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The Taylor Swift Guide to Growing a Massive Fan Base

This guest post is by Jennifer Blanchard of InkyBites.

If you haven’t heard of Taylor Swift, you’ve probably been living in a cave the last few years. Swift is the teen country sensation who took on the music industry starting at the ripe age of 13, and became one of the biggest musical acts in the entire world only a few short years later.

On Twitter she has more than 10 million followers. On Facebook, she has a whopping 27.8 million likes—that’s more than all three of the Kardashian sisters combined!

Not only is Swift one of the most popular musicians in the world (her concerts usually sell out in under two minutes), but she’s also critically-acclaimed: she’s won two-thirds of the awards she’s been nominated for.

There’s a reason for all of Swift’s success. And it’s not because she’s the best singer-song writer in the world (although she’s actually pretty darn good at that, too).

It’s because she knows how to connect with people. She knows how to tug at their heart strings and wrap them around her finger. Funny thing is, she doesn’t do it with her music alone.

While she has received criticism for being just a tad too open with her personal life (she’s known for writing songs all about her exes), it’s being so open about her life that helps people connect with her. She sings of stories her fans have experienced, too. Her music has touched the lives of millions of people and she has become the voice of her generation. But even that isn’t why she has a massive fan base that supports her unconditionally.

She has a massive fan base because she’s mastered the one skill most people spend their lives ignoring: gratitude.

She lives gratitude day-in, day-out. She uses the words “thank you” more than any other phrase in her vocabulary. And she goes out of her way to show her fans how grateful she is for their love and support.

A couple years ago, Swift held a meet-and-greet for her fans where she stayed for 13 hours and met every single person who showed up to see her. Thirteen hours! How many celebrities do you think would do something like that? T

This is all part of what makes Swift special and what makes her fans love her and support her. If you want to grow a massive fan base of your own, here are some tips you can take straight from Swift:

1. Go above and beyond … and then go another mile

Swift’s fans will follow her anywhere, because she always meets them halfway. During her “Fearless” album tour, she went out into the crowd in the middle of two of her songs to hug fans and thank them for coming to the show.

And this was not an impromptu occurrence like you sometimes see at concerts. This was a planned walk into the crowd during the same two songs at every stop on her tour.

“It was really important for me to go out there and actually say hi to people and thank them for coming and be right there next to them … I’m always gonna wanna go the extra mile for them because I can’t believe the extra thousand miles they’re gone for me,” Swift said in the HUB Network documentary series, Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless.

If you want to grow your fan base, you have to figure out where your fans are and meet them there. Find ways to go above and beyond for them.

If your fans are all hanging out on Google+, that’s where you need to be. Host a series of Hangouts and invite them to join in. Or if your fans are all about Pinterest, logon and start building some boards for them to follow.

Post special content you only share in that one place or host special events for fans in that channel. Go out of your way to show your fans you appreciate each and every one of them.

The more you do this, the bigger your fan base will grow.

2. Reward your super-fans

Swift wanted a way to thank her super-fans, so she put together a T Party event that would happen after the show every night she was on tour. Each night during the concert, her crew went out into the crowd to find the craziest Taylor fans and give them passes to the T Party.

When the show was finished, the super-fans went backstage to the T Party area, which was a Moroccan-style tent set up like a living room with ping pong, TV, and pizza. Swift showed up shortly after the guests arrived to hang out, meet everyone, sign autographs, and thank them for being there.

“The T Party is a way for me to get to meet people after the show … who I just felt so grateful to have on my side. The T Party room gives me an opportunity to say that to them and to give them a hug,” Swift said in the same documentary series.

Do you have super-fans? You know, the people who buy everything you put out there and will drive a ridiculous distance to see you speak/play/perform? Show your super-fans how much they mean to you by personally reaching out to them and offering up something of value—a free coaching session, signed copies of all of your books, whatever it is you do.

When you show your fans—and especially your super-fans—how much they mean to you, you’re stoking the fire of building an incredible fan base.

