Let me start with Kevin Kelly’s definition of a true fan:
“A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book. … If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.”
Here are some thoughts I would like to add to that:
Kevin Kelly’s definition is a bit exaggerated, maybe? Not every true fan in 2019 is going to buy you Kindle book AND your paperback AND your Audible.
They may buy EVERY Kindle book. Or EVERY Audio book. Or EVERY paperback. But not all of them at the same time. Today, you really don’t need the same thing in 3 different formats, not even if it’s free, and certainly not if you have to pay for them, because there are nearly 100x more things craving your dollars than even just a few years ago - Netflix, Hulu, Prime, HBO, Apple TV, Disney+, all the tech subscriptions, website subscriptions, etc. Subscription Overload! I talked about this on my podcast. Episode further below.
To eventually make a living using true fans, you need to have a solid product or service that can be monetized. Too many creators make the mistake of thing 1000 listeners/subscribers/likes/followers is the same as having 1000 true fans. No, they’re not the same.
That’s why most podcasters and YouTubers “podfade” or fade away, because they realize that hitting the “advertiser” benchmark is super hard. And even when they just barely make it, it’s not enough to quit your job.
You can’t take likes and hearts and comments and views to the bank. You can’t use them to pay for gas or groceries. You need to have something remarkable to sell them. A lot of people don’t have anything to sell. And when faced with that reality, they would rather go and create more content, than figure out how to create, sell and market products and services, because they consider themselves “creators” and “not marketers”.
If you have nothing to sell them, then their attention is probably what you’re trying to monetize. Which means, you’re looking for advertisers. Which means, your audience is the “product”. And you better have really huge numbers to make money through sponsors and donations, because those are not repeatable, sustainable, scalable business models. But when you have a product or service to sell, you have considerable control over your income.
What do you think? Do you have a different idea about “true fans”? Maybe about monetizing your passion? Marketing vs. Creating?
Let me know in the comments below.
Check out my new course 1001 True Fans: Small Audience, Big Impact: How to Become a Respected, Trusted & Beloved Expert and Build Your Tribe of 1,000 True Fans - Even If You’re Starting with an Audience of Zero Followers, Zero Fans, Zero List and Zero Customers
In the course, I talk about how to build an audience the right way, for the short-, mid- and long-term.
– Ravi Jayagopal