How to Leverage a Small Following
Let me tell you a little story. I had actually already recorded today’s podcast episode. It was all about how to grow your audience fast. Then, two things happened: one, I decided to completely change a pop-up Facebook group that I wanted to host this month. And two, I realized that by talking about how to grow your audience fast, I was ignoring the power that exists when you have a small audience. Today, we’re going to talk about how to leverage a small following (and about that super excited Facebook group I’m hosting this month)!
How to Leverage A Small Following
Want to listen to the podcast version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this episode, I’ve got to tell you something really exciting! I had a Facebook group for years. I started it around 2016, and I held onto it until the beginning of 2019. When I shut it down, it had 5,000 or 6,000 members. I shut it down because it no longer felt like a community – it just kind of felt like a thing on the Internet that wasn’t helpful for anybody. I haven’t had a Facebook group since then… until now!
I’m hosting a pop-up Facebook Group!
Woohoo! I’m hosting a pop-up Facebook Group! This group is going to get started on November 19 through the end of the month. Yes, that means it’s mostly during the week of Thanksgiving – but that doesn’t matter. This is a Facebook Group that will literally change your business. I’m calling it Small Following, Big Impact, and I’m going to teach you how to leverage and cultivate a base of raving fans, no matter how big or small, who want to buy anything you have to sell.
It feels like we’re always on this journey to more more more – but there’s so much power in making sure that you are cultivating the right people. And when you find the right people, bringing them in and turning them into loyal people who will buy anything you have to sell. When you have the right people, it doesn’t matter whether you have 100 followers or 10,000 or 10,000. You will still be able to sell with your social media.
Again – it’s called Small Following, Big Impact. You can join no matter where you’re building your audience or what type of business you have. I’m going to walk you through super easy, actionable things. Get ready to cultivate a group of raving fans who are ready to buy whatever you want to sell!
We get started on the 19th (that’s 10 days from when this goes live)!
It’s going to be a party, y’all. I literally never do this, and I’m SO pumped to hang out with you guys.
Now, let’s jump in. Here’s how to leverage a small following!
Time for another story! My new assistant Laura is local – she was born and raised here. A little while back, she ran into one of her family members and she told them that she was working for me. They said “Oh my gosh, I love Jessica. I would buy anything from her.” Mind you, this person doesn’t own a business.
I’m not saying this to be pretentious, but I get that a lot. “Oh my gosh, I love her, I would buy whatever she’s selling.” It used to weird me out! But now, it’s something that I’ve done that on purpose. I’ve done the same things to cultivate those raving, excited fans when I had no followers to now.
What does it mean to leverage a small following?
First, I want you to know that as I talk through all of this, I am never talking about people as numbers. I actually used to think about people as numbers until I had a big realization years ago that the people who follow me are people. I want you to know how seriously I do not think of people as numbers.
Each of the 2,000 people who listen to my podcast episode when it goes live are real people who need real help. You actually want to know how to leverage a small following. The 13,000 people who follow me on Instagram are real people. It’s not just a number next to my name. The same thing is true on YouTube. I’m about to hit 100,000 subscribers (which is CRAZY!), and it has taken me four years to get there. 100k is fun on YouTube because you get a plaque and recognition, but those are still people. Every person that subscribes to my channel is a person who needs the help I provide. Don’t think that I’m taking that lightly.
I know that 80 percent of my followers, maybe 90 percent of them, on every platform will never buy from me. And that’s okay! I show up for them the same as I show up for the person who does buy from me.
First thing's first – a small following is actually a superpower.
A small following is actually a superpower! It is so much easier to literally talk to your audience when there’s only a handful of them there. On YouTube, there is no possible way for me to answer all of the comments I get. And that kind of sucks, because I used to answer all of the comments every single comment. On Instagram, I answer every single DM that I get – but I “only” have 13,000 followers there. Now, switch to the fact that I have a brand account on Instagram – I don’t answer those dms. You’re still getting a personal response (my assistant often comes to me with questions that she can’t answer and I give her the answers to those).
Eventually it becomes harder and harder to talk directly to your audience as it gets bigger. A small audience is SUCH a powerful thing. Bigger isn’t always better.