3. Find ways to surprise people

One last way Swift showed fans how much they mean to her during her “Fearless” tour was she would pop up at the back of the arena during the intermission of the show and play one of her songs on the landing of the stairs, surrounded by fans who weren’t able to get seats up front.

Then she’d continue the show for a little while on a stage near the back of the arena before eventually going back to the front stage. She did this so the “worst seats in the house became the best seats in the house.”

How do you show up for your fans? Is there a way you can surprise them?

For example, if you’re on a blog book tour, do your reading, sign autographs, and then invite everyone who showed up to meet you at a restaurant nearby for dinner. Bonus if you pay for everyone’s meal.

There are literally thousands of ways you can go out of your way to make your fans feel loved and appreciated. Practice gratitude in your life, on your blog and in your business, and in no time you’ll be on your way to growing a Taylor Swift-style fan base.

How do you go out of your way for your fans? What have you done to show them how grateful you are for them?

Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of InkyBites, where she helps artists nourish their creativity by making simple diet and lifestyle changes. Visit the site to grab her free “Clarity Smoothies and Other Energy-Sustaining Snacks” eGuide.

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Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Great post Jennifer. Taylor Swift is great at marketing herself. She knows how to reward fans and in turn they create a tribe of people that share the same values from a marketing/demographic point of view. Definitely she takes advantage of the social media but she does it with a spice of ‘I care”

    • You’re so right, Rob. She, unlike most celebs, actually runs her own social pages herself (with some help every now and again, but mostly she runs them herself). That makes a big difference for fans, when they feel like they are connecting directly with you, as opposed to someone who works for you.

  2. Sid says:

    Interesting analysis. There is a lot to learn from successes like Swift. I especially like your point about rewarding the super-fans. I think this is critical because they are the people who would passionately promote you to everyone they know through word of mouth. They are also the early adopters, so it helps to have them on your side. They are the few people who can make a difference. Malcolm Gladwell discusses this as well when he talks about how ideas-epidemics spread.
    Thanks for the article!

    • Yep–showing your Super Fans how much they mean to you is so important when it comes to growing your fan base. For example, a few weeks ago, Chad Ochocinco sent out an invite over Twitter for fans to meet him at a restaurant in Harlem. The first 200 who showed up got their meal paid for by him. Now that’s how you cultivate and keep fans!

  3. Really impressed. I do agree a lot with points 2 and 3, thanking your customers and being creative have always helped me in all kinds of business situations.

  4. Gemma W. says:

    I agree gratitude is essential, but it has to be genuinely felt within. I mean, anyone can display gratitude through saying thanks and doing nice things, etc. But it has to match up with emotions too for it to be 100% genuine – and that’s the issue a lot of folks have, in my experience.

    • Yes, it definitely has to be genuine. I think for Swift it most definitely is. As someone commented below, Swift is always so surprised when things happen to her. People almost believe that it’s fake, but it’s not. She’s just such a grateful person and she was taught that success is earned, not deserved, so she doesn’t expect anything. Although she gets it all anyhow!

  5. Chris Ellis says:

    The number 1 point really resonated with me. This is the key to establishing great relationships with the people you do business with. If people know that you are a giver and will work and go the extra mile they dont mind doing the same back to you.

    The best part of the article, to me, was the short section about her sharing her personal life in her songs. This to me is the biggest key to anyone writing a blog. Telling your story in your blog is huge because it removes the seperation felt by readers to the blog owner. They are reminded that people are alot alike and they can begin to see themselves in the writer. This is something I have tried to do on my blog.

    When people read it they have shared the struggles and begin to project their situations and experiences on to mine and they begin to feel a closer relationship. It makes them much more likely to interact with the blog by leaving comments taking part in the action.

    • I agree with you for sure. I spent 4 years blogging about writing, but really not sharing much about myself as a writer. Now when I look back, I realize that made it really hard for my readers to connect with me, so they were connecting with the content instead. Now on my new blog, I try to share more of myself and my life, and invite people in to learn more about me. I think that helps us connect and helps me show them that we’re alike in many ways.

  6. There are so many impersonal blogs out there that it presents a great opportunity for those of us who are truly thankful for, and dependent on, our readers.

