How To Get More Fans (and Why That’s a Horrible Idea)

Is it all about fans?

“How do I get more fans?” I hear this a lot. I’ve written about how to get more followers a few times, so instead of the same old, I thought I’d address this to folks who are working on growing themselves to be a person who has something of a growing (or huge) platform and is trying to understand how to use social platforms to build something better/deeper/more. And there might be a good place to start. “WHY” are you seeking to get more fans? And do you really want fans?

What Are Fans?

I’m a fan. For instance, I’m a fan of Lorin and Bassnectar. By “fan,” I mean that I like his music, and appreciate some of the media he puts out. In the fan relationship, Lorin wants a few things from me:

  • Support. And online, this means tweets and likes and things.
  • Money. He would love it if I buy his records when they come out.

This is a really simple relationship. In the “fan” perspective, if I get the occasional @ reply from @bassnectar on Twitter, I feel that little “oooh! He spoke to me!” And that’s it. I don’t think that someday we’ll work on a track together. I don’t expect him to hang out with me at a concert. That’s it.

Why Community Members are WAY Cooler Than Fans

By comparison, I hung out with Sabrina at the annual PRSA event at the end of last year. We talked for a while. I got to hear what was going on in her world. I listened to some of the challenges of her role, and basically spent simple time with her. She then left her job, went to another organization, and convinced them I should keynote their May event. Thus, I got to see Sabrina again, hear about her father’s stories of Pakistan, and about her upcoming vacation. Hopefully, I added value to her event, too.

In my community are mentors, thinkers like Charlie Green, author of several bestselling books on consulting and leadership and generally smart guy, and Tim Sanders, the original Lovecat, and someone who’s working on some really cool stuff that I’m proud to be learning about. I can follow them from afar, and I can dip in and talk with them personally when I have a need, and if they’re not too busy for me.

Communities are made up of multiple levels of peers. Sometimes the community I have the honor to serve hires me for something and other times, I hire it. I spent a day with Dr. Nick Morgan learning more about how to do better at speaking, and I learned so much that I’m still unpacking everything that came from that single day.

Thank goodness that I’m much more than a fan of these people, and I’m grateful that none of them are my fans.

What Does it Take to Nurture These Relationships?

A community-minded relationship requires that you think (always) in three dimensions:

  1. What do I offer that can help others?
  2. Who do I know that can help this person?
  3. How can I best work with this person?

To nurture those kinds of relationships requires more than a few considerations and preparations. Prepare for bullets:

  • Keep the simplest of databases, even Evernote, to list names, contact info, and what people might need/want.
  • Learn to make eye contact, and remember people’s names. Hard to be very personable or a community person if you’re bad with names. It takes practice, but it’s very doable.
  • Do your damnedest to always find the time to spend a short while with any who linger. No, this doesn’t scale. Same with online. When you can, talk back and make connections, and talk about them and what they’re into.
  • Open the circle to be inclusive. If you’ve ever met me in person at a conference, you’ve probably seen this one: when people come over, I just open the circle such that even more people can talk with each other. It’s the same online. Talk to the new folks just as much as you talk to those you’ve known a while. (Maybe more!)
  • Always remember that you serve the community. It is never your community. If a roomful of people are wearing shirts with your face on it, you’re still the servant and the participant. Lead from the floor, and be inclusive in that leadership.

In most of these cases, those are both offline and online bits of advice. Here are some online bits in particular.

  • You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, but it’s way important to reply back as often as possible to those who message you.
  • Having a fan page is tricky. It means you’re accepting the concept of “fan.” But should you have one, try to let it be YOU populating it and doing the conversing. I’m proud of Deepak Choprah (who I’m trying to get for an interview on this subject) and Nikki Sixx, of all the odd pairings, for running their own presence on places like Google+. The difference is vast.
  • Be where you can best support the experience. If you can’t manage to have a profile active and communicate back and forth on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Soundcloud, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever, then don’t. But be where you are. And make it the best possible experience you can make it.
  • “Behind the scenes” is for fans. “Part of the story” is for participants in a community. Find ways to get people into the action.
  • The more ways you can connect other people together at the peer level, the more it’s about your community and not you-worship.
  • Check yourself frequently. Eat humility every single day. Every time you feel like you’re all that and a bag of chips, talk yourself back out of it. Go do something for people who need it more. Whatever. But never let yourself believe for a minute that you deserve a pedestal. That never turns out well.

So, Get Fans If You Want

Or, make the world amazing by participating in a community of people you can care about and that you can admire, and who you can help whenever you can. Don’t build community around your book or your album. Build it around the bigger flag you fly, no matter what the current project is named. Make sure of that, because you’re going to have a next whatever, and if you’re lucky, people are going to remember you and the flag you fly, not the book title or album title or whatever.

And if you want more? Never fret that argument that it’s quality not quantity. You can have both. The more amazing people I meet in my travels, the more I know this to be true.

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