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Fanocracy: How B2B Companies Can Tap Into Fandom

Think of five brands off the top of your head that have a mega fan base.

It’s likely that the brands you listed had something to do with entertainment, sports, music, food/beverage, social media, books, or art.

But, did you know, even B2B brands can benefit from immense fandom?

In this episode of #FMF, I catch up with David Meerman Scott, bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR and the newly released Fanocracy. He gives us the lowdown on how he and his daughter came up with fanocracy and how businesses can leverage it.

Here’s what we’re unpacking today:

  • The origins of fanocracy and its definition.
  • Why any brand can tap into fandom — even yours!
  • 3 ways to generate more fans

Want more from David? Listen to episode 426, Everything You Need to Know to Start Newsjacking w/ David Meerman Scott.

This post is based on a podcast with David Meerman Scott. You can listen to the full episode here and below.

Where did fanocracy come from?

What is fanocracy?

David: A fanocracy is like democracy which is ruled by the people. The fanocracy is ruled by the fans.

How did you decide you were going to write a book on fanocracy?

David: About five years ago, I started to recognize that the ideas that I shared in The New Rules of Marketing and PR of creating online content and using social media, many people are abusing that channel. 

They’re doubling down on yet another tweet, yet another email blast, yet another LinkedIn connection. And I think people are getting tired of being inundated with social. 

At the same time, as marketers and business people, it’s way harder to break through on social media because you have to pay the social media companies now to get noticed. You’ve got to boost your Facebook posts and whatnot to get noticed. 

Additionally, the world has become polarized. Our political environment is polarized. It’s us versus them. The social networks really like to bucket us into groups. I recognized that the world that I helped to identify — the online world and the idea of creating content online — is becoming more and more difficult.

Yet, I recognized that there are things that I absolutely love to do. 


I’m hugely passionate about live music. I’ve been to 790 live music shows, including 75 Grateful Dead concerts, which is kinda crazy. My daughter and I were talking in the car and I told her, it’s really crazy. I’m such a massive fan of these things. I’m so passionate about these things. And I knew part of her Harry Potter fascination, but she said, 

“Daddy, I know you know I’ve read all the Harry Potter books multiple times, seen all the Harry Potter movies multiple times, gone to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando several times. We even went to London to the movie studio where they filmed the Harry Potter films. But did you know, I just finished a 90,000-word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the order of the Phoenix?

“And I put that on a fanfiction site and it’s getting tons of attention. Thousands of people have read it and hundreds of people have commented on it. You’re a massive Grateful Dead fan. I’m a massive Harry Potter fan at the same time, the whole world is not reacting as much to online communications. We’re still hugely passionate about the things that we do.” 

It was then in there that we decided that we wanted to write a book together. 

We eventually called the idea a fanocracy. We researched and wrote together for over five years. And my daughter, obviously a different generation, obviously a different gender, she’s mixed race, and she is a neuroscientist. She did a neuroscience degree at Columbia University and she’s currently finishing up medical school.

She’s going to be a doctor next year. So we come at it from very, very different perspectives. But we realized we had the same ideas about where the world was going. We did a bunch of research to figure out why we become fans of something and then what our prescriptions are for companies to tap into fandom.

Anybody can tap into fandom

How can B2B companies generate fans like those of Harry Potter or the Grateful Dead?

David: We really dug into this exact question and what we looked at was what do people become passionate about? Why do they be compassionate about it? 

We recognized that people become fans of much more than just entertainment and sports. Fandom is typically talked about around entertainment and sports, movies, television shows, books, artists. But when we look at fandom from the perspective of the outward manifestations of fandom, we recognized it can be all kinds of different things. 

What I’m thinking about here are people who are eager to wear a ball cap with a logo on it. People who are eager to wear a t-shirt with a logo on it, a Terminus logo. People who are eager to put a Terminus sticker or another sticker onto their computer or onto the bumper of their car or even people who are willing to put a tattoo of a logo on their body.

One of the things that really brought this home to me was there’s a US government agency that has over 50 million followers on Instagram that has over 30 million followers on Twitter. It has people all over the world — millions of people — who are wearing t-shirts with their logo on it. 

That government agency is NASA. 

This is a government agency with tens of millions of fans. So no, fandom is not just for actors and athletes and musicians anymore. Fandom is for all of us. It’s for your company. It’s for my company, it’s for all of us. And I think that’s incredibly powerful that we can tap into this idea of fandom.


Being more human will bring more fans

Can you offer up a challenge for B2B companies looking to generate more fans?

David: I have a particular challenge that will help you to grow more fans. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, doesn’t matter where you are in the business. 

Here it is: In order to build fans, you need to be more human and in order to be more human, there are a few things you can do right now with your marketing. 

  • Eliminate gobbledygook from your written language. 

Here’s an example of gobbledygook: We are a company that makes flexible, scalable solutions for improving business processes, using cutting edge technology and mission-critical applications. 

Those are words that people don’t use. You need to eliminate your gobbledygook and you can do that right now. If your mother wouldn’t understand it, you should change it.

  • Create images on your website of real people. 

That means eliminate the stock photographs on your website. Any photographs of people must not be stock photographs. You use real photographs of your employees, real photographs of your partners, real photographs of your customers. 

Don’t use stock photos to represent people.

  • Eliminate the requirement that people fill out an email address and other contact information to get your content on your website.

The problem is that does not build fans. That does not build a human connection because you’re demanding something from somebody before you give them something first.