Sometimes that’s all you need — just one believer. One person who will tell you sincerely that your idea can work; one person who catches the vision you are creating and supports it; one voice that will say “Aye” when we are looking for all those in favour.
Local drummer with Thembe Khumalo
The importance of the first follower is something we often take for granted.
For many, a mother is the first fan. She claps when you figure out how to tinkle in your potty instead of the floor, she cheers you on when you are struggling to finish your bowl of peanut butter porridge, she ululates at the school prize-giving day and even though it embarrasses you horribly, she knows it is exactly the endorsement you need.
Yet for many others, the parent is a strict authority figure, who utters bitter words of criticism rather than encouragement and plays the role of dreambasher rather than kingmaker.
In such situations, the dream incubator soon finds a supporter outside of the family, or withdraws completely.
Social media provides us with some great case studies of how the first follower can determine the direction of a personal brand.
On Twitter, for instance, if your initial followers are people whose opinions others value, their followers will assume your tweets are interesting and useful and they too will follow you.
But if no one knows or cares what your first followers think, your numbers will remain stunted and you will struggle to grow the base of followers.
In the story of creation, we read over and over that God saw that it was good.
Without anyone else around to endorse what He was doing, I can imagine Him looking around His big cosmic living room, stroking His beard quietly and murmuring: “I like. I like.”
Once He got his first fans in the form of Adam and Eve, that’s when the party really got started.
Granted, they weren’t the world’s most devoted followers to begin with, but God soon put that right.
A movement does not become a movement until it has followers.
While we often elevate leaders and those who conceive ideas, the truth is that it probably takes just as much courage to be the first follower as it does to be the leader.
According to maverick entrepreneur and speaker Derek Sivers, the leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous.
The first follower plays a crucial role in that he publicly shows everyone else that the crazy dude with the unheard of idea is OK, and in this way “transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that ignites the fire”.
In a sense, that one follower gives others permission to try out the new idea.
Marketers and advertisers have long since understood the power of just one believer.
This is the concept around which product endorsements are based.
When the stunning Thandi Newton assures you that she achieves her exquisite good looks through the use of Olay moisturiser rather than an accident of genetics, you and I tend to believe that Olay will resolve all our own skin problems.
In one smooth move — bingo! Someone somewhere has their first quarter sales targets in the bag.
Sometimes mentors and sponsors play the role of the first believer.
When someone older and wiser gives you the assurance that you are on the right track, it increases your confidence and gives you the courage you need to forge ahead with your plans.
This is a powerful motivational force, as the mentor’s track record carries with it all the gravitas
So if you have an idea you have been incubating, a movement you are considering launching, or a product you want to launch, give careful consideration to how you will create a fan base, a following or a set of supporters.
All you need to begin with is one quality enthusiast.
Just one believer.