Don’t Be Cameron Diaz

Building Your Fan Club

So let’s get real.

Can blogging really build you a fan club?

In other words, can it make you a celebrity?

The answer, of course, is yes. And you don’t need to be anywhere near the so-called blogging A-List for it to happen.

After all, as historian Daniel Boorstin once said, celebrities are simply people that are well known for their well knownness. So whether your audience is 100 or 100,000, you’ll have your own fan club as long as those people are into what you’re doing.

Anyone can do it, but only some will do it well. Doing it well will have a lot to do with how you treat the people who pay attention to what you do and say.

As various forms of media have aggressively expanded in the last century, so has the concept of celebrity. Back during the early days of film, a viewer’s interaction with the stars was nothing short of awe-inspiring. You sat in a cavernous, temple-like movie theater and watched as your heroes where projected, literally larger-than-life, on the screen before you.

When television came along, things changed a bit. Not only were the stars cut down to size, but TV made them come to us. Now you could do your ironing while you watched, and simply switch the channel if you became bored.

Then came 24-hour media saturation, where meteorologists, home decorators, infomercial gurus and sports commentators are all deemed celebrities, simply by being well known.

And now, more than a decade into the Web, we have a medium where just about anyone inclined to do so can broadcast their thoughts and likeness. As easy as blogging and other social media make it to publish, it has become clear that Warhol was right.

But whether you’re Robert Redford or Robert Scoble, one thing remains the same.

Give people half a chance, and they’ll tear you down as quickly as they built you up. Especially if you (1) forget what it was that attracted people to you in the first place, and (2) ignore what they want from you going forward.

Some of the biggest stars around understand this, while others are either completely clueless or too full of themselves to be gracious. Get a bit of blogging fame going for you, and you’ll need to figure out how to best treat your own fans.

As conflicted as he has been about fame and the Hollywood system, Johnny Depp shows nothing but love for his fans. Catch him in a crowded airport, and he’ll sign an autograph for you while carrying his luggage. George Clooney is another giant star who knows where his bread is buttered. He’ll happily joke around with and sign autographs for his legions of devotees, often while making self-deprecating comments about himself in the process.

Cameron Diaz, on the other hand, either hasn’t a clue or thinks she’s much too smart for her silly fans. Ask her for an autograph, and she’ll not only refuse, she’ll lecture you about how dumb autographs are (which is another way of saying how dumb the person making the request is).

I don’t care if you’re an actor, singer, blogger (or all three) — building a fan club is hard. You’ve got to figure out what you possess that has value to others, and then never forget the fact that unless you’re continuing to give people something that’s important to them, you’re destined for the “where are they now” category.

And it remains to be seen if washed-up bloggers will even rate a show on VH-1.

So, really… don’t be Cameron Diaz.

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Reader Comments (26)

  1. says

    Good post Brian.

    For us, bloggers, this could be applied by giving nice replies to the comments we get, like you always do here, and getting back to emails (if time and volume allows it of course) from our “fans”.

    Have a great week!

  2. says

    I always wonder what is the return on investment when I take the time to reply to a mail send by a potential customer. Like Brian always replies to any comment, and I guesss that is what keeps me coming, but is it enough return on Brian’s investment of his time

  3. says

    Excellent post, as usual, but I have a few doubts. My $0.02 worth:

    It would seem by your argument that the Blogger names you mentioned should never have fan clubs. The reply to comment ratio is quite low, ranging from 1:10 to 1:50 or even none, sometimes.

    A little contradictory, eh?

    Yes, I do agree that they have a plethora of comments to attend to and they could not possibly reply to all of them, but yet, they have a large reader-base (read: ‘fan-club’)

    Well, I feel, you only have to answer comments while starting out. When your reader base develops into the five figure category and your posts receive comments in three figures, you can sit back and relish those AdSense cheques.

