Everyone has their bugaboo. The thing that stresses them out. The thing that their anxiety can almost always be traced back to.
Mine is this: I want to be loved.
If I’m not careful, my brain will translate failure (whatever that really means) or rejection to oh, my God, why are you ignoring me? Why don’t you love me enough to pay attention?
I actually wrote that as ‘why do you hate me’, but it didn’t feel right. I don’t have any real fear that I’m a terrible person. It’s more a fear of being invisible. If people loved me, they would notice me.
Some of it is self-esteem, I guess. I tend to be mostly okay in that area after a lot of living and some therapy. But somewhere inside me there’s still a sensitive little girl who struggled to stand out in a family with nine children and was bullied in elementary school and just wanted friends.
Some of it is the fact that I am so inclined to value ideas. They are my currency. They are the thing that excites me more than anything else. Yours, mine, whatever. So when I get excited about something and it falls flat, it makes me doubt myself and the world as a whole. Like — how is it possible that everyone doesn’t feel my excitement?
I’ve had the idea of 1000 true fans on my mind.
The theory was written about in an essay by Kevin Kelly. It boils down to the fact that you don’t need everyone to love you in order to be successful in your creative or entrepreneurial pursuits.
You just need 1000 true fans. Which means 1000 people who show up, every time, for your ideas. For your blog posts or your concerts or your classes or your restaurant’s dinner service — whatever.
My true fans are the ones whose names I recognize. The readers who always read what I write. The people who always open my emails and click my links. Who buy my books and respond to my blog posts and who I can count on. The people who give me feedback when I ask for it. The group who always signs up for whatever idea I put out there. (Or, at least wants to.)
They are my baseline — because of them, no matter what I do, I’m never just tossing things into the void. They are there to catch my ideas, even if in the end the idea isn’t as fantastic as I think it is.
That’s pretty damned cool, really.
I wondered what the percentage of fans to true fans is.
I saw this little exchange on Twitter yesterday, which made me curious.
I have 14,000 or so people on my email list.
There are more people than that who have taken some step to follow me and my work. My Facebook page for Ninja Writers has about 18,000 on it. Another 18,000 or so follow me here on Medium. But let’s call joining my email list the first step in becoming a true fan.
One percent of 14,000 is 140 people.
That feels about right. More people than that open my emails. My email open rate hovers around the 15 to 20 percent range and my click rate is somewhere between 2 and 5 percent for each email— pretty standard.
That two percent is the most intriguing to me, when we’re talking about true fans. I never have a click rate of lower than two percent. I think it’s fair to say that half of that two percent are people who always click on every link I send.
My true fans.
But if 14,000 represents my entire fan base — everyone from the people who gave me a bogus email address to get some free thing I was offering to my true, true fans — then I’d say that there are at least 10,000 people who are at least casual, occasional fans.
And based on my 20 percent open rate, and taking into account that each email isn’t opened by exactly the same people, maybe 5000 people are regular fans.
And maybe 2000 are real fans — people who open and click through and interact with me. These are true fans, even if they never buy anything. You can fight me on that if you want.
And yeah, maybe 1% are super fans. These folks are different. They’ve connected with me and what I’m doing on a whole other level. These are the people who pre-ordered my new books months before it was released. They respond to every request for feedback, follow me down every weird idea rabbit hole I find myself falling into.
So, let’s go with a 1% fans > to super fans conversion rate. That’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure that the whole thing can even be narrowed down to a mathematical principle. But maybe it’s a starting point. Something I can wrap my head around.
What all that means.
The idea of true fans is an intriguing one, especially for creatives. Those fans give us the space to create without worrying about no one wanting what we’re putting out.
That baseline is important.
I think 1000 is probably a pretty arbitrary number. And I’m not convinced that it can be tied to money as strongly as Kelly suggests. I’m able to make a living with far fewer than 1000 people who always show up for every single thing I do, including every opportunity to buy something from me.
In fact, it’s hard for me to believe that many people at all have 1000 fans like that.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.