Kevin Kelly, the creator of Wired, wrote a seminal piece called 1000 True Fans in which he explained that artists today don’t need to be famous to make a great living; they only need 1,000 people out there who will follow and buy everything they create.
A thousand doesn’t sound like too many, does it?
It didn’t to me, either. As someone who spent years appearing on TV and writing books, who had tens of thousands of Twitter followers and received emails from readers, I used to mistakenly believe that I had that.
Much to my horror, I quickly discovered that though some of these people were fans, few were true fans.
[True fan definition, per Kelly: “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; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free YouTube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month.”]
Here’s how I started building my True Fans—and you can, too.
1) Get Your Facebook Game Going
While of course there are examples of successful authors who aren’t on Facebook, it’s far more logical to assume you won’t be the exception.
So, if you haven’t already, go set up a Facebook fan page. Plenty of people will tell you that Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn are also crucial but I think it’s a far better strategy to concentrate on one—and make that one the site people go to when they want to gauge how many people already like you.
2) Work for Facebook Likes
Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to get legitimate Likes quickly: create Likes ads in Canva.com with a bright, simple graphic and the least controversial aphorism imaginable (one I created says “Have faith in yourself; others will join you”). For ad text write “Click if you agree,” and then exclude expensive areas (US, UK, Australia, Canada).
I only recommend this approach if you want to increase how successful you appear. It doesn’t necessarily translate to engaged fans and if your fans aren’t engaging, they’re unlikely to buy your books.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with wanting higher numbers for social proof. I know plenty of writers who have gotten book deals based solely on the number of people they have following them, no matter the level of interaction.
That being said, another crucial element is…
3) Work for Facebook Interaction
If you want to increase engagement, post 3–5 times a day, always making the content more focused on your reader than on you. Memes and posts that show people that they’re not alone—that you understand them—tend to garner a lot of responses. Also share posts from other pages that are similar to yours. Facebook will then start sharing your content with people who Like those pages.
For right now (that is, while Facebook is still prioritizing Facebook Live), do Facebook Live interviews with people who have big fan pages and schedule them through BeLive.Tv so that they can play on both your pages simultaneously.
Once the interview is over, respond to all the comments it generated, which seems to keep it quite “alive” in the mysterious Facebook algorithm.
Use that level of interaction to gather more fans by clicking the button that shows people’s reactions to the interview; a box will pop up which displays which of those people already Like your page; if they’re not already fans, there’s a button that says INVITE. Someone who just Liked a video of yours is likely to also want to Like you and more likely to engage with you since they already have. So be a polite host and invite them to the party!*
*Note: Facebook changes things so often that, depending on when you’re reading this, the inviting people to Like your page option may have disappeared*
4) Figure Out Who Your Audience Is
Now that you’ve started gathering people on your page, it’s time to figure out who they are so you can give them what they want.
Your Facebook page is, as I said in #3, not about you.
It is about the people who visit it.
In order to find out who they are, run a Facebook ad (say, that Likes campaign from #2 or a boost of the Live interview from #3) and pick your target audience by interest, age, location and other factors.
When your ad ends, Facebook will then send you a message telling you how many people saw it, what percentage of them were women, what percentage men, their age range and where they live.‘
Once you have an idea about who they are, you can begin targeting to just them.
There are plenty of marketing experts out there who recommend getting incredibly specific about your “avatar;” they even suggest coming up with a fake name for your ideal customer and figuring out what that person wears, drives, their exercise preferences and whether or not they do colonics (okay, I’ve never seen that one as a recommended question, but I wouldn’t be surprised).
Whenever I did this exercise, my problem was that I just ended up with…me. Either I’m my ideal client, or I screwed up that exercise.
What I did instead is message the people who had liked the posts on my Facebook page and asked if I could interview them. Every single person said yes. I sent them all questionnaires asking them their favorite websites, quotes, books and more so that I could get a general idea of what sort of content to produce.
