Game of Cults: Building a Reader Community With a Reliable Author Brand

Objective 1: Build a reader community 

My intention for you in this second part is to understand how to influence the mesoscopic layer of cumulative advantage—the creation and influence of a group.

When shifting your focus from the individual to creating a community, you may begin to get anxiety.

This unrest manifests as questions like:

How should I set up my community?

What platform should it be on?

What if I don’t like participating?

The list goes on…

This is all window dressing. Forget about the tactical.

We need to understand the structures underneath.

How do we create a community designed around a fantasy like Santa Claus that becomes critical to an individual’s identity and society as it continues to perpetuate?

This isn’t a huge stretch. Consider other brand cults…

  • Apple
  • CrossFit
  • Disney
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Harry Potter
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Of course, these are massive brand cults, and your first retort will be that it’s too hard to build something like this.

Yes, these are lofty end goals, and only a very few will achieve those levels. But many of those brand cults did achieve cult status without deliberate work.

We are doing this deliberately and should get satisfactory results faster.

In your case, the first objective is to build a community big enough to influence the market—a force multiplier.

This gets back to this analogy of setting up for an avalanche.

What we want is to have an avalanche-triggering and amplifying system. Not just one avalanche, but the ability to systematically trigger the events that can cause an avalanche AND accumulate the particles for a bigger and better landslide next time.

The underlying idea is the better you are at creating a strong-tie neighborhood for reinforcing behavior, the easier this whole system will be.

The system will indoctrinate and retain while at the same time attracting new readers.

The network becomes a feed-forward feedback loop. A system that compounds the activities of attraction and retention.

We take prospective readers from adopting the behavior of reading your book to seeing themselves as part of something bigger.

The group influence will translate to market influence. Not an algorithmic hack but the capacity to get the larger market to take notice and react to our influence.

The larger market is susceptible to influence.

I’m not talking about hacks that, once deployed, programmers will eventually eliminate. Machine learning is optimized for key performance indicators like clicks or conversions. There must always be a variable to optimize, and for sales platforms, it is conversions.

Amazon is hypersensitive to sales conversion.

If you can demonstrate above-average sales conversion even for a short period, you’ll get access to the latent marketing of the platform. The algorithm is like a junkie looking for the next fix. The algorithm amplifies your group’s behavior by trying to recreate this above-average conversion. The machine extrapolates and tests, looking to keep the conversion high until it can’t.

This means traffic can be your enemy. High traffic with low conversion looks like a poor-performing product.

There is another fundamental flaw in most marketing, a point I harp on a lot.


What it means to build a community

Dr. Centolla’s research on wide-bridge strong-tie networks gets at the heart of what it means to build a community. He has explored the idea that peers help peers adopt the desired behavior. The concept is fundamental to community-building.

Commitment is also critical. A strong-tie network has the nodes to touch a reader multiple times, and his research shows that those who are slower to adopt (who need three or more “touches”) are more committed to the behavior in the future.

Think about that…

Your best customers aren’t the early adopters but those who are slow to adopt. Once they do, they become your most committed fans.

How does this idea change the design of your retention system?

We will touch more on the work of Dr. Centola, Dr. BJ Fogg, Dr. Tiffany White, and others. These are today’s thought leaders on behavior adoption and group dynamics. Their work is built from the foundation of others. So, let’s go back in time and work our way through that foundation.

On August 10th, 1792, Napoleon Bonaparte observed the sacking of the Palais des Tuileries, the massacre of the royal guard, and the fleeing of the royal family.

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From that point forward, he never underestimated the power of a crowd. Much of his success came from his ability to motivate others not individually but as a group.

While Napoleon is regarded as one of the greatest military strategists with his success at Austerlitz, he was also very popular in his day. His popularity with the common folks of France allowed him to eventually crown himself emperor.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the French was won in the same way that cult leaders, health gurus, MLMs, and politicians motivate individuals to act in concert.

And you can use similar strategies to create your fandom. Fandom is cult-like behavior centered on emotional connections with a fictional world or characters. If you get this right, you’ll get readers to joyfully become part of your community to fulfill their human need for social interaction.

​​​​​​​You then can point this community at the market and let it influence results.

How powerful is this system?

When they started working with Lisa and me, many of my clients were spending 40% or more of their sales on advertising. They have been successful and, in some cases, even made six-figure profits.

Over time and with multiple launches, we transform the audience experience and group dynamic to deliver better launch results with little or no advertising spend.

This creates a formidable business. One that delivers a growing committed audience and profits three to four times what others have. I watch other authors trying to replicate these results through paid traffic and see diminishing returns.

If you covet these results, then understand… I can show you how, but you will need to influence the behavior of the individual and the community, repeatedly.

Next week, I’ll begin sharing research, starting with a Frenchman seen as the father of group psychology. He was the first to codify how a community differs from individuals and can be influenced to do someone else’s bidding.

One more thing…

​​​​​​​Go back to the question in this article about your plan to win over reluctant adopters. We’ve all heard that it takes seven to ten touches to get someone to listen to your message. What is the message?

Trust and repetition are the tools to win over reluctant prospects. How can you get them to trust you?

Read: How to Master Group Psychology and Harness the Irrationality of the Crowd