The Glee Guide to Attracting a Raving Horde of Social Media Fans

image of kurt hummel

If your memories of high school involve wedgies, broken hearts, and getting stuffed into your locker, you probably love Glee.

The musical comedy TV show — Ryan Murphy’s smash hit about the nerds, misfits, and social outcasts of McKinley High School’s glee club — is equal parts quirky, cheesy, heartbreaking, and surprisingly delightful.

Over its first two seasons, the show has also attracted millions of obsessive fans from all over the world.

Glee fans, or “Gleeks,” follow the moves of their favorite show with a passion once reserved for Cabbage Patch Kids or the Toyota Prius.

What is Glee’s secret formula for creating crazed fans who would rather die than miss an episode of the show?

And how can you use Glee’s techniques to market your business and turn your listless readers into raving groupies?

Here are a few ideas …

Harness the power of the underdog

The Glee kids are the underdogs at McKinley High.

They constantly have to battle not only the school’s evil cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, but vicious classmates who taunt them in the halls and throw Slushies in their faces.

We cheer for these underdogs.

We want them to succeed, to show the world how truly talented they are. We want those bullying football players to see the light and drop the 7-11 cups.

Having someone to cheer for is essential.

If your customers can’t get behind you and support you, you’ll never turn them into raving fans. Show them what you’re up against — whether it’s battling writers block, standing up for mom-and-pop stores in a hostile corporate culture, or even stretching yourself to do something that scares you.

Show your audience what you’re fighting for. Share your biggest obstacles, even if those roadblocks are intangible, like fear of success or struggles with technology.

Once your customers know what you’re fighting for (and fighting against) they can rally behind you and become your biggest fans.

Be undeniably awesome

The kids of McKinley High may be underdogs, but they can sing.

They sing, they dance, they twirl, they shine. And when they perform, they put their hearts and souls into it.

Want to be like Glee? Be really, really good at what you do.

Social media is full of quirky people who aren’t very good at their jobs. The underdog and quirk factors only work if you have something remarkable to offer.

Put your absolute best writing on your site. Craft those autoresponder messages so they’re impressively well written and amazingly useful to your prospects, every single time. Make sure your products and services are remarkable and fan-worthy. Create an atmosphere of excellence.

Put your absolute best effort into every detail of your business. Remember that when you’re online, people are watching, so show ’em your best side every day. Your customer will learn to expect the best from you every time you put something out in the world.

When they expect greatness and you give it to them consistently, they’ll become loyal. And loyal fans are the best fans to have.

Take risks

One of the most popular characters on the show is Kurt Hummel, played by actor Chris Colfer.

Ryan Murphy took a huge risk by casting Colfer in the show. Chris had no previous professional acting experience and was a complete unknown.

Murphy was so impressed with Colfer during his audition that the Glee creator actually wrote the role of Kurt specifically for him. Murphy thought Colfer had something special, and figured out a way to include him in the show.

Murphy listened to his heart, even though it was a risk.

The result of Murphy’s risk? Last year Chris Colfer won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for his brilliant portrayal. Kurt has become one of the show’s most-beloved and most-talked-about characters.

The upshot? Follow your gut.

If you think something needs to be said on your blog, say it. If you want to link to something on Twitter that might be a wee bit controversial? Tweet it. If you feel like going out on a limb and creating a bold new product for your customers, and your heart is telling you it’s the right thing to do, listen to your heart.

Don’t create controversy for its own sake, but don’t be afraid to stand out for doing the right thing either.

Think of Kurt, and be brave.

Let your freak flag fly

The characters on Glee are quirky. They’re odd.

In some cases, they’re downright bizarre. And that’s part of the reason we adore them.

Cheerleader Brittney is one of the most unusual kids in the group. Her dry observations have been known to stop lunchroom conversations cold.

Despite some strange looks and the tendency of her McKinley classmates to assume she’s dim-witted, Brittney’s not afraid to be herself. And the more we hear from Brittney and glimpse the world through her oddball observations, the more we cheer for her.

It’s Brittney’s oddness and naïveté, or Rachel’s songs about her headband, or Finn seeing the face of God in his grilled cheese sandwich, that make us love these characters. If they were all perfect, they’d be boring. And we’d be bored watching them.

What characteristics can you share with your customer that might show them a surprising new side of you?

Can you tell them you love show tunes?

Religiously follow Manchester United?

Have visited all seven continents?

Don’t be afraid to show a little personality. Your customers need to know you in order to like and trust you. So make sure they know some of your oddness, too.

Your customer will see your quirkiness as a part of you and will feel connected to you and your business. And then they will adore you and want to put up your Tiger Beat posters on their walls.

Encourage your fans to connect with you

Glee’s marketing team are absolute geniuses about social media.

Glee has a vibrant website with regularly updated content, including video sneak peeks, interviews with actors, quizzes, and photos. The site features discussion boards and a weekly Gleek newsletter.

The website even features an iPhone app called “Tap Tap Glee” for fans who want to go mobile with their McKinley spirit.

