All You Need is 1,000 True Fans … But …

Lot’s of people have blogged about ex-Wired-Editor Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans“ article. If you didn’t, I wrote about it yesterday. It seems like the central theme has been lost in some translations.

The core idea is that rather than trying and failing to gain mainstream success, if you have a smaller but more passionate following you can still make a living.

What a lot of people are overlooking is that doesn’t mean you only speak to 1,000 people. To get 1,000 “true fans” you are going to have to communicate with 10x or even 100x that number.

Think about it. What percentage of people who visit your blog actually subscribe? 5%? Fewer? So to get 1,000 subscribers, not “true fans”, just subscribers, how many people need to approach your site?

To get the pool of prospects you need to still cast your net. Experiment.

One of my current experiments is to give away a premium news theme to Twitter followers every friday. I don’t think for a minute every one of those followers will be a “true fan” or even engaged, but maybe a few will seek out more of what I do and like it. Point is you have to try these things to see what works. You can’t say “I have 1,000 followers so now I can rest”.

The idea does not at all take the pressure off promoting, just means that when you find your ideal prospect you have to absolutely delight and positively surprise them, nurture them, and make them as happy as you can.

You have to keep on doing the best you can because you don’t know where your next true fan might come from.

8 thoughts on “All You Need is 1,000 True Fans … But …

  1. Looking at it it very conservatively, with simple numbers, and using a solo musician as the example:
    For a 1,000 ‘true fans’ to spend $100 a year [e.g. gigs and CDs], you’d need 10,000 to spend $10 [the CD], 100,000 to spend $1 [one or two iTunes downloads], and 1 million to be ‘true friends’ [see above], to appreciate what you do but not pay a cent. For a band with four-members and no manager, multiply the above by four to get your baseline income. Very soon this moves from being an exciting new idea to exactly how all slightly successful indie musicians have got by.

    It’s another book being written on the back of one not very profound idea, but one couched in enough terms of personal success, both artistic and financial, that it should appeal to the liberal arts students who have never picked up $$$ self-help book before.

  2. Dominic: That doesn’t discount your value. Instead of a “True Fan”, you’d be a “true friend”. Friends might not spend any/much money but they’ll also get the word out.

  3. The only problem that I have is that being a “true friend” is being equated to spending at least $100 in a year. I can visit a site regularly, spread the word about the site, but not spend $100… I’m not a true friend then.

  4. The math is OK but the frequency plays its own tricky game
    And channels, repetition, updates. In the case of Chris I believe that he is able to get a 1k of fans (not byers of a product) from 7 to 8k followers over time.

    Speaking of four acquisition levels I don’t count cold one time contacts. But 7 to 8k warm and medium-warm followers will recruit the 1,000 hot fans. That’s very optimistic if you look at visitor numbers but I would throw away every single reader coming from a Google SERP.

    So, I would not speak of 50k regulars but of 50k qualified reading contacts coming self-motivated (active traffic) not search-motivated (passive traffic).

    But this is all speculation.

    I would love to hear from Chris how he comments on those abstract numbers from his experience.

    Chris, count me in

  5. Right, 2% is what I’ve read as well, and reaching that isn’t always easy. That 2% sometimes doesn’t come until you’ve gone through X not so true fans. What’s X? I wish I knew. But 1,000 is a nice, psychologically easy goal to go after. So to find 1,000 true fans, you probably need to have exposure to at least 50,000 regular readers (buyers, etc). Or am I mistaken?

  6. In direct marketing I learned the 2% rule. You can be happy if every action turns out to gain 2% reactions (not even real buyers). Reaction is defined before i.e. returning postcards etc.

    Edit: And the twitter giveaway for followers is a great idea!

  7. Hi Chris

    I guess the 1000 “true fans”, or in a conventional sense – loyal repeat customers – forms the base of your “business”. I mean, similar to when we are running a traditional business, it’s always better to keep current customers happy, with the hope that they’ll return and purchase lots more stuff from you.

    The challenge here I would see is how and what a blogger can do to maintain the “fan loyalty”. Attention span is short nowadays, especially on Internet time. Naturally, giving an incentive to build that 1000 fan base is a given. But sustaining that base over the long term would be the determining factor of a blog or blogger’s success.

    Perhaps that’s food for thought for your next post…..


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