    I make it a priority to reply to every comment, no matter how many. Even if they disagree, I value that they took the time to leave a comment.

    In this day of social media easy-sharing, the comment has become even more valuable, and valued.

    • I think it’s important to reply to everyone’s comments… but there are rare occasions when I don’t reply. And that’s mostly when I can’t think of anything useful to add to the conversation. In that case, a simple “Thanks for your comment” or “Thanks for reading” is a nice substitute.

  7. TikkTok says:

    Her success is nothing short of phenomenal. She may not be the best singer (and I know those who can’t stand listening to her) but the bottom line is she connects with her fans; she’s open, she’s grateful, and always seems genuinely surprised to win (to the point where she’s being mocked for being surprised).

    It doesn’t hurt to be blond and blue-eyed, either. ;)

    I will say that it’s all about connection. There are blogs where a comment is left and there is never, ever a response, and the result is less inclination to read and leave comments. Because the blogger doesn’t ever make an effort, it’s hard to feel like making one, too.

    Someone should write a book about life-lessons we can learn from teenagers………..

    • I have only heard a couple of her songs, mostly via Pandora. I haven’t bought any of her albums because I’m not a huge country music person, BUT I have studied her and watched all the documentaries and what not about her. As a person she is fascinating and as a marketer even more so. I’ve learned a ton by analyzing the things that she does and why she does them.

      I agree–we really can learn a lot from teenagers! I know people will argue that teens “have no life experience yet,” but they actually do. And the best part is their life experiences (for the most part) haven’t yet been tainted by societal beliefs, so they are genuine and they make insights you wouldn’t probably ever have noticed otherwise.

      • TikkTok says:

        And she is one, Jennifer, that is crossing age barriers, too. Oddly enough, the first album of hers I bought was for me- not for my teens. (they got a copy, lol). She is really smart to build the way she has, and from the looks of it, she has a really solid support system. It’s nice to see someone who started out young not have gone crazy yet…………..

  8. Jeff says:

    All of the above article is a good read. Many entertainers or celebrities can take notes here. As a member of the “old school fan base” from the 70′s , I have noticed several unique efforts Swift has made over the years to create a hugh fan base. Your points have covered most.

    Your first point sums up the key to her success in my opinion. Social networking has come a long way in the last ten years. Sometimes ignored and overlooked by parents as well as most adults in the past, young people created their own private sanctuary in social networking. Taylor Swift’s attention to this sanctuary, along with her phenomenal singer/songwriter talent, made this media work to her advantage. The fan gratification of that personal link made her fans loyal followers and started the “Swifty” snowball effect.

    “O yea”. Swift’s indirect ability to promote parent-child relationships by earning respect helped too.

    • Her relationship with her parents is definitely much different than most teens. Not only did they always believe in her and support her, but they were willing to give up their lives and move to Nashville to help her realize her dream. How many parents can you say that about? Don’t get me wrong, my parents always have been extremely supportive of me and my dreams, but I can’t imagine them moving halfway across the country for one of my dreams. Her bond with her parents is amazing, and like you said, it promotes that parent-child relationships can be awesome when they are based on mutual love and respect.

  9. Reaching out and connecting with your audience creates a massive fan base Jennifer. Excellent example here, as Taylor didn’t become wildly popular by accident. Thanks for sharing with us.

  10. Ashley says:

    These are all great points and I think they can really be applied to almost every business model. When you stated that Swift was gracious I could not think of a better word that I would have used to describe her; she really is humble and that’s how all businesses should be. Creating lasting relationships with clients, customers and fans is what will keep a business and celebrity afloat. Great post and awesome analysis!

    • Thanks Ashley! Swift has a serious power and she might not even realize it. It feels like the stuff she does is from the heart and not for some media show or to get more fans. She just gets fans automatically because of how she carries herself and the things she stands for.

  11. Thanks Jennifer,

    Taylor Swift has lots of energy and she puts that to really good use… The extra mile she has gone for every one of her fans has made them travel 1000s more for her.

