Fan blogging is blogging about a celebrity, television show, movie, sports team, sports player, criminals, or other groupie subject. Today’s blog exercise examines the art of fan blogging and how to learn from fan blogging to create your own fan club around your blog.
On the surface, fan blogging seems like fun. We have all been fans at one time or another, obsessed with someone or something for longer than “natural.” Such fandom helped create the likes of Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and the Kardashians, people who have done little to contribute to society but provide never-ending fascination with their audience, thus feed fan blogs with constant content. Imagine a time when you were obsessed with someone or something and all you wanted to do was talk about it. Fan blogging gives you that opportunity.
It is natural to be a fan. Fans are part of the marketing energy, using their community to use the most powerful advertising tool in the world: word of mouth (WOM). Today’s WOM marketing is exemplified by social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Fan blogging is hard work. My friend, DB Ferguson of No Fact Zone, a fan-blog about Stephen Colbert, described the intense work involved in maintaining her highly popular fan site in the announcement that she was stopping her site in May 2011 due to health and life issues.
A few weeks ago, I woke up and realized I was tired. I mean, dead, to the bones, to the soul tired. I had too much going on in my life, and I had to lighten the load. The morning I woke up and realized, “I’ve got to let go of the site” was one of the most surreal moments of my life, I think. You have to understand, blogging had become my second life. I woke up at 6a four mornings a week and blogged. At lunch I blogged. At night I blogged. When I was out with my husband, and my friends, I was checking my emails and working constantly to make sure that we were the best fan site out there. A huge part of my IRL social life was spending time with my WordPress blogger friends. Creating and maintaining this site was so much more than typing out blog posts – it was making friends, and sharing joys, and commiserating in sorrows (MANILOW!!!!!). Being a blogger had become part of my identity. So to wake up and realize, it’s time to let go, was indescribable.
DB’s fan site began in 2005 as did the The Colbert Report television show. The show had over 1180 episodes as of April 2013. No Fact Zone had an episode report for every episode up until the closing date of the site. This accounted for an average of five posts a week plus two to four additional articles on fan news, rumors, and other related newsworthy subjects. Imagine researching and writing nine articles a week! Eventually, DB attracted fans willing to pitch in and keep the energy going, but management of multiple contributors and authors is a full-time job in addition to DB’s full-time, bread-winner job.
After a year of pleading, in 2008 DB agreed to guest blog on Lorelle on WordPress, one of the very rare times I’ve allowed another voice on this site (so don’t ask). Her articles series, “The Art of the Fan-Based Blog,” explored what she called the “10 Cs on starting a fan-based blog.” These are the same skills you need to create fans for any site.
Here is my paraphrased summary of her points.
- Cultivate Your Passion: If you aren’t blogging from a passion perspective, it will never last, and you do your fans a disservice.
- Competition Means Collaboration: Look for opportunities to collaborate, even with your competition, and everyone will benefit.
- Create a Game Plan: Without a plan, you’re lost in the forest.
- Content, Content, Content – Research, Plan, and Inventory: Think of yourself as a reporter with a small “beat,” covering all the news that is news about your subject. Make a plan for dry-spells when there is no news, but keep the news and information coming.
- Content Part II – Filter, Verify, and SEO: You need to filter all the content to serve your audience, verify and fact-check everything you can, and state it when it’s rumor, and write using the search terms and keywords necessary to get your site’s content found.
- Copyright for You and Your Content Sources: Protecting your own copyrights includes protecting the rights of those you cite. Famous and public figures have surrendered some privacy but they have the right to control the commercial use of their image, so protect yourself and their rights and play nice.
- Community Wins: The more you focus on cultivating a tight-knit community through various channels such as forums and social media, the stronger the community and the more willing the community to participate and give back.
- Crazy Fans: There will always be those who go over the top and become the stereo-typical crazy fan. Have a strong comment and interactivity policy in place and know your limits. Protect yourself, fellow fans, and the subject of your fandom at all costs.
- Connections Make the Blog and Community: Similar to finding ways to collaborate with competition, learn how to network beyond your fan-base to related fan groups. You never know where a connection will lead.
- Cash is Necessary: Your plan must include income in order to sustain your site and efforts. It’s also a fine line to walk. Understand that the fan site may never make enough money to cover its expenses, but with the right planning, it can make enough to keep it going.
- Continuing to Fight the Good Fight: You have to deal with the issues before they become issues such as blog burnout, resistance to change (or too much change), and trends in the popularity of your site and that of your fan.
A fan blog is an ongoing conversation with fellow fans, like-minded individuals gathering to share the passion. In “How to Grow Your Fan Base With A Blog,” Chris Bolton described the ongoing conversation this way:
…take the time to respond to every comment. Even if all you say is, “thanks.” When people feel listened to, they keep talking. And that’s what you want. You want people talking about you and your work. Don’t delete critical comments either. Negative comments almost always spur conversation. Sometimes the biggest favor someone can do is leave a negative comment on your blog. It will encourage other commenters to defend your honor.
Hypebot explained in an article on developing music fan engagement that blogs are the best tools for developing a strong fan-base.
Blogging is one of the best tools to engage your fans with because it’s interactive. Your fans can leave comments, which you can then respond to, creating an ongoing conversation. Also, if you host your blog on your own website (and you should), it allows you to engage with your fans on your own terms, without tons of ads and links trying to take them away to view other content.
Blogging also creates a stronger connection to your fans. It’s a great way to show your personality and give fans insight into your career, which can help turn casual fans into super fans. Your blog also adds context to your music, and that’s how fans will come to value it more. They might be fans of your music already, but if they become fans of you on top of that, then the music gains an increased perceived value. Our CEO David Dufresne likes to make the comparison of having your music in a gallery versus at IKEA.
Bringing the audience to your own site helps you to control their experience as well as your own. You can collect information and data to help you learn more about your fans and how to serve them better.
Your blog exercise today is to read through the articles referenced above and pull out your own task list and plan for building a stronger community around your blog.
You are your biggest fan, right? I hope so. Part of your goal in setting up your site was to increase traffic, build an audience, and to build a fan-base. It’s time to get started or up your game if you have started the process.
In the blog exercise on defining your target audience, I asked you to clarify the personas you serve on your site. It’s time to start connecting directly with them, making them feel like they are a partner in this process, a member of the team, a part of your community.
- Clearly identify your target audience.
- Define their interests, likes, and dislikes.
- Identify your competition.
- Define their interests, likes, and dislikes, and find a way you might collaborate to benefit both of your audiences and sites.
- Look at all the ways you connect and communicate with your fans. Which are working and not.
- Make your plan – add deadlines.
The following are blog exercises that may help you with this assignment in case you missed them.
- Blog Struggles: Trackbacks Count
- Blog Exercises: What Do You Do?
- Blog Exercises: Define Your Target Audience
- Blog Exercises: Polls and Surveys
- Blog Exercises: Comments and The Blog Bullies
- Blog Exercises: Backlinks
- Blog Exercises: Trackbacks
- Blog Exercises: What is Your Posting Response Assessment?
- Blog Exercises: Polls and Surveys Follow-up
- Blog Exercises: How to Respond to a Trackback
If you blog about this blog exercise please include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.