How To Get More Fans (and Why That’s a Horrible Idea)

Is it all about fans?

“How do I get more fans?” I hear this a lot. I’ve written about how to get more followers a few times, so instead of the same old, I thought I’d address this to folks who are working on growing themselves to be a person who has something of a growing (or huge) platform and is trying to understand how to use social platforms to build something better/deeper/more. And there might be a good place to start. “WHY” are you seeking to get more fans? And do you really want fans?

What Are Fans?

I’m a fan. For instance, I’m a fan of Lorin and Bassnectar. By “fan,” I mean that I like his music, and appreciate some of the media he puts out. In the fan relationship, Lorin wants a few things from me:

  • Support. And online, this means tweets and likes and things.
  • Money. He would love it if I buy his records when they come out.

This is a really simple relationship. In the “fan” perspective, if I get the occasional @ reply from @bassnectar on Twitter, I feel that little “oooh! He spoke to me!” And that’s it. I don’t think that someday we’ll work on a track together. I don’t expect him to hang out with me at a concert. That’s it.

Why Community Members are WAY Cooler Than Fans

By comparison, I hung out with Sabrina at the annual PRSA event at the end of last year. We talked for a while. I got to hear what was going on in her world. I listened to some of the challenges of her role, and basically spent simple time with her. She then left her job, went to another organization, and convinced them I should keynote their May event. Thus, I got to see Sabrina again, hear about her father’s stories of Pakistan, and about her upcoming vacation. Hopefully, I added value to her event, too.

In my community are mentors, thinkers like Charlie Green, author of several bestselling books on consulting and leadership and generally smart guy, and Tim Sanders, the original Lovecat, and someone who’s working on some really cool stuff that I’m proud to be learning about. I can follow them from afar, and I can dip in and talk with them personally when I have a need, and if they’re not too busy for me.

Communities are made up of multiple levels of peers. Sometimes the community I have the honor to serve hires me for something and other times, I hire it. I spent a day with Dr. Nick Morgan learning more about how to do better at speaking, and I learned so much that I’m still unpacking everything that came from that single day.

Thank goodness that I’m much more than a fan of these people, and I’m grateful that none of them are my fans.

What Does it Take to Nurture These Relationships?

A community-minded relationship requires that you think (always) in three dimensions:

  1. What do I offer that can help others?
  2. Who do I know that can help this person?
  3. How can I best work with this person?

To nurture those kinds of relationships requires more than a few considerations and preparations. Prepare for bullets:

  • Keep the simplest of databases, even Evernote, to list names, contact info, and what people might need/want.
  • Learn to make eye contact, and remember people’s names. Hard to be very personable or a community person if you’re bad with names. It takes practice, but it’s very doable.
  • Do your damnedest to always find the time to spend a short while with any who linger. No, this doesn’t scale. Same with online. When you can, talk back and make connections, and talk about them and what they’re into.
  • Open the circle to be inclusive. If you’ve ever met me in person at a conference, you’ve probably seen this one: when people come over, I just open the circle such that even more people can talk with each other. It’s the same online. Talk to the new folks just as much as you talk to those you’ve known a while. (Maybe more!)
  • Always remember that you serve the community. It is never your community. If a roomful of people are wearing shirts with your face on it, you’re still the servant and the participant. Lead from the floor, and be inclusive in that leadership.

In most of these cases, those are both offline and online bits of advice. Here are some online bits in particular.

