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Why Fans, Fanatics & Finding Your Tribe Is Mythical Business Jargon

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The obsession with collecting numbers and the belief that businesses can have raving fans is a complete misnomer.

There is something that doesn’t sit right when a B2B audience is encouraged to chase fans, fanatics and finding our tribes and building superfans.

However, we have the ability to build a community built on trust, value and cause.

When the demographic matters, you can build an army, I get that. If you can create content that resonates with an audience, it scales. Take a look at what KSI (who…you ask) has done and have a read of this article on connection, not just content.


The Textbook Speak

When it comes to the B2B space, I don’t get it. Telling others to grow a fanbase is just a case of bringing textbook speak and compartmentalising what it should mean to our businesses and that they should be privy to the secret formula to ensuring others come to the business equivalent of Waynestock (never in the history of blogs will there be another reference to Wayne’s World Two).

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Whilst businesses are just getting to terms with becoming storytellers, they are also encouraged to become the equivalent of taking to the stage in purple spandex and get comfortable finding face paint and take to the corporate arena like Kiss with a profit and loss sheet.

Lets just put the breaks on.


Lets Start Defining

A fan is someone who pays for someone else to entertain him or her. I have sat watching AFC Bournemouth for 30 years with tears running down my face on many occasions. I don’t think we will ever see the equivalent when you press the subscribe button to access someone else’s newsletter.

The Oxford dictionary defines a fan as, “A person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.” This is taking the notion of fans to a creepy level.

A superfan is defined (Oxford dictionary again) as, “A person who has an extreme or obsessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” This is the person who spent $2.1 on John Lennon’s Steinway Piano or Geoff Hurst’s World Cup winning shirt for £2.3m. This is not representative of a customer’s relationship with a business.

Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us defines, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” This idea of a shared interest becomes more an aspect that becomes believable.

I don’t think we will ever get to a B2B equivalent of salivating for the next ebook or clambering to leave a review of the latest company video or analyse the latest brand revamp to the nearest point size.

Those who advise you to build fans, where is their proof to demonstrate?


Stop An Obsession, Be Better

This idea of building Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat fans doesn’t count. This is driven by the obsession in collecting numbers. Evolutionary theory suggests that collecting things was a way for a man to attract potential mates by signalling his ability to accumulate resources.

Lets stop this obsession with the belief of driving huge amounts of traffic to our sites should represent credibility and celebrity. If we are talking in real terms, if this does happen then most people briefly visit and then move onto the next interruption, never to be seen again.

According to Forrester, 96% of website visitors leave without completing any form of action. That solitary pop-up may not be the answer you’re looking for.

It is time to put the jargon and social buzzwords to one side. Lets get real about it.


Lets Ask Ian ‘Will Never Be Middle Of The’ Rhodes


Marketing impresario and Marketing Homebrew co-presenter Ian Rhodes is someone I implicitly value their view, so I asked him his take on the prescribed desire to build super/raving/crazy fans.

This is what Ian suggests, “It’s a rocky road. What next? Lovers? Are we looking for people to lust and desire our business? Are we advocating marriage?”

“No. We’re just marketers that get a little bit carried away with the thesaurus once in a while.”

“Be real. Be good. Surprise people once in a while. Teach people. Fly your own flag and be consistent with the message you present and values you believe in.”

“That way, with the force of human nature on your side, people will buy into you. Fans? Stark raving bonkers crazily in love with you? Don’t worry yourself about the label.”

So, if fans/superfans and tribes is somewhat fantastical for companies to grab hold of and actually pursue, what should we aspire for others to do?


So, What’s The Answer?

Lets figure out an alternative.

No business has the power to influence everyone and to leave them spellbound. However you have the ability to earn the trust of others, provide consistent value and enable others to connect with your cause.

Let me explain the three key areas to think about and ask yourself, ‘Am I doing at least one of these?’


Earning The Trust Of Others

A fan is someone who has made a decision and imparts (time and money) to be part of an experience and to create a sense of self-satisfaction.

Whilst this term is a long stretch for businesses, the ability to build advocates who trust you and your approach is far more believable and more realistic.

Those who share your content, come to an event you are part of or download something you have to share, understand where you are coming from before they action and commit.

An advocate is someone who ‘publicly supports or recommends a particular cause’ (according to the Oxford dictionary). I think we’re getting closer to something that has real meaning.

I don’t want fans, I want people to believe in a cause.

People commit and trust when you have made a commitment to a cause. People are more willing to delve deeper when you search for the truth within a marketplace.


Delivering Consistent Value

What is the point in delivering a message when it doesn’t observe and point something out that can be useful to someone else?

If you can deliver ongoing value it all stems from being passionate about something and instilling a strong belief system.

To be valuable to someone else, it doesn’t mean you should be creating content every other day but to have a base that you continually tend to. Whether that means one solid article a month, then keep to one solid article per month; this is how people will find you. Gone are the days to feel pressured to create more, it’s about delivering value to the people who matter.

You want to get people involved, not just a case of reaching out to as many people as possible. Focus on the people you can do something special with.

Adding value is more worthy (a second Wayne’s World reference) than continual interruption.


Connect To Your Cause

Are there people out there who can connect to what you believe in?

It is not a case of searching through the bins to find someone that is going to click a ‘like’ button. A fan is someone who sits back and waits to be entertained, in business it is your duty to nurture and support those who connect with you.

It is about flipping the whole approach around where being a fan is someone who expects to be entertained (consistently), when in fact it is your responsibility (and privilege) to understanding the spaces to connect better with someone else and not treat the audience as a throbbing mass of underwear throwers, but one person at a time.

To highlight a definition of a media company, I define this as being able to to ‘represent the ability to deliver a consistent message to a targeted audience through a preferred channel, in order to inform, enlighten and entertain.’

A fan is someone that believes someone else is almost unapproachable. Most people know they’ll never get to meet the Stone Roses.

As businesses, we don’t want more fans, we want people to share and take on their own interpretations (such as what Kherrin Wade did with her review of the Once Upon A Time event).

Take on the mindset of encouraging continuous actions. Identify small actions (this is what I am doing with next weeks You Are The Media Lunch Club) that drives real value where people become loyal and potentially become customers. I would rather have 100 people who genuinely care rather than 1,000 people who think I am just ‘ok’.


The ability to earn the trust of others, deliver consistent value and get others to connect to your cause has more to do with building a community (this sounds better than advocates) than it does with people hanging onto every tweet with an itchy finger to retweet with tears in their eyes.


Lets Round Up

The ability to build a community will at some point become more important than the content that is created. This can only be built when you have something to say that is separate from the rest of the crowd and focus on the needs of others.

It is your responsibility to provide others what they want and to create that bond. Telling others they need to build an army of superfans is pure myth, lets get more realistic and build connections around those we can support, nurture and get to know better as an audience and as a customer.

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