1000 True Fans: Why Messenger Marketing Works
7 min read

1000 True Fans: Why Messenger Marketing Works

Kevin Kelly's famous essay on why a 1,000 true fans are enough to support an artist is still extremely relevant today. Here's why.
1000 True Fans: Why Messenger Marketing Works

Table of Contents

1. Why News Feeds Are Failing
2. Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans Essay
3. Why Messenger Marketing Works
4. Reach Your 1000 True Fans Directly


I think we all agree with the well-known saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush...

Founding executive editor of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, wrote a famous essay on why a 1,000 true fans are enough to support an artist.

This essay still holds true today: it turns out a true fan is worth far more than two lesser ones.

Getting a 1,000 fans to subscribe to your social media page, these days, is not much of a challenge, but reaching them with the amazing content you so painstakingly composed, now that’s a different matter altogether.

In today’s post, we’re going to show you how you could use Messenger marketing to engage with those 1,000 true fans.

Why News Feeds Are Failing

Here’s the deal: nowadays, even though you might have a million likes on Facebook, its algorithms will filter out 98% of updates from your fans' crowded news feeds.

This doesn't just concern Facebook's news feed, of course, but applies to Instagram and other social networks just the same.

Consider the following tweet by Ben Evans, author of the article 'The Death of the News Feed':

Besides being inefficient, saturated news feeds no longer offer an authentic and organic way of connecting to your followers.

Most fans would much rather prefer a meaningful connection to their favourite DJ or band.

That’s where Messenger marketing comes in.

In a digital world where instant is what’s expected, where people crave authenticity, and where a conversational style means a personal connection, direct-to-fan messaging can be an excellent marketing tool.

On top of that, in the past few years, messaging apps have surpassed social networks in terms of active users quite dramatically:


Statistics on messaging apps' growth from Business Insider

Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans Essay

So how does that relate to Kevin Kelly’s essay? You can read the entire thing here or watch a video breaking down the concept here, by the way:

A breakdown of the 1,000 True Fans concept

Or here’s a short summary instead:

Kelly figured that you don’t need to become a superstar with a ridiculous amount of fans in order to survive as an artist. His idea revolves around imagining a 1,000 true fans - or ‘super’ fans - that an artist has a direct relationship with.

In his case, this means cutting out intermediaries - made possible by the internet's peer-to-peer structure - so that each ‘super’ fan generates, let’s say, $100 profit each year.

Think about it:

1,000 times $100 profit a year means you end up earning $100k on a yearly basis. Not bad for only a thousand fans, right?

Consider the following quote from Kelly’s original essay:

“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
“To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly.  Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans.”

This is Kevin Kelly's theory. The people over at GrowthLab put the 1000 True Fans theory to the test, and came up with some impressive hard data.

Here's the average spend of their top 1000 customers vs. everyone else, i.e. their lesser fans.


Now imagine most of your Facebook followers to be lesser fans - after all, it doesn’t take much effort to click a button and like a Facebook Page. What’s an easy way to filter out the true fans from the lesser ones and target your efforts accordingly?

You guessed it: enter Messenger marketing.

Why Messenger Marketing Works

Say, you have a million people who liked your Facebook Page.

You post an update on Facebook, which includes a link that allows your followers to subscribe to you on Messenger - anything not done on an opt-in basis would feel spammy anyway.

Since your update will only reach about 2% of your followers, this still leaves you with 20k followers that get to know about the existence of your Messenger channel.

The ones that subscribe will be amongst those super fans that will “purchase anything and everything you produce”.

Why 1000 true fans can help small creators grow

Not everyone has a million likes on their Facebook page, of course.

If you're a small creator that's struggling to build a fanbase, it's essential that you keep the 1000 true fans hypothesis in mind while trying to grow your business.

Focus on fostering a long-lasting and authentic connection to your audience. You don't need a million followers to make a living as a creator.

Seth Godin, the 'ultimate entrepreneur for the information age' was quick to jump on the 1000 true fans bandwagon, back in 2008. He had this to say about Kevin Kelly's theorem:

Some people will read this and immediately understand. Others will read it and start waffling over the meaning of “true.” My expansion: you need to alter what you do and how you do it so that 1,000 true fans is sufficient to make you very happy.

Kelly argues that aiming for a direct connection with these 1,000 true fans is a much saner destination to hope for than rainbow chasing absolute stardom.

He writes:

“Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It is a much saner destination to aim for.”

Direct messaging has changed the way we interact with social media and with each other.

Our messaging apps have become an integral part of our daily lives. We use them to talk to our friends, our parents, our children.

That level of familiarity is what we expect when we get a push notification from one of our messaging apps.

That level of familiarity is what true fans crave when interacting with their favourite music artists.

Want to know the best part?

Not only does Messenger marketing allow for you to frame your message in a conversational tone of voice that renders your content recognizable, friendly, and even intimate.  

It also involves insanely high open rates. Here are some results from a study done by Hubspot into Messenger open rates:


Source: Hubspot Blog

This study was done to compare open rates seen in Messenger marketing with those seen in traditional email marketing. It wasn't focused solely on the entertainment industry though.

Here's why that matters:

In the entertainment industry, these stats are even more in favor of Messenger marketing - average open rates of 94% and over are quite common. As a fan, you are simply more inclined to open messages sent to you directly by your idols.

Reach Your 1000 True Fans Directly

At ShopPop, we provide you with an easy-to-use, intuitive conversation flow editor that allows you to create conversation ‘flows’.

And you can share these with any of your subscribers. On top of that, you can organize these flows to create channels or segments, based on your subscribers’ reactions to certain questions.

Want to know where your 1,000 ‘super’ fans are from?

Why don’t you just send them a message and ask them? Take a look at the following custom template flow we built, in which subscribers are asked where they’re from, so you can inform them about your upcoming tour dates.

Our Tour Announcement - City by City Template

Our conversation flow editor’s segmenting tool allows you to segment your subscribers based on their answers, so you can find out what part of the world your super fans hail from.

What’s the bottom line?

Like we said: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. How about killing those two birds with one direct message stone!

  • You engage your true fans and foster fan retention by reaching out to them in a way that they associate with the authentic and the familiar.
  • But you can also gather invaluable data in the process, which can help improve your marketing strategies.
  • You can build your email list by asking users to leave their email address in return for valuable content.
  • Exporting your audience, or a segment of your audience, allows you to build Custom/Lookalike audiences in Facebook's Ads Manager for better retargeting.

Write your flows well and they’ll get your super fans talking, which spreads awareness, and helps your subscriber count grow!

If you need any help with any of this, please don't hesitate to get in touch at hello@shoppop.com.

Happy messaging! 👋

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