Marketing lesson #5: find your people (following)

Business geniuses Eric Ries and Peter Thiel talk about this false hope of” build it, and they will come” in their books The Lean Startup and Zero to One respectively. Just because you make something doesn’t mean people care.

“Customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen, and it’s harder than it looks.”

Peter Thiel, Zero to One

A few years ago photographer and filmmaker Ted Forbes made a video called “Nobody Cares About your Photography” where he discusses that although it might be true that nobody cares, it’s important to do work that matters.

I agree and would go even further. While it’s true that most people don’t care about your work, there are people who do. You need to find those people. Seth Godin calls it “finding the smallest viable audience.”

Stefan Zweig understood that ca 80 years ago.

I had acquired what, to my mind, is the most valuable kind of success a writer can have—a faithful following, a reliable group of readers who looked forward to every new book and bought it, who trusted me, and whose trust I must not disappoint.

Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European

To be clear, social media “following” is not a following. These are just people who often don’t even see your stuff. They’re fine with it, and you should be too. You can’t expect someone who follows hundreds or thousands of other people to see your work, let alone buy from you.

True followers are people who actually follow your work. They visit your website religiously; read your newsletters; watch your videos without any bell notifications and wonder what has happened to you if you haven’t posted anything for two days.

These people are your bread and butter. There might not be many of them, but they are your true fans.

As Seth Godin puts it in his book This is Marketing: “The goal isn’t to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.”

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired, found out that a thousand true fans might be sufficient to live a better-than-decent life.

So, instead of dreaming of hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, it’s more profitable to have a few thousand true fans instead.