People vs. Fans, Followers, and Customers

Learn how to market to people with this helpful article.

In marketing, we use a lot of different terms for the human beings who follow our brands on social media, purchase our products at stores, and advocate for our products once they have them. Fans, followers, brand advocates, customers, consumers, guests… the list goes on. Generally, we refer to them in terms of actions we want them to take — we want you to follow us, purchase our products, and tell all of your friends to buy said products too. This seems logical in many ways. The purpose of marketing is to communicate information in a way that causes someone to take an action desirable to your business.

However, the problem with calling someone a fan, a follower, an advocate, or a consumer is that each of these terms is incredibly limiting. If you’re thinking about someone solely as a single term defining an action, you’re not thinking about them as a whole person. In creating more effective marketing and more effective communication strategy, why not start calling people… well… people.

Your fans, followers, and customers are people. They have a myriad of hobbies. They have different backgrounds and life stories. They use your products in different ways and for different reasons. They have names like Roger and Karen and Kate and Joe. When you call Karen your fan, and you only refer to her as such, you are doing her and your business a disservice by limiting your understanding of her. When you refer to her as a person, you think of her as a human being.

Now there are good reasons to use the terms we use. We want someone to follow us on Twitter. We want them to be a follower. We want someone to buy our product. We want them to be a customer. We want someone to tell people about our products. We want them to be a brand advocate. Well, here’s how you adapt the terminology: We want someone to follow this on Twitter — we want them to be one of the people who follows us. We want someone to be a person who buys our products. We want them to be a person who advocates for our products and brand.

Really, saying “people” is the first step towards deciding that you are going to try to understand them in a more in-depth way, and building more meaningful relationships with them.


For a next step, check out 6 brands who thrive on authenticity.