What Every Marketer Needs To Know About Social Media ‘Fandom’

A group of people standing with their arms raised at a concert
SHARE
THIS



Social media fans can be lovely, but they can also be brutal. We Are Social’s Cristina Forlani explains exactly what you need to know about your online fan base and how to leverage them.

Word of mouth and consumer advocacy are marketing gold. Marketers know that peer-to-peer recommendations carry much more credibility with consumers than brand generated content.

Creating and maintaining a highly engaged fanbase on social media may appear to be a daunting undertaking, but the benefits for brands and their fans may just be worth the effort.

One of the first consequences of having a highly involved fanbase is the positive impact on customer loyalty and the influence on how often they buy your brand’s products.

In a recent study by US company Share This it was revealed that “extremely positive online shares generate a 9.5 percent increase in purchase intent”.

But there’s definitely more to ‘fandom’ than this.  Rather than looking for short-term engagements that spikes then peters out, it’s about having fans involved in shaping the evolution of the brand itself, strengthening the bond with fans, igniting brand passion and building consumer trust and loyalty in the long term.

Through social media brands can truly engage with customers and potential customers at scale, driving advocacy and word of mouth both online and offline. So how can brands build advocacy or even, as in some cases, brand fandom?

Fandoms can be an intense phenomenon and potentially a brand’s strongest ally in social media. To build such a deep level of advocacy brands have to demonstrate their values every day by engaging their communities with the appropriate tone of voice. Brands looking to develop true ‘fandom’ need to provide a genuine interaction with people online – essentially talking and behaving like a smart, positive, honest, inspiring person.

Most of all, what brands must do is focus on the quality of the content they share online. Every single piece of content should be created as a conversation starter; a fundamental part of the story the brand is telling to its community. This facilitates an authentic opportunity to share brand messages through creative dialogue.

Another important piece of the puzzle is encouraging users to create content about the brand itself. Fashion brands seem to be particularly good at this strategy. For example, this is exactly what fashion retailer Black Milk has done, leveraging thousands of Sharkie selfies and creating specific hashtags for every single product. This encourages customers to be not just fans, but Black Milk models, playing a big role in the brand’s storytelling, giving value, adding credibility and sparking users’ interest in the brand.

When thinking about creating highly engaged social communities it’s important that we take a channel agnostic approach. There is no one platform that dictates success. Rather, we need to keep in mind demographics and the interests of our target audience as the first criteria to consider when looking for the best place to develop social communities.

Generally speaking, Instagram and Pinterest are the top players for fashion fandom, but other platforms like Snapchat can provide a more exclusive interaction with the brand. This is working well for brands like Free People, Juicy Couture and Rebecca Minkoff. By using Snapchat to give fans sneak peeks at new collections these brands are sharing exclusive content with their most highly committed fans before anyone else, making the content even more elite and ephemeral.

Fashion brands are known to be forward thinkers when it comes to social media. While there are many fashion brands doing great things online, one of the best is Burberry. This is a brand that actively engages with its fans and followers on a daily basis, experimenting with new platforms and looking to find the best ways to respond to the changing needs and social behaviours of its consumer base.

Burberry FB header

Burberry is always careful to create the right content for the right platform, and in doing so, strengthens its relationship with its community. This strategy has also delivered a strong user-generated element, with the community highly involved in content creation for the brand. Other fashion brands doing great work in this space are H&M, ASOS and Lorna Jane.

But as with any marketing strategy, there are risks as well as rewards for brands with highly engaged communities. In the case of fashion communities, very often, fashion industry lovers act as a tribe. In many cases they are so highly committed and involved with brand values they show a unique level of advocacy and loyalty and contribute to the brand’s evolution by providing inspiration and constructive feedback. There is a downside however, as fans can also be pretty vocal about what they don’t like, showing their disappointment in a highly visible and emotive way.

