Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is the role of blogging in this changing digital world?

A rabbit hole colliding with this topic was thinking about the different levels of engagement between readers.

How some writers have an audience who evangelise their every word, and spend their last penny to buy anything they put out.

Yet for others (i.e. most of us), it can be a battle to even inspire a long-time subscriber to muster up the energy to check out the latest post.

Thinking about this question, I went back to reading the 1,000 True Fans theory, and by this point realised I was now way off topic, as I thought about – what is the path to someone becoming that “true fan”?

In this post I explore from the perspective of a blogger, but recognise my words my have relevance to musicians, video creators, influencers, or just about anyone who creates something that has the potential to build a loyal fan base.

Let’s begin…

From Casual To Cult: The Path to 1000 True Fans – Perfect Manifesto

What is the 1,000 True Fans theory?

Written in 2008, this popular idea took off with the idea that anyone who creates anything, only needs 1,000 true fans

As long as the creator produces $100 worth of content that fans are prepared to pay each year, they will make enough money to make a living.

This post isn’t looking at this idea indepth, and I recommend reading the original theory, to familiarise yourself.

Since it’s publication online infrastructure has exploded for many creators to make this a reality online, finding an audience of die hards who are into that thing they do, from an audience made up of people across the world ready to spend that cash.

As author Kevin Kelly describes:

“If you lived in any of the 2 million small towns on Earth you might be the only one in your town to crave death metal music, or get turned on by whispering, or want a left-handed fishing reel. Before the web you’d never be able to satisfy that desire. You’d be alone in your fascination. But now satisfaction is only one click away. Whatever your interests as a creator are, your 1,000 true fans are one click from you. As far as I can tell there is nothing — no product, no idea, no desire — without a fan base on the internet. Every thing made, or thought of, can interest at least one person in a million — it’s a low bar. Yet if even only one out of million people were interested, that’s potentially 7,000 people on the planet. That means that any 1-in-a-million appeal can find 1,000 true fans. The trick is to practically find those fans, or more accurately, to have them find you.”

It’s an inspiring thought for any online creator, that there are other people out there who share their interest, and with a little bit of work they can find 1,000 True Fans who are willing to be patrons to their art, allowing them to do what they love.

But it gets a bit more complex than that – it’s not just a case of making monetized content and finding the diehards willing to buy it.

It’s a complex battle where people dip in and out, with different levels of warmth to receive your latest endeavours.

1,000 True Fans doesn’t sound much, but with so much content online, why would someone pay for what you make?

This post will not explore how to do this, but look at the path to building audience engagement to true fandom.

Understanding what makes a ‘true fan’

Through my own observations I’ve seen people who can put out a GoFund me page and reach over three times their target in the first day. That’s thousands of people who are giving away their hard earned money for no guarantee of a final end product.

Through my own experiences, I struggled to make anyone click an affiliate link, that if they bought something, I’d have made 50 pence!

It’s from this, I started thinking about the level engagement – this ranges from:

  • Casual Browser – who is unaware you exist, or even if they do will not stop to interact with you much aside from a few platitudes.
  • Regular Follower – someone who is a little bit invested in you, they might be subscribed, but there is no hard commitment, and they don’t really do much to show they really dig your work.
  • True Follower – someone who is invested in you, they are the people who always leave genuine comments, share your work, and may make a purchasing decision following an endorsement from you.
  • Regular Fan – if you put out a product, they may buy it if it takes interest. There is no guarantee they’ll buy again.
  • True Fan – as per Kevin Kelly’s essay, this is someone who buys everything you put out. Put out content behind a paywall offering extras, they’ll commit to a subscription without knowing what the quality of the product will be like every month.

How do you know people are buying into you (Note I use that term not just in a monetary sense, but also in the sense of people buying into your ideas).

I’ve had a go at mapping out this engagement with your audience on the path to becoming that ‘true fan’, along with the typical behaviours that illustrate how into your content the reader is.

From Casual To True Fan: How Engaged Is Your Reader – Perfect Manifesto

Exploring how engaged your reader is

I started thinking about the behaviour of these categories – you’re Casual Browser is a lot more passive, and may do things that require little energy such as leaving a ‘Like’ or ‘Platitude comment’ (I.e “Great post!”).

I had a distinction between Regular and True Follower, as although someone follows you there are differences. You may get a commitment from someone subscribing, but that does not guarantee a true follower – they can lose their attention, they go off your content, or the follow was insincere and a plot to try to gain your attention.

True Followers are great, if you’re happy doing what you do as a hobby, then they are your biggest champions – they keep you motivated, they show you the most support by leaving feedback or sharing the work. They are the core audience who can become your fans or who connect you to your true fans.

A Discussion: From Casual to True Fan

With my idea I admit there are flaws, this is a model I’ve attempted to draw out through my own observations and experiences to try and articulate the different ‘levels’ a member of the audience is engaged.

I’ve used quality of comments to assess who is a true follower and who is a casual follower, but recognise this might not be true. A reader may enjoy, even had their life changed by your work, but never comment because they never realised how much that feedback matters to content creators, or they don’t know what to say, or they’re just shy about putting their words online.

As acknowledged in this post, I haven’t said how to turn casual browsers into followers, nor followers into fans. If I knew this formula I would be doing it!

I also want to dispel any conceptions that this is looking at your audience as a source for making money, or that those who have more money to spend are better than the people who just enjoy your free stuff. That’s not true.

I came up with this for the simple reason – I thought it was a fun way of thinking about human behaviour by generalise the diverse nature of people into a few categories!