    After all, you have earned every cent of it, by answering all those runts in the past…


    PS: It happens. No offense meant. :)

  4. says

    Answering comments can be one way of treating your “fans” right, but as Shri points out, sometimes that isn’t feasible. In fact, people like Seth Godin have tons of fans, and he doesn’t even have comments enabled.

    The point I’m trying to make is that you need to deliver consistently. If you start off talking about marketing, get a big following, and then start going off on tangents (despite the complaints of your readers) because you now think you are way too important to worry about what your readers think… then you’re being like Cameron Diaz.

  5. says

    I am a z-list blogger (well, maybe not that unknown), with a small following of sweet fans, and occasional comments. It is a luxury to be able to respond to each one. There are just enough comments to enter into a few relevant conversations, and my partner and I stay on target, delivering our core message, that is: how can independent professionals use blogs and the Internet to get clients. What I like about your writing, Brian, is that you tie the issues to big-picture thinking. It’s not about celebrity status, or having huge numbers of readers, it’s all about delivering relevant, valuable information to them. You can’t sacrifice that to post about a topic that is controversial or ego-driven just because it’s your blog and you want to express yourself and get high traffic. Smart bloggers never forget their core, ideal readers.

  6. says


    I always figured if you weren’t into the fame/giving your fans what they want, you can always go back to flipping burgers in Ohio. Don’t see that too often though.

    There are enough waiting to take your place, for sure…

  7. says

    I think blogging is all about people looking for a bit of fame or identity.

    Gosh I wish I could ask Cameron Diaz for autograph. I’ve never asked anyone for one before, but I’d enjoy the chance to lecture her back on how rude she is. :)

  8. says

    That’s up to you Glenn. But if she’s that harsh about autographs, make sure you don’t have any glaring insecurities! :)

  9. says

    Ideal Readers: nice

    Brian, Great Post, and good work on the links, how to you manage to pull it all together all the time?

    good job

  10. says

    I just love this site. Really and truly. For whatever reason, Bloglines or feedburner or whatever just pooped back out a half dozen or so of your posts. And you know what?

    I loved reading them again.

    Keep up the amazing work. We should do a podcast interview together soon.


  11. says

    We all have personality quirks and preferences and maybe there is something about certain people at certain times that fans or non-fans will dislike so much to the point of bringing down these people.

    In any case, I do see the point of relating with people and that it is important in blogging too. I am one of the people who wish I could comment on Seth Godin’s or Steve Pavlina’s blog every once in a while but the comments are off so, well, that’s it. I am relegated to plain reader.

  12. says

    Interesting post, one which I would have to agree with almost entirely. My only contention would be that Camercon Diaz is doing the right thing by standing up and voicing her beliefs, however hypocritical. She is already catering to her audience by performing for them, I don’t believe she should have to cater to her fan-base beyond that.

    Bloggers are somewhat different, they need a reader-base, it is a priority for bloggers to accumulate and cater to readers. Actors, on the other hand, don’t need a fan base (in the same sense) to maintain their careers, they make a movie, do a couple of press releases, and spend their time plugging the movie and themselves to executives, not to their audience.

    Basically what I’m saying is that bloggers communicate directly with their public whereas actors don’t, for the most part. We can’t expect actors to act like bloggers, or vice versa.

    I guess it depends on what specific point you were trying to make with your post.. If it was simply “be respectful to your fans”, then yep, I’d have to agree. If it was “be nice to your fans even if it violates your personal code of ethics” then, no, not agreeing so much.

    Great post!

    Thanks kindly.

  13. says

    Was that a technique to mention Cameron Diaz in the title and not talk about her until near the end of the article? (to make me continue reading) I actually found it distracting because I wanted to look ahead to the Cameron Diaz part.

    I listened to a radio talk-show about a study done where they concluded that telling people the outcome of the movie actually makes for a better viewing experience – partly because the viewer is not anxious to find out what happens and enjoys the journey instead. My Cameron Diaz comment supports that conclusion.

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