  • You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you, but it’s way important to reply back as often as possible to those who message you.
  • Having a fan page is tricky. It means you’re accepting the concept of “fan.” But should you have one, try to let it be YOU populating it and doing the conversing. I’m proud of Deepak Choprah (who I’m trying to get for an interview on this subject) and Nikki Sixx, of all the odd pairings, for running their own presence on places like Google+. The difference is vast.
  • Be where you can best support the experience. If you can’t manage to have a profile active and communicate back and forth on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Soundcloud, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever, then don’t. But be where you are. And make it the best possible experience you can make it.
  • “Behind the scenes” is for fans. “Part of the story” is for participants in a community. Find ways to get people into the action.
  • The more ways you can connect other people together at the peer level, the more it’s about your community and not you-worship.
  • Check yourself frequently. Eat humility every single day. Every time you feel like you’re all that and a bag of chips, talk yourself back out of it. Go do something for people who need it more. Whatever. But never let yourself believe for a minute that you deserve a pedestal. That never turns out well.

So, Get Fans If You Want

Or, make the world amazing by participating in a community of people you can care about and that you can admire, and who you can help whenever you can. Don’t build community around your book or your album. Build it around the bigger flag you fly, no matter what the current project is named. Make sure of that, because you’re going to have a next whatever, and if you’re lucky, people are going to remember you and the flag you fly, not the book title or album title or whatever.

And if you want more? Never fret that argument that it’s quality not quantity. You can have both. The more amazing people I meet in my travels, the more I know this to be true. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • morganwesterman

    really awesome distinctions.  thanks for inspiring us to fly a bigger flag ;)

  • Turndog Millionaire

    Love some of these points. Especially that is isn’t your community, merely one you serve

    If you hold this in mind I think you will do ok

    And these days it’s all about interactivity. Community does this, but you’re right, a fan is more static. Stood on the sidelines watching, not immersing.

    Loving your style, Chris

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  • Robin Dickinson

    Thank you, Chris.

    One thing that has helped in our community building efforts is to communicate how other members can help you. That way, they aren’t just receiving value from you, but are empowered to know how they can best to sow back into your life. We call it ‘mutual muscle’ – where every member knows how best to help the other members.

    Best regards,



  • Jackie

    I have long talked about my online “community”  and your definitions and comments on this really help me explain that some more, Chris.

    I never got why connections/fans/followers were the measure that so many people were striving for. 

    …and I love that “Every time you feel like you’re all that and a bag of chips, talk yourself back out of it.” 
    Great advice… 

  • Christopher Somers

    Great points here.  I think at the end of the day, it is about getting more meaningful relationships in terms of what the person / business is trying to build.

  • Raul Colon

    I like how you named opening the channels of communication “Opening the Circle”. 

    I still remember first time I met you how you knew my name and introduced me to so many people. Thanks for doing what you do and for making me part of your circle. 

    Your Fan! Raúl

    (No worries I won’t call you Guru) :) 

  • geechee_girl

    I went to school with Kerri Kasem who works with Nikki’s show Sixx Sense. She’s a good egg and a super nice person. I like that she has held true to herself over all the years I’ve known her. She and Nikki do great things being social with their fans – it’s fun to watch.

  • owengreaves

    Good Day Chris,

      I think much of what you say here speaks volumes to your message of being human, a human business, a human connecting point, and so on. I’m not sure why, but for some reason many forget to be human on the Internet, it’s like each one of us becomes a character in a play and we don’t have to be real.

      I also believe that most people actually believe they decide if they are popular, successfull, and even smart. The truth is, you don’t get to decide you’re a leader or all those things.

      The old story of, if you think you are a leader, just look behind you, if no one is there, you’re just out for a walk.

      Influence is another dangers word, I believe, if you have influence, it wasn’t really meant for you. Your influence is meant to be used for others, you do that through and by serving those around you.

      There is one quality about you Chris that gets me, I see the real you as a very caring sensitive person, and that’s the biggest reason you get my attention. But also because you are smart, intelligent, and lead by example. I can only observe you from afar, but what I see speaks to the real you I believe you are.

      My world is better because you are doing what you were designed to do, when you do that, you make the world a better place, even if I don’t agree with you.

      Many Blessings, and I can’t wait to see how you will serve the community next.


  • Craig Jarrow

    Spot on post, Chris!

    This is what most individuals (and companies) do not get about social.