For what I think, if I wanted to find those true fans, I’d try this:

  1. Have a product to sell.
  2. Have a product to sell that people are actually want to pay for.
  3. Not have superiority complex – try and build some sort of connection with anyone who takes interest.
  4. Not take advantage of the ‘regular’ or ‘true’ fans and see them as a source to extract money from – once broken, trust is difficult to repair.
  5. Always make sure I’m adding value – either make it entertaining, educating, encouraging for your readers (or all three).
  6. Follow your artistic integrity and personal interests, rather than trends.
  7. Follow advice from others, but inevitable make sure you go your own way

What do you think?

Wishing you the best in your success

James @Perfect Manifesto

Copyright © 2023 James M.Lane

Copyright © 2023 James M.Lane


8 thoughts on “From Casual To Cult: The Path To 1000 True Fans

  1. I love what you have done here, James. It seems to be getting into the core of what ‘followers’ are and what groups they fall into.

    I see lots of what you call ‘True Fans’ who consider themselves true fans because they feel obliged to leave comments on every post of certain bloggers regardless of what content they post. However, those comments are always short and don’t show evidence that the post has been read. You see the same bloggers leaving the same short comments all over the blogging world, many claiming they don’t have time to leave thoughtful comments. Yet if they did not feel obliged to leave evidence that they visited by leaving these types of comments, they could make so much more of their comments which would benefit both them and the bloggers they are leaving comments for.

    Many of those above see blogging as a sprint in that they have to read and comment on as many posts as possible within a short time; otherwise, they’d offend or upset those bloggers they didn’t prove they visited by leaving short comments.

    I enjoy discussions in the comments section of blog posts. Getting into the post’s subject is a key factor in my blogging world on both my posts and those of other bloggers. I rather leave one thoughtful comment than hundreds of short comments that mean nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hugh. I’ve been looking a bit more into marketing theory, and there is an interesting concept that I’m just learning more about called the ‘marketing funnel’ which does a good job of breaking your ‘customers’ into different groups which then allows you to set goals and strategies to target depending on what type of fan they are (a bit similar to what I’ve been trying to map)

      In respect to leaving comments with family commitments I don’t get as much time to do that, but I like leaving comments with a bit thought to them, so just don’t comment as much as I’d like. I feel for those bloggers saying they don’t have time so they leave lots of short meaningless comments isn’t a great use of time. I think they do this to get attention to their blog, but like you say if they made more of their comments it would benefit all round.

      I think bloggers worrying about upsetting people by not leaving comments, so they drop a useless platitude have it wrong – it can feel quite offensive when you get a comment that displays the person showed little interest in the post (and damage their bloggers reputation!)

      Your final point about discussions starting through comments – I think one of the primary reasons to blog (rather than other writing mediums) is it allows two way conversation, getting feedback, and expanding thoughts on your idea.

      Thanks very much for you comment Hugh – have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the level of engagement mapping that you have created, and it makes sense to me. But I agree that it seems the only way to know if someone is a true fan is by having something to sell. I hope you are enjoying your job as engagement lead – seems like something right up your alley…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jim. It’s really interesting so far, learning new things everyday. Something I came across was the ‘marketing funnel’ which kind of brings in some of my ideas in this post – so at least I know I’m on the right track.

      Thanks so much for commenting!


  3. Generally speaking, true fans purchase everything their star creates, because they admire them so much they want to be like them. This usually happens to musicians, actors ad social media influencers. I’m a writer of self-help books, and while I make sales each month, I don’t have true fans. If I were interviewed by Oprah, then I become a star, and people want a piece of that. If I continue to just be me… well, being me is hard work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the best way to go – keep being yourself! It’s a pretty powerful image to be so influential people will always buy what you put out and listen to what you say.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not into blogging to make money, but I found your article interesting as far as the classification system you used. I think, however, there are so many reasons why someone may not interact the way we might hope. I think that, as you pointed out, many people are shy, and also most people are very busy, and may not have the time to create a thoughtful comment, or might be insecure about how they express themselves or how it will be received. Or they may love your stuff, but just not have the money to buy everything you offer.

    I just take the approach that if my writing touches someone, I am happy. Sure, I’d love to know about it, but chances are that even if something I write really helps someone, they may never publicly acknowledge it. If I based my whole motivation on receiving wonderful comments and raving fans, I could get very discouraged and give it all up. Okay, I realize I’m coming from a different place because I do not depend on blogging to earn a living, but I have seen this even in my former line of work, where some clients raved about me to my face (and it truly seemed they were satisfied with my services), but never bothered to leave a review that would have helped my business a lot, despite my requests. It would have been a matter of just jotting a few sentences, but it never materialized with some of them. I did, however, receive a lot of word-of-mouth, which was also very valuable.

    It’s human nature, and the bottom line is: Do what you love, and don’t depend on human approval to carry you, because most times it won’t, unless you’re very lucky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi thanks for sharing your views.

      I’ve started up a new job this year working as an engagement lead so have a lot of theories building.

      I think where my idea falls down is the specific actions – it does take a bit of confidence to post online. Back in early 2000 I used to lurk around a lot of forums but never comment, it was only through blogging, then getting on Twitter sharing my thoughts or talking with others started to become normal.

      I also thought about lacking the financial means that may make them a ‘true fan’, it was only the other day I was looking at someones content who I dig and saw they had a book, which was way overpriced- I guess there are a lot of price sensitive people like me out there!

      I take a similar approach that I am quite happy if my writing touches someone- I guess that is where I came up with the difference between a true follower/true fan, is that they are both pretty invested, just one has money they are willing to spend.

      Thanks for your thoughts – for any artist, whatever they create if they truly love it they will keep going!

      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.