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.
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.
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:
- Have a product to sell.
- Have a product to sell that people are actually want to pay for.
- Not have superiority complex – try and build some sort of connection with anyone who takes interest.
- 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.
- Always make sure I’m adding value – either make it entertaining, educating, encouraging for your readers (or all three).
- Follow your artistic integrity and personal interests, rather than trends.
- 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 © 2022 James M.Lane perfectmanifesto.com
Copyright © 2022 James M.Lane perfectmanifesto.com