Just about every comedian I talk to always asks me the same question – “How do I get more followers?”
Whether they’re referncing Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or their own website or mailing list, everybody wants more people to follow them and their activities. There’s no simple answer to this question, though obviously lots of the content on this site touches on different strategies that can help (including this post about why people should follow you).
But yesterday I read this recent post from music industry guru Bob Lefsetz and came across the following line: “Be happy, be equitable, be a leader. And then you’ll have followers.”
That sentence sparked a realization for me that the vast majority of the comedians who are asking me how to get more followers are not doing anything to be a leader.
By definition, a follower has to have a leader and that leader has to take them somewhere – literally or figuratively. But most comedians don’t think of themselves as leaders – instead, they spend most of their time being followers.
They follow bookers, comedy clubs, and other industry gatekeepers, hoping those people will lead them to a career, as opposed to figuring out how they can lead fans someplace they want to go.
If you do more following than leading, why should you expect people to follow you? People don’t follow other followers – they follow leaders.
Think about who you follow in your life. I don’t mean who you follow on Twitter or Facebook, but who do you actually care enough to really follow and why? I bet the people you truly follow are not just entertaining you, but they’re leading you somewhere…even if they’re entertainers.
Do you just follow other comedians who are funny or do you follow comedians who inspire you because of their style, career, or work?
Do you feel closer to people that are blazing a trail or those that are just doing what everybody else does?
Don’t you prefer to follow people that are taking you somewhere? That are leading you to a better future?
If you follow Connected Comedy I’m guessing it’s because I’m trying to lead you somewhere – to a more successful career, to a different way of thinking about the opportunities you have, to a place that you want to go.
Not every comedian will want to go where I’m trying to lead them, but that’s ok. The ones who do will be true followers and will wind up helping to define the journey as we take it. Just because I’m the leader, doesn’t mean I’m the sole owner of the journey.
So where are you trying to lead people with your comedy? Do you know? Have you ever thought about it?
The more clearly you define for yourself where you want to lead people, the more likely you will be to get followed.
You may not think of entertainers as leading people anywhere, but there’s examples all around you of comedians who have succeeded in doing just that.
People didn’t just follow George Carlin because he was funny. They followed him because he led them down a path of criticizing societal and cultural norms.
People didn’t just follow Chris Rock because he was funny. They followed him because he led them to a place where they could speak truths that most people weren’t willing to say.
People didn’t just follow Kathy Griffin because she was funny. They followed her because she led them behind the scenes of life on the Hollywood D-list.
Like Seth Godin once said about the Beatles rise to fame, “The Beatles didn’t invent teenagers. They just decided to lead them.”
I can’t tell you where you should lead people – you’re going to have to figure that out for yourself based on where you want to go. But I can tell you that there’s thousands of people out there that would also like to go where you want to take them.
It’s up to you to decide to be a leader. And once you do…then you’ll get those followers you’re looking for.