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Thinking like a fan: the key to brand success on social

Thinking like a fan: the key to brand success on social

The internet has always been a home for fans, from the innocuous to the most obsessive. Jamie Maple, managing director at Wilderness, argues that fan communities aren’t just brands’ competitors for attention – they’re also an example to learn from when it comes to engagement and relationship building.

Building a brand is no mean feat. While there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ method, personality is the key to success.

Audiences want to be drawn in by a brand’s social pages. To do this, brands need to give users reasons to follow and reasons to engage. They want brands to take a position (whether it’s about climate change or the best Batman villain).

Audiences want to know that there are real people behind the screens. Keeping this in mind will enable brands to relate to their users and draw on direct insight from them to continue evolving and improving their connection. Why would consumers engage with a brand that lacks opinion, human empathy or even humor? Brands need to think like a fan to nail this.

Creating relationships

Remember, social media is social. Without conversational back-and-forth, adding value to people’s feeds or giving people something to be inspired by, there’s no reason to be on social media at all.

People are savvier about how social channels are run than they were a few years ago. Brands should use social to make people aware, make them care and make them share. People will passively like something that they agree with, but they will actively share something that they didn’t realize they agreed with.

There are so many other accounts that people can (and do) follow. To be one of the chosen few, you need to offer something new – whether that’s being funny and brightening someone’s day, being informative and making people feel like they’re learning, or being inspirational and making people want to share content.

Personality doesn’t have to take one face. It can be informed or surreal or any number of permutations, as long as it fits the brand and the audience. This means listening and responding to the audience that you have, rather than writing for the audience that you want. Giving people something to engage with goes a long way. If you’re not saying anything interesting or valuable, why would anyone respond?

Putting it into action

Whether it’s establishing a tone of voice, highlighting the conversations a brand should be joining or picking out the followers to engage with, all are vital in helping brands establish themselves and embody their audiences.

We’re lucky that the brands we work with are relevant and current and our team want to work on them. If you’re not lucky enough to be an actual fan of the channels you work on (99% of the time this is the case) then the watchword is research. Know your stuff. Fans can spot a faker a mile away.

Too often social channels for big brands show zero interaction, with nothing engaging happening, and continue posting the same boring stuff over and over. Sticking to a strategy that doesn’t work is never the answer. Audiences will tell you what they love and what they are interested in, either through the comments or by not engaging at all.

Brands who already think like a fan

Personally, I think Mubi is incredible. Its whole use-case is about helping people whittle down the seemingly endless options of what to watch. They give you a ton of content surrounding their choices to make you feel smart and inspired. And they bring this to social in an effective way.

Similarly, Letterboxd takes the persona of an obsessive cinephile and presents itself as the most knowledgeable film friend in the world. The brand pulls from reviews on its platform, uses the data behind top trending titles, digs into new releases and reacts to the film industry, seeming to know exactly what the audience is looking for – or didn’t know they were looking for.

Fractured fandoms

Fandom is fracturing. People are carving out niche groups across platforms. Reddit threads, Twitter communities, Facebook groups and TikTok trends are all springing up and fixating on minute details, single shows, actors or characters. These are all places you can go to learn what audiences are talking about.

The emergence of other platforms gives us the opportunity to find new pockets of fans to engage with. It presents an initial problem – you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach – but this is outweighed by the accessibility of the new fan groups that these platforms present.

With new platforms continuing to pop up, it’s crucial to figure out who’s on them and how they are behaving. You can’t replicate the same posting strategy across all platforms; shoehorning won’t work. With new platforms popping up you need to figure out who’s there and how they’re behaving.

Jamie Maple – Managing Director

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