Every fan has a story. Are you a fan of a college football team, a baseball team, a car, a restaurant, or a musician? Maybe it’s even an auto mechanic. Some of us show more ‘fan’ behavior than others. I fall in the fan bucket. I want more out of the experience than just satisfaction. And I want more from that business or that team than just allowing me to make a purchase from them.
I started thinking about this as a cycle after reading David Armano’s excellent post about people and people labels. The post made me want to explore the difference between being just a customer and being a fan. My cycle is based on part David Armano’s people graphic and part Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell’s loyalty ladder model.
My passionate example is Furman University football. My father and uncle were my introduction. I learned the game of football by going to Furman football games with them. In high school we would sneak in Sirrine Stadium after halftime, and watch the games from the hill. In college, I attended home games and started going to the away games. As a working adult I adopted Furman by buying season tickets, putting decals on my car, and supporting the scholarship fund.
The internet changes the role of the fan quite a bit, and allows the ‘fan’ to be more active and to have cheap evangelism. Furman has an active, social message board ‘the uffp‘ bringing old fans, new fans, lurkers, students, and parents into a melting pot of conversations. Talk has become cheaper than when you had to write a letter, make a phone call, hold a meeting. When I say ‘cheaper’ I mean less physically involved. Communities are a wonderful tool allowing fans, customers, even passive customers to engage in conversations but this anonymous way of communication can come with a price ” no accountability. And because of this cheaper communication us fans are so busy talking to each other we often forget the real power of word of mouth. Face-to-face social currency.
Moving from being an evangelist to ownership requires one big thing ” Sacrifice. I started evangelizing after college – I told friends, co-workers, neighbors ” hell, even strangers about Furman Football. I jumped into ownership when I started buying game tickets and inviting others to attend a game with me for free. I’ve also reached into my pocket to start a fan blog ‘The Paladin Walk.’ I’m not going to suggest that everyone should use my examples for yourself. One thing I’ve learned from our work with teen RAGEers is that everyone has a voice but they use it in many different ways. In the case of Furman, when I’ve felt the need to raise my voice, I’ve simply picked up the phone and made the call. It’s simple and it works. Talking with a company, athletic department, or an organization about things they could improve about the fan experience is another way that you are taking ownership vs. just evangelizing.
Next time you’ve got a story to tell, by all means post it on a community forum but also take some action, tell somebody if it’s appropriate and if it’s a conversation about football bring them to a game. They will thank you.