    Followers and fans don’t count. It’s all about COMMUNITY. 

    Making people feel like they are part of something. :)

  • Jim Gray

    I would say from the “fan-side” it’s important that if you want to be taken seriously, don’t act like a fan. I waited in line to meet Gary V recently just to thank him. There wasn’t time for more.
    We are all given a community, we just need to look around. Good thoughts Chris. There’s a lot of solid, practical pieces here.

  • Dave Delaney

    Thanks for this Chris. 
    It is crucial that online community leaders focus also on educating their employers or clients about interactions over fans. The true value in online community is if members are interacting and getting something from being a part of it. It’s that metric that has to be promoted more, over the public facing LIKES and FOLLOWERS. 

    In Trust Agents you and Julien wrote about Batchbook and Highrise as options for database management. Are you using one of these? Or do you use Evernote now instead? I’m curious, because this is something I am taking a new look at. As Jeff Pulver said (and you reminded us), “You live and die by your database.”

  • Chris (Efficient Guide)

    Hm. Well, I agree with the points made in this post in terms of doing a good job with community management. But you are selling snake oil to marketers if you’re suggesting that (for example) any brand just has to be a good community manager to build a following. And you don’t appear to understand how community size affects ROI in social media at all(?) though I find that unlikely given your long experience in the field.

  • Sailor

    I am not sure if I am a fan of getting more “fans”. I always thought that it was weird to  have several fans as I am not a very social person.

    Few weeks backs I decided that I cant handle all my FB friends and spent about 3 hours deleting them all. I had to keep the FB account since I use it for advertisemnt purposes with FB.

    I put a note in my Fb account that I am no longer accepting friends and started a Fan page for myself. I know it is a ridicules move and surprisingly, I have zero fans so far. :D

  • Jungo

    Great post! You have made some good points on the importance of building relationships with people. There’s a huge difference between having fans and having loyal people whom support you because you add value into their lives. I can only hope that people really grasp your thoughts on this post. Look forward on reading more from you.

  • Nick Kellet

    I like the idea of a Gift List. Always be looking for things people need. It starts by listening and remembering what matters to them. Logging that makes it easier to find and match what your discover to the people who need it most.

    I love your What, Who & How Community building mindset.

  • Rex Williams

    One of the most profound posts ever.
    Nice work Chris.
    I’m glad to be a part of your community.

    Hoping to still find a way for you to help our company.

  • Jeff Korhan

    Be where you are.  Nice thought. 

    BTW, I used to work with Deepak. I’ll email you some contacts.

  • seanrox rox

    Right on, Chris. Welcome back. :)


    Chris you are awesome


    The right relationships matter to build communities.

  • ChristineMcDougall

    Love this…says everything I stand for. Thanks Chris. I think this was your response to 1000 true fans.

    Keep up the great work,


  • Carolyn Gardner

    Chris, Great post. You are a master, I believe polite, at including people within the “circle,” of a conversation. Be it a dinner of 8 or an audience of 600, you have a way of making people feel at ease.

    You have also shown people, along with companies how to create and lead communities for liked minded people. A platform to share ideas. To give. To always give back.

    Good to see you writing again.

    Best always, Carolyn

  • johnmurphyinternational

    Thanks, Chris. We will build a community on how we support each other and add value to that relationship. Too often online communication can be just about what the message the communicator wishes to convey and not about the needs of those being communicated with.

  • Tricerabrand

    Awesome angle! We all need more of this attitude.

  • Adam

    Completely agree where you’re coming from Chris, but for many people it’s more about having a nice big number than any actual interaction.

    I have 44 twitter followers. I’m not a big tweeter, but those 44 followers are far more active than the 4,000 followers that my boss has.

    But the perceived value is that 4,000 (most spam bot) followers are better than 44 real, active human followers simply because a big number is easier to value at a glance.

    Maybe someone should tell these people that they can simply buy followers if having a big number is so important to them?

