Understanding how your target group (readers, customers, viewers, etc.) thinks and reacts to information is the first step in building a steady fan base.
A couple of months ago, Kevin Kelly wrote a very thought provoking post about the long tail and a base of 1,000 true fans. He states, that:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A true fan is – according to Kelly – someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.
This post makes a very good point on the role of these 1,000 fans, but does not discuss how can one build such a core of fans.
While reading Barry Schwartz’s book “The paradox of choice; why more is less“, I discovered valuable information which helped me approach this intriguing question.
Adaptation is an evolutionary theory referring to the way individual organisms gradually change and get more suited to their environment.
However, the theory of adaptation does not only apply on studies of evolution and the origin of species…it also applies to human behavior.
To put it simply, we get used to things and then we start to take them for granted. Repetition brings adaptation.
To a degree, this is necessary to create a sense of coherence and security; people need repetition to develop a feeling of safety.
But an interesting paradox has been observed: when people get used to a source of pleasure it stops being a source of pleasure.
For example, the pleasure degree of your first joy ride was much higher than the one of your 100th joy ride.
How to Build a Steady Fan Base
What can we learn about marketing from adaptation?
Balance is the key.
On the one hand you should follow a pattern. This could mean:
- using the same style of expression (e.g. same writing style, same directing style, same music genre, etc.)
- creating expectation (each broadcast should promise a new one)
- keep a steady publishing structure (e.g. new content every Monday and Thursday)
- refer to previous publications; your fans will be happy to find a point of identification (“Hey, I know that!”)
On the other hand you should renew sources of pleasure. For example:
- make something different once in a while (if you write a blog, post a video or a podcast). This provokes the expectation mentioned above.
- develop and expand your methods and them implement them to your pattern. (like in TV Shows: a new character is introduced and the becomes a regular member of the cast).
Building a base of 1,000 true fans is a very cumbersome process. It requires complete engagement, passion and vision. But as Kevin Kelly said, once you have this base you can make a living out of it.
Learning from the functions of adaptation and its paradox, can help you expand. Nine Inch Nails is probably the best example. Remember what they started almost a year ago, with ther ‘Year Zero Project‘? They got out of the norm by providing something completely different (an interactive campaign, where fans search for clues and participate in projects) and they have now implemented this pattern to their whole campaign, by providing new ways to the fans to participate. Now NIN fans expect new ways to participate in upcoming NIN projects.
Certainly, this equilibrium between repetition and innovation does not guarantee success, but is surely a major step to this direction.
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So what do you say, are there other ways to build a regular fan base?