At some point, every brand will experience negative or hostile behaviour from followers online, especially if it involves the community in marketing strategies and product development. After developing a strong emotional connection with the brand, the community members can feel so highly involved that they assume the brand will meet their expectations, whatever it takes: unfortunately, sometimes this is just not feasible and can generate frustration amongst fans.

Case in point was the very strong fan backlash that Black Milk experienced earlier this year while trying to celebrate May the 4th (Star Wars Day). Some of the brand’s highly engaged Facebook community took offence at a post that some considered negative and counter to the brand’s stated position that “you shall not make critical comments on other women’s bodies”.

The brand then chose to delete these comments, claiming that the people who had been offended by the post were a minority. The brand admitted that they would continue to delete any comments that weren’t “positive” enough. When this was, again, received negatively, they even went so far as to tell their own customers if they felt that this particular thread was out of line to unlike their page and to stop supporting them. The situation escalated and many of the community were unhappy with the brand’s approach to their concerns, with the story hitting the news as word spread across social networks.

blackmilk3_590264

The brand response to this crisis was definitely not best practice in terms of community management, openness and transparency. In cases like this brands can only hope to learn from their mistakes. The strong lesson from this case is that all brands engaging with their communities through social media must have clearly articulated crisis plans in place to respond to issues with their communities before they escalate into fully-blown crises.

The reality is that most brand advocates are motivated by the desire to play an active role as main stakeholders: they like to tell other people about their experience with the brand, share their knowledge with others to help them make better decisions. In return they are looking for recognition and appreciation for their positive contributions.

This level of advocacy can impact brands on several levels. Brands may involve fans by implementing feedback in product development, offer them insider knowledge about the upcoming collections, encourage user-generated content creation, implement special loyalty programs for supporters or provide fans with discounts.

Brands that have succeeded in harnessing the power of fandom tend to have certain traits in common: they are good listeners, open to trends and willing to change their social media strategy based on social behaviour and insights from their communities. By recognising the rewards and risks of courting ‘fandom’ brands that actively commit to remaining deeply engaged with their communities, and to evolving their strategies to meet the changing needs of those communities, stand to gain tangible business advantages from their efforts.

Cristina Forlani is an account director at social media agency We Are Social.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Why The “No” Campaign Is Just One Long Slippery Slope
  • Opinion

Why The “No” Campaign Is Just One Long Slippery Slope

Not exactly your typical marketing/media piece, but here playwright Ron Elisha (pictured below) explains the damage done by the “No” campaign and the now infamous skywriting on a recent blue-sky Sydney Sunday… My daughter is crying. It’s not that she’s fallen over and barked her knee. Nor is it the trauma of immunization, or the […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
QMS Goes West With ‘The Leeder’
  • Advertising
  • Media

QMS Goes West With ‘The Leeder’

QMS Media continues to expand its digital portfolio across Western Australia, switching on an iconic billboard in the heart of Perth. Following the launch of two new digital billboards in the major WA regional centres of Bunbury and Kalgoorlie in recent months, ‘The Leeder’ further delivers on QMS’ digital expansion strategy out west. Positioned at […]

PR Firm Text100 Wins NetApp Account For APAC
  • Marketing

PR Firm Text100 Wins NetApp Account For APAC

Global marketing communications agency Text100 has announced it been appointed by data management company NetApp to drive its brand transformation effort across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. Following local competitive pitches conducted across the region, Text100 has been appointed as the APAC lead agency out of Singapore, and as the local agency of record in Australia, […]

MFA Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

MFA Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!

B&T once again donned the tux, applied the Brut, and primed the liver for last night's MFA Awards in Sydney.

Concrete Playground Launches Voice-activated Nightlife Guide With Google Assistant
  • Media
  • Technology

Concrete Playground Launches Voice-activated Nightlife Guide With Google Assistant

Digital publisher Concrete Playground has unveiled a new app that helps Millennials plan their night out using voice control – the first of its kind to become available in Australia. Concrete Playground’s Guide to Tonight now works with Google Assistant, making it available on a range of Google devices and helping people to decide what […]

Digital Agency Inlight Secures Two Key Client Wins
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Digital Agency Inlight Secures Two Key Client Wins

Independent agency Inlight has announced it has won the digital account for Benetas, a not-for-profit aged care provider in Victoria. Following a competitive pitch process, Inlight was chosen to handle Benetas’ new website design, build and ongoing optimisation. Richard Barker, marketing manager at Benetas, said: “We wanted an agency that could be our true digital […]

AMI Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!
  • Marketing

AMI Awards 2017 Winners Revealed!

