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AD: Fans, Friends & Followers

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Four Kinds of Fans

One of the biggest questions circulating at DIY Days Philadelphia last Saturday was, how do you spur your fans to actually do something? Once someone has joined your Facebook fan group, friended you on MySpace, or started following you on Twitter, how can you actually get them to buy a ticket, a DVD, a download, or some merch?

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.

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  • Nice post Scott. I have to say, I've been thinking a lot about this lately. In fact, as I've been using Facebook and Twitter more and more, I've been watching how I react when people try to "activate" me. I can say definitively that one thing that doesn't work for me (and I suspect for many others) is asking for money right out of the gate. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it's important to make fans "feel part of your circle, and that you're grateful for their support." Someone needs to build a relationship with me, make me care about them, their film or their cause before I open my wallet or give up my time. You know what does work? Ask me for my opinion. I think this works for a lot of people. We all like to think we have good taste or intelligent opinions. In terms of filmmaking, why not ask fans and followers for advice on story ideas, possible titles, help selecting a poster or logo. Not only are you telling your fans that you value them, you're getting valuable feedback from the people most likely to support your work! And if I'd taken the time to answers a survey or pick my favorite titles, I'd start to feel a little invested in the project. I might even open my wallet...

    By Blogger Matthew Gordon, at 1:54 PM  

  • Scott,

    Another excellent blog. When I look at myself and my fan status for various artists it usually is based on the quality of their work. I am very rarely an impulse fan. I don't care to get updates or notifications from people that I'm not a true fan of. I become a true fan based on their work (Darren Aronofsky or David Lynch for example) but become a Superfan based on interaction (indie rockers The Academy Is... for example) but can easily fall compltely out of fandom if something personal about them is revealed (a bad interview where they come across as a jerk, for example).

    One thing I noticed about this blog was that there were no examples of true/super fans for indie filmmakers. Does the film medium distribution model prevent this? any thoughts. I'd love to hear them.

    Nathan Wrann

    By Blogger nwrann, at 4:26 PM  

  • Great post. The True Fan has been opined on often but pointing out the value of the Slacktivist is important. People are still trying to figure out how to use the internet to narrowcast to the individuals that are truly interested in listening - and what metrics are essential indicators. I'd love to read a follow up on that if you have any thoughts.


    By Blogger Schmüdde, at 6:28 PM  

  • Scott --

    In the business world, they say that 90% of your income comes from 10% of your total contacts.

    I would skew your % estimates more toward that.

    By Blogger Cunningham, at 7:24 PM  

  • This is great, Scott. Thanks for your thoughts in detail. Jason Feinberg's article is great as well. I've been reading his work a lot lately.

    My frustration with this topic, I think, revolves around the assumption that audience building is now almost exclusively an activity for the internet.

    Case in point, I've been following the prescribed steps for some time now in promoting my new Nonprofit Organization, Weathervane Music. Those steps were roughly: start a blog, start a Facebook Fan page, offer free downloads, use Twitter, You Tube, and collect emails.

    For this organization, as it is a relatively new idea, it is important that people understand what it's all about, and we've realized through several interactions lately, that the idea is NOT getting across. I fully understand the importance of a simple idea, and Weathervane has one of its own, it's just people aren't reading far enough or deep enough to fully absorb the unique details of the organization.

    So what have we done, and what's been working? Face to face conversations. We've up'ed our one on one meetings, formal and informal, and we've begun what will be monthly informal group meet-ups at the local coffee shop.

    This is great if we want an audience limited to Philadelphia, PA, but in fact we want a national/international audience. Our next move is video blogging, and encouraging feedback and conversation through our site that way. I think hearing it from the mouths of people is something that social media doesn't exactly promote yet, and this may be a limiting factor when it comes to its effectiveness (at least with new ideas). When we're in a social media mindset, we're in a scanning mode. Very difficult to motivate scanners to a new idea.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:42 PM  

  • Thanks for the comment, Brian. You also made a great point at DIY Days Philly (at least I *think* it was you) when you noted that one thing fans enjoy is a chance to get together... and I suspect that smart artists will figure out that their fans not only want to come see them perform, but also want to meet/schmooze with one another (in the real world.)

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 2:40 PM  

  • Love this post and your book, Friends, Fans & Followers.

    I see you've got a panel (I voted for it). Need a ride or a place to stay when you come to SxSW 2010?

    By Blogger Rob:-], at 12:45 PM  

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