One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days

One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days

by Brendan Kane
One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days

One Million Followers: How I Built a Massive Social Following in 30 Days

by Brendan Kane


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Over 60 billion online messages are sent on digital platforms every day, and only a select few succeed in the mad scramble for customer attention.

This means that the question for anyone who wants to gain mass exposure for their transformative content, business, or brand or connect with audiences around the globe is no longer if they should use social media but how to best take advantage of the numerous different platforms.

How can you make a significant impact in the digital world and stand out among all the noise?

Digital strategist and “growth hacker” Brendan Kane has the answer and will show you how—in 30 days or less. A wizard of the social media sphere, Kane has built online platforms for A-listers including Taylor Swift and Rihanna. He’s advised brands such as MTV, Skechers, Vice and IKEA on how to establish and grow their digital audience and engagement. Kane has spent his career discovering the best tools to turn any no-name into a top influencer simply by speaking into a camera or publishing a popular blog—and now he’ll share his secrets with you.

In One Million Followers, Kane will teach you how to gain an authentic, dedicated, and diverse online following from scratch; create personal, unique, and valuable content that will engage your core audience; and build a multi-media brand through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.

Featuring in-depth interviews with celebrities, influencers, and marketing experts, including:

  • Chris Barton, cofounder and board director of Shazam and former head of Android business development for Google

  • Ray Chan, CEO and cofounder of 9GAG

  • Julius Dein, internet personality and magician with nearly 16 million Facebook followers

  • Mike Jurkovac, Emmy Award–winner and creative director of and the Black Eyed Peas

  • Phil Ranta, former COO of Studio71 and VP of network at Fullscreen

  • Eamonn Carey, managing director at Techstars London

  • Jonathan Skogmo, founder and CEO of Jukin Media, Inc.

  • Jon Jashni, founder of Raintree Ventures and former president and chief creative officer of Legendary Entertainment

One Million Followers is the ultimate guide to building your worldwide brand and unlocking all the benefits social media has to offer. It’s time to stop being a follower and start being a leader.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781946885371
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 10/09/2018
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Brendan Kane is a growth hacker for Fortune 500 corporations, brands, and celebrities. He helps brands find and engage new audiences, which reward relevant content, products, and services with attention and spending. Currently, he is advising Strike Social regarding entertainment partnerships. Strike Social is the largest TrueView Advertising and YouTube Intelligence company in the world. Strike Social runs over 2,500 TrueView campaigns a day for brands such as: Disney, Fox, NBC, Netflix, XBOX, LinkedIn, and many notable fortune 100 companies.

Brendan started his career at Lakeshore Entertainment where he oversaw all aspects of Lakeshore’s interactive media strategy. At Lakeshore, he worked on 16 films that generated a worldwide gross of $685 million dollars. While at Lakeshore, Brendan pioneered the first ever influencer campaign to effectively promote Lakeshore's movies. Brendan went on to build applications and platforms for celebrity clients such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Xzibit, Charles Barkley, Michael Strahan, super model Adrianna Lima, and pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler. Brendan is known for creating an innovative application for Taylor Swift and Rihanna that can automatically turn any Facebook profile into a website in less than 60 seconds. More than 50 million people worldwide have accessed the applications and platforms that Brendan created for his celebrity clients. He also served as a consultant for the NHL and NFL Players Association on how to bolster their digital offering to both players and fans.

Read an Excerpt



Although it may sound like a ludicrous undertaking, building a massive social following in thirty days or less is possible. But first I should point out that the real value of this chapter — and book — is not simply about how I generated a million followers. To be completely transparent, the way I generated a million followers involves using a growth hack, which I will explain in this chapter. But I don't want to promote the idea of relying too heavily on growth hacks. Of course they can help you, but without the other strategies, mind-sets, and processes shared in this book, you won't become a rock star at content creation. You may succeed at playing the numbers game, but you won't build a lasting presence. Ask anyone who has had digital success and they'll tell you without a doubt that content is the critical factor in growing and engaging large audiences. So keep that in mind as I explain how I gained a million followers.

