As we’ve experienced over the past year and a half, without fans, performing is really tough. A fan base is what makes live shows such a memorable experience. But how do you secure a strong initial squad of followers that will launch you into the limelight? Superfans.
By connecting with artists online and in the wild, we’ve seen some awesome tips & tricks that real life people are using to find their biggest fans. We’ve collected our thoughts and wanted to share them with you. Here are some ways that artists can find their biggest fans, engage them online, and use them to grow an audience:
A superfan has two qualifications. First, they genuinely love your creations. Every live stream, last-minute show, or online interaction is an opportunity for a superfan to connect with one of their favorite artists. And a superfan will go above and beyond the average Joe to follow an artist to the ends of the earth. Your music and style is something that your superfans enjoy on a deep level, so props to you for creating something beautiful.
Second, a superfan understands how much supporting an artist helps and is committed to supporting however they can. When you ask your audience to stream your single that just came out at midnight, you can bet a superfan will be up at 12:01am listening to your latest masterpiece with one airpod in under the covers. If you hop on Instagram live and ask fans for some feedback on the shirts you’re selling on tour, they’re gonna drop what they’re doing to hop on and share their thoughts.
Long story short, a superfan is an unconditional supporter of an artists’ work driven by a genuine love for their work. And this is massive for building an audience.
It’s like a kid and their latest obsession with the Wiggles. When they’re riding in the car seat, who’s Mom playing on the aux? Wiggles. When they get dressed in the morning, what T-shirt do they want to wear? Wiggles. When they join on the weekend grocery trip, what cereal do they want to buy? Wiggles.
What does this do? When the distant aunt visits from out of town, what’s she going to ask her nephew about? The Wiggles. The love and support for the artist becomes a recognizable trait of a superfan, and it’s usually only a matter of time before a superfan brings their favorite artist into conversation.
The piece of the puzzle that’s the most important is often overlooked. A superfan committing to supporting an artist however the artist asks for is great. However, the most influential support comes from the support that the artist doesn’t ask for. Conversations that a superfan has with the people around them continually expose an artist’s work to a new group of people, likely converting several of them to at least casual listeners. In building an audience, word of mouth is still king.
There’s another big factor that solidifies the influence that superfans have on an artist’s fan base.
There’s a mathematical rule that shows up in almost any instance that has a desired outcome that states that 80% of the outputs of an event result from 20% of the inputs for that event. In the creative process, there’s usually one burst of creativity during a long session that accounts for the majority of your results. In your discography, there are probably a few songs that account for the majority of your listens on Spotify and Apple Music. Artists that have blown up and made it to the Billboard charts usually get there through one or two hit songs (small input) that result in their overall popularity as an artist to skyrocket (big output).
This rule, known as the Pareto principle, also applies to your fans. In an artist’s fan base, a relatively small proportion of fans account for the majority of interaction that the fan base as a whole has with the artist. Identifying these high-output fans, or superfans, is highly important for artists. An engaged fan base shows traction, lets the artists keep a pulse on what the people want, and helps expand your audience through word of mouth.
Now that we’ve established who superfans are and why they’re important, let’s dive into ways to find superfans
Consistency is key. I’m sure you’ve heard this before in different contexts, but the same idea applies here. An artist that’s consistently engaging with their audience has two big things going for them. First, there are more opportunities to
Here, the channel that you use to engage isn’t as important. There are famous YouTubers that have hundreds of thousands of subscribers that don’t have an Instagram. Influencers on Instagram can reach an audience of a million people without ever touching Facebook. TikTok can make you go viral while your Twitter is totally dormant.
Pick a channel that you like to use to engage with your fans, and use it consistently. Over time, your audience will grow, acknowledge your consistency, and develop a habit of checking in with what you’re up to.
There are tons of apps and websites that make your role as an audience builder easier. The big ones are ones I’m sure you use on a weekly if not daily basis: Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook. Understanding how your homebase works as a creator and not a user is important for optimizing engagement with your fans.
Instagram is all about the algorithm. There are four factors that influence the likelihood of a post showing up on someone’s feed: likes, engagement, content type, and historical interaction. If a high number of users that see a post are liking a post, commenting on a post, sharing it on their story, clicking on the account profile, or have previously interacted with that account, a new post is more likely to show up on more people’s feeds. Ensuring that your posts have a high interaction rate allows you to reach a wider audience on Instagram. And who is always interacting with your posts? Superfans.
Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok all work in similar ways. Facebook prioritizes likes, comments, and shares highly in its decision to show a post on a new user’s feed. On YouTube, liking a video is huge. The majority of recommended videos have a high number of likes, and more often than not a recommended video will have more views than the one previously watched. TikTok, although newer than the other apps, has also shed some light on
Regardless of the channel, superfans are very likely to be the users interacting in the ways that boost your content on the algorithm. As superfans interact with your content, that content gets distributed to a wider audience, putting your work in front of a new audience.
Fansub, a new platform for creators, allows entertainers to engage fans and own the data on their expanding fan base. Arming creators with data ownership on who is attending live streamed events, Fansub allows artists to capitalize on the work that superfans are doing in helping an artist build their audience. In today’s world where live streaming allows artists to perform for fans around the world, having superfans that help you digitally capture a new audience by sharing stream links can give you new insight into your growing fan base as a whole.
Planning is super important in continually building your fan base. Thinking ahead about what outcomes you want from an audience-building effort lets you build an internal feedback loop on what worked, what didn’t work, and what changes you want to make. If you’re debating whether to spend your time making a music video, acoustic covers of your last album, or edgy memes to engage your audience, a little bit of planning can let you utilize your superfans effectively and capitalize on the time you’re spending on growing your audience.
For example, if your Instagram posts receive a constant amount of likes but relatively few comments, increasing the number and consistency of your comments can help you reach a wider audience through people’s feeds or the explore page. Curating your post or caption to encourage superfans to comment, which will in turn encourage other fans to comment as well, can get you in front of new potential fans at a higher rate.
Having a planned out content calendar lets you track how your posts are performing over time. Using a tool like Hootsuite or Later lets you spend less time on the logistics of posting and more time analyzing and curating the content you’re using to engage your fans. Coming up with a batch of posts that span a few weeks with a specific goal will let you look back at your performance, how your fan base grew, and how your superfans interacted.
In life, action always beats planning, but a little bit of planning before you take action can let you maximize the outcomes of the actions you’re taking. Plan how to engage superfans, use your most dedicated fans to reach a new audience, and evaluate results so you can always be improving.
Have you ever had a friend shoot you a text and tell you they just went viral? Then you go watch their video that already has 100,000 views in 24 hours and you think, “That’s awesome...but you literally just swallowed a spoon of cinnamon...I could have done that.”
Having a piece of content that goes viral is the #1 way to guarantee an expansion of your audience. On an almost daily basis, there’s a TikTok, tweet, or video that takes a creator from having fun with a few hometown friends to a new owner of a massive national or global audience. But how do you go viral? Superfans, the network effect, and a viral loop.
Superfans, as we’ve established earlier on, are the ones that are constantly checking in on the content you’re producing and engaging with you as an artist. Going one step further, superfans are the most likely to share your content through putting a post on their story, retweeting, texting a link to friends, etc. Here’s where the beauty of a network comes in.
Whenever someone has an audience for anything, as a musician, a comedian, an author, or any other type of creator, there’s an upper limit to the amount of people you can manually reach. As an artist, playing live shows around town and telling your friends, family, and coworkers about your music is awesome, but it will only get you so far. The next step to expanding your audience is to rely not on your network but on your audience’s network.
If you’ve ever played the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, you can see how far of a reach a few degrees of separation has on increasing the size of an audience. The rapid exponential growth of networks allows artists who can effectively tap into their fans’ networks to quickly expand their reach and find new fans in new markets much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.
Finally, establishing a viral loop with content that your superfans are sharing will give you powerful results. A viral loop prompts fans who interact with content to invite a new set of fans to interact, who will then share and continue propelling the viral loop forward. Every social media algorithm operates on a viral loop, which further highlights the importance of finding engaged superfans. Taking time to make your content something that’s shareable will have outsized returns on growing your audience
A final note: yes, the largest factor in going viral is still and always will be luck. The element of randomness in deciding who’s going to see your video and send it on is unavoidable and out of anyone’s control. However, engaging with superfans, analyzing previous attempts, and staying consistent in releasing content will give you countless opportunities for something to take off.
Connecting with your early fans is one of the best things you can do to launch your music career (other than having dope music of course). Word of mouth is still king for building an audience, and nobody likes to talk about their favorite bands more than a superfan. Hopefully these ideas open up some new channels for you to find and connect with your biggest fans!
Did we miss something? Have a method to the madness that you want to share with the world? Want to tell us you love us? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you’re thinking!