Your Fans Want You To Be Better, Not Different

In the new book Superfandom, Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer explore the powerful ways fans can influence business. Sometimes they help revive a business. Sometimes they revolt and block product changes, like when a small group of angry fans of Maker’s Mark and New Coke blocked recipe changes.

Fans are more demanding of the celebrities and brands they love. Fan pressure holds more clout than ever. With instant access, fans often demand a say in shaping the future of the things they love.

Superfandom Lessons for EdLeaders

There are three lessons we can learn from studying super fans.

1. Bring the outside in. They figure they own the place, so you had better listen to what they say. Find ways to bring outside voices into the school/district. Extend access to new voices and historically quiet constituencies. Don’t assume that quiet means consent.

Make it comfortable for fans (and detractors) to comment:

  • Use surveys
  • Have lots of comment options on your website….and always reply
  • Snacks and music: parents will come if their kids sing and if food is available

2. Give them what they want…or lead them to a new place. Your superfans want you to be better but not different. Give them what they want (Friday night lights, GPA, SAT and college for certain) or lead a community conversation that creates a new consensus of what is desirable and possible.

The Great Schools Partnership created a new consensus in New England around proficiency (competency-based education) by working simultaneously with schools, state policymakers and universities.

3. Innovate small and build new constituencies. Rather than dropping a bomb on your superfans, try small experiments and demonstrations of what’s possible. Allow teachers, students and parents to be drawn to new experiences rather than dictating them.

The Kettle Moraine School District opened three microschools inside a traditional high school and allowed them to grow rather than imposing a career academy structure.    

Superfans are great but they don’t want you to change. Listen hard to what they say. Let them interact with other fans. Build new fans for new innovations.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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