Last week, roughly 170,000 people (many of them dressed in tights, masks and capes) descended on San Diego for Comic Con, a 47-year-old multi-genre entertainment convention. They traveled from all over world for the chance to meet their favorite actors, writers and directors and collect memorabilia.
These super hero enthusiasts exemplify fandom, a level of devotion that spells success for businesses. “Fans share more, buy more, evangelize more, participate more, and help more,” said anthropologist Susan Kresnicka, president of Kresnicka Research Insights, who spent a year studying what make fans tick.
With a set of six research methods and 12,000 research participants, Kresnicka and a team of eight social scientists examined the drivers of fandom and how business can benefit from it. Here’s what they learned:
Realness counts for a lot.
“Fandom develops when an object of fandom reflects some meaningful dimension of who we are — our values, our sense of place, our perspective on the world,” Kresnicka said. For instance, people tune in for rerun episodes of “Friends” at the end of a stressful workday to “feel soothed by the companionship and familiarity of that proxy social milieu.”
This observation explains the breakout success of the NBC drama “This Is Us.” Less than halfway through its first season, the show got renewed for an additional two seasons, no doubt thanks to its legions of fans (nearly 3 million on Facebook and 200,000 on Twitter) who relate to the characters’ struggles, including weight issues, sibling rivalry, terminal illnesses, work pressures, anxiety, alcoholism and balancing individual wants with a family’s needs.
A retail flower shop is different than a television show, of course, but there are still ways you can humanize your business to earn customers’ affection. As often as you can, share a piece of your story:
- Is yours a longtime family business? Embrace “Throwback Thursday” (#tbt) and post old photos of the founders, talk about their vision and brag about how much your shop has grown over the years.
- Are you exhausted from juggling a small business and the responsibilities of raising children? Take a photo of a fashionable or funny mug and make a joke about how caffeine helps you power through your fatigue (#GodBlessCoffee). Or, if you’re comfortable posting images of your kids, share a family portrait. Few people know the ins and outs of being a florist, but many can understand the challenges of parenthood.
- Is your pet essentially a shop mascot? Post his or her picture without abandon. Animal lovers abound.
- What are your hobbies? You could share a shot of you with friends from your tennis league/book club/walking group/volunteer program, etc., and the hashtag #floristofftheclock.
Dig deep to understand what speaks to fans.
Kresnicka recommends businesses investigate the full range of value they create for fans, pushing beyond superficial questions (“What do you like about us?”).
Each week when a new episode of “This Is Us” airs, the cast and crew hops on Twitter for a real-time conversation with fans. This exercise reveals precisely what moments melted viewers’ hearts and which made them bawl/yell/laugh, etc.
Your fans may be drawn to your expertise, whether that pertains to design (how to brighten up a small drab space with flowers and plants, pick a bridal bouquet that complements your gown, give your office lobby an air of distinction, etc.) or etiquette (what’s appropriate to send to a new girlfriend/friend who’s sick/person who’s grieving, etc.). Or perhaps they simply savor your pretty flower pictures as a respite from political posts and general bad news so abundant on social media. Experiment with a variety of content and open-ended questions to see what resonates with fans.
Keep things balanced.
“If the focus is exclusively on transactional needs, making no conscious effort to ensure that fans’ needs are also being met, fans can feel used,” Kresnicka said. “When the only communication fans hear is ‘buy this,’ or ‘click here,’ they can easily assume the brand is only interested in a commercial relationship.”
To satisfy “This Is Us” fans’ hunger for information, the cast and creator give recaps after each episode (titled “That Was Us”). Actors explain their characters’ motivations and defend their actions. They also periodically film behind the scenes videos, showing what the sets look like in real life, as well as the unseen people who make the story come to life.
Florists can do this too. From time to time, document the effort that goes into your wedding work or other big jobs (ahem, Valentine’s Day). Fans will appreciate your skills all the more if you show them before and after images. Offering valuable information, such as care and handling advice, also shows fans you care about them. Giveaways for the “name of the day” don’t hurt either.