That information was gold.
When I run posts about things people have already told me they’re interested in, those posts do well.
I think that’s what I like about marketing: 1+1 actually does equal 2. In writing, 1 + 1 equals God knows what.
5) Repurpose the F out of Those Facebook Live Interviews
Cut 90-second clips from the interviews and post them on Instagram.
Cut 15-second clips and post them as Instagram stories. Write on the story that people can click on a link to see the whole interview and then add a link to the interview on your Facebook page.
Upload the videos onto YouTube.
Have the interviews transcribed, and use them as blog posts.
You’re doing this not only to improve SEO on your content but because everyone consumes media differently.
Some people live for video; others (like me) would much rather listen to an interview so they can walk around. Some want to read. Those with even shorter attention spans are only interested in a short snippet of your live interview on social media.
If content is king (and it is), why not use one piece of content four different ways (or even five—you can also make them into newsletters)?
6) Create a Freebie Your Audience Wants
A freebie, AKA a lead magnet, is any sort of a giveaway you believe your ideal customer would respond to, which you give them in exchange for their email address.
If you’re not used to thinking of someone’s email address as valuable, change that thought now.
Email addresses are a creative person’s most important asset when it comes to finding True Fans.
Just how valuable are they?
Well, Facebook campaigns to acquire new newsletter subscribers can easily run up to $5 PER email address.
So rather than wasting all that money on the big FB, create something that your ideal reader will want.
The easiest freebie, and thus far the one most commonly provided, is a short ebook. I’ve done several of these and am currently using one called “The Guide to Becoming a Light Hustler”—where I profiled people I know who are making a living sharing their darkest experiences.
When someone signs up for that, they receive my “nurturing sequence” (three emails that go out over the following three days that share ways they can become light hustlers themselves) and then they receive my newsletter every week that includes my new blog post, two new podcast episodes and anything else that’s relevant.
Some people go far beyond the free ebook in terms of their lead magnet, providing free printed books where all the subscriber has to do is pay for shipping.
Marketing master Russell Brunson did a promotion where he gave away the first 257 episodes of his podcast, Marketing in Your Car, on a preloaded MP3 player.
If that sounds like a tremendous waste of money, consider this: I’d never heard of the guy when I randomly stumbled across the offer. I thought, “I wonder what a preloaded MP3 player of podcast episodes is like? I bet that’s pretty cool.” So I ordered it. I decided to listen to one of the episodes. Then I listened to the other 256. Then I got his book. Then I started consuming everything the guy did.
The reason expert marketers give something valuable away for free so long as you pay for shipping is that they know that psychologically, once you’ve already put in your credit card to buy something from them, you’re more likely to do so again.
They know that every dollar they spend on giveaways will come back to them—plus a lot more.
Whatever you give away, make getting it as easy as possible. Either have a pop up on your personal site (just know that many people, perhaps even you, hate pop-ups with unbridled passion) or even better, a very clear offering above the fold. You have 15 milliseconds to make an impression on your reader so don’t confuse them. Because my personal site had so much information on it, I actually created another site, annadavidcoaching, simply to offer my freebie.
Advertise your freebie on Facebook. Include a link to the page that offers it in the stories you post on Medium, LinkedIn and wherever else.
Because quizzes are also quite effective, I have a second lead magnet—the Should You Be Sharing Your Story quiz. It, as they say in marketing, converts very well.
7) Send Out a Weekly Newsletter
Not to state the obvious, but newsletters are wonderful if they have useful information. If they don’t, they’re just annoying. Reading promotional newsletters from someone who is just sending a list of all the things they’re doing or selling gets old fast.
But sending out regular newsletters is crucial if you want to have an engaged audience for when your book, or anything else you release, comes out. And the only way to keep them “warm” is to serve them what they want.
So keep your newsletter focused on your reader. While the content of your newsletters—whether you’re sending them your blog posts or culled-together news on topics they care about—should of course be related to your book topic, always be thinking: what does my reader want to know about?
