Why brands need to focus on the fans they have

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It’s time, social media people. The fans you don’t have no longer matter. It’s time to start paying attention to the fans you do have.

Seems like a simple concept. Seems like it should be innate. And yet there’s an ever-present pull to have more fans, more followers, and a greater number of people who sign up for your social media updates.

Perhaps it’s our natural human desire for approval. Our moms and dads didn’t give us enough love, so we’ve transferred our need for approval to fans of our brands. The more fans our brands have, the sounder we sleep.

Well, that’s just not healthy.

Many brands have been playing in the social space for years. So if your focus hasn’t already turned from finding new fans to creating a great experience for your existing fans, it’s time to reconsider your strategy.

On this site, we’ve giving you tools to launch your social media presence, to optimize your content and to grow your communities. But it’s time now to take it a step beyond all that, and finally start serving your community.

It starts with great content and special, memorable moments. As social media professionals, that’s all we have—a moment. Some studies have withered it down to 2.7 seconds. If you can’t captivate a fan in that amount of time, you’ve lost your chance at engaging him or her. That’s super depressing when you think about it. So stop thinking about it and do something.

Here’s how it’s not done: It’s not done by brands patting themselves on the back and telling fans, “We’re awesome.” Braggadocio messages found in press releases of the past die on impact in social. The best social campaigns leave the hard sell and the soft sell at home. They bring the content and add value to a person’s day.

When I was performing improv about a million years ago, I had a fantastic coach who told us, “It’s much more important to be interesting than it is to be funny.” The point was that if you’re trying to be funny, you set yourself up to fail. But if you set out to be interesting, chances are you’ll capture peoples’ attention. What happens next (once you have their attention) is what determines your greatness.

The same works for managing a brand’s presence in social media. It’s so much better to be interesting than it is to try and be funny. Or, in social media terms, it’s better to be different than it is to try the same old tricks that other brands have tried (either successfully or not). It’s easy to get stuck remember what worked, and going back to those tricks. That’s why you see so many “Like this post …” posts.

Transitioning from newspapers to social media, I thought I was entering a radically different world. I was wrong. If we do have 2.7 seconds to captivate and delight our readers in social, how is that different from a headline you find in a newspaper or on a news site? An interesting photo, as it does in publication, will always captivate your audience better than great text. But let’s not forget that lost art of good writing. Once you get past the photo and headline, the ability to write is either there or it isn’t.

Focusing on the fans you have doesn’t mean that a strategic pay-per-click campaign is redundant. In order to get eyes on your content, Facebook and Twitter have made it pretty clear that PPC is the way to go. Unless your content is out-of-this-world shareable and fantastic, it’s unlikely you’ll find much of an audience without paying to play.

But expanding your fan base should no longer be hinged on PPC. Your content must strike a chord with your audience and inspire them to take an action. That action, in turn, will net you the best kind of fan out there — the friend of your fan.

When you switch your focus from drawing in new fans to focusing on the fans you have by creating a great, shareable experience for them, you’ll start to see that the growth you’re foregoing will be made up in organic growth. And these—the people who seek out your brand in particular—are the fans you want.

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