The key to quickly scaling your following is an agile approach of producing, testing, and measuring how people respond to your content in real time. It's a great strategy for those who don't have three or four years to invest in building their platform because it gives you immediate validation and credibility to stand out right now. Building the audience is actually pretty easy. It's maintaining and engaging that audience that requires hard work over time.

You need to accept this fact before going in. You can get a lot of fans fast, but to have a thriving and lasting social media presence you need to understand the testing, messaging, and content strategies provided in the following chapters. They're filled with advice from the top minds around the world to scale large audiences and keep them engaged.

Three Phases to the Process

The foundation of my methodology for gaining one million followers consists of these three steps:

1. HYPOTHESIZE. Quickly identify a hypothesis of a format, story, or theme that engages audiences around a specific message.

2. TEST. Produce a low-cost proof of the concept or message that can be tested and validated and learn everything you can about what does and doesn't work from the results.

3. PIVOT. If the hypothesis is proved correct, invest in it further. If it's disproved, quickly repeat the process again with a new format, story, or theme.

Hypothesize, test, and pivot is your new mantra. The model is simple — the hard part is figuring out what to test and when to pivot. You need to test many different variations that have a strong hook to catch and hold people's attention. Then, based on those tests, you figure out which variations yield the best results and keep investing in the ones that do. Or, if none of them are working, you need to pivot — go back, set a new hypothesis, and start the process over again.

When I was building a million followers, my core focus was on becoming recognized for thought leadership, since my true passion is speaking and teaching other people. As a digital and business strategist, I'm always testing as much content as possible to get an understanding of what does and doesn't work for clients, but when building my following I focused my brand around the themes of thought leadership, teaching, and inspirational posts.

One of my most interesting and successful experiments involved podcasts. I hypothesized that podcasting would be a great outlet for me as an individual because I'd learned a lot about them in my work with Katie Couric, which I'll speak about in the chapters to come. Suffice it to say, I'd seen that you could essentially "reverse engineer" podcasts for Facebook and scale audience and engagement quickly. We did this by cutting short audio clips from podcast interviews I had created with a few partners and celebrities and then turned them into a video by playing the audio over a still image or a slide show, or cutting it against stock video that represented what was being discussed. Running these videos through various tests, I found that I could reach millions of people in days — most of the top podcasts in the world don't even reach that in a month. The trick is, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Look around and borrow ideas from other people's successes.

The podcast content I tested consisted of interviews with Justin Baldoni, lead actor in the TV show Jane the Virgin; Jeff King, an expert in the Process Communication Model (featured in chapter three); and Dr. Drew. I cut the interview audio into three styles of video posts: (1) videos showing a single image with the audio played over it, (2) videos showing multiple images with the audio played over it, and (3) videos with stock footage or clips I found online that matched the audio playing over it. Then I tested all those clips against each other to see which generated the most shareability and earned lift. For each interview, I cut anywhere between three and ten audio clips and created unique videos for each one. From there I generated anywhere between ten and a hundred variations of each clip (more later on how to scale variations of content quickly).

The best-performing content by far was one of the variations of the Justin Baldoni interview. It's an inspirational video in which he encourages people to live their best and most desired life. He also talks about how to make choices that will make your life happier and more fulfilling. I learned that the message of the content (that is expressed through the headline) was incredibly important, and that choosing the right one is an influential factor in getting people to click and share. I want to point out that I am against clickbait — the headline/hook point should always match the content. I also learned that the visuals were really important. A video with stock footage that represented the audio or actual video from the interview performed better than a single image. Moreover, using someone with a large following that you can target and tap into also helps garner attention — but not necessarily engagement if the content is not solid.

