Here’s another dive into the “Finding My Way” series with the topic at hand asking about having “fans” or having “followers.”

In today’s industries, attention has become currency and content its cashier. It would seem like the one with the best content (quality or quantity) is king/queen of the hill for the day.

The only thing wrong with this construct (besides its lifespan), is its conversion in the real world. I’ve seen far too many times where artists boast of their tens of thousands of fans and millions of streams but struggle to get more than 20 people to come out to a show down the street. An artist can seemingly go viral online but in the real world pass unknown.  Today I’d like to dive into why.

From a textbook perspective, Fans (short for fanatic) are those who obsess about a subject or figure. Typically people are fans of athletes, teams, and popular figures. Fans are usually known by large amounts of paraphernalia related to the person or thing they’re a fan of (MESSAGE). It’s been my personal experience from my fans, that they take every opportunity to engage with me as possible. Though I don’t have very many “fans” right now, the ones I do consistently support whatever I do.

If it’s a t-shirt I created, they buy at least one, if it’s an album, they PURCHASE it, if it’s an interview or announcement, they respond and share it. In some kind of way, my true fans always engage my material and if they make it a point to connect with it all, they are what’s called a “superfan.” It doesn’t take very many and I think I have like 5 so far, but artists make their careers off of fans and super fans who support EVERYTHING that the artist puts out.

Followers are different and have a strong interest in the content of a particular personality or account but the engagement is far less. The harsh reality is that followers are like the “friend with benefits” and tend to only be around as long as the benefit (usually entertainment) is present. The fan is committed through the ups and downs and is willing to invest time and money to show it. The fan wants to give back to the artist, at times as an act of gratitude.

To put it plainly, both are consumers, but one will only consume your free content while the other is willing to pay attention and money. I have a lot more followers currently than fans and the reality is, it’s not entirely because of an algorithm. It’s the content. I recently learned that the difference between my content that gets the attention of thousands vs the content that gets the attention of tens is a reflection of how valuable the content is to them. I hope the picture is becoming clearer why the two aren’t synonymous.

So the question then becomes, “Well, how do I turn my followers to fans/customers?” This is the question that every 2020 entrepreneur has asked and every Instagram guru has attempted to answer.

Content that Converts (a phrase I picked up from my guru of choice @MahdiWoodard), is primarily based on what benefit your service is to the consumer. It’s one thing for someone to see your post and like it out of support, it’s a totally different thing for them to like it because they connect with it. That LIKE is usually accompanied by a comment, and if they are really moved, a follow and a share. Over time, these social media engagements breed trust and the viewer feels indebted because they’ve received so much from your content. At this point, they are searching for ways to say thank you.

For us artists, that level of loyalty is usually lifetime and applies to anything we produce; shirts, posters, tickets sales, hats, wristbands…anything that is a product from the artist’s brand.

I believe followers bring attention to your brand, but fans are those who support & sustain it.  There’s this concept of brand equity and to transition followers to fans, you simply have to build enough of it. Consistent content (not perfect) is the first step to establishing value and trust in your brand. Make sure when you post, there’s something of value and worth for those who will see and consume it.

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