Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Have you seen my new phone? It’s amazing, let me show you what it can do!
Have you eaten at this restaurant? I love it! Let’s have lunch!
I just finished reading the most incredible book! You definitely need to read it too!
Have you ever been involved in a conversation like this? I’m willing to bet you have.
We all love to share things that make us happy. Often, inviting our friends to try our favorite things comes so naturally that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.
This is called Evangelism Marketing, and it’s a very desirable form of advertising. With the right encouragement, you can convert your readers into enthusiastic preachers, eagerly sharing your stories with everyone they meet.
Making it feel personal
Apple has a problem.
Their products are very successful, but they receive a lot of negative press about their products and the way they treat their customers. Their company has become so big that to a lot of people it feels cold and impersonal.
Luckily, they’ve created a genius solution to the problem.
Every Apple store is full of employees – ‘Apple geniuses’ – who are trained to provide computer support in a warm and friendly manner. Apple gives its customers free tech support from approachable humans, rather than impersonal online support, and this is a huge part of the company’s evangelical marketing success.
An actual church uses the same tactic for its online presence. Mormon.org, the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has an online chat option that visitors can use to have real-time conversations with actual human beings who answer questions about the church.
The first step to encouraging your fans to become evangelical is simply to be personal. Make them feel valued and important, and present yourself as friendly and eager to chat.
You have a big advantage over both Apple and the Mormon Church simply because you’re not an organization, you’re a person. Fans will already instinctively care more about you than they would do about a faceless company.
It doesn’t take an awful lot of effort to build on this. Use social media to be open with your fans about your life, your desires, and your struggles as a writer. Be open, honest, and available to answer questions.
As readers begin to form a connection with you, they’ll become far more excited about sharing your work with their friends.
Give them a home
John Green, author of the bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars, actually almost became an evangelical preacher before deciding to focus on writing. It’s no surprise, then, that the large fan following that has developed around his novels is known for the loving, inclusive attitude that fans have towards one another.
The mantra of Green’s followers, known as ‘Nerdfighters’, states that members of the community ‘…fight to increase awesome and decrease suck’. Nerdfighters are a tight-knit group, and Green has ensured that all fans have a safe online space to share with each other, where everyone can feel included.
Help your readers to feel like they belong. To do so, you’ll want to give them a space to gather (a Facebook page or an internet forum work great), and a name to identify themselves by.
Writer Stan Lee, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and co-creator of superheroes such as Iron Man and Spider-Man, pioneered these techniques. He named his fans the ‘True Believers’ and gave them a space to interact through the letters pages in his comic books. He attributes a large part of the success of his storytelling to giving readers a place where they felt that they belonged.
As your fans feel included, valued and appreciated, they’ll be more eager to engage with other fans, as well as inviting their friends to participate too, so that everyone can have more fun.
Convince fans to open their mouths
Once the ball has started rolling, you’ll want to keep fans reaching out to others. It doesn’t need to be very taxing for your followers to do so – at the most basic level, a ‘like’ or ‘share’ of a Facebook status is enough to get your work seen by new people.
You’ll want to give your fans interesting things to share. Yet again the key is to be personal, honest and friendly. The incredibly popular Twitter user, @AwkwardMoment, has gained over 1.38 million followers by posting simple, relatable tweets about common awkward life problems. The best way to connect with people is to say something that they can sympathize with.
One way of inspiring further fan outreach is to run competitions, such as giving away a free copy of your book to one lucky follower who likes your social media profile. This has two benefits: firstly, your fans will appreciate your generosity, and secondly, many new people will see your profile and will follow you in the hopes of winning the book.
The absolute best way to encourage your fans to evangelize, though, is also the simplest: write engaging stories. The more your fans enjoy your work, the more they will naturally want to share it with their friends, if only so that they have somebody to talk to about your amazing literary creations.
When we find stories that we enjoy, we love to tell others about them. Society has always revolved around sharing stories, and as such, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to persuade your readers to get up on a soap box and rave about your latest novel.
All it takes is a good story, and when readers are also given the chance to feel included and valued, they’ll become even more excited about sharing your writing with their friends.
How have you encouraged your readers to get involved and share your work with others? What’s your best experience of connecting with a fan and helping them to feel accepted?