A Following


A concept has been bouncing around my head for awhile and I’ve decided its time to blog about it. It is the concept of a person having a following. By following I mean a group of people who keep track of a person and are inclined to do what they suggest.

Everyone has a following. Everyone has some people who want to keep up with what they are doing. We call these people friends and family. It is part of what it means to be a family member or a friend, you care about what the other person is doing.

Following Size

Some people develop bigger followings. Since this is a blog, let’s talk about internet followings first.

Bloggers are an example. I look at the little 33 on the Feedburner badge on my site and know that at least 33 people care about what I say enough to subscribe to my RSS feed. I also figure there are a few people who just come to my site from time to time and read it. Other bloggers have thousands of people who subscribe to their feeds. They have thousands of followers.

Robert Scoble has a huge following. Probably the biggest that can be quatified. And the biggest sites on the internet try and quatify following. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, these are all site quantifying following.

Until very recently Scoble had the most followers on Twitter, the ultimate example of following on the internet. He has also maxed out the number of friends a person can have on Facebook. He has one of the most popular blogs on the net as well.

Those are all examples of online people who have followings. I’m going to refrain from a discussion of how influential the internet really is verses how influential people who live on it think it is – Ron Paul and Howard Dean are example enough. But these followings are small compared to some people with real world followings.

The idea behind this article kind of went to the next level when I started going to Woodlands Church East. Pastor Kerry Shook has a following. There are over 14,000 people who go to his church every weekend. There are also lots of people who watch his sermons on TV. He has a following, what we would call a large following. Though compared to say Samuel Jackson, his following is minor.

Some professions naturally – or intentionally – develop followings. Actors and other artist are examples. The biggest stars have followings. That’s what makes you “bankable” in Hollywood. Your fans will go see a movie as soon as it opens because you are in it. We have a whole industry dedicated to following what famous people are doing.

Politicians are prime examples of people who develop followings. They hire professionals to make their followings bigger.

What Does It Mean To Have a Following

I want to say at this point having a following isn’t good or bad. People choosing to follow you doesn’t make you a good person, there are plenty of very bad people who had huge followings. Actually it is a natural phenomenon, people were made to follow a leader. They were made that way because God wanted them to follow him. And the truth is the person with the largest following in the world, in history, is Jesus Christ.

You can follow more than one person as well. People, generally Christians giving lip service to unity, contend Pastor Shook shouldn’t have a following. Christians should only follow Jesus. But it isn’t an either/or situation. Following a person doesn’t mean you are a blind zombie to them. That you do everything they say and nothing any one else says.

I think people follow because they believe the leader will help them accomplish their goals and promote their values. You can see how this would lead to following more than one persons. It might even lead to following one person so you could better follow another. For example, you might go to Pastor Kerry’s church specifically because it helped you follow Jesus.

We follow people in different areas for different reasons. For example I may follow Nicole Kidman because she is pretty and an actress I like. That doesn’t mean I pick my religion because of her. Or I might follow Bill Phillips specifically because I think Body For Life is the best fitness program out there. That doesn’t mean he is the only person I take advice on fitness from. Or that I’m not loyal to the principles of physical fitness over his advice.

Size Does Matter

So if you have a following, what does it mean? What can you do with it?

Well you can change the world.

If you want to change the world, you first have to change the nations.
If you want to change the nations, you first have to change the states.
If you want to change the cities, you first have to change the people.
If you want to change the people, you first have to change your following.

Followings are the means of change. By their very nature they are people looking for change. They follow you because you give them something they need in order to change. They are your avenue of impact, of change.

Jason Calacanis talked about this a little on TWIT a couple of weeks ago. He actually told how much he felt each follower was in monetary terms. He tries to hire people who have followings. Specific examples would be Veronica Belmount formerly of CNET and now of Mahalo Daily. He also talked about trying to hire Robert Scoble. Jason knows followers are valuable to business. They have actual monatary value. You can put a dollar amount on each follower.

Jason Calacanis’ idea of hiring people because they have a following is very smart and really not that unusual. You see it in publishing for example. Pastor Shook said when he was talking about his book, “We’ve had lots of offers to write books before, but we wanted to wait until we had something specific to say.” Of course he had lots of offers. Any publisher would realize if you have 14,000 people going to your church and you write a book, many of them are going to buy it. If it is half way good – which when a publisher tries happens – they will buy it and give it to friends. So the risk to publishing anything this guy wants is very low.

Pastor Kerry’s example again shows us how a following can be used for good or bad. He said they had lots of offers. He could have published a book before if he was just in it for the money or the fame, but he waited until he had something he wanted to say. Pastor Kerry’s biggest value is the impact the world for Christ. He didn’t set out to build a huge church, he set out to build a church that removed the barriers between people and Christ that the traditional church had created. Fellowship of the Woodlands was the result.

We can do very little by ourselves. Often we’d like that to be different, but it isn’t. Even if you create something that can change the world, it won’t get out there without the help of others.

When I started this article, I was just going to talk about the phenomena because I’d been thinking of trying to grow my following so I could accomplish a specific thing. After writing it, I’ve got a new perspective. I’m not 100% sure what it means, so I’ll stop here.

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