Case studies: The value of online fandom

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Fanscape recently celebrated its 11th year in business. The fact that we've survived this long is indeed reason to celebrate; but honestly we're more excited that most, if not all, of the brands that we've been explaining social media to for all these years have finally come around to understanding that it's something they need. 

I won't lie; we didn't call ourselves a social media marketing agency 11 years ago. We were an online music marketing company. Record companies hired us to market their bands on the internet. We ran online street teams that acted as conduits between fans and the musicians they worshiped. We empowered fans to help promote their favorite bands by giving them buddy icons, wallpapers, and links to stream music. They built fan sites on Geocities and Angelfire, and gossiped with others in message boards and chat rooms. It was social media via Web 1.0, pre-MySpace and Facebook.

The connection between fans and musicians had long been overlooked. A band was someone you saw on stage or on MTV, not someone who would actually respond to your letters. Fanscape closed that gap. At first it was relatively unknown bands like Simple Plan and The Calling, which gladly engaged their fans on message boards and recorded voice "thank you" email messages. But when those bands proved that engaging your fans can help you sell CDs and rise up the MTV TRL charts, then others joined in and soon megastars like Mariah Carey and Bon Jovi were filming web-based videos thanking their street teams for all their hard work.  

Music campaigns led to movie and television campaigns, which led to brand and product campaigns. Nearly a thousand campaigns later, we've honed our craft and stayed ahead of the curve as the landscape continually evolves. But while the tools today are better, faster, and infinitely less expensive, the basic premise of social media remains the same:  Listen. Respond. Empower. Reward. 

What is social media and digital word of mouth marketing?
The number one reason people buy something or try something is because someone they trust told them to. That's word of mouth. The goal of a brand is to create a product that is so well received by its customer that they tell someone else about it, leading to increased sales. Meanwhile, the internet has evolved into a social environment where people share their thoughts openly with others who are eager to listen. Word-of-mouth companies help brands by facilitating digital conversations about their products through social networks, blogs, and online communities.  

While the edict to listen, respond, empower, and reward remains consistent, each individual campaign is different. Each is tailored to the individual client and based on achieving the client's goals. Some last for a few weeks, and some are still going strong after years. Social media is a customer-centric component of a business and ideally should be thought of as a long-term strategy that warrants the same attention given to marketing, PR, customer service, and market research. 

But before we start any campaign, we should step back and ask this one simple question: "If I were the customer, why would I care?" As marketers we're ultimately going to interrupt the customer, so if we do, we better be able to answer that question.  

The best way I can think of to explain how this is done is to provide two brief case studies of recent Fanscape campaigns that exemplify social media marketing and how it results in conversations and action.

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Comments

Larry Weintraub
Larry Weintraub September 29, 2009 at 8:02 PM

Hi Derrick,

Thanks! Good for you. And here you thought everybody knew how to use the Internet. It's a big place with lots to do. And you are the guy to help your clients figure it out. It's a good place to be.

Derrick Strode
Derrick Strode September 29, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Good Stuff. I didn't offer or think offering SEO, traffic Generation, Social media sync"n and bla bla bla until it became a dynamic need and concern for my clients. Now more than consulting, people reference me as the "internet Guy" Who would of known?