TRUE INFLUENCE: Followers vs Fans and Why the Difference Matters

This post takes off of the Quality vs Quantity post from last week but expands on it in a different way…

This may be shocking to some of you and perhaps not to others but I’ll lay it right from the beginning…

Numbers can lie.

But we’re still fascinated by them, aren’t we?

It’s so easy to take the numbers at surface value and THINK just because someone has 100,000 followers on Twitter that they are more influential than someone who has 2,000. Right? You probably do it…, I know I do sometimes… a glance at someone’s profile, see they have X number of followers and immediately our brain ranks their perceived influence (based really on their perceived popularity).

Same goes for Facebook. Same goes for email newsletter subscribers. Same goes for just about anything we can try to quantify based solely on what we perceive by the numbers.

But it’s all perceived.

That’s part of the problem when we try to measure influence simply by numbers. The numbers can be manipulated… quite easily in fact. There are plenty of ways to manufacture a following or to inflate the numbers these days.

True Influence isn’t just something you can measure at a glance. Its more dynamic than that.

I know plenty of people who have a very small presence on Social Media but their ability to create an impact is BIG. And the reverse is true as well… I know many who appear to have influence (because their following is big) but in reality, they can only move a small % to action.


The difference is this: Followers vs Fans

Fans are easy to come by. They aren’t committed believers, their more like casual acquaintances. There’s really no relationship built there yet… they might just like something you said once or have downloaded something and been placed on your list or even followed back out of courtesy.

Followers are something else entirely. They are the people who support you, who champion the cause and who are engaged. They are invested and there is usually some sort of relationship there than causes them to act when you encourage them to do so.

Fans can certainly become followers and that is the goal but the point of this post is this…

Don’t confuse the two.

Fans are not followers.

Just because someone else has what appears to be MORE, it doesn’t always means their influence is greater. Don’t worry about trying to be popular, going wide but seldom deep. Instead, focus on developing relationships and building up those who are engaged. As you do, followers will act and they will help bring in more followers instead of just more fans.

It’s much better to have a 1,000 who you can actually lead than 10,000 who aren’t really listening.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This reminds me of Kevin Kelly's "1,000 True Fans" concept. I agree with you Daniel – though I'd probably change around the terms.

    I'd rather have fewer, solid relationships than a bunch of shallow ones. The former is more influential.

  • Great post. It is so clear that it is wise to do what Jesus did. Develop the disciples and unleash them to carry out the gospel. Jesus had deep friendships that led to the early church. Thanks for the reminder!

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  • brandonweldy

    I have all too often found myself getting caught up in my following number count. "What, I only have 33 Twitter followers? How is it this boy in the youth group I lead has 100?!" I really appreciated your line " Don’t worry about trying to be popular, going wide but seldom deep." I remind myself all the time that I am trying to go deep and I am providing something worth viewing or reading and that is what matters.

  • DAjayi

    Hello Daniel,
    You write really interesting and informing posts/articles.
    I’m just starting to promote my blog and other social media pages and in the past three days accrued 29 likes and 13 talking about this on my Facebook/blog pages. Should my goal be to keep the stats growing at this rate? I know I am no where near the stats you showed in your article that talked about differentiating the stats, likes vs. talking about this, but from what I read, it seems I maybe off to a pretty good start at approx. 45%. I am concerned because I am debuting my book to my target market in a month or so and wanted to have a pretty nice number of likes, for polishing purposes of course, but I’m seeing that my talking about this is steadily increasing and may surpass my likes which was totally unexpected. I never paid attention to the talking about this icon until it went double digits. I’m acquiring these numbers via an endorsement invitation to my personal Facebook friends and to my LinkedIn affiliates–asking them to please take a moment and read a couple of my posts and if they like what they read, to please endorse my Facebook page. I don’t want to generate numbers for the sake of having numbers, I want realistic connections–many, many realistic connections. Am I on the right track? If not, what do you recommend I do now? Thanks for your time. Dee

    • Congrats! You are indeed off to a great start. When you are first starting out, don’t get too wrapped up in the numbers though. Sure, you want to monitor them and use them as guides but the most important thing (as far as social media goes) is to do your best to create a “social” presence. That means engaging with those who comment, responding, being there, being interactive. Also means being intentional with what you post so that it is of value to those who follow you (value is subjective but you can find what works for you and your people). The content you post and how followers engage it (LIKES, comments, shares, etc) all factor into Facebook’s ranking. But even more importantly, if your content and you are engaging with people then that will help you develop a community (TRIBE) and people who are more invested and more likely to buy your book. Of course, you want to keep trying to grow your following too by attracting new people. There are lot of tactical ways to do that but I’m talking strategy here. Side note.. when developing a social media platform, just be sure to treat it like a marathon vs a sprint. It takes some time to do it right (just like building relationships) and you have to think about long term vs short term if you want people to stick around beyond just the launch of a book. Far too often I see people launching a book or product spend a lot of time ramping up their social media, or marketing in general, for a book or product launch and then right after the launch they stop engaging and everything fades. Don’t do that. : ) That’s the worst thing you can do because you want to keep your followers engaged ongoing so that you have them paying attention for the next thing you release, share, provide, etc. You want to keep compounding your efforts not reinventing every time there is a need. Hope that helps.