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These people became thought leaders. Here's what they did.

In my previous post, I was a little…well…harsh when I described what it takes to become a thought leader. But I truly believe that it was a service; I either really inspired someone or saved someone a lot of time.

While it was helpful to outline some of the commitment it requires to rise to the level of thought leader in today’s saturated digital marketing world, nothing drives the point home better than real-world examples.

So, let’s take a look.

Dr. Brené Brown

I think even Brené Brown would admit that she became an accidental thought leader through her TED Talk. No one was as surprised at the response she received to her thoughts on vulnerability than she was. Even today, that TED Talk is one of the top 10 most viewed of all time.

But since that day, her status as a thought leader has exploded. Books, Oprah interviews, and tons of publicity has come her way. And here’s what makes her popular:

  • She took a chance on communicating a message she was passionate about.

  • She is unapologetically herself (which is also part of her message).

  • Her social media platforms are extremely active. And while I’m sure she has help with that, she’s also contributing. I’ve seen her respond to comments on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • When you think about it, her message is extremely specific. Yet, she’s been able to expand her thoughts in so many ways. While she focuses on shame, vulnerability, and authenticity, she’s able to translate that into people’s personal and professional lives. They relate to her. That’s why it works.

Lucila Williams

Lucila Williams is a client of mine and while I’d like to take all the credit for her rising success…it’s truly a team effort.

Lucila is the very definition of a thought leader. Through our client/marketing consultant relationship, we push each other to find new and better ways of getting her message out there. Multiple daily social media posts, a new YouTube channel, a commitment to email marketing, and a dedication to her vision has allowed Lucila to pull in six figures in the first year of her course creation as The Intentional Advisor.

Here’s why this is working:

  • Lucila is committed to posting on Facebook every day herself. She writes notes to her following in her posts, creates graphics when she wants to, and she is always there to answer questions and give feedback. From there, my team repurposes the material onto other platforms. But the message is HERS.

  • She knew the time it would take to truly get this off the ground. Before she even started, she made a commitment to take a step back from her financial planning practice to focus more time on becoming a thought leader. This is not a hobby for her – it’s a job. And it’s paid off.

  • Lucila isn’t just delegating – SHE’S IN IT. She thrives on trial and error, she researches new and better ways to be more efficient and is always ready to change course in procedure if she finds a better way of doing things. As marketing consultant, it keeps me on my toes.

I love it.

Brendon Burchard

Brendon Burchard is the bestselling author of High Performance Habits and has become a millionaire thought leader through the courses he’s created. He’s all over the place, consulting with leaders in every industry and encouraging anyone with an idea to get it out there. (If you truly want to be a thought leader, I encourage you to look him up and take his advice).

So, why do we like him?

  • Brendon is authentic. He’s completely open about how he spent his childhood in poverty and how, when he was working on his vision…he didn’t have a penny to his name. He understands the risk we all feel when we’re starting out. And we relate to that.

  • He is on social media ALL THE TIME, but his chosen platform is really Instagram. He shares short videos every day, quote graphics we can relate to, and stories from his life. We feel like we know him.

  • Brendon is generous with his knowledge – whatever it took to get him where he is, he’s willing to share. He doesn’t keep his secrets close to the vest. He wants everyone to be successful. We like that.

Widow Chick

Yes! That’s me! No, I don’t have 2 million followers on Instagram, but the thousands of followers I have on Facebook are active and participating and the activity on that page is usually around 100,000 views per week (without sponsoring ads). As I’ve often said, I’d rather have 100 people following me and commenting every day than 1 million people following me would couldn’t care less about what I’m saying.

Because of that following, I’ve been able to travel, I attracted an agent and a book deal (and contributed to other books) and have been interviewed more times than I can count. Other authors ask me to review their books, organizations ask me to endorse their programs, and creating this following generally made me the expert that others turn to. It changed my life.

But how did I build that audience?

  • Like every thought leader I’ve outlined here, as I was building my following, I was on social media every day. Facebook was my platform of choice, but I did have that linked to my Twitter account, which allowed me to create a following there as well.

  • I created original content that was totally and utterly ME. I put myself on schedule of 2-3 days a week of original blogs and was completely authentic in everything I posted. The other days of the week, I was asking discussion questions, creating quote graphics (or sharing them from other sources), and posting articles I thought might help other people.

  • I constantly looked for other websites that might carry my content. I would repurpose blogs or write new content so that each time it was posted, my bio was at the bottom with links sending people where I wanted them to go.

So, there you go. What do you think? Are you ready to get started or have questions? Email me at and let’s talk!

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