I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of 1,000 fans any how critical networking is for the success of any business. To summarize the 1,000 fans concept; if you have 1,000 people who genuinely care about your work or who are your customers, you are set up for success in any industry. Here are some examples; an artist will have plenty of people to buy his/her work, a band can easily be supported by a dedicated fan base, a restaurant can operate effectively with this repeat business and any salesman would certainly value having 1,000 customers. The 1,000 number is somewhat arbitrary, but it does assign a tangible number on the concept of value creation. This should be your goal, and the purpose of your online brand.
The logical follow up question is; how can you create enough value to reach this number? There are three steps in this process, and I believe they all most flow in this order: do quality work, network and create quality content:
1) Do Quality Work
There is no point trying to build a brand (personal, online, or otherwise) if your work is not meaningful. Attempts at doing this will only leave you branded as a “troll” or spammer. Make sure that the interactions you have with others are genuine and authentic. Do not work for any company that is not respected or providing a quality service for the customer. When people do become a customer or a fan, do not take this for granted, because this momentum is a building block for your business. When you are no longer able to focus on the quality of your work, or caring about your customers, it is probably a good time to get out of that business.
Networking is the bridge between the quality work you do and obtaining the 1,000 fans. This is the cornerstone of your efforts to build your brand, because it is really hard to build a fan base with content alone. Relationships don’t just happen, they take time to cultivate, and nothing is better to start them than a room filled with individuals who are in the same mindset to meet new people and establish relationships. Networking also applies for producers of content. For example, concert tours and book signings are de facto networking events for the musicians and authors behind them. The time you spend in front of others helps you build that tangible connection. When you get this time, be sure to respect it. Remember this the next time you give your well-rehearsed elevator speech: “no one walks onto an elevator with the intention to buy anything”.
3) Create Quality Content
After a relationship is formed through networking, you will need to cultivate it. If this is not your intention, then there is truly no point to attend a networking event in the first place. You simply cannot meet all 1,000 of your customers or fans face to face on a regular basis, so you need to have a system in place to follow up with them. This is why quality content is so critical, and why it continues to command online traffic. Social media helps ease the task of content creation, because you don’t necessarily always have to write your own posts. When you do something that is meaningful to others, or learn something valuable, publish it. This content can take on many forms; for example, a blog post, a newsletter, a holiday letter, a tweet informing others about a great deal, an E Book, a software program, all qualify.
It is much easier to say “create quality content” than it is to actually do it. Let me give a personal example; when I first started networking in Chicago and writing about it, my first blog post had a whopping 5 readers. The second post had only 11 readers. It was discouraging to see numbers so low at the time, but I kept writing and updating the blog with my viewpoints. The 50th post had 472 views, and through frequent publishing, I had consistent viewership of 250-400 views/week. These are not record breaking #’s, but these readers were not just reading the content, they were also engaging me personally and the connections led to several unique opportunities. One final note about online content, these viewers will quickly fade when you are not publishing frequently. When I got married, pursued a Master’s degree and was promoted at work, I moved to a different place in life where I no longer was able to cultivate relationships in the same way previously. The moment the frequency and quality of publishing declined, the audience did as well.
It takes time to build a reputation and to obtain your 1,000 fans. Follow these steps and best of luck delivering value to your customer, no matter what this value may be! I also want to thank Seth Godin for the work he has done in a TEDx talk about tribes. This is the very first place where I’ve heard the 1,000 fan concept mentioned.