How many social media followers do you need to make your business succeed? Since everyone can’t be Beyoncé, how many people do you need in your corner to make things happen for you?
While we all wish we could live the life of a major celebrity for a day, the fact of the matter is that you don’t need to have a superstar-level following to turn your social media engagement into something more than a couple of likes and a retweet.
Aiming for sustainability and setting your sights on an achievable goal can lead to big rewards.
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Tired of the marketing mess?
You Want To Build A Group Of 1,000 True Fans
In Kevin Kelly’s seminal 2008 post, “1,000 True Fans,” he starts off describing “the long tail,” which is his name for what the internet did to markets as it grew in popularity. Because it removes barriers and makes things easier to find, it has led to a lengthening of the market.
For example, if you like classical trombone concertos, it used to be that you’d have to scour the record store and probably buy an entire album, even though it was just one or two tracks you really wanted to listen to.
There are an increasingly infinite array of products available in a particular sector, meaning customers are split up into smaller and smaller groups.
Obviously, there will be superstars—a ubiquitous product that blows up, or someone with the right combination of talent and luck that comes along at just the right time and captures a big following.
Kevin’s point is that you can’t reasonably aim to replicate superstar success. What you can do, however, is figure out what level of support will work to make your success sustainable.
What you want to do is work on building a group of 1,000 True Fans.
Different business models will need different numbers. The key is that it’s hard, but it’s achievable. As Kevin puts it, “You can count to 1,000.”
So what is a True Fan?
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. —Mike Masnick
It’s this level of loyalty and passion that we can build with our social media following.
Pro Tip: Figure out how many True Fans you need to be sustainable. A good go-to way to think about this is to assume each will spend $100 on you per year. Start counting.
1. Change The Way You Think About Social Media
The social media ground game has evolved.
Back in the wild west days of social media, the only numbers that mattered were followers, likes, and shares. It didn’t matter how you got the followers, as long as that number was big.
The same how-to was floating around in everyone’s heads:
- Build followers
- Get likes
The world has become so number-obsessed. You even saw people like Klout trying to develop an algorithm to score influence. What was lost in all the frenzy was a basic understanding of what has made social media a part of our everyday lives.
Social media is valuable because it helps you learn, communicate, and engage with other people. You use social media to have conversations.
I’m a huge baseball fan, and social media gives me access to up-to-the-minute information in a way that I’d never get in a newspaper.
When I think about what I like the most, it’s being able to see a variety of perspectives about a particular play or trade, from players, scouts, superfans, and reporters, and being able to talk to them about it.
It’s the insider experience that is valuable to me.
Pro Tip: Take the time to think about what you use social media to do, and why you use it the way you do. Does that insight change the way you could communicate with your customers?
2. Engage With Your Followers To Make Them Loyal Fans
The biggest mistake most marketers make is thinking of social media as a broadcast channel. They think it’s about sending out your message, about repetition and variation as if it’s just another form of TV. What they don’t do enough is listen.
Instead, use these tips to better engage with your followers:
- Get smaller. Instead of trying to broadcast to a large, general audience, narrow your focus to interacting with a small, specific audience. Who do you want to talk to? Focus on your customers social streams. Begin by listening. Have a conversation.
- Tell stories. Stories are what get people engaged and emotionally connected. A story is something unique, personal, and engaging. Stories let us see the people, idea, or values that you represent. Social Media Examiner has a great guide to using stories in your social media marketing.
- Show your face. Use visual content to get attention. Study after study shows that a post attached to a strong visual is more likely to get shared. More importantly, it lets us see behind the curtain. We will connect better with you as a person than a brand, so don’t be afraid to show your face. As Kevin put it very clearly: "Understand this isn’t ‘look at me, look how cool I am’ content, this is perhaps just the opposite if it is to connect. This is 'look at me, look how much I care, look how regular I am, look at why I might be the perfect person to guide you to the result you are seeking.'"
- Have conversations. Talk to people, ask questions, and find ways to get engaged. Show that you are interested in what others have to say, and not just obsessed with selling something. Shutterstock has a great guide for creatives on how to have more authentic conversations on social media.
Pro Tip: Don’t broadcast, blindly flailing into the social media abyss. Be specific about who you want to talk to, lead with listening, and start having a conversation.
3. A Loyal Following Comes From Being A Real Person
In her useful guide to building a loyal following on social media, Mei Pak offers this incredibly wise piece of insight:
Building a successful creative business means polarizing the people that find you. They are either your target customer or they’re not. —Mei Pak
It’s natural to be cautious about putting yourself out there because it can seem pretty risky. You might come off wrong, or miscommunicate, or make a fool of yourself. But while that’s off-putting to some people, it will make others fall in love with you.
As long as you show vulnerability and admit mistakes when you make them, you have nothing to lose.
Achieving this successfully requires making sure you’re clear about your values. Decide what’s important early on, and it becomes easier to know what to post about. If an event is happening nearby, you could post a shout-out, or even share a photo or video from it.
Shared values are going to attract your most loyal customers.
Finally, make sure that you keep upbeat. As Mei says:
Present and focus on the positive points so you don’t sound like a whiner. —Mei Pak
That doesn’t mean you can’t post about something you’re struggling with, but try to stay constructive and positive to get people to root for you.
All of this advice really boils down to a simple revelation: Social media is about having a conversation, not about who can yell the loudest.
The same way that you approach meeting people at a party is the way you should approach your social media game. As Dale Carnegie advises, be interested in other people and they’ll be interested in you.