What Are The Fan Factor?

by Jay Deragon on 03/07/2008

What are The Fan Factors?Whether you’re a Fortune 500 Company or an entrepreneur with a small business the  key to long term success is finding fans. Fans can be defined as someone who has an intense appreciation for something(s) or someone(s). The something could be a product, a service or an opinion. The someone could be anyone anywhere that engages with your product, service or opinion.

In the old days “fans” were created from the reach of media both in print and broadcast mediums. The few that controlled such mediums were able to propel “people” and “things” into the mindsets of the millions of viewers or readers. The millions were fed what the media delivered and those people and things in the stories were the attraction of the fans.

Television followed the same “fan” model with “fanship” measured by regular viewers and the higher the number of fans the more attractive the broadcast was to advertisers. The popularity of people and things were limited by the influence of the few distributors of the media channels the stories appeared on or in.

Individually we create fans on a one to one basis. Starting with our family and friends. These are the people whom most of the time would be considered our fans. At work we created fans through inter-office relationships and most try to make the “boss” their fan. We produced sales and influenced customers by creating fans who like us, our performance and the products and services we represented. In the old days our reach was the limiting factor to developing and finding an audience of “fans”.

The Fan Factor and The Social Web

The craze around Web 2.0 is about creating fans. The social web has enabled the many to express, connect, collaborate and publish media of all types and with reach, one to one to millions. The many are grabbing the attention of individuals previously dominated by the few. Individuals are finding affinity with the many and the collective interactions are creating a new economy, the relationship economy formed through and with the attention from”fans”.

Kevin Kelly writes: “The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.”

“The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don’t need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.”

“But the point of this strategy is to say that you don’t need a hit to survive. You don’t need to aim for the short head of best-sellerdom to escape the long tail. There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living. That mid-way haven is called 1,000 True Fans. It is an alternate destination for an artist to aim for.”

The pundits wonder why over 600 million people globally are engaged in the social web. The “fan” model is why and it is the same model the media has used for years. Today the difference is the active individuals of the social web have begun to create significant influence over the same fans of the old models. When “fan” bases move from one media to another shift happens and the economics follow. The factors are participation and awareness.

What say you?

{ 1 comment }

Ted Shelton March 7, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I love Kevin Kelly’s piece and I think it is a great manifestation of the larger peer participation phenomenon – but not the whole story (nor did he intend it to be). So I do NOT agree with your blanket statement that the “craze around web 2.0 is about creating fans”

I think the idea the Kelly presents is a good argument to a brand (and by brand I mean Pepsi, California, Jay Deragon, etc) about why they should start engaging in a human conversation with the people that care about them. But it is not the only reason. And it does not explain why people are already engaging in conversations with or without the brands.

For that I would go back to The Cluetrain Manifesto — despite its faults, it is still a great discourse on the emergent properties of the Internet in re-introducing us to human communities. I especially like Doc’s article in the book, “Markets are Conversations” which is chapter 4. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in awhile – read it again. It really stands the test of time.

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