Social Networking to Build Your Fan Club


– or – How to Wheaton-ify Your Life

If you’re reading this blog entry, Google Analytics tells me there’s a 31% chance that you got here via a social networking site. They are everywhere and they are frequently maligned, but they serve very interesting purposes. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked In, Friendfeed. These five are not the width and breadth of internet social networking, but for the time being they are for me. As such, these are what I’ll be covering. They overlap a bit, but all can serve a specific aim when you’re looking to make a name for yourself.

Let me pause quickly to cite some sources and inspirations for this write-up:

Colin Wright, freelance designer and general productivity philosopher has written a slick e-book on personal branding, and he covers the necessity of monitoring social networking in part – http://exilelifestyle.com/2009/05/14/free-personal-branding-ebook/

TED – Clay Shirky discusses how the change in media interaction from a monolithic “one-to-many” style of delivery to a shared mass network is changing the world – http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html

TED – Seth Godin discusses the notion of tribes (another way of referring to grassroots movements) as the way to get a message out, especially due to the advance of the internet – http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html

And now back to the action.

Social networking is seen typically just as a way to say inane things to your friends and post pictures of funny and cute things so that others can look at them and say inane things about them. And really, 90% of the time, this is what they are for. (I have to ask: What’s wrong with that? But it’s why many people love to hate them)

For people invested in a social network, though, it’s much more than that. It’s a secret club that they happen to be in with thousands upon thousands of other people. There’s a funky sort of Jungian camaraderie in social networks. No matter how different you may be from everyone else on them… you’re both using the same tool to communicate. So you can’t be that different, right?

Now, with access to that entire multitude of people, it’s time to jump on-line and start hyping your next film or gig or book reading (or…ahem…blog post) incessantly and randomly? This is your ticket to fame and fortune! Not quite.

Internet users are cynical. We’ve seen so many fake things on the web that we tend to assume that anything we come across has some level of scam associated with it. We’re getting a link because someone wants to make money off of click-through advertising, or they want you to play some game so their referral link makes their own score go up, or some neat video is actually viral product placement. These things are the case so frequently; why would people NOT assume this to be the default case?

What you need to do is really participate in an on-line community. On Facebook or MySpace? Respond to people’s messages and photos. Say hello to friends and family. Play silly games. Get a little pet on your page and feed it things. On Twitter or Friendfeed? Post messages. Share links. Give referrals to your friends. Acknowledge those that follow you. Linked In? Give recommendations to coworkers and colleagues. Do all of these things, and do them regularly… and then you can start to promote yourself.

Once you are part of a community, part of a tribe, part of that giant club then and only then can it start to be your fan club. The Golden Rule exists on the internet as it does everywhere else. You have done unto others and shared in their experiences and their community and when you contribute something to it, they’ll click. They’ll read or watch or listen, and there’s a pretty good chance they will share, too. And if they start to share your work, then it’s only a short hop to growth. The internet is what makes Six Degrees of Separation seem possible. You can imagine how quickly you could start to experience exponential growth.

Don’t see anything other than having thousands upon thousands of people latched on to your every move as a total failure. This is where the Fan Club notion comes into play, and why my sub-head references Wil Wheaton, formerly of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. It’s now very possible and affordable to cater to a specific niche and have that niche carve out a living for you. You don’t need to have a book picked up and distributed by a major publisher who takes most of the profits to succeed. You don’t need a billboard with your name on it in the midst of a rampaging metropolis. Mr. Wheaton makes a very comfortable living, I wager, based off of faithful readers of his blog and book. He self-publishes, and his Fan Club purchases. These are people that read his Twitter and follow his blog and recognize him as a kindred spirit. He’s their buddy and why would they not shell out $10 to support a friend? Now take those $10 and reapply it a couple hundred thousand times.

All those people you’ve been sharing and cultivating a community with, they’re now part of your Fan Club, and by virtue of the fact that you are part of their community, you are part of theirs. There is a strong degree of loyalty involved with that relationship. You don’t need to a book to sell to a few million people to be successful. Depending on the needs in your life, you could sell it to 5,000 and be just fine.

Think of social networking as a way to invest in your future. You’re making bonds, maybe making friends, possibly creating loyal fans. It’s organic advertising of the best sort, because it’s all word of mouth passed from one trusted entity to another on a world-wide scale. Never forget, though, that if you come at this arrangement thinking of social networks as advertising, you’ve lost before you’ve begun. That might be what the eventual end result is for you, but you need to look at social networking as a relationship. You need to be invested, and you need to mean it, otherwise it’s all hollow, and one day it will explode in your face.

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  1. #1 by Badmoodman on June 22, 2009 - 8:27 PM

    So Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked-In, and Friendfeed are all pretty much a social Ponzi Scheme. No wonder I’ve been lax in joining the legions of lemmings, with my luck, I’d be at the bottom of that pyramid.

    Speech is being pushed out so fast in multiple media and in multiple languages– to a global audience, that it kinda creeps me out. Is there any thought that doesn’t need to be published? Is there any stranger that doesn’t need to be a friend made, or reconnected with? Maybe we should revisit the reasons why we DISconnected with them in the first place.

    Twitter was becoming increasingly mocked in the media until the Iranian uprising on June 12th when suddenly it morphed into the 2009 version of Anne Frank’s diary. Live. Multiplied by millions. I suppose this validates Ashton Kutcher’s schtick. (The Iranians are the 3rd most blogging country in the world. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei follows 46,746,829 people on Twitter, but oddly has only one follower, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

    I got an e-mail from a former co-worker today inviting me to follow him on Friendster.com and I’m wondering if Rob Schneider has thought of Friendmeister.com. So I went to his page and discovered that he prefers the energy of 20-somethings, a super model or a little bit of the nerd.

    Umm, men.

    Here’s hoping that one day this doesn’t explode in my face.

  2. #2 by mscarpel on June 23, 2009 - 9:38 AM

    @Badmoodman

    I’m not sure you can really call it a Ponzi Scheme. Looking at it from that perspective involves seeing things with a sort of cynicism that I caution against at the end.

    I make it a point to really only make comments on things that I think could generate some discussion or be otherwise amusing. I don’t post about what I’m eating, or that thing I just saw on TV.

    Twitter has been much maligned, but shouldn’t be any moreso than text messaging, since both services are virtually identical. Twitter is essentially mass-texting. It’s never been a service that has bothered me… but if there isn’t a balance struck between sort of micro-communications and longer exchanges that have the space for more thought and detail there is a problem. But just because there’s been an explosion of quick-burst communication, I don’t think we’ve seen a drop-off in lengthier communications.

(will not be published)