Additionally, I shared and tested a variety of inspirational quotes — I'd seen other people like Gary Vaynerchuk (an entrepreneur with two and a half million followers) have a lot of success with these types of posts. Some of the quotes I tested came from people I admire like Steven Spielberg and Oprah, who share similar viewpoints to me. After seeing positive initial results, I switched my focus to creating my own personal quotes, which make up a good percentage of the posts I publish to my page today. I learned that quotes on images work extremely well because people like to interact visually and mentally with positive and inspirational content. An advantage of images over videos here is that it's much easier to create a high-quality image than a video. There are so many variables that go into making a great video: tone, pacing, the first three seconds, captions, title cards, length, and so forth. With a photo, on the other hand, you just have to choose the right photo with the right quote — fewer variables have to come together to make it successful.

The short-term strategy is to look at the tests and learn what works in real time. Those results inform you and dictate the content you'll produce on a weekly basis. Then, when you start seeing the macrotrends of what works, it informs your long-term content strategy, which you also need to check against your brand's overall message. For example, as an experiment I tested viral videos of pranks and of kittens and dogs doing funny things. Although they all performed really well, I decided to pivot because they didn't align with my brand's theme of thought leadership. Note that the type of content that resonates with your audience can change over time. Look at both your short-term and long-term content strategies, discover how they play into each other, and move toward what works.

Why My System Focuses on Facebook

Recently Facebook has been in the news related to concerns about how they use people's data. I want to address this topic and explain why I still choose to use Facebook and believe that it's a valuable platform. As Alexandra Samuel points out in her report on Cambridge Analytica in The Verge, the internet has been designed to capitalize on the free sharing of user data. This won't change until businesses, consumers, and regulators decide to adopt a different model.

There's also a difference between using data to help people and using it to exploit them. Creating fake news (with malicious or manipulative intent) is irresponsible and not advisable to anyone. On the other hand, gathering data that allows marketers to know their customers' needs and better understand them can serve in providing value to potential customers.

In light of what's happened, there may be a need to change the way these systems and companies operate, especially in regard to their level of transparency. It will be interesting to see if a new agreement or model is created as a result. In the meantime, I advise you to engage with the data you use on Facebook responsibly and ethically, as I do in my practice.

* * *

As I mentioned, after working with celebrities like Taylor Swift, I learned that the number one key to success in scaling massive audiences is getting people to share your message for you. The more people share your content, the faster and more cost effectively you can scale your audience. I chose to build one million followers on Facebook because it's the most democratic and share-friendly platform, not to mention the easiest and quickest on which to scale and grow an audience (more on this below). In fact, Facebook is used to share content more than email or any other online social platform. From my experience, experiments, and conversations with the greatest marketing and social media minds in the world, I've learned that if you have a great piece of content, people will rapidly share it on Facebook, maximizing the potential earned lift of your content.

Facebook lends itself more readily to scaling than other platforms because it was built around the concept of sharing. On other platforms, virality is much more based on SEO (search engine optimization) rankings and algorithms. Yes, there are algorithms at play on Facebook — I'll discuss these more in the next section — but if people share your content, you can overcome the algorithms much more easily than on platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. For example, filmmaker, speaker, and activist Prince Ea shares videos that get thirty million views on Facebook within the first week, which would be nearly impossible to achieve at this velocity on other platforms.

Another reason I recommend working with Facebook is that it's the largest platform. It gives you access to a community of more than two billion people (and rising). Facebook's advertising platform (which also powers Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger) is an incredibly strong market research tool. You can use it to effectively test all kinds of content and see how they resonate with people from different backgrounds and in different parts of the world. When analyzed correctly, this information gives you a lot of power to enhance your brand and understand your marketability.

Three Ways to Generate a Following

There are three ways you can grow a following on Facebook. The first two ways are by using the Facebook advertising platform, which enables you to (1) make a piece of content go viral to gain mass awareness with the correlative effect of people following you based on this exposure or (2) use a page likes ad unit (any ad with the goal of creating more likes/followers for your page) to target potential new followers. One of the simplest ways to create this type of campaign is to access it through Ads Manager on the Facebook ad platform and select Page Likes as your marketing goal/objective. This isn't the only way to use page likes ad units, however — explaining the nuances of the Facebook ad platform could be an entire book in and of itself.

