Transforming customers into community – The power of true fans and how to go about creating them

True fans play a vital role in the success of all businesses because they form the foundations for future innovation and growth, says Ruari Fairbairns

Building an audience for your business is, in some ways easier and harder than it’s ever been. It’s easier because we have so many more tools, platforms and resources to communicate with our customers and distribute our brand messaging but simultaneously, the abundance of information channels can actually make it so much harder to reach and resonate with our desired community or core customer demographic.

The problem lies in the scarcity of customer attention, most likely down to the fact that they are in a constant state of overload from so many brands using complex frameworks of marketing tactics and algorithms to reach them. The customer has learnt to spend only a few seconds skim reading a resource before discarding.  With such a scarcity of attention, the only viable strategy for building a successful business, is to focus less on the masses and more so on the power of a community that it wholly invested in your business – otherwise known as ‘True Fans’.

According to Kevin Kelly, true fans play a vital role in the success of all businesses because they form the foundations for future innovation and growth. When customers become brand advocates, they will champion what you do, volunteer to support your business and most importantly, they will be the first to buy your new products. So how does one go about creating a true fan?

Choose your platforms wisely and don’t be afraid to go against the grain

The one thing that all trends have in common is that they come and go. What is hot today will be forgotten next month. When choosing the correct mediums from which to communicate with your target customers, you need to think really carefully about where and how you will build your audience. It’s really hard to port fans from one community to another, so you need to make this decision early on and then stick to it.

Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and pick a community platform that maybe isn’t the hottest app off the block. The key to success here is considering the infrastructure of that platform and the potential it holds for future growth and lead conversion. Will you be recording live videos? Do you want your customers to be able to interact with one another as an independent community or support network? Choosing the correct platforms is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your business.

Be generous with your time and resources

Our attitude has always been to be completely different and positive in an industry which is traditionally stigmatised, so we have a very unique angle from which to position our content. We decided very early on that in order to build up our community, we would give, give and keep giving. Being generous with your time and resources goes a long way to creating a community of customers that grows to depend on you for valuable information and resources. 

Empower your community

This is perhaps the most useful piece of the puzzle, as a community will dwindle and lose interest if you don’t continue to empower them.Listening to your fans and being receptive to their feedback will not only make them feel part of your business and community, but it will also afford you a unique insight into their evolving needs and wants. Collecting this information and using it to shape your future business strategies will allow you to continue to steer your enterprise in a direction that will keep your customers engaged. This is so important.

Get your messaging right

Building a community means crafting a message that speaks volumes to a specific persona. In order to do this effectively, you need to go through a process of niche-ing down your product or service until it specifically fits one customer demographic by serving a specific need or want of theirs. You need to think about your desired avatars and ask yourself questions like; Who are these people? What do they like? What value can I add to them? How can I address a specific void in their lives? Once you have answered all of these questions, you will easily be able to craft messaging that will resonate with them and enable them to directly resonate with your product or business offering.

Once you have successfully achieved all of this, you then need to consider what the power is of a true fan is and how many of them you will need in order to make your business profitable.

According to Founding Editor of Wired magazine Kevin Kelly, a true fan is a person that ‘will support your work, buy everything you create, and allow you to earn a living.’ The lifetime value and lifelong attention of that person will be worth more than a million people who pay attention to you for a fraction of their day.​

If you build an audience of 1,000 true fans, you won’t have to spend a fortune on advertising or be constantly chasing your tail for brand exposure. True fans provide you with a much more sustainable way to grow your business. The people who becoming your biggest fans will essentially be your brand advocates and they will start to do your marketing and advertising for you, by spreading the word about the value and worth of the services that you offer.

If you are serious about building your business through the power of true fans and the value of a community that are wholeheartedly invested in what you do, you need to shift your focus away from the size or volume of your community and turn your attention to the engagement and loyalty of that group of people. This is by no means an easy mindset shift to make or a natural one, as we are programmed to believe that bigger is better, but the maths is clear. A smaller, more engaged community comprising customers that will invest in your products for a lifetime, is by far more powerful than a larger, less engaged community that will fleetingly purchase products, never to return.

In a little over four years, I have created and grown an online business that has attracted customers from across the globe. Turning over £2.7m per year, the digital support platform works to change lives – for the better – through the power of community. One Year No Beer (OYNB) now has 70,000 members in 90 countries across the world and the business continues to witness 300% growth YoY.

Currently OYNB is a content and digital publishing business with the backing of a powerful global following. The intention now, is to pivot into a technology business scaling the proven model to become a global wellbeing brand that will help people reduce unnecessary anxiety they have in life enabling them to be the best version of themselves.

OYNB is a toolkit for surviving modern society alcohol-free and has recruited over 70,000 members worldwide. OYNB believes that having a community is crucial to making a positive lifestyle change, and so the founders are constantly finding new and exciting ways to provide this support.

The programme includes tips for going to weddings, stag weekends, holidays, Friday night in the pub, and how to survive them sober. With cutting edge science in habit change, behavioural science and positive psychology, the 28, 90 & 365 day challenges help you to re-wire your brain, to realise that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time, to relax, to unwind or to enjoy life. Using alcohol-free alternatives and socialising alternatives during your challenge, you learn to belong to a tribe that’s living how you want to live.

Ruari Fairbairns is Founder of One Year No Beer. For more information visit

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