I’m watching a segment 60 Minutes recently did on Taylor Swift, including how she connects with her fans. At one point, they show Taylor performing, when she literally stops singing and her jaw drops as she stares out at the audience.
She cannot believe how loud her fans are cheering! It shows Taylor overcome with a sense of wonderment and amazement at how much her fans love her.
While this is happening, Taylor’s staff (sometimes including her mom) are scanning the audience looking for ‘special’ fans. Fans that are the most excited, that have the most colorful signs, maybe that are cheering by themselves. Taylor’s staff hand-selects two dozen or so of these fans and tells them that Taylor wants them to join her for a special T-Party immediately after the show!
After the concert, these 20 or so fans will get to hang out with Taylor and her band, they can chat with the rock star, get her autograph, maybe even play video games with her. Whatever happens, it will be a night that none of them will ever forget. Taylor has created something amazing for the people that love her.
Why Do Rock Stars Have Fans And Companies Have Customers?
I’m currently writing my first book, Think Like a Rock Star – How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans. The central question that the book answers is this: why do rock stars have fans, and companies have customers?
The quick and dirty answer is that rock stars have fans and companies have customers because that’s who both groups want. Rock stars, for the most part, want more fans, so they connect with their fans. Companies and brands, for the most part, want more customers, so they are constantly attempting to acquire new ones.
But there’s a far more important truth at work here that we need to consider. Most rock stars have an emotional relationship with their fans, while most brands have a transactional relationship with their customers.
Let me repeat: Most rock stars have an emotional relationship with their fans, while most brands have a transactional relationship with their customers.
Most rock stars don’t just appreciate their fans, they actually love them. They feel an emotional connection to these special people, and these fans love their favorite rock star right back. Taylor doesn’t make a dime off holding T-Parties after concerts. She does it because she wants to show 20 or so of her biggest fans how much she appreciates them for being who they are; her fans. She does it because she wants to create something amazing for the people who love her.
The Biggest Mistake You Can Make
The biggest mistake you can make is to convince yourself that rock stars have fans simply because they are musicians creating entertainment products. The second biggest mistake you can make is to convince yourself that customers that Like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter are automatically your fans.
Maybe some of them are, but the odds are that many of them do not have the emotional attachment that true fans have for their favorite rock star or team, or even brand. In fact, there have been several studies that have found that one of the reasons, if not the main one, why people Like or follow a brand on social media sites is to get a product discount or participate in a giveaway. In essence, social media has somewhat corrupted our definition of the term ‘fan’.
Four Ways to Create Fans of Your Brand
If you want to truly create fans of your brand, special customers that have an emotional connection with your brand that extends far beyond social media, here’s four things you need to master:
1. Become a part of the audience you are trying to connect with. Rock stars by default are part of the community they are trying to connect with – their fans. What your company needs to do is become a part of the space you are trying to reach.
For example, when Graco wanted to use its blog to connect with young parents with young children, guess who it picked to write its blog? Employees that were young parents with young children. That way, Graco’s content was being written in a voice that its customers could relate to; its own. A big reason why rock stars can so easily connect with their fans is because they understand who they are, and their point of view. It will pay dividends for your brand to understand your customers as well.
2. Shift control to your fans. Rock stars and companies have two completely different approaches to the people who buy their products. Most rock stars openly embrace their fans and see them as marketing partners that can help them expand their fan base.
Most companies keep their customers at arm’s length and are scared to death to give them any input into their marketing, other than maybe a crowdsourced Super Bowl ad. The bottom line is that you have to trust your customers if you want your customers to trust you. And brand advocacy cannot exist if trust isn’t present.
3. Find the Bigger Idea behind your marketing and content. I totally stole this idea from Kathy Sierra. When you look at your products and services, ask yourself ‘what’s the bigger, cooler thing that this is a part of?’
For example, do your customers buy your camera because they love your brand, or because they want to take amazing photographs? Do your customers drink your energy drink because they love the flavor, or because they want the energy to keep practicing to perform amazing stunts with their skateboard or dirt bike?
Patagonia doesn’t create content that focuses on its clothing, it creates content that focuses on the ideas and themes that are important to its customers. So Patagonia blogs about protecting the environment, being active in the outdoors, sustainability, and similar topics. By shifting your communications and content focus to that of HOW and WHY your customers are using your products, it makes your communications more relevant to your customers.
4. Embrace your fans. Earlier I talked about Taylor Swift’s concerts. Taylor goes out of her way to embrace her fans at her concerts and communicate to them how much she appreciates them. We’ve already talked about her T-Parties. In the middle of her performances she will have a short intermission then re-appear at the back of the arena and play a few songs for the audience members that just a few minutes earlier had the worst seats in the house.
Then she will walk back to the front through the crowd, stopping to shake hands and hug as many of her fans as possible. This isn’t rocket science here, folks. All Taylor is doing is communicating to her fans that she is grateful for them. By simply showing appreciation to her fans, Taylor has validated their love of her. It gives them more of a reason to be a fan, and to encourage their friends and family to be fans as well.
And one final point: Rock stars understand that by embracing their fans today, they will be creating new customers tomorrow. But those new customers won’t come from their efforts, they will come from the fans that they delighted today.
Where are your fans coming from?
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Photo: WEZL on flickr