The relationship between today’s video creators and their fans is a unique one, and it’s something that established brands sometimes have a hard time understanding, according to Meredith Levine, a consultant and “fanthropologist” (yes, she actually has done anthropological study on fan culture) at digital production studio Theorist Media, so she moderated a session at VidCon 2017 Friday that sought to help them do just that. “What Brands and Media Companies Need to Learn About Fandom” boasted a panel of top social media stars, including Cailin O’Neil of Travel Yourself, and YouTubers Matthew Santoro, Peter Hollens, and Sylvia Gani.
So what’s a fan, anyway? The creators agreed it was someone who doesn’t just watch, but engages. Gani said it’s the people who subscribe, turn notifications on, want updates from the host’s life, and are interested in their opinion. Here are some tips she and the other the panelists offered to help brands gain and keep fans.
- Interaction might be more important than content creation. “I’m a community manager, and that’s my job,” Hollens said. “Only five percent of the time I’m a musician.” Try to make responding to comments, asking questions, creating polls, and other fan interactions a part of a daily schedule. “You will be awestruck by how well fans will treat you for being active on every social media site you put your brand on,” said Santoro. Gani advises against separating time for interaction from time for creating. “If you set aside time to just create and not respond, that can hurt you,” she said. “That’s where you get your ideas, that’s where you get your inspiration. I’m constantly getting notifications and checking up on stuff. That’s how I get ideas for what I should try next.”
- Don’t focus on typical ROI metrics. “Too many companies have a very myopic view, only looking at the numbers,” Santoro said. “If there’s no measurable income, they won’t do it. It’s so short-sighted. If you’re in influencer, how do you judge the ROI of a hug? Always think long-term.” Build a relationship with the audience, and recognize that one-off branding is likely to come across as less authentic than a consistent, organic relationship between brand and creator.
- Treat your fans like family. “If you think you’re above them and that’s going to fly, you are so wrong,” Hollens said. “You’re just a person, so act like one. Heck, even the Supreme Court says that corporations are people.” If you treat fans as equals, they will keep coming back and will amplify your message. “If do something good to a consumer that loves your brand, and in a few clicks, it goes to 500 people or 1,000 people,” he said.
- Create content you care about; don’t just give fans what they expect. “It’s important for brands and influencers to have that balance between creating content that you know is going to do well but you’re not passionate about, and creating content that you care about deeply but might not yet resonate with your fans,” Gani said. If creators only make content for the sake of the brand, it won’t seem authentic to the audience.
- Tell the legal team to back off. “Big companies are really risk-averse, but with no risk, there’s no reward,” Santoro said. “The bigger the brand, the more legalities it has to go through, and a video that would have taken me 48 hours to make ends up taking 3 months to create and approve. Take it easy with the legal. The world isn’t going to end, it’s very expensive to sue people. Let us do our thing, and we will knock it out of the park for you. Give us your message and we will deliver it in a way that’s authentic. The more you get involved, the worse it’s going to be.”
- Tear down organizational silos. “Creators are blessed because it’s just them or a small team,” Levine said. “But in larger organizations where you have different teams that don’t talk to each other it’s impossible to create long-term strategies.” Make sure the creative and social and tech teams talk to each other frequently so they can better work together towards common goals.