True fans instead of fans at all costs

I have a theory I want to share with you.

It’s quite controversial.

Listen to the audio version

Here it is: I don’t think it’s a good idea to grow your Twitter account quickly.

I think it’s better to grow true fans slowly than creating followers at all costs.

Let me explain why.

I see a lot of people on Twitter right now releasing courses about how to build Twitter audiences quickly. It’s the standard pattern: reach 5000 followers then release a Twitter guide on how to repeat the process.

In general these are good things. It’s an excellent marketing tactic to share what you’ve learned as soon as you’ve proved it’s worked.

I don’t hate this trend at all: it’s all love. I’ve bought nearly all of them and they’re all excellent (apart from one or two). But none of them ever talk about this thing I want to talk about today.

The hypothesis is this:

“True fans instead of fans at all costs”

I believe most of us don’t agree with this statement because of culture. Our culture has us believing that more and quicker is always better.

The quicker we can get more—the more valuable it is.

The more we can get more, the better it is.

How often do you stop and think about whether the reverse could also be true?

The slower we acquire something the better and more appreciated it is.

The less we get the more we savour it.

Could that be true? Could both be true?

Yes, and no.

Both of these things are true both at the same time:

  1. More followers on Twitter provides more opportunities
  2. More followers on Twitter of the wrong kind provides more of the wrong kinds of opportunities

More can be worse can be better can be worse.


Let me explain.

The difference between a true fan and an average follower

There’s a difference between a follower and a true fan.

Kevin Kelly talks about this in his fantastic article, [1000 True Fans]. Most of us have read it but most of us still don’t make the distinction because we become excited and giddy when another person follows us.

An average follower on Twitter is somebody who will like and occasionally retweet your content.

A true fan is somebody who will like, retweet, comment, tell their friends and consume everything you create on and off Twitter.

An average follower may buy some of your stuff.

A true fan will buy everything just because you made it.

See the distinction?

Our goal shouldn’t be more for more’s sake. It should be more true fans.

True fans turn up slower, require different tactics to acquire and require you to build friendships.

Average followers turn up quickly, disappear quickly and require no maintenance.

So how do you acquire true fans?

I made two quick lists of things you can do to acquire true fans or acquire more average followers quickly.

I’ll expand on these in future but for now here’s a considered brain dump of everything you should do to find true fans.

  • Be yourself
  • Show yourself
  • Show yourself in multiple mediums: video, audio, visual, words
  • Discuss ideas, don’t present them as complete ideas
  • Build in public
  • Show your failures
  • Show your successes
  • Don’t try to be perfect
  • Turn up daily
  • Build your own online drama that’s about you
  • Understand it’ll take at least a year to build traction
  • Connect with people honestly (no fake interactions)
  • Make personal connections (DMs, video calls)
  • B E Y O U R S E L F

What about gaining followers quickly?

Caveat: all of these tactics below work. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’ll just see you grow quickly and grow true fans slower.

  • Follow the latest content trends to get your content to go viral
  • Follow all the tactics you can to grow your account as quickly as possible
  • Spend all your time worrying about impressions, clicks and interactions
  • Spend all your time worrying about algorithm changes
  • See interaction as a game rather than a human connection
  • Hide your true self behind an anonymous account (anonymous or semi-anonymous accounts tend to grow faster on Twitter)

The true distinction between these two ways of growing a following online is whether you want to be yourself or you want to be somebody else.

If you want people to buy into you and your personality: grow true fans.

If you want people to buy in your brand or an invented personality, growing true fans might not be your first port of call.

I’d strongly argue though that there’s zero disadvantage in growing true fans and plenty of upside.

On that note, let me finish with this.

I’m making something to help you grow true fans.