Both tactics above are effective, and ultimately I recommend using a combination of them. Knowing how to make a piece of content go viral is a stronger long-term tactic. Start by testing the content you already have and see if it results in a significant number of people sharing it. It's always best to generate followers with great viral content because that will keep your audience engaged. You may be asking yourself, "How do I go about creating shareable or viral content on a consistent basis? What's the formula?" Glad you asked — chapter five is entirely about this topic. But for now, it's still valuable to start by creating an ad with the marketing objective of "page likes," as I mentioned above, to test and learn what it takes to get someone to follow you.

Because of Facebook's algorithms, even after you hit a million followers, the content that you post will only reach on average between 2 and 5 percent of your audience. Most people have liked hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. When people look at their main feed, Facebook can only show them so much content. The main feed needs to be limited to the best-performing content from all the pages one has opted in to. And Facebook also makes sure that users are getting content from their closest friends. The algorithms weigh content to make sure that people's social feeds are filled with what interests them. If your content isn't resonating, it will only be shown to a small subset of your audience. On the other hand, if the content performs well, it'll reach a vast majority (if not all) of your following base, giving you the potential to get that content shared and to gain organic growth.

Keep this in mind if you choose to use the Facebook page like objective. It was part of my strategy in building my following because it's a great tool that can scale and build your validation number to a credible point. You gain real connections with real people, and your newfound credibility can be leveraged to fuel organic growth, which is the third way of gaining a following on Facebook. I'll get deeper into achieving organic growth in subsequent chapters — particularly through strategic alliances in chapter six — but you still need to build a solid content strategy via the first two methods so you don't limit yourself to only reaching 2 to 5 percent of your audience per post.

There's Always a CPA for Gaining Followers

Some influencers have gained fans by publishing content every day and building strong relationships with their audience over a significant period. They have a relationship with their fans — the fans know who they are and have been engaging with them over the course of years. Obviously, this isn't the best option to gain fast results. Which brings up an important consideration: There's always a CPA (cost per acquisition) for a follower. If you're building a fan base, even from an organic perspective there's a cost to acquire a follower or subscriber. Anyone who tells you that getting fans organically means gaining followers for free is wrong.

Top influencers like entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk often have a full-time staff working behind them. Vaynerchuk, who runs one of the top social agencies in the world, leverages the knowledge from all the work he does for clients to build his personal brand and vice versa. His agency not only supports his clients but also supports him in creating, editing, and marketing his content. However, if you're not paying to have a team behind you like Vaynerchuk, you're paying with your time by doing all the work — shooting, editing, posting, monitoring, and the like — yourself.

One of the reasons I chose to hypothesize, test, and pivot was because I didn't have access to a full team. I got to one million with minimal support. There was a cost associated with the media spend, but no matter which route you take there's a cost, whether in time, commitment, money, or a combination of all three. You have to invest to gain followers. My strategy just happens to be one of the quickest and requires the least number of people. Of course, that doesn't take away from the fact that you still have work to do once you've established the followers. It's not like you get to a million and you're done. You have to actually engage that audience, or else you lose your credibility.

How Much Money Do I Have to Invest?

My friend and former colleague David Oh, the chief product officer and head of growth at FabFitFun (a quarterly lifestyle subscription box for women that generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue), explains that many people believe that paid media is somehow irrelevant. He feels that when we reject the importance of paid media we reject the importance of consumers — a concept he finds dehumanizing. He doesn't know how people can expect to reach their audience without some form of advertising.


Excerpted from "One Million Followers"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Brendan Kane.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Prince Ea

Introduction: The Impact of Gaining One Million Followers Around the World

Chapter 1: How I Gained One Million Followers

Chapter 2: Target Your Audience

Chapter 3: Choose a Message for the Masses

Chapter 4: Fine-Tune Through Social Testing

Chapter 5: Create Shareable Content on Facebook

Chapter 6: Strategic Alliances

Chapter 7: Go Global (an Opportunity)

Chapter 8: Gaining Influence on Instagram

Chapter 9: Growth Drivers for YouTube

Chapter 10: The Realities of Snapchat

Chapter 11: Substantial Business Growth with LinkedIn

Chapter 12: Staying Power


About the Author

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Today, the online world is so cluttered that even truly great content often gets buried or ignored. The good news is that you can take control of your ability to reach a wide audience—and you can start today, with One Million Followers.”