I know people with massive audiences that don’t make any money because they have no idea what their audience wants. And on the other hand, I know people with small followings that can sell the pants off of their audience. Again, I don’t have the biggest following on Instagram, and I worked really hard to get every one of them. I’ve been in this industry for about 10 years now, and I watch people go viral and grow their audience overnight. That has NEVER happened for me. I’ve walked uphill both ways to get the audience I have now.
Nobody who’s trying to grow an audience online would tell you that they don’t want to go viral. But I’m actually appreciative of the fact that I’ve worked really hard to grow my audience because, had I not, it might be really easy for me to take for granted how hard growing a following is and/or how important any size following is to your business.
Bigger isn’t always better! I don’t have a ton of followers on Instagram, but I have more interaction in my Instagram stories than most accounts that are double or triple my size. I have really made sure that I take care of my following and they know we can interact in that way.
Know the Concept of 1,000 True Fans
This is a concept coined and named by Kevin Kelly. First of all, I’m using 1,000 as an example but it can be any number. Basically, the 1,000 True Fans concept is that you don’t NEED a massive following – you just need 1,000 (or whatever number) True Fans who absolutely love you, absolutely love what you do, and would buy anything you sell.
I think about a musician. There are people who literally would crawl through COVID coated in broken glass to go to a concert. I am recording this on election day, and I have no clue what is about to happen. I don’t care who you vote for – if you have seen the rallies that Trump has been doing over his campaign, there are people who would crawl through COVID and broken glass to go to a Trump rally.
When you look at the impact of having 1,000 True Fans, that is HUGE. There are people who would literally do anything to go to an Ariana Grande concert or go buy that new book in their favorite series. Anything with a cult-like following shows you how true this is.
You don’t need everybody in the world to love you and want what you sell – you just need a group of people who would do anything to buy the thing you’re offering them.
Let’s say you have 500 followers on Instagram. Of those 500, 45 of them watch every story you post every single day. Make sure those 45 people are the right people (not just mom's cousin’s best friend or bots). Let’s say 10 of them aren’t going to buy, but 35 of them are so hardcore they’re going to buy whatever you sell. If you sell them a $1,000 course/product/membership/whatever, you just made $35,000 from a TINY group of people.
The number’s game isn’t as important as making sure that the people who follow you are THERE for you. And so much goes into this!
The truth is, to get the right people in your audience, you also have to repel people. If you attract 2,000 people and you want to make sure only the right 1,000 of them stick around, you’re going to have to put out content that repels some of them.
In the last seven days, I have had 159 new Instagram followers and 106 people unfollow me. And I’m okay with that! I wasn’t their cup of tea, and they’re not going to buy from me anyway. I would rather know that half of those 13,000 people on my Instagram love me and engage with me than have 100,000 followers on Instagram where nobody felt that way.
Make sure that the following you have has those people who love everything you put out and want to literally wrap their arms around your leg like a toddler, you know? (Ha, ha). With those true fans, whether you have an audience of 200 or 2,000, you’re golden.
If you only have two followers, let’s make damn sure that those two followers want what you have to sell. If you have 2,000 followers let’s get as many of them as you can into the bucket of people who would buy ice from you in a snowstorm. So how do you do that?
Nurture the absolute heck out of your following and make sure they want to hang out with you.
This is something we’re really going to focus on in the pop-up group because it’s something that people overlook so much. Click here to sign up so you don’t miss out!
You want people to be attracted to your personality! There is a girl who I follow right now whose political beliefs I don’t agree with at all (and she shares them often), but she’s just a fun account to follow so I stick around! By the way, I don’t believe in unfollowing people because of their political beliefs unless they’re straight up mean. But, this is a person who I just randomly follow. I LOVE her account, so I want to see her stories every day. It feels like I’m hanging out with a friend and she seems really fun to hang out with.
That’s what we have to do. We need to nurture the HECK out of our audience, whether it’s 5 or 55 people. Make them want to be in your squad and be a part of the hot mess express (that’s what I feel like my stories are). To be able to sell anything to anybody, you’ve got to make sure that you’re cultivating an environment where people are going to want to hang out with you.
