The year is 2008.
One man makes a theoretical punt: that all any artist, entrepreneur or creator needs to make a stable living is 1,000 true fans. His name is Kevin Kelly, founding editor of WIRED magazine, and he sends the creative kingdom into a spin.
Does it still apply to modern brands? We’re revisiting the theory twelve years on to see how well it’s aged.
What actually is a true fan?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A true fan/megafan/superfan/fangirl is defined as someone who buys into everything your brand is – from your mission and values to your products and services. They’ll share your stuff on social. They’ll have a Google alert set for your name. They’ll be first in line for merch. Together they make up your unpaid marketing force, leading the way for casual fans looking to amp up their devotion. Once the bond is there, true fans will happily part with their income to support your brand, over and over again.
The fandom landscape is changing
Whilst the composite nature of a true fan may look the same today, the landscape of content distribution has something else to say. New channels pop up on the daily, and self-generated content has meant anyone can publish, post or ‘go live’ all hours of the day and night. There’s a growing realisation that audiences are made up of real people, and the more individualised the content, the better the cut through. Much to the delight of brands in their infancy, it’s easier than ever to reach and identify true fans in the making.
It’s time to get personal
So, as brands’ potential to refine their *true* audiences increases, the need for wide-reaching celebrity status dwindles. So much so, that Kevin Kelly’s divine revelation has taken a decimal hit; contemporaries speculate that in today’s ‘Passion Economy, where more people are monetising what they love, 100 fans could be enough to pay your brand’s way. According to venture capital firm A16Z*, creating high-value, personalised programs for an even smaller segment of your fanbase can bring about the same financial results. How to hook them in? Exclusive content, unsolicited rewards, and opportunities to actively shape your brand. True fans will even do some of the legwork for you, spreading that pure word-of-mouth joy (which 83% of them prefer over traditional advertising, btw*). With fans that true, who needs the other 9,900?
It goes without saying that not all brand business models fit the shift away from ‘bigger and better’, but for brands seeking their niche, you heard it here first. Taking the time to nurture your inner circle, rather than vying for astronomical reach, will stand you in good stead when it comes to hitting your audience jackpot.
How many of your customers pass the ‘true fan’ litmus test? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
Written By Alex Prew, Strategist & Copywriter @ LoveGunn