With almost 30 awards handed out, B&T predicts plenty of numb bottoms at last night's AMI Awards in Melbourne.

Clems Sydney CEO Andy Pontin Quits
  • Advertising

Clems Sydney CEO Andy Pontin Quits

Sure, B&T flashed the news of Andy Pontin quitting this morning. White lies aside, he's actually still got six months.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Adobe MAXes Most Creatives In A Room Record
  • Advertising
  • Media

Adobe MAXes Most Creatives In A Room Record

B&T's journo is reporting live from the annual Adobe Summit in Vegas. Although, "reporting" is somewhat of a stretch.

Opinion

by David Hovenden

David Hovenden
Digital Women’s Network & The Australian College Of Marketing Unveil Latest Short Courses
  • Marketing

Digital Women’s Network & The Australian College Of Marketing Unveil Latest Short Courses

The Australian College of Marketing is collaborating with the Digital Women’s Network to bring new short courses aimed to provide the latest skills across all aspects of the Digital landscape, kicking off in Melbourne and Sydney in 2018. Course content will focus around various topics related to the digital marketing landscape. All courses will run […]

Man working at office desk, looking at computer and scratching head
  • Technology

Where Are Digital & Tech Skills & Salaries Headed?

The rapid pace of technological change in the digital sector is seeing demand for those with the right skill sets outstrip availability, both locally and globally. The individuals who have kept their skills up to date are being well-rewarded financially. Now, Digital + Technology Collective’s expanded annual Skills and Salary Survey will put some numbers and context […]

Disney & ESPN Unify Sales & Partnerships Teams
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Disney & ESPN Unify Sales & Partnerships Teams

Disney and ESPN have formed an even closer bond, announcing a new alignment of the two properties through their media sales and partnerships teams. Instead of entering through three doors, Disney ESPN Media Sales & Partnerships will give media buyers and marketers a refined, singular point of entry for Disney, ESPN Digital and Maker. Nik […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Sydney Start-up Muzaara Partners With Commission Factory To Turbocharge Digital Ad Spends
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

Sydney Start-up Muzaara Partners With Commission Factory To Turbocharge Digital Ad Spends

Sydney-based adtech start-up Muzaara has announced a new strategic partnership with performance marketing platform Commission Factory. Together, Muzaara and Commision Factory are providing SMEs with a secret weapon to skyrocket their online brand visibility and effectively manage and maximise their online advertising campaigns. This partnership will allow both online marketing companies and their impressive roster […]

Kellogg’s Creates AR Halloween Trick Or Treat Experience Via Shazam & Orchard
  • Campaigns
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Kellogg’s Creates AR Halloween Trick Or Treat Experience Via Shazam & Orchard

Breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s has joined forces with Shazam and digital agency Orchard to deliver a first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) Halloween Trick or Treat experience for families. The campaign, which leverages Shazam’s visual recognition platform and recently-launched AR platform, sees Kellogg’s pilot the replacement of physical gifts in cereal packs with a digital experience that […]

Kraft Heinz Appoints Cummins&Partners As New Creative Agency
  • Advertising

Kraft Heinz Appoints Cummins&Partners As New Creative Agency

Kraft Heinz today confirmed the appointment of Cummins&Partners as its new Creative agency after an extensive pitch process. They will be responsible for brand strategy and integrated creative across the expanding Kraft Heinz portfolio including Kraft, Heinz and Golden Circle. A Kraft Heinz spokesperson said: “After an exhaustive search involving a competitive pitch, we have made […]