Unlike audience members, fans are creative consumers of fan objects—books, films, TV shows, etc. Fans also form interconnected social networks around content. Those networks include face-to-face relationships with other fans, like those that grow out of physical interactions like fan conventions. The Internet has also facilitated fan networks by giving fans the ability to join online communities as well as create, upload, and share fan videos on social media. Fans engage in different but discernible ways, and the more we know about their nuanced behaviors, the more we can create value.
Though traditional demographics may give us basic information about who fans are and where they're located, current methods of understanding and measuring engagement are missing two essential questions: (1) WHY is a fan motivated; (2) WHAT triggers the fan's behavior? What is required is a new framework on Leveraging Engagement to better understand fan behaviors and motivations.
The Leveraging Engagement framework seeks to help reveal the nuances of fan involvement, specifically identifying the various fan objects, activators and environments that inspire people to engage, as well as the media properties and communities associated with them.
At the core of this framework are certain Motivators of Fan Engagement, which describe the various ways fans approach their objects of fanship and the goals that drive their fannish behaviors. Because these Motivators are driven by situational triggers and are marked by certain behaviors that all fans exhibit, we believe they can be applied to several domains, including film, art, music, and politics, to name a few. These motivators are listed below and described with different examples in this video.
Entertainment – enjoying the overall experience and atmosphere surrounding one’s passion.
Social Connection – participating in a fandom in order to create or deepen relationships with other fans.
Mastery – interest in learning and understanding detailed information and stories about one’s passion.
Immersion – losing oneself in the parallel universe surrounding one’s passion by shifting one’s focus from real life.
Identification – strongly associating oneself with a passion and defining oneself as a fan.
Advocacy – championing on behalf of one’s passion and taking positions on issues within the fandom.
Play – virtual or real life participation in activities related to one’s passion.
Creation – expressing interest in the making of the original subject, or making original content/media related to one's passion.
Exploration – seeking to discover new points of interest related to one's passion and/or be in the know about what's new and cutting edge related to the passion
Collection – Seeking to own a complete set of things related to one’s passion.
Motivators act as lenses through which fans’ behaviors and desires to engage with a specific type of content can be understood. They are individual touch points that facilitate engagement. A fan might think they have a dominant Motivator they gravitate toward in their behavior, but very few, if any, fans exhibit only one of the Motivators at any given time in their engagement.
Instead, fans are usually engaging through mixtures of these Motivatiors, and common mixtures are recognizable as recurring fan mindsets. Similarly, while most fans may resemble one of these fan mindsets most of the time, they may shift to resemble other mindsets with changes in the fan’s unique situational triggers that can be determined based on a number of factors discovered by identifying tangible objects or actions through the following questions:
• What does the audience know?
• How does the audience engage with others?
• Where is the audience?
• When does the engagement happen?
• What is the mood of the experience, whether it is a physical or an emotional detail?
Through a deeper understanding of this framework, media creators, brand / digital strategists, and researchers can gain insight into how a given media property (whether it is sports or entertainment) might appeal to and retain fans, how we might help facilitate the shift by which a fan goes from merely being entertained to being more deeply invested, and how it could be possible to inspire fans to extend their interest from a core passion into other, related materials and communities.