© 2009 Patrick Smith Photography

I’ve been reading some very good material around the web recently, and I’ve been coming to realize the difference between social media rockstars and thought leaders, though this can apply to almost any industry. (I love having StumbleUpon to archive all of this stuff…)

Tim Ferriss nailed it on the head for me. He was at LeWeb speaking on how to make a global phenomenon for under $10k. Two things in his speech stood out.

1. “Target the thought leaders, not the ones who are popular.”

He was speaking about how he went around promoting his book, the 4 Hour Workweek, and this was quite an interesting idea he put forth. He also documented case studies on his results as well, which were quite interesting. He explained that he met someone at an event, got to know him pretty well, and promoted the book on his blog. Little did he know that everyone else followed this guy and soon he noticed on a fairly popular blog that there was a link trailing to his friends blog, which trailed directly back to his blog. Sales for his book sharply increased.

Another example is that Chris Brogan mentioned in passing on a blog post that he picked up Tim’s book for a flight and planned to read it. The book hit #2 bestseller in Amazon for the next 2-3 days. He compared it to being on the Today Show and noticing he hit #12 in Amazon for only 2-3 hours.

Quite interesting if you think about it. Many times the thought leaders are quiet and don’t say much, but everyone echoes them across their own blogs popular or not. Seth Godin is a good example of this, as well as Erik Qualman. Some thought leaders are popular, while some just love to come from behind and surprise you. There are alot of rockstars out there, and alot more wannabes, but the ones who are moving mountains are the thought leaders.

2. “1000 True Fans is all you need.”

This thought, and the referral to the article opened my eyes to something big. If you break it down to simple numbers, if all you had were 1000 people to sell to and your product cost $100, you would make $100k which is a pretty decent living. If you upped it to a $1000 cruise, you would have $1 Million dollars. Think about it.

Tim Ferriss, in pushing his book to stay on the New York Times Bestseller list for two solid weeks, wanted 20k “Earlyvangelists” for his goal to work out. How did it work out? His book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for two and a half years and still going strong. Surprising eh? Exactly, this is a powerful idea to consider. Think about it? 😉

In response to this, not only is one of my goals for 2010 to find my earlyvangelists and convert them into my 1000 True Fans, but I also created a twitter list to reveal who I believe the thought leaders are. Some are popular, some are not, but each are a part of their own respective industry and have a brilliant mind full of ideas. Feel free to follow, add your comments, and build these ideas out further.

My Twitter Thought Leader List.


  1. Great post and couldn't agree more. Over at CSG-PR, we've been implementing this strategy for some time now. We label it our "Centers of Influence" Strategy and have found it to be highly effective in disseminating our client's message. Identifying these key influencers is a time intensive process that requires dedicated research and first-rate listening skills. Like you mentioned, there's no shortage of wannabes and posers.

    1. Exactly.

      Glad you found this post informative and helpful. I'd be happy to chat with you sometime over Thought Leaders and discuss ideas on where this Industry as a whole is headed. 🙂

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