    As a bloggers, we often fall into the trap of alienating ourselves from our readers as we grow (of course I’m guilty of this too) but it should be the other way round. It always, always pays off in the end.

    Thanks for the analysis Jennifer.

    • Agree. I think bloggers need to find ways to engage with their fans, and even more so as the blogger grows and gets more popular. I think when readers feel like the blogger is “out of touch” or “too good” for them they start to move away from them. As you say, it always pays in the end to be engaged with fans.

  12. Carolyn says:

    I’ve been giving out reusable shopping bags with my logo to “super fans” (all sorts of things “qualify”) — cost to me is about $3 each (including a mailer and postage) — they’re a perfect fit for my topic, readers LOVE them and they’re fantastic advertising — win, win, win!

    Can’t post a picture here, but if you want to see one, it’s here:

    http://theboatgalley.com/questions-tips/

    • What a GREAT IDEA! I need to think of something like that I can use for my fans. Hmm…. you’ve got my wheels turning now. Thanks for the suggestion Carolyn!

  13. Marc Ensign says:

    Tell stories! When you let people into your life, whether it is through blogging, social media or songwriting, they feel more of a connection to you. The reason she is as popular as she is is because she started out by telling stories about her life through her songs that people connected with. The reason she is so open and good at connecting with her audience through social media now is because she has been doing that through other mediums since day 1 and continues to do what works. If she was a crummy storyteller (singer and songwriter) that no one could really connect with she would have the opportunity to be the great social networker that she is today.

    • EXACTLY! People connect with her because she’s an amazing storyteller. She engages people in her stories and they are stories that so many people have also experienced. I even find that I see a bit of myself in some of her songs (the ones I’ve actually heard). One of my good friends told me the other day that she is no longer calling herself a writer, but a storyteller. I like that.

  14. I agree Marc Ensign, telling stories is a great idea and a big reason why she is so successful.

  15. In a nutshell: maybe stop thinking about yourself so much and consider what your audience would like.

    This is generally easier to learn when you’re a kid, since you haven’t gotten cynical yet, but you still know how to do it. Just stop being such a self-important douche every once in a while.

    • hahaha, AGREE!! It’s not about you, it’s about your readers and your fans. As Swift realizes, she wouldn’t be where she is today without her fans, so she nurtures them and supports them and shows them how much she loves them and appreciates them. If you can’t do that, your blog’s gonna be awfully lonely.

  16. Glen says:

    Very nice post!

    I think it’s good for everyone to go the extra mile not just bloggers however when bloggers do take that extra hour to communicate with their fans it builds tremendous trust with them. They see that you are a human being just like them.

  17. Jeff says:

    Wow! 13 hours with her fans? That was simply awesome.
    Thanks for this article.

  18. Sheyi says:

    You see the spirit of gratitude is been lacked by most bloggers i see. There was a blogger who answered me in an odd way when i followed and tweeted at him on twitter.

    Sheyi

  19. jeff says:

    Connecting with fans and followers need effort. And since many bloggers are running a one man show, it is really challenging.

    But then that is the essence…

    Everyone is in people business.
    And trust is the beginning of great relationships.

    Blogging for me is fun. The money is there. But the best part is making friends.
    And I am grateful to meet some of the most fantastic people here in the blogosphere.

  20. Wade says:

    Very interesting aspect in looking at ways to promote. I have never thought to go where my future “fans” would be hanging out. I always spend time trying to get them to come to me, when I should be trying to get to them. Good post, thanks.

  21. Love artists who do this and making the transition to blogging in the same manner makes so much sense,

  22. Donna says:

    Great post! If only more celebs, and professional bloggers acknowledged their fans (instead of only their sponsors) they way Taylor does. Sometimes I think people forget they had to start at the bottom once too. You only get out what you put in, and it certainly sounds like Taylor deserves every success she has achieved. Thanks again for a great read Jennifer.

  23. e cigs uk says:

    I was thinking your readers would find value. Thanks!

  24. Interesting spin on the topic. She obviously knows something about building a following, or her PR team does at least :P Always enjoy posts like this.