I’ll admit it. I’m a fan. I not only watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but I read the recaps and lurk on the boards after each episode. I read all the Harry Potter books (more than once) and have seen all the movies (more than once).
When I worked at Inspire USA Foundation, the organization behind the teen mental health site ReachOut.com, we partnered with an organization called The Harry Potter Alliance, which describes itself as “an army of fans, activists, nerdfighters, teenagers, wizards and muggles dedicated to fighting for social justice with the greatest weapon we have—love.” They were running a campaign using the “Horcruxes” from the Harry Potter books as metaphors for issues. We partnered on the issue of fighting depression and asked fans to submit their “patronuses” with the world through art.
If you are a fan or know a fan, you know that fans are passionate. Combine that passion with a cause, and you have a whole new sort of activism. Academics have written lots about fan activism, but I think social marketers need to be aware of this trend as well and think about partnering with fan-based organizations or reaching out to specific fandoms when it makes sense.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Keep a close eye on pop culture.
I religiously read Entertainment Weekly to get a sense of what’s popular-from Comic Con to The Hunger Games. EW covers fan movements that many other outlets miss, like letter writing campaigns that spring up around shows that are on the verge of cancellation. Mashable is another good source for coverage of fandom activity that surfaces in online communities like Reddit and 4chan.
Watch for opportunities where your issue might fit with a particular fandom.
Hunger organizations rallied around The Hunger Games, and LGBT organizations like The Trevor Project rallied Gleeks around major character storylines.
Be aware of fan-driven organizations to potentially partner with.
What are you a fan of? Has your organization ever tapped into the power of a fan community for a cause?