Originally posted on forbes
The markers of success have evolved.
If you ask any ambitious person, you can pretty much guarantee that something they aspire to is a large following on Instagram. This is how we measure social status. You can lead a conversation with someone’s follower count and know, by sheer quantity, whether or not they are significant in their field.
However, this is mostly about optics.
The truth is that you don’t actually need a lot of followers to accomplish whatever it is you want to do.
You only need 1,000 followers to be successful.
Back in 2008, before the apex of the Internet and the concept of fans/followers would take on an entirely new meaning, Kevin Kelly laid this out in his essay by the same title. It was a massive, viral hit, and has continued to inspire people today.
“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans,” Kelly explains. “To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”
The logic here is simple:
- To make a six-figure income, you realistically only need 1,000 people to purchase $100 of product from you annually.
- If you sell something at $200, you need 500.
- These 1,000 fans are loyal to you, connected to you directly, and have directly and significantly been impacted by your work. Therefore, they endorse you to their friends and family naturally, and without prompt.
- These fans are not only your buyers, they are your most effective marketing strategy, leading to even more of them over time.
In Pat Flynn’s book, Superfans, he explains the concept similarly. Superfans are what Kelly defined as the core 1,000. However, Flynn goes onto say that you can achieve your goals with more or less than that number.
To acquire and keep these fans, you need some combination of the following.
Create a life-changing product. By the sheer nature of the value you have provided them, they will want to share it with as many people as they can.
Build a community. Whether this is through a Facebook group or simply engaging in the comment section of your blog or Instagram, create a sense of belonging. It’s even better if you can name your community, and give them something with which to not only identify, but turn to for support and inspiration.
Have direct contact. To have a true fan, you need to engage with them one-on-one. Whether that is answering their emails or comments, or meeting them in person, carving out time to engage with these people is essential to your long-term success. A figurehead is fine, but it’s only through authentic human connection that a person truly develops loyalty.
Kelly’s words have never been more apt than they are today.
In a world where it seems like the quantity far outweighs the quality, please remember: you do not need a million people to support your business, or make your dreams reality.
Start with a few, and see how it grows.