How to Fuel Social Fandom

"Don’t aim for real-time marketing, aim for real-time engagement."

Comedy Central’s VP of digital marketing, Don Steele, VH1’s VP of digital and social, Tom Chirico and MTV’s VP of content and social media, Tom Fisherman kicked off Social Media Week last week by offering up advice on how to fuel social fandom. They were joined by Natan Edelsburg of our sister blog, LostRemote, who moderated the panel.

Fandom refers to subcultures of fans characterized by a feeling of camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Notable fandoms include deadheads and trekkies. Fandoms in the information age have become well-connected global villages, where fans congregate to cheaply consume, create and share their culture. Here are some of the panel’s highlights:

“Not everything that we do is going to work on every platform… Certain shows do well on certain platforms, it really is [about] finding those first people,” said Steele.

 fandom social media week

“It’s not pushing out content that we want to put out, it’s finding content that fans are engaging with and adding to that,” said Chirico. He offered the example of VH1’s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, a biographical film about the band, which aired last October. “People really wanted to learn how to do the ‘Creep’ dance… So we did a Vine ‘Creep’ tutorial with Chilli and T-Boz,” he said. “It’s just understanding what those niche things are that people are out there doing anyway, and taking it a step further.”

“It’s really good when you’re injecting yourself into the conversation,” said Fisherman, who referred to that oft-cited Oreo Superbowl tweet. “It turns out, it’s actually really hard to be funny and relevant on the fly. The upside is, if you can do a great job of it, you sort of win the Internet for the night,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s content first… It doesn’t matter where it came from and how quickly you delivered it to the platform.”

fandom social media week

Fandom in the age of real-time marketing

“Just acknowledging [the fans] exist is real-time marketing. It’s fun, and it’s what I like about my job,” said Steele. He explained how sometimes, fans will tweet @ComedyCentral saying things like, “I just spent the entire day watching @ComedyCentral, I feel so stupid.” Steele explained that they might tweet something back like, “We don’t think you’re stupid, we think you’re genius.”

“Don’t aim for real-time marketing, aim for real-time engagement,” said Chirico.