—Katie Couric

“When we needed help releasing a digital series that we knew could do so much good in the world, Brendan was the first person I called. I’m so happy he is writing a book and passing on his research and experience.”

—Justin Baldoni, star of Jane the Virgin, producer of My Last Days, and cofounder and CEO of Wayfarer

“Brendan is an outlier in a crowded market. His strategies are easy to implement and will lead to massive success. Working with him opened my eyes to the power of his ideas. He’s the best at what he does.”

—Luke Wahl, executive producer at Sports Illustrated and Yahoo!

“Brendan has done what most people only dream of doing. We’re so lucky he’s sharing his secrets. This book is a must-read.”

—Julie Moran, former cohost of Entertainment Tonight

“Brendan’s success stories are all the more interesting as they relate to massive global brands like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Jason Statham, Katie Couric, MTV, Vice, Lionsgate, and Yahoo! As a case study for this book he put his money where his mouth is and amassed one million real followers for himself with very little money over a very short amount of time. Testing and methodology are big parts of Brendan’s success, and he’s incredibly generous for sharing those aspects of his work with the world.”

—Greg Durkin, CEO at Guts + Data, former senior vice president of marketing analytics at Warner Bros. Pictures

“While it may be true that no one can predict what content will go viral, there is a tried-and-true formula experts use to maximize reach and stand out from the rest—and it will work for you, too. Brendan Kane gives you all the tips, tools, and insider secrets you need to make that happen.”

—David Oh, chief product officer at FabFitFun

“Brendan’s focus on understanding how things work is infectious. His curiosity and knowledge will make you want to do better.”

—Latham Arneson, former vice president of digital marketing at Paramount Pictures

“Brendan Kane will guide you through the fog of social media and its strategic application like the seer he is.”

—Jon Jashni, founder of Raintree Ventures, former president and chief creative officer of Legendary Entertainment

“There’s an insane amount of noise online today—and it’s increasingly difficult to get your content, brand, or message across to the widest possible audience that matters to you. Unless you’ve read this book. Brendan’s done an incredible job of distilling tips, tools, and insider info into actionable advice that’s applicable for everyone.”

—Eamonn Carey, managing director at Techstars London

“Social Media is now a currency you can exchange for monetary gain or exposure. This book allows you to obtain the fundamentals from the greatest minds in the world. Hearing from the experts within each field to arm you with the nuggets you need for social media success!”

—Joivan Wade, founder of the Wall of Comedy and actor in The First Purge

“If you’re looking for a book to help you make a real and lasting impact in the complicated and ever-changing world of social media . . . look no further. Practical, definitive, and easy to read. Brendan Kane has written the bible.”

—Kario Salem, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter

“Brendan gets the value of paid media better than anyone I know . . . and how really good content needs the right ignition and the right platform underneath it to be successful.”

—Erick Brownstein, president and chief strategy officer at Shareability

“In this noisy world, winning a massive following may seem unrealistic. But by following the smart advice in One Million Followers, anyone can build a powerful and passionate fan base, starting now.”

—Dorie Clark, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and author of Entrepreneurial You and Stand Out

“Brendan gives masterful and practical strategies that will help you reach your social media goals and beyond. Whether you want to build a brand, sell a product, or become an influencer, there is wisdom here so you can do just that.”

—Antony Randall, CEO and cofounder of EQ

“I wish I had this book when I started my career as a video-director over a decade ago. I am extremely excited to apply what I learned from One Million Followers to my own social media platforms. Anyone who takes this book seriously and applies the lessons within is on the path to closer achieving their goals.”

—Pedro D. Flores, CEO of CompA Productions

“Brendan was shockingly able to generate a million followers for our nonprofit in less than fourteen days. I have never seen such rapid growth in social in my entire career.”

—Rich German, founder and CEO of JV Insiders

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