How to become selectively famous in 3 strategic steps


I have experienced what it is like to be famous. To be clear, I wasn’t the famous one, my clients were.
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With some ‘famous’ clients, one minute we would be in a room filled with their fans unable to walk an inch without being asked for a photo or signature; and then the next minute be in a restaurant both enjoying complete anonymity.

On the other hand, I had clients who needed security to walk down the street. I know who I would prefer to be.

In 2008, founding executive editor of Wired Magazine, Kevin Kelly, published an essay on his popular blog titled ‘1000 True Fans’.

It ironically went viral.

The premise of the essay summed up in the opening paragraph- “To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients, or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”

Though social media has made it possible to reach almost any individual everywhere, the reality is we don’t need to reach everyone.

In the pursuit of social currency and the desire to win in the attention economy, we can be forgiven for thinking we must go big or go home.

It is what leads otherwise intelligent individuals to underestimate the value of their personal brand on social media because of what the vanity metrics say.

They assume only a handful of likes and followers suggests failure, well according to Kelly, if that proverbial handful is made up of true fans, then they are on a winning trajectory.

This is at the heart of what it means to be selectively famous. It is about making sure you are connecting with the people and audiences that matter.

The goal is not strictly about being well known; it is about making the right people aware that you are worth knowing. Keep in mind, the only way to create a true fan is to add value and create a mutually beneficial direct connection.

So where does one start on the road to becoming selectively famous?

1. Tell 10 of the right people what you are up to

Seth Godin, international bestselling author of titles including Purple Cow and The Dip; famously talks about the ‘First, ten’. The simple marketing theory being, tell ten people who already know, trust and like you what you are doing and who you are trying to reach.

In his words, “If they don’t tell anybody else, it’s not that good and you should start over. If they do tell other people, you’re on your way.”

This is about harnessing the power of word of mouth and what is referred to in psychology as the ‘halo effect’. If your first ten people who know, like and trust you, each tell 10 people who know, like and trust them, you are already well on your way to 100 true fans.

2. Create a spreadsheet

Though spreadsheets don’t generally inspire joy, this is where we get organised for a worthwhile cause. Make a list of everyone you want to connect with and go forth to make it happen.

If you are questioning if this is worthwhile, let me introduce you to Stuart Cook.

A serial entrepreneur and former CEO of Zambrero, Cook created a list of all the CEO’s he wanted to meet and learn from. He reached out to 70-80 and all agreed.

When asked for any advice he would give to those looking to do the same thing, Cook says, “go prepared, be likeable and be memorable.” Each meeting, whether over the phone or in person, was followed up by a handwritten note of thanks and Cook remains in touch.

3. Join one association, group or network and focus on making the most of it

It is impossible to be everywhere all the time and talking to everyone. This is about finding your tribe and going deep rather than wide.

Research the relevant associations, groups, and networks you feel resonate with who you are and what you are doing. Then make a concerted effort to attend all their events and get involved.

This step is backed by science as it is all about taking advantage of the familiarity principle and the mere exposure effect. In summary, people like those they are familiar with and the more familiar they are, the more they like them!

The journey to becoming selectively famous might only start with three simple steps but you never know; you might end up with 1000 true fans and everything you need to become a successful creator.

Carlii Lyon is a personal branding coach and speaker.

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