How brands mobilise loyal fans into social #StreetArmies

Written by Taz Sharp

It’s clear that a large-scale societal shift is taking place amongst modern fans, moving away from open networks (social platforms) into closed safe spaces (messaging apps).

The early days of social media saw platforms like Facebook and Instagram rule the roost, but as these platforms have evolved to deliver algorithm-driven short-form content, users are flocking to options like Discord, where connection & community can be cultivated around conversation (not just content). Levellr works with clients from Fall Out Boy to Starbucks to find, build and grow these communities to drive real results for the brand.

In many ways, Discord, and others like it are the modern-day fan forums, and their presence works two ways, offering fans in-depth access to the artists and brands they love, whilst giving creators a direct link to their own superfans.

But there is a new conundrum in town, how do creators nurture and grow these communities? And how can they use them to elevate fans from the realm of super fandom to the holy grail of #StreetArmy status?

Clue ~ You Can’t just Let it Be.

In the days of Beatlemania having a cult fandom felt easy, you simply put out good music, kept your hair floppy and the rest would follow, but those days are gone.

Modern day community platforms offer cult fandoms digital spaces to grow and solidify, whilst also offering fans a space where they can regularly engage not just with the artist, but with each other.

However, these ecosystems only thrive on two-way traffic, meaning creators must engage in two key behaviours. The first is curation: dropping curated, exclusive content and products that they know will resonate, and the second is creation: giving fandoms the opportunity to co-create alongside the artists they love.

The Hunt for Odesza

Electronic-music artist Odesza showcased this strategy smartly when they launched their new album with the fans by their side. Alongside their label Ninja Tune, the duo worked on an inventive online scavenger hunt ahead of their album release.

It was called ‘The Maze‘, a collection of quests set for fans to uncover the album’s tracks and themes, with codes found online and offline. All these clues linked into Odesza’s Discord server, where the fan community could then share their own investigations to help one another unlock all the rewards. Tracks, logo stencils, drum rehearsals and remixable stems for one of the album tracks were among the goodies available.

The strategy was a huge success. Ninja Tune reported that within the first day of launch (7 July 2022) at least 5,000 fans had completed the first phase of The Maze. Not only did this boost fan sentiment by providing them value in the form of exclusives, it automatically grew the community too, since signing up to the Discord was a requirement of participation.

Taylor’s been Listening too…

Taylor and the Swifties, arguably one of the most famous fanbases in the world, have been working as a #StreetArmy for years. Taylor’s known for making the effort to go above and beyond for fans, she tracks down the ones who wait for hours outside venues and thanks them personally, she follows them back on socials, and she’s even been known to pay for the tuition fees of some particularly loyal members of the Swifty set.

But for the Reputation Album in 2017, she did something that at the time was pretty unique, she tracked down 100 of her most loyal fans, followed them surreptitiously on socials, learnt about what made them tick, and then gave them an invite they could never turn down; an invite to a listening party in her apartment IRL!

Naturally, they were beside themselves, and drove a huge amount of hype around the album, especially amongst the superfan communities. It was an artful example of bringing curation and creation together, performing in front of them and curating an amazing experience in which they could witness her creation together.

Let's Talk About Fred again..

But, finding 100 of your most loyal fans on Twitter can be time consuming, and is not something every artist has the budget to do. Luckily for Fred again.. and his team, the Levellr dashboard does it for you. Our tools offer each artist their own custom-built CRM, in which you can filter users by activity, location, engagement etc. to track down the soldiers you need!

At the time of their album launch last year, Fred again..’s team knew they had a fast-growing Discord community. And whilst, historically, the music industry has only activated around artists in campaign mode, Fred wanted to engage this space and make his fans part of his album creation.

He used Discord to drop stems and asked fans to vote for the beats they loved most, all of which fed into the creative decisions he made. This meant that, come launch, he had a group of superfans who were invested in the project, itching to hear the final track list and see if their stems had featured!

Using the Levellr Dashboard, Fred’s team began to pinpoint the locale of their most engaged fans, discovering the top 5 territories in which his superfans were most active. These insights allowed the team to locate 5 cities across the world with the most authentic Fred again.. fanbases and to also identify the 1 or 2 most engaged members within these hotspots. At which point, they made these #Streetsoldiers an offer they couldn’t refuse — the opportunity to host their own album listening party 24 hrs before the official launch.

The label worked with the fans to book bars and provide listening links that would activate ahead of time, so all they had to do on the night was press play. And once news spread amongst the #StreetArmy, more fans got in touch asking if they could host parties of their own — in the end the team hosted 18 listening parties globally, all run by fans, and provided a unique shared experience for 100s of members of the community around the world!

The Rewards

These strategies have valuable compounding returns, they allow fans to make a lot of noise and to build a buzz around an artist that’s authentic and wide reaching. But perhaps more importantly, these stories showcase the value of closeness between creators and communities, and the rewards that are on offer for both sides. These connections matter.

By nurturing communities and providing unique opportunities, artists can forge deeper connections with their audiences. And these connections are the key to building the #StreetArmies of the future. Empowered fans will become your evangelists, a core team who will go out of their way to spread the word and promote the story in any way they can.

Enabling loyal superfans is the future of creator marketing, and our dashboard has all the tools and insights to equip them. What once was an exhausting marketing crusade is now made possible with a few clicks and some light scheduling over afternoon tea…

Your superfans are waiting. Contact Levellr today to find out how you can build a community which works for your brand.