The Four Kinds of Fans
An important starting step, I'd suggest, is to start thinking about four different kinds of fans.
1. The Impulse Fan. The impulse fan sees a video you've made, or hears about your band from their roommate, and signs up to follow you on Twitter or joins your Facebook group. This fan will never do anything else -- ever. They are good only for your ego: yesterday, you had 1000 followers on Twitter, and today you have 1001.
2. The Prospective / Occasional Fan. The prospective fan is someone who can be lured out to a show or screening, or convinced to buy a new CD/DVD, but with some effort. You may need to dangle free samples. You may need to offer a free ticket to a pre-release, top-secret, underground album listening party. You may need to mention that there will be free, limited edition t-shirts given to the first 25 people who show up. The prospective fan can be activated, with a little creative strategizing. They can be "converted" into an occasional fan, showing up every once in a while to your events or buying a book or digital album download every couple years. And they may even be transformed over time into a True Fan.
3. The True Fan. Kevin Kelly defined the True Fan as "someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name." A True Fan will follow what you're doing on your own site, your blog, your Twitter feed -- wherever you choose to communicate. You shouldn't ignore their care and feeding, but these fans have already been activated.
4. The Super Fan. The Super Fan is a True Fan who is willing to help you out in some way. In Fans, Friends & Followers, the singer-songwriter Jill Sobule says she has a super fan who built and helps manage her Web site. Cartoonist Dave Kellett talks about super fans who have given him a lift from the airport in their city to a local event, or have been willing to accept shipments of books on his behalf and cart them to a book signing. Jonathan Coulton says that super fans have helped him find a great concert venue in which to perform. Super Fans, if you ask nicely (and offer them copious thanks and credit) will post flyers for you in their city, or point you to the best bar for a post-screening cast party.
I don't purport to have discovered all of the keys as to how you activate Prospective / Occasional Fans. But two things are certainly essential: making them feel part of your circle, and that you're grateful for their support. Incentives and discounts and give-aways can help. So can events that feel special, secret, unique, limited in space, or invitation-only.
What do you think the typical breakdown is between these four types of fans, for the typical artist? Just to throw something out that you might think about, I'd suggest:
- 25 percent Impulse Fans,
- 50 percent Prospective / Occasional Fans,
- 20 percent True Fans, and
- 5 percent Super Fans.
I welcome your comments below. If you'd like to read another take on different types of fans, here's a blog post from music industry guru Jason Feinberg.