13 Step Guide To Building A Cult Of Superfans

Michael-jackson-superfansWhile reading a recent set of tips for turning your fans into superfans, I was struck by how the list and related explanations made it sound like they were describing how to build a cult. If that sounds a bit too sinister, perhaps thinking of turning your fans into superfans by treating them like insiders will make these tips work for you.

Unified Manufacturing recently dicussed how to Transform Fans into Super Fans in a post that's well worth reading.  And it does suggest an approach to fanbase building focused on turning fans into superfans by treating them as insiders. A recent Hypebot post on FanCulture: Building A Fanbase As A Lifetime Relationship shares some related perspectives as does the Orchestra Of the Age of Enlightenment's attempt to put fans center stage.

But a joking remark in the post, "You want to create a semi-cult, right?", got me thinking about the aspects of fanbase building that are similar to building a cult and I realized there's a lot of crossover with the following points from Unified Manufacturing. And that starts with giving your fans a name so they "feel like they’re part of an exclusive organization."

Building A Cult Of Superfans:

1. Give Your Fans a Name

2. Tag Fans in Your Panoramic Concert Photos

3. Give Approaching Fans Your Undivided Attention

4. Always Have [Cheap] Merch Handy [For Free Giveaway]

5. Share Dark Secrets on Your Blog

6. Send Special E-mails

7. Develop Shared Symbols

8. Use Loyalty-based Apps to Connect to Your Fans

9. Play in Smaller Venues

10. Stay on Your Merch Table

11. Conduct Live Webcast

12. Showcase Them In Your Music Video

13. Post [Photos of] Their Gifts on Your Website and Social Networks

So the core idea seems to be that you name your fans, give them your attention and share secrets, develop shared symbols, and build a shrine to their offerings. I guess I was a little nutty thinking of this as a way to build a cult, right?

[Thumbnail pic by Guerry.]


Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. “The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers” by Douglas Atkins is a wonderfully blunt treatment of this grey zone. Good stuff.

  2. This is pretty good. I think I’d make it even more simple:
    – Intimacy;
    – Develop a shared culture (with a name, symbols, etc);
    – Promote this culture and those part of it.
    I think the list contains things on a variety of levels, like “giving your fans a name” and “developing shared symbols”, which I consider rather sophisticated cultural behaviours… then there are points that are more fleeting and based on the current status quo, such as “loyalty based apps” and “tagging in photos”.
    The list definitely gets it right, though.

  3. I disagree. I think internet memes are an excellent example of shared symbols which are given meaning by creation and participation and then become ‘universally’ understood among younger generations (eg. the ‘rage face’ and derivatives).
    On sites like 9gag, Know Your Meme or 4chan, you can find massive amounts of new kinds of symbols well-understood by those involved in current day youth culture (mostly youth, but also immature researchers like myself ;)).

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