Develop a Fan-Club Mentality

Lesson 3: Develop a Fan-Club Mentality

by Bob Baker

Admit it, recognition is a wonderful thing. When people praise you for a product you create, an idea you express, or a service you render, it feels good. I’ve been playing in rock bands for years and know the satisfaction that comes with having fans. It’s great to meet people who are touched in some positive way by what you do.

The term fan is typically associated with people in glamour fields — actors, athletes, rock stars, comedians, etc. Most people, though, circulate in nonglamour fields and are used to dealing with customers, buyers, and patrons.

In fact, I used to describe people who complimented my articles and books as “happy readers,” or if they purchased something, “satisfied customers.” But since honing my online identity, I regularly receive e-mail messages from people who write something like “Hi, Bob. I’ve been a subscriber to your newsletter for six months. I’m a big fan.” There’s that glamour word again.

Sure, you could use your brand name to cultivate customers, visitors, members, users, or whatever you call people who are attracted to what you do; but your online efforts will be more effective (and a lot more fun) if you make creating fans your primary goal.

Patrons are people who visit your Web site, subscribe to your newsletter, and pay for your services. Fans, on the other hand, cheer you on, rave about you to their friends, follow everything you do with interest, go to great lengths to attend your public appearances, and more. Which would you rather have?

Successfully pinpointing your online brand identity as an individual can mean the difference between attracting patrons and creating fans. Here are some examples to clarify this concept:

  • Self magazine has readers; Oprah Winfrey’s magazine is read by fans.
  • The Republican National Committee has members; Rush Limbaugh has fans.
  • The radio program “All Things Considered” has listeners; Howard Stern has fans.
  • “Entertainment Tonight” has viewers; David Letterman has fans.
  • The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders have admirers; Pamela Anderson has … you guessed it, fans.

What Can Stephen King Teach Us?

Stephen King maneuvered around his publisher when he sold previously unpublished novels to fans directly from his personal Web site. This bold move proves that the magnetism of a brand lies in the creator, not the company who sponsors him or her. The Internet allows talented people who aren’t afraid to promote themselves to bypass the institutions they once depended on for success. Why go through the middleman when it’s so easy to directly reach the public at large?

Titles, business entities, and logos sometimes sneak into the public consciousness and become popular through massive advertising campaigns; but the real power of brands lies in the essence of an individual. Why else do so many companies hire Michael Jordan, Mark McGwire, Cindy Crawford, and other celebrities to hawk their wares?

The magnetism of certain well-known individuals is so strong, companies hope some of that good-vibe attraction will rub off on their products.

What do you have to do to inspire people you don’t know (yet) to become your fans? Here are some of the reasons people may enthusiastically connect with you, along with real-life examples of famous people who illustrate each reason:

  • Fans strongly agree with your distinct point of view (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Ross Perot)
  • Fans are entertained by you (Chris Rock, Rosie O’Donnell)
  • Fans respect your background and the experiences you’ve been through (Jesse Jackson, Sen. John Glenn)
  • Fans admire your talents (Eric Clapton, Wayne Gretzky)
  • Fans are inspired by you (Deepak Chopra, Brian Tracy)
  • Fans are impressed by your reputation (Steve Jobs, Cal Ripken Jr.)
  • Fans think you’re attractive (Brad Pitt, Bo Derek)
  • Fans are drawn to your outrageousness (Dennis Rodman, Richard Simmons)
  • Fans are impressed by the people with whom you are associated (James Carville, Prince William)
  • Fans enjoy your personality (Catie Couric, Regis Philbin)

Please note, though, that many people who attract fans do so for more than one reason. Consider pop star Madonna, one of the most prolific self-promoters of the past couple of decades. Her fans could easily claim all of the reasons listed previously to connect with her.

Your appeal doesn’t have to be one-dimensional (and you don’t necessarily have to dance in a leather suit to be noticed), but your public identity must be focused for you to have any chance of widespread notoriety.

In the next lesson, we cover the art of positioning. The best way to refine your online identity may not be what you think.


This workshop is based on Bob’s book “Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online: How to Use the Internet to Become a Celebrity or Expert in Your Field” (Top Floor Publishing). Download two chapters free and find out more about the book at