Jon Ostrow (@miccontrol) is the co-founder of MicControl.com, a music blogging network based on a social networking platform for the emerging music community. This article originally appeared on the MicControl Blog on November 4th, 2010.
A ‘Super Fan’ is the most important player in your fan base. In chess, it would be your queen. Influential, proactive, genuinely dedicated, and most importantly willing to spend money on you. So of course, it makes sense that you want to cater to the needs of your super fans.
But what about all of your other fans?
Many will argue that by categorizing your fans and focusing only on the most dedicated, you are alienating those less committed to your art. However in reality, these boundaries allow you to understand your fan base at all levels of dedication and interest, and gives you the opportunity to convert weaker fans into more dedicated ones.
The increase in the size of a fan base is not always the key to success, but rather it is the increase of loyalty and dedication of your fans.
Although there are truly 6 different types of fans, only the top two levels of fans (the committed fans and the super fans) are going to be worth your while, as they are the only ones who will continue to spend money on your music and support the growth of your fan base. Their commitment to you is both proactive and long-term in nature.
So instead of trying to cater to the needs of every type of fan, we will be specifically focusing on two actions: turning all of your passive fans (i.e. friends, bandwagon fans, listener and hobbyist) into committed fans, and then turning your committed fans into super fans.
Turning Passive Fans into Committed Fans
The problem with passive fans is that they lack interest. Of course, there is some level of interest in you, your music, or even your presence either online or off, but there is lack of need and desire to stay connected with you on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, you have to think of these fans as sheep. They are all there, but need to be moved in the right direction if you want anything from them.
These fans require you to do the engaging.
The following strategies will help you grab the attention of your passive fans, effectively creating a stronger desire to commit more time and money to you:
Listen To The Needs of Your Fans
The first step to creating a more committed fan base is to open up the channels of communication and simply ask your fans what they want from you. This can be done through a survey on Poll Daddy, could be sent through email to your mailing list, or could be as simple as posting a question to your social networking accounts and let your fans respond.
Of course, the purpose of this is to hear from your more passive fans, who are typically less involved than your other fans, so you want to make sure that you package this with something of value, maybe a free EP or unreleased track.
Here are some questions you should be asking, as the feedback can most directly correlate to stronger fans, stronger sales and less wasted efforts.
– Where do you live?
– What do you enjoy more: studio recordings or live performances?
– How important is it that you obtain copies of live performances?
– If we offered high-quality recordings of our shows, would you purchase them?
– Are you willing to purchase an album from us?
– Have you joined our mailing list?
– Would you prefer personal updates or free music from our bi-weekly newsletter?
– If we offered t-shirts, hoodies, hats and posters, which would you purchase?
– Would you be interested in seeing behind the scenes footage of our tour or recording sessions? If so, which would more interest you?
There are literally hundreds of questions that you COULD ask your fans to better understand what they are looking for from you. But it is important to keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm the fans either, as asking them for too much will just drive them away.
Once you have calculated the results and have discovered what your fans most desire from you, you must do two things. First, thank them! Second, act upon the results.
Direct Interaction Between Artist And Fans
Again, you will need to open up the interaction and communication between yourself and your passive fans, or else it won’t happen. Though it may be more time consuming, you should take every opportunity to network one-on-one with your fans. A single committed or super fan will spend more money on you than 100 passive fans so it will actually greatly benefit you to network on such a small scale. According to the theory of 1000 True Fans, if you can convert 5 passive fans into 5 committed fans, each willing to spend upwards of 100 dollars on you in the next year, you’ve just gain an extra $500. Not bad huh?
A few ways to directly interact with your fans is to:
– Talk with fans after a show. Walk around with a clipboard talking to fans and asking them to sign up for your mailing list. This is a great opportunity to create a real relationship so make sure you are genuinely interested in talking to your fans, and don’t seem like all you are interested in is the email address.
– Respond directly to fans through social media. This is so simple but is something that so many artists overlook. Fans just want to be noticed by you! By simply responding to fans on Twitter or on Facebook, calling out their name specifically, you are creating a memorable experience that they will be able to share with others and desire to repeat in the future.
– Q&A Sessions On USTREAM. Set a time, preferably in the evening when people are home from work or school, and get on to USTREAM where your fans can ask you any sort of questions about your life, your music, your opinions, etc. Again, this is a great opportunity for you to speak directly to individual fans, creating a unique and memorable experience that they will want to repeat.
Turning Committed Fans Into Super Fans
Unlike passive fans, your committed fans are already taking a proactive interest in you, your life and your music. So while many of your committed fans will be quick to respond to the strategies mentioned above, it will take more than just reaching out to convert them into the every-valuable Super Fans.
Empower The Fans
Committed fans are already willing to reach out and stay connected on their own time. But their need to be connected on a daily basis is not quite there yet. You need to empower your committed fans by making them an important part of the movement that is your growing fan base. Giving these fans a real responsibility is a great way of creating a desire to not only feel as though they belong (which we will discuss below), but to receive approval directly from you.
This can most easily be accomplished through a street team. A street team is a team of fans that receive missions based on different promotional strategies (both online and off) and are rewarded with exclusive benefits. Reverbnation offers a FREE street team program and there are many fantastic guides that can be found by a simple google search.
The idea of alienating a portion of your fan base is consistently one of the most difficult concepts for artists to grasp. However, creating a sense of exclusivity is one of the most effective strategies you can put in place to convert committed fans to super fans.
Stemming from the idea of creating a tribe of your most hardcore fans, you must create a distinction between insiders and outsiders. This will create a sense of belonging and pride for those already inside and a stronger sense of desire to become an insider by those who have been left outside.
Creating exclusivity can be done through:
– Contests based on fan participation with highly desirable rewards such as going out to dinner with you or backstage access at an upcoming event
– Exclusive fan groups. Facebook’s new ‘groups’ concept, where people must be invited into the group is a prefect way to get this started
– Special mailing list with exclusive benefits like unreleased music, discounted tickets, etc
– Street team
Unfortunately, there is no way to make everyone happy, and the process of increasing the dedication of your fans will most certainly drive some unwilling fans away. But It needs to be understood that it is impossible to cater to all fans at all times and it is your mission to consistently drive the strength of your fan base. Think of this as tightening the chain by losing the weakest links, meanwhile making every other link even stronger. The key to success with any brand is loyalty, and any effort you put in to creating a more loyal fan base will reward you with stronger sales and more opportunities than ever before.