Two of the main reasons to use organizational digital signage is to inform and engage. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out just what your audience is interested in, and what might engage them. But your audience is made up of people – people who live beyond the organization and have a wide range of interests and hobbies. In their free time they devote dozens of hours each week to the things they like.
Everyone is a fan of something, and digital signs can tap into that focus and willingness to participate to further overall communication aims. By focusing on fandom on digital signs, you can make a personal connection with viewers to get them invested in all your visual communications. Find out what your audience are fans of, and you’ll already find engaged people.
You can be 100% sure that every single person you are trying to communicate to cares about something. There are the everyday things you are already using as attractors – like date and time, weather, news headlines and local traffic, but you can also find more specific fan interests as well to entice people to look at your screens.
The Power of Fandom
Probably the most famous example is Star Trek. The show aired on television in 1966 and was already in ratings trouble its first season. Gene Rodenberry met two super fans at a science fiction convention, and together they came up with a letter writing campaign to the network to save the show. A magazine called Spockanalia was created by fans, and while estimates vary on how many letters NBC received (anywhere from 100,000 to one million), it was enough to get the show a second and then third season. After that third season, NBC knew they had enough episodes to be able to sell Start trek into syndication, which they did, thinking that would make the fans happy enough. But it didn’t– more and more fans in different areas wanted their local stations to pick up re-runs, an animated series was created, Star Trek conventions were organized, and there was clamor for a film series. Today, over 50 years since it first aired, the Star Trek franchise includes multiple TV spin-offs, 13 films (and counting), games, gear, conventions and more, and is worth an estimated $4 billion. It is the single greatest success story of fandom in history.
Today we can see a similar fervor with Game of Thrones. People who don’t even like fantasy as a genre are watching it with bated breath each week, and it is HBO’s largest source of income. Since the technology we all use on a daily basis is different today, the way fandom expresses itself has also changed. There are blog reviews, video reviews, reaction videos, fan-made fiction, fan-made games, online discussion groups, fan theories on Reddit and much more. And all this energy is being expended gladly by the fans because they are excited by this thing they love.
There are already examples of entertainment companies using digital signage to tap into fandom. When the show Gracepoint was airing on Fox, they set up a website called suspecteveryone.com where people could vote each week on who they thought was the killer. Fox then had 20 large digital signs placed around Los Angeles, where the voting results were displayed. Audiences could interact right there to learn more about characters, comment on social media and more.
Tap into Fandom
It’s often a misconception by digital signage teams that they have to constantly think up ways to “make” people interested. People are already interested in something, and by incorporating those interests into your content strategy a digital signage deployment can get a loyal following and plenty of engagement.
Some things are almost guaranteed to attract a sizeable audience – the hot new TV series, celebrity news or a highly anticipated film release. But doing a little research, by asking questions through short polls and surveys, might yield some surprising results. Maybe it turns out that a large portion of your audience consider themselves foodies, so you can use images of food to attract them to messages. You could promote local farmers’ markets, food festivals and new restaurants, and other food-oriented messages that people will have a strong positive emotional reaction to. Simply find out what your viewers are interested in and incorporate it into your playlists.
Sports is the most obvious candidate for bringing fandom to digital signs. Whether it’s a university or local school district, athletics is a great way to knit a disparate student body together, as well as generate revenue. Tap into those fans by using digital signs to get people excited about upcoming games, boost attendance, advertise gear, and even get people participating in social media efforts. But consider the other benefits of sports programs – building school spirit and creating a culture. Player spotlights and coaching profiles can help make the team seem more accessible, and short messages about stats, seasons or even plays of the past can create a real sense of inclusivity for fans.
If you’re at a corporate headquarters or bank, sports may not be your first thought for digital signs. But there’s almost certainly at least one team in the area that people follow and root for. It might be a AAA baseball club, or a football team at the local college, or even a nearby high school’s wresting team who is doing exceptionally well this year. By including something from the local community, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get people looking at your digital signs and seeing something they like. This will encourage them to look more often, meaning they’re exposed to your other content more frequently.
Whatever type of organization, you can take the sports example and apply it to anything that’s hot and trending with your audience. It could be a local band with a large fanbase, trending YouTube videos, technology releases, fairs and festivals, even a hot Instagram page. If you have a family-friendly culture, show messages about family destinations or kids’ activities in the area. You’re only limited by the number and type of interests you can glean from your viewers.
Fandom is a powerful thing, and by tapping into it you can get everyone actively engaging with your digital signage content on a daily basis. And they’ll seek out your signs on their own because they know there’s something there for them. Remember – you don’t always have to create a community, you just need to tap into communities that already exist.