I'm thrilled that Troy Janisch asked me to speak to his Advanced Social Media class at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls tonight. His class has read Think Like a Rock Star and I'll be doing a Q&A with the students.
One of the students asked if it was possible for a brand to have different degrees or types of fans. It's a great question and I think it definitely is. Let's talk a bit about some basic differences among your brand's fans.
Your fans are as unique as your customers, but for the purposes of this post, let's break your fans down into two groups; Passive and Active.
Passive Fans - These fans love your brand, but typically will not proactively share that love. They will promote your brand, but typically they need an opening to do so. For instance, if a passive Ford fan is asked if his Ford Edge has been reliable, then he would happily endorse the vehicle. But otherwise, they aren't going to promote your brand if there's not a natural reason to do so.
Active Fans - Active fans are more 'passionate' about your brand. The active fan who owns a Ford Edge would be trying to organize a local car club just for Ford Edge owners. These fans are more motivated to act on the brand's behalf, and more likely to view themselves as being 'brand owners'.
Perhaps the easiest way to identify the difference between passive and active fans is that passive fans are often happy to work with your brand if you contact them, whereas the active fans will typically contact your band first. They will want to know what they can do to help your brand (which they really view as THEIR brand).
So why are some fans 'active', and others are 'passive'?
It could simply be that some fans are introverts and some are extroverts. Introverts by nature are more likely to be passive promoters, and extroverts are more likely to be active promoters.
Another reason for the difference between passive and active fans is the level of loyalty and devotion that the fan feels toward the brand. If the loyalty and passion a fan has for the brand is mostly rooted in the products it sells, then they may be more likely to be passive fans.
On the other hand, if a fan is loyal to the products the brand makes AND the brand itself, they could be more likely to be active fans. For instance, Patagonia makes very high-quality clothing and outdoor wear, but they also support environmental causes that Patagonia customers are very passionate about. This could motivate Patagonia fans to be more devoted to the brand and more active in promoting it.
This topic of different degrees of fans is a fascinating concept to think about. You could break it down further but you have to be careful to do so in a way that's still useful and helps explain the underlying concepts without being too confusing.