Prior to social media, getting a variety of opinions on a topic required multiple trips to various websites. For example, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first premiered, getting film reviews was no easy task. I remember having to jump to the New York Times, Washington Post and a few other sites just to get an opinion on whether or not to see the movie.
Prior to popular social sharing platforms, experience online was what I refer to as “fueled by boredom.” Previously, there wasn’t an effective way to share content. At work when a coworker would find an entertaining video, they would call over colleagues to share it in the moment. There was not yet a way to quickly share content with a large group of friends while simultaneously communicating much like today’s social media feed.
Covering a Wall with Bumper Stickers
Thanks to a multitude of social media channels, consumers have become evangelists for the brands and topics they share on social media. What was once an avenue to share what you ate for dinner on Twitter, has now become an endorsement for the latest hashtag, with each post becoming a modern day bumper sticker of endorsement.
Personalities Over Personalized Websites
In 2016, nearly every social platform found its way to Moz top 500 domains further proving that brands need to pay attention to how they are positioned on each social platform. In many cases, I prefer to use Facebook to find information rather than the brand’s official website. But what tempts me to click the like or follow button to continuously receive content? Personality.
Personality can be shown in a few different ways. On Twitter, brands who continuously respond to playful tweets (Cinnabon, Dominos, Taco Bell) are notorious for having an engaging audience. Much of this can be attributed to the content being more than just a quick response for an inquiry. But what if your brand wants to create content that redefines the laws of virility with every post?
In late 2015, I experienced a perfect example of Buzzfeed using personality to build their audience on social media while never needing to visit their website. Buzzfeed has been a long time powerhouse for content that drove traffic to their physical website. That was until they introduced the world to freshman personality, Matt Bellassai, through a weekly segment called Wine About It. Through this weekly segment, Matt would spend time talking about his issues with a certain topic, while casually enjoying a bottle of wine. In most cases his issues were highly relatable, enticing users to share with friends (who had not yet been introduced to Buzzfeed). Through the sharing, Buzzfeed was able to create communication within their Facebook while increasing exposure.
Growing a Personality as a Brand and the Rise of the Fan Group
Not long after generating a proven track record of success with Wine About It on Buzzfeed’s social channels, Matt Bellassai left his Buzzfeed video success to start his own brand. For many this came as a huge surprise as Buzzfeed boasts the right amount of exposure not only on Facebook (number 1 ranking domain on the Internet) but also the physical Buzzfeed website presence (234th ranking domain on the Internet). Many were also left asking, will this momentum continue with a smaller audience?
What made Matt’s transition possible is a fraction of Buzzfeed’s followers being what I consider to be a “fan group.” These small, passionate fan groups are often smaller subsets which have built a reputation of not only sharing content on their social platforms, but also specifically target sharing relatable content. For example, if you were to see a piece of content that triggers a relatable moment, you are likely to share the moment by tagging a friend/follower on a platform. In addition to displaying the share on a social network, this occurrence is also creating a targeted notification to users the content has been shared with. Meaning, fan groups are now helping brands/personalities extend relatable moments.
The Rise of the Fan Group Model
A variety of digital brands have already started to action on creating content for a “fan group” under a paid model. Popular anime streaming community, Crunchyroll, has implemented a paid subscription based model (roughly $7/month). It is designed for dedicated fans of anime and manga storytelling by leveraging a vertical approach. Crunchyroll has utilized fan groups to dive deep into a specific niche audience to generate revenue. From there, slowly expand its following by providing extras like news, forums, e-commerce, live events and manga, all on a very niche website with a large percentage of subscribers under the age of 35.
Popular subscription based sites like Netflix, Hulu and Crunchyroll have seen great success with charging a small fee for subscriptions. Does this mean that subscriptions for niche audiences for nearly $40 a month aren’t possible? Tech news site The Information has been making a strong case for higher priced subscriptions with a goal of appealing to business professionals. Through a subscription to The Information, subscribers are given deep analytic reports and written articles for tech professionals, while still reaching a broader pool of entrepreneurs or people who don’t pay for content today, but may be willing to do so. Again, the target of tech professionals willing to spend money for news could be barren. However, The Information has shown multiple cases for subscriptions as a business experience to for businesses that allow for subscription based budgets.
Relating to your Fan Group
Developing a fan group can be difficult at times. However, the beauty of passionate fan groups is that through effective messaging, brands that make content for a specific group will often find the greatest engagement. In many cases, brands initially believe that in order to gain any traction, all content must appeal to the masses. But actually, starting small (with fan groups) and through a snowball effect, could generate the greatest reward. If you were to make a piece of content, instead of trying to attract an entire country, try making it for a smaller area (like a city or state).
If you were to create a piece of content about a specific area, you are likely to appeal to a fan group of some kind. For example, if a hotel in Chicago was to create a “Top Ten Local Pizza Pies,” the odds of finding a fan group for local pizza is highly likely. Local pizza experts are likely to read the article, and share a memory with their network friends for nostalgia purposes. In most cases, within the share, will be a direct tag of fellow friends.
Crafting for the Click
When creating content, please be advised that your content can fall into two content categories: tempting to click and tempting to share.
Users’ experience with tempting to click content is often in the form of advertisements for clothing sales or content described as “click bait.” Content of this category rarely generates much publicity from consumers, due to lack of interest in sharing with others. I have found a great way to test if content falls into this category, is by applying Betteridge’s Law. This law states that all headlines with questions can be answered “no.” To try for yourself, read an article that asks a question in the headline, if after reading the article, the answer is no, you have likely digested tempting to click content.
Tempting to share content is often shared and endorsed across social accounts are a noteworthy article. By sharing these articles, your post becomes a modern day bumper sticker showing that you endorse the given viewpoint on a topic.
Personal vs. Social Clicks on Content
When creating content, it is important to be aware of whether your content will generate a personal click, social click or both (depending on the topic). To illustrate types of clicks, you can apply the diagram below.
(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)
Content that appeals to your guilty pleasures will often generate a personal click. These clicks tend to remain private with consumers and are not shared with their followers. Certain shopping experiences can also fall into this category, depending on the item. Someone who recently bought a new appliance might not feel the need to share their new purchase with the world. With the addition of Facebook’s Recommendation feature, shopping can often position itself into a social click which will generate engagement.
Social clicks tend to be the driving force for fan group content. Brands that appeal to specific cultural experiences can often generate a personal click, which can transition into a social click. Using the pizza pie example from before, a reader might utilize a personal click to check nutritional information and leverage a social click for a pizza buying rewards program. Nostalgia has been a long time catalyst for consumers and continues to show growth. Causes often create an emotional appeal and generate sharable clicks on a much greater level than nostalgia in that emotional connections are highly relatable where as nostalgic experiences are more exclusive.
The Next Step
It is important to understand that fan groups are not built overnight. When creating content on social media, create content that can resonate with others and can be related to specific cultural experiences.