Alonzo Mourning, the cone of shame, and 1,000 true fans.

Greetings from NYC, where one member of our office has been temporarily forced to don a cone of shame and is not pleased about it:

Round about LHC way, we're leaning into our Manifest Destiny and expanding to the West Coast with our latest hire. Erin Nelson is her name, and she's helping us out on a project we're doing for a certain Transit Authority that at this point shall remain nameless, but it has three letters and may or may not operate the G Train. Most importantly Erin helps keep our dogs / human ratio 1:1, as is enshrined in our company bylaws.

On to the #content:

1,000 true fans (of your business)

As you are well aware, we like the rest of the internet, are aficionados of dog-related content. But sometimes we’re looking for something a little more specific—like obscure rap songs from the 90s, or information on an incredibly niche business function. Obscure ephemera is the Internet’s greatest strength, and yet, too much content, seeks the exact opposite: mass market appeal. We blame the gospel of “engagement”—if everyone’s being judged on how many people interact with a story, the lowest common denominator is the natural outcome for pretty much anything that’s put out there.

That’s starting to change, as platforms and advertisers alike start to lean more into niche communities, and it’s gotten us thinking about Keith Kelly’s seminal essay from way back in 2008, “1,000 True Fans.” Kelly’s theory is that you don’t actually need a huge audience to be successful—all you need is a dedicated audience of superfans. And it makes sense: why spend all your energy aiming for world domination, when you can make just as much of an impact with a smaller group of loyal customers?

Kelly’s focus was on old-school creators—writers, musicians, artists—but it applies to a lot of businesses as well. If you're, say, a company that makes potato chips, then yeah, your audience is everyone—or at least, everyone with good taste. But if you’re a B2B company that sells expensive software licenses, you don't need the whole world to love you. In fact, that would probably be really annoying. You really only want to deal with potential buyers of your product, which in some cases is like 7 people.

It’s much smarter, in this case, to cultivate a loyal audience who will read your blog, buy your products—and maybe even share tales of your good service with other possible clients. You probably don’t even need 1,000—as Kelly pointed out when he updated his essay in 2016, crowdfunding campaigns tend to have way fewer funders than you might think. The average Kickstarter campaign only has 241 backers. And if you’re a B2B selling to enterprise clients, the number of fans you need decreases as your average deal size goes up.

Turning potential clients into superfans isn’t easy—you have to be able to offer them insight that can’t be found anywhere else. But we’ve that among our client base there is a real desire, and more importantly, ability, to provide unique and intelligent analysis about their field of expertise. It’s our job to help them turn that intelligence into a compelling series of stories, and in doing so, help them build their very own group of fans, whether it’s 100 people or 1,000. And while it might be nice to have the whole world listening to what you have to say, we can’t all be Rap Snacks, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.