    • Chris Brogan

      Isn’t that downright silly? It rails against me. 

      As for buying followers, evidently, there are a bunch of musicians accusing each other of buying followers. I just keep asking, “are those making you any money?” 

      • Adam

        Well, based on perceived value I’d have to say yes!

        It’s certainly a trust signal.

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  • Lorrie R. Fisher CHt

    Post is a great example of how to appreciate your community (add value) versus promoting yourself.  And in the process you increase your own appeal and worth.  Thank you for teaching by example.  


  • David Gray

    Thanks for reminding us about how “real” relationships work with in person or online.

  • Kerryhickman

    Great article Chris. Social media is only going to have the longevity it deserves if the fan actually believes that they are valued. Becoming just another number is definitely not appealing to anyone.

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  • Thea | Write Change Grow

    Hi Chris
    Really enjoyed this post and it has given me a lot to think about. I particularly like the 3 dimension questions.  I will definitely be focusing on them at BlogWorld NY next week.  My other favorite is the open the circle approach.  Looking forward to your keynote presentation on Wednesday and I hope I get to meet you at some stage.

  • Rose Marie

    Hi Chris,
    Do you know Rachel Ann Polling? She is applying those principles to the music and arts community on a daily basis. She might be an excellent interview candidate for your blog!

    As a musician and coach myself I am glad to see you highlighting the value of true deeper community-based relationships. This is constantly rewarding me in my persist to help artists become thriving independent artists.

    • Rachel Ann Poling

      Aw, thank you Rose Marie! That is very sweet of you. I appreciate the comment a great deal. You’re the best! 

      (and you too, of course, Chris. ;) Great post! I loved it, and I can’t think of anything more intelligent to add to the conversation besides, “I completely agree!”)

  • Robert Materialy

    We need to make good communication with ours fans to build active community. It’s important because we will pay more for getting new clients than for keeping the old ones.

  • Clint Lenard

    Excellent post, Chris! I always learn something new from your posts.

  • Muhammad Ayaz

    Really a great post and you have mentioned the difference in Fans and Community members and I would love to be community member now, where I can talk to them directly.

    Thanks for sharing the great article. :-) You always producing something new and different idea.

  • Cendrine Marrouat

    Love this: ”
    Check yourself frequently. Eat humility every single day. Every time you feel like you’re all that and a bag of chips, talk yourself back out of it. Go do something for people who need it more. Whatever. But never let yourself believe for a minute that you deserve a pedestal. That neverturns out well.”

    As always, you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for this post!

  • Jeff Brown

    Good post Chris. I am sure you will have to write it again. People still get focused on numbers for some reason. I wrote a post similar to yours a short time ago. Good to see we think alike on this matter. Thanks Chris.

  • Valerie Deveza

    Great post, Chris!  Love the way you presented this all too-important aspect about why we are all here in the first place.  Thanks for reminding us that it shall always be about those who are around us, and not us.

  • Nathan Hans

    Chris, this artcile really says something to me. I am getting better at connecting with other people. I do it very easily in my town, because I am an active volunteer, and there is no shortage of people who need help. I struggle online for pretty much the same reason, except for it’s very hard to locate the people who need help online. At least, I haven’t cracked that code yet. 

  • Fanaceoushannah

    I really like your article man.I gained some info from this blog seriously.great idea!

  • Greg Marshall

    Social Media sometimes confuses me as I just like to help as many people as I can but there is so much advice out there on what to pay attention to. 

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  • McKay Allen

    Great post Chris. It is difficult to keep track of social media and manage personal relations at the same time. Great reminders.

  • kris ferris

    I am happy to be able to say after reading this post that I am already doing much of what you suggest on a limited, organic basis. I am even happier to have so much info in one place that addresses things that concern me. I am all about building “community” these days. It’s not about me so much anymore; It’s about others. Thanks for sharing on the level that you do. I will be following you, once I figure out how to do that successfully…heh

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