Why you need fans, not friends – and why you’re stuck in the friends trap

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

Let’s talk about lousy friends (and colleagues, clients and family).

You know, the ones who cheer you on every step of the way.

The ones who tell you, ‘you’re such a great writer/filmmaker/musician, I’m sure you’ll be a success’.

The clients who say, ‘that sounds interesting, you must tell me more later‘.

But who NEVER buy your book or invite you to speak, buy a ticket for an exhibition or a show, recommend you to colleagues or rave about you on Facebook.

Sound familiar?

The problem is this. They aren’t evil, or lazy, or unsupportive.

They want to be nice to you, but they genuinely don’t share your interest in what you do.
They do the same thing as you, and are surrounded – and overwhelmed – by the number of projects of they would, in theory, like to read, see, listen to, or support.

Now, I know you’ve got those people around you. I know you keep talking to them, telling them about your next big project or direction, and they keep being supportive. DON’T BE FOOLED.

(OK, we NEED them. We need them to encourage us to keep going when our brains feel like a kitten in a wool basket, or we just need a glass of red wine and a good laugh. My friends are BRILLIANT, and I’m sure yours are too. But…).

The problem is this: when we mistake them for our real fans.

Why your real fans are not your friends

Your fans work very differently.

You don’t see them coming.

They spot that what you do fits into something they’re already crazy about.

They start to get to know you, on their terms.

They start to hang out with youon their terms. They start to spend their attention, their energy. They might sign up for your newsletter, visit your website, follow you on Facebook, read your articles.

They don’t talk to you – not yet. They don’t tell you how wonderful you are – yet.

But then, eventually, the day comes when they start to spend money on you. They’ll buy your book, your programme, a ticket or download.

They start to tell other people about you – their friends, or colleagues, on social media or over lunch.

Often, it’s without you even knowing who they are, or that they’re doing it.

Fans lurk, hide, keep out of your view

Fans can be utterly frustrating, because they’ll do their fanning in secret, until they’re ready to get closer – on their terms.

But consider this.

Your fans will be the ones who will enable you to make a good living from your creative work. Your fans will be the ones who make introductions, share your work, spread the word, enthuse wildly about what you do to other people like them.

It’s your fans, not your friends, who hold your success in their hands.

  • When I was a magazine editor and publisher, we sold literally millions of magazines to our fans, though I probably only ever met a few hundred in person.
  • Katy Perry got $25m to be a judge on American Idol, largely because of her 106m followers on Twitter

Right this moment, your fans are looking for you

They’re stalking the internet. They’re hanging out at events, at talks, online, offline, they’re at bookshops and galleries and theatres.

They want what you do. They LOVE what you do. But they can’t find you.

At least, they can’t if you’re too busy looking for approval or sales from people who already know you.

Finding fans means finding NEW people

Finding fans feels like the UNKNOWN. And our brains generally don’t like the unknown.

But actually, it doesn’t mean that.

Your fans don’t actually want to talk to you. Not yet. They just want to find you.

Your job is to simply make yourself findable, so that your true fans will recognise you.

This is what finding fans means:

  • It means making yourself and your work public to people who don’t already know you
  • It means keeping your website or social media up to date with what you’re doing
  • It means being seen on social media – not just turning up to promote your latest stuff, but to engage with people who truly share the same passions you have
  • It means sharing things about YOU, your work, values or commitments
  • It means taking the initiative to find and contribute to communities where your fans will be, and write for them, lead things for them, share things they’ll be interested in
  • It means becoming known and liked because you share a true passion, vision or style

But the good thing is this.

YOU can TOTALLY do this.

Because there are so many people who love what you do.

Truly, there are.

The big mistake creatives make

The mistake that most creatives make is that they never go out to build that tribe of true fans.

They get stuck in their network of friends and proven clients, because those people tell them they’re great, but then don’t actually put their own money where their mouth is when it comes to anything new. And that feels as though everyone will think the same.

See how that works?

But since you’ve got this far down, you’re not ‘most creatives’. You’re not prepared to keep being fooled. You want MORE. Me too – so let’s start with this.

Comment below and tell us all ONE THING about your work that your true fans will love, but your friends or existing clients don’t currently get.

Tell us! Because every person you tell is one more step towards finding the people who will make your creative work FLY.

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  1. Beca Lewis

    Ha – I started laughing as soon as I read the title. Fantastic observations, Joanna! Thanks for putting it all into perspective.

    • Joanna Pieters

      Thanks Beca! Haven’t we all fallen into this trap?!? It’s so much easier to focus on what we can see.

      • Beca Lewis

        Amen to that Joanna!

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