Make your followers a part of the whole process.
In my personal opinion, Instagram is the best place to build a rock solid community right now because of the use of stories and dms. So I’m going to focus on that one.
Imagine you’re following a company that you already like on Instagram, like bubly. They decide that they want to come out with a new flavor. Rather than just coming out with a new flavor, they take the time to involve their audience in the process. Let’s say that bubly is coming out with cherry lemon lime almond butter flavor (ewh). They build up hype and they make sales. But imagine if they told us NOW, on Instagram stories, that they are going to release this flavor in a month and want people to vote on what color the can should be or the dominant flavors in it. As a follower, you’re giving your feedback – and by the end of the process, you’re thinking, “I have to have this!”
Making followers a part of your process cultivates a massive “we’re in this thing” feeling. I follow a girl named Suzy Holman on Instagram. I’ve followed her for about a year now, and I found her as a home decor blogger. She has really shifted and re-niched, and now she teaches influencers how to leverage their following. She recently helped a company crowdsource a product they launched. From the name, to the packaging, to the design, to the way their office looks. It literally feels like her following is helping her build the company in real-time, and that’s powerful.
Get in the trenches with your audience! Make them understand that you know where they’re at right now, and get there with them.
I’ve built a ton of sales funnels in the past. I could just go out and teach that and be done. Or, I could build a funnel publicly while I teach people how to do it and share my own experiences. I could pick one lucky student whose sales funnel I would build for them as an example. I share the bad times and the good times. Get in the trenches and SHARE it, publicly!
Back in the summer, I started running Pinterest ads to my digital planning starter pack. Having an audience full of digital planner lovers is not my goal, but the income was so natural that I did. In the first month that I started the Pinterest ads, I spent $200 on ads and made $3,000-$4,000 from them. I continued to do that month after month.
In early October, we launched the new 2021 digital planners. I went in and changed the Pinterest ad creative – not anything else – and it stalled the ad. I worked for weeks to be able to get this ad up and running. That’s a pretty big chunk of income to suddenly lose. I finally got them back to working in mid-to-late October, and they FLOPPED. Completely flopped. I spent a lot of money on Pinterest ads and made $0 from them.
I have since shut them off, completely revamped everything, and turned them back on. They were profitable for one day, and now they’re flopping again. I am currently in a season of losing income. In October, I didn’t make half of what I did in March. All of my other streams of income are coming in, but in March I still had one-on-one clients. I am currently in a season where I’m trying to get this off the ground again. Now, I have a full-time employee, contractors that I pay, and softwares and systems that I use. I can’t afford for my baseline to drop – yet it did.
The reason I share things like that with you is to make you understand that I am in the trenches. I’m still doing the same stuff you guys are. And yes – even with the lost income, my income is still something I would have dreamed of two years ago. However, I have definitely seen it and felt it. I want you to know that you’re not alone if you have that same struggle. I am doing this stuff to! It’s not like I am so far past it that I can’t teach you how to do it, too.
Tell your audience about what you’re going through! Take them on deep dives and explain your problems. That will show them that you’re experiencing the same style of life that they are. A lot of times, we follow people and we think that they don’t understand us because they haven’t been there recently. We have to show people we can get in the trenches with them.
There’s a lot that I’ve learned from this experience with Pinterest in the last few months because I’m in the trenches. And I could use it to teach in the future. A couple of times, I’ve thought that I shouldn’t even bother with them. But again, I’m not going to sit here and lie and tell you that I haven't felt the $5,000 a month cut from my income. Again, I’m fine – I’m paying salaries, I’m paying bills, I’m making a profit. But it is a bigger deal than I would like for it to have been.
My point in telling you this is that if you can get your audience in the trenches with you and make them feel like they want to hang out with you, then you’re going to easily have a bucket of people who would buy anything you sell.
Again – I’m hosting a pop-up Facebook Group and it’s going to be SO much fun. It’s starting on November 19, it’s called Small Following, Big Impact, and I’m literally going to teach you how to cultivate raving fans who want to buy anything you sell. It’s free, hundreds of people are going to join, and it’s going to be so fun.