The number of true fans your brand needs ✨
Does the 1000 True Fans concept hold up in 2022 for brands?
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Back in 2008, Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called 1000 True Fans, in which he stated that for a creator to survive, they don’t need a hit. They don’t need to be a bestseller.
They just need 1000 “True Fans” – people that will buy everything that the creator offers. The idea is that if on average, each “True Fan” spends $100 a year, then 1000 of these true fans will generate $100,000 every year, which is more than enough for any reasonable person to survive.
This was way before the era of massive e-commerce, social media, and Kickstarter as we have it today. Moreover, the original essay was for artists and creators, but does this apply to brands as well? It does.
Let’s find out how 😉
What are True Fans?
In the context of a brand, True Fans are people that will spend a large amount of money on your products every year. They will always be the first to buy new collections, they will comment on many of your Instagram posts, they will engage with your brand in any way they can → you’ll get a lot of out them directly in terms of revenue and engagement.
They will also be the ones to share about your brand and your products to their friends, family, and audience if they have one – and that’s what makes them additionally valuable → you’ll also get a lot out of them in terms of word-of-mouth and endorsement.
This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans. These folks will not purchase everything you do, and may not seek out direct contact, but they will buy much of what you produce.
The processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans. As you acquire new True Fans, you can also add many more Lesser Fans. If you keep going, you may indeed end up with millions of fans and reach a hit. I don’t know of any creator who is not interested in having a million fans.
So you can imagine that for your brand, it’s going to be True Fans that bring in Lesser Fans, who in turn bring in the Explorers.
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How do you engage and nurture your True Fans?
Huel is a brand that was built from the ground up on the concept of 1000 True Fans. In the very beginning, the company sent over t-shirts and water bottles with every initial order, and this led to people posting about it on social media as well as answering questions that would arise when their friends and colleagues would see their bottle on their table at work. This led to £750k in revenue in the first six months and £6m in its first full year. Crazy.
Wait but how do you find out who are your True Fans if you already have hundreds of thousands of fans?
We wrote an article a few months ago about exactly this — it was called “Finding the catalysts of your community” and it addresses this question.
Connecting with your True Fans
Essentially, you want to connect with your True Fans directly, and provide them a high level of value in exchange for their True Fan-dom — whether this is merch, exclusive discounts, or early access to new products. As discussed before, this niche group of your most loyal fans is the one that is going to bring in the rest of ‘em.
Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.
Connecting with your True Fans directly might look like different things for different brands. Some brands go for a Facebook Group approach — this is what Glossier ended up doing very well. In fact, we even wrote an article on this earlier on Selling Social.
At Ubu, we’re shortly launching our new Tribes feature, which will allow brands to create a group of their most loyal ambassadors and fans, get necessary opt-ins to communicate with them directly through SMS, email, and IG DM, and leverage their Tribes to grow their business further.
How do you maximize the value of True Fans?
In an article written on dtc.school, it was stated that:
I don’t think that brands need to design complex systems to maximize the value of true fans.
In fact, I believe brands need to do only two things to get full value out of true fans: (1) consistently and transparently communicate and engage with true fans and (2) empower true fans with the tools to be champions and spread the word about the brand.
Transparently Communicating and Engaging with True Fans
This can mean anything from a Discord, Slack, Facebook Group, or online forum. There are newer and cooler solutions coming out today, such as circle.so that makes it super easy to create a branded and owned online platform for your community to thrive.
Remember, your platform ≠ your community.
Read: What does it mean to have your own community? on Selling Social.
Empowering True Fans with Tools
This is usually seen in the form of ambassador programs. You want to incentivize your True Fans to share the word about your brand and products.
You can incentivize them by offering specific rewards, sharing their posts on your social channels, or even go all out and create referral programs and discount codes so that you can share revenue.
Read: Leveraging the catalysts of your community on Selling Social.
With Ads becoming less effective, less trackable, and more expensive, and influencer marketing becoming saturated, the future of brand-building and growth for DTC brands is community-led.
Building your Tribe of 1000 (more or less, depending on your brand) True Fans or loyal ambassadors is going to be the best thing you do for your brand in 2022 — and the best part is that it is now easier than ever to do it.
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Shameless plug: Ubu is a tool that helps DTC brands engage and grow their community better by combining Inbox Management, UGC/Analytics, and an Ambassador CRM. We're growing pretty fast in Europe, and I'd love to have you give it a shot for free for your brand.