One effective technique I employed is I spent a few weeks interviewing writers I knew. I followed the multipurpose content model, released those interviews as audio files and videos, and then had them transcribed. I asked five questions to each of the 10 writers I interviewed and broke each of those into their own newsletters. I’m no mathematician, but that equaled I think 50 newsletters (i.e., almost a year’s worth of missives if I’m sending one a week).
Open rates are incredibly low for newsletters, which shouldn’t surprise any of us because we all know how many newsletters we subscribe to that we delete before opening. If only 30% of your subscribers are opening your newsletter, that’s considered great.
Remember that a lot of people just scan to the bottom of an email. For that reason, I usually put something at the very end that says, JUST SKIP TO THE BOTTOM? ALL I WANTED YOU TO KNOW IS…[and then explain whatever it is I want them to know.]
I hope this is obvious, but don’t ever sell the emails on your list, no matter how much someone offers you for it. Not only is this illegal, but you will have betrayed the people who make your business work.
8) Study the People who are Great at Marketing
I shouldn’t admit this, but I hate newsletters. I’m the fastest unsubscriber in the world, since all I want is to clear out my email inbox.
There are people out there who are killing it, marketing wise, and at a certain point I realized that if I wanted to be successful I had to study what they were doing. Unlike other fields, where studying experts might involve paying them, all I had to do was subscribe.
While they all seem to have different methods they follow, the people whose newsletters I opened and read seemed to do similar things: 1) offer a compelling story or links to compelling stories; and 2) somewhere down the line, offer a product or webinar. I paid particular attention to those people who wore me down with their offers or who seemed to be affiliates for every other marketer in the world.
Those were the ones who triggered my unsubscribe finger.
Also, the more successful someone gets the more likely they are to delegate their work, and that includes hiring writers to compose their newsletters.
While this may be effective time-wise, those with the widest appeal either continue writing their own copy or kill themselves to find writers who can write in their style.
Those who farm this work out to interns or anyone with a keyboard are losing their connection with the people keeping them in business (aka, their subscribers).
Expert marketers go out of their way to make the most out of their newsletters by including detailed show notes for their podcasts (if they have podcasts—and most of them do), which include time codes explaining where their guests said certain things, links to any products mentioned in the interview and more.
True expert marketers will make cheat sheet bonuses for particular podcast episodes, which they offer in their newsletters (the one who does this the best, hands down, is online marketing goddess Amy Porterfield).
9) Pitch Yourself to Podcasts and for Guest Posts
Now this is a complicated one, and I say this as someone who’s both pitched herself and been pitched by others.
The most important rule here: know the site or podcast well.
I have been pitched people for my recovery podcast who aren’t in recovery.
I’ve been asked if I’ll post people’s guest blogs when I don’t have a blog.
I’ve been harassed so much by some people that while I might have thought they sounded like a good guest at first, by the fifth email I never wanted to hear from them again.
In other words, be persistent but never annoying. Explain the value you think you could provide to that podcast or site’s audience, but do it with humility.
Tell the person why you love their show or site so much that you want to be featured on it.
If you don’t get a response, follow up one more time a week or two later, and then let it go.
If the person responds that they’re interested but won’t firm up a date, you’re in. Keep on them in a persistent but not annoying way.
I’ll never forget a piece I read by Virginia Heffernan from The New York Times, where she talked about having reviewed Lena Dunham’s first short film in 2007.
She explained that she was “flattered” when Dunham “barraged [her] with witty, grateful and self-promotional emails for months after.”
It made me think that it’s no wonder Dunham is the massive success she is. That’s why my best marketing tip of all is this: find a way to barrage people while being “witty, grateful and self-promotional,” and you’ll never fail.
Want That Amazing Lead Magnet I Mentioned Above?
Just click here to get it. And after you read it, why not write your own?