In social media circles, Gleeks are invited to participate in the Glee conversation in a myriad of ways, including:

  • Glee’s Facebook page has attracted over 16 million fans. Glee posts at least twice a day with news, award announcements, special previews and regular reminders about upcoming episodes. Fans can comment on all the status updates and videos with encouragement, suggestions, and feedback.
  • The Glee Twitter account is also constantly updated, and consistently links to the actors’ individual Twitter accounts, assuring Glee fans have access to their favorite stars, too. Almost a million fans follow the main Glee page and the Glee conversation is constant.
  • Glee’s YouTube Channel features more than 120 videos, most of them of musical numbers and interviews. Their videos have received over 300 millions views. Fans can share their thoughts on any video, and each video is embeddable, so fans can share Glee news on their own websites and blogs.

By creating an online presence that gives fans scores of ways to interact with the makers of Glee and their fellow fans, they provide an extraordinary supplement to the experience of watching Glee at home.

They offer Gleeks the opportunity to talk about their favorite things — reliving this week’s show, and speculating on possibilities for the next episode.

Have you given your customers places to connect with you via social media?

Do you give them news, interviews, and fun behind-the-scenes previews of what you’re up to next? If you’re not, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity to turn your regular customers into crazy screaming fans.

Give them a place to show the love.

Your turn in the spotlight …

During sixty minutes of show tunes and Journey covers, Glee somehow pulls off a magic act.

It shows the world a bizarre, ragtag group of high school performers and manages to give each of us someone with whom we can relate. And while we’re relating to these kids, they touch our hearts and make us smile.

So whether you identify with Kurt, Mercedes, Artie, Rachel, or Finn, there is something in the Glee formula that can help you transform your business into an organization that people follow with fanatical loyalty.

Best way to get started? Stand up and sing it, people.

The stage is yours.

About the Author: Beth Hayden helps business owners make more money by helping them create fabulous websites, blogs, and social media campaigns. Get her best tips for achieving blogging nirvana by downloading her free report, From Blah to Hurrah: 25 Ways to Make Your Blog Bigger, Better and More Profitable.

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Reader Comments (62)

  1. says

    Fanatical loyalty. That is motivational. It’s interesting the great lessons you can learn from tv shows and apply them to your blog. Another one that has stood out for me is LOST.

    • says

      I’ve heard the same thing about Lost! It’s one of those shows I won’t allow myself to watch, because I fear I will disappear into a cave with all the past seasons of it on iTunes – and I will not reappear for six weeks! Lost fans certainly are fanatical, though!

  2. says

    This is classic Copyblogger. I read the headline and thought “There is no way they can make THIS subject matter fit copywriting or online business…I have to see what happens!” And yet, you knocked it out of the park. There are some awesome points to be learned here (I particularly liked “letting your freak flag wave”). Nice job, Beth.

    • says

      I’m thrilled that you like the post, Daniel! I’m obviously a big fan of Copyblogger and have been diligently studying their style for a long time. And I’m glad you liked the point about letting your freak flag fly – as a nerd and a geek myself, this was my favorite part. :)

      • says

        Interesting post, Beth.

        Not to nitpick, but there’s a little detail you may want to reconsider before some corporate attorney calls you to task. You mentioned the Slushies that get tossed. Then, in the next paragraph, you mention 7-11 , which of course does NOT sell Slushies. Of course we get that it’s a like product, but evidently Glee is not licensed to use that other product’s name or the company that sells them. Corporations can get pretty touchy these days about trademark infringement and the like. Just a word to the wise.

        Thanks for the post!

  3. says

    Wow – your post was packed with thoughtful insights. I’m in the midst of launching a new baking line of artisan mixes, something that’s never been done before. I am the underdog. It is scary. And amidst all the balls I’m juggling, I need to keep building that fan base. Thanks for the push!

  4. says

    I’m just waiting for someone to send me the What Downton Abbey can Teach You about Content Marketing post. I’d write it myself, if I could figure out how.

    • says

      James, I think it’s a really important point (giving your customer someone to cheer for) and it opens the door for you to be more vulnerable in your posts, which I think is a good idea. I know we’re supposed to keep our ultra-personal stuff out of our professional blogs, so I understand there is a line of appropriateness, but I think everyone needs to be able to get behind you in order to support what you’re doing – whether it’s buying your products, hiring you for consulting, or whatever else you do in your business!

  5. says

    I really appreciate the way you highlighted the balance Glee brings, Beth–the way it’s not enough to stand for something or to be quirky… Because so often it’s easy to focus on one thing like letting your freak flag fly and overlooking the other bits, but none of that really works without first being really spectacular at what you do. (Nor does being spectacular really work without the rest when you want those really dedicated fans.) Thanks for sharing these insights–they were a pleasure to read.

    • says

      I completely agree, Jessica – if the Glee kids were *just* freaky and didn’t have serious chops, the show wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is! Thanks for reading!

  6. says

    Awesome job, Beth! As one of those who flies her freak flag at least weekly (on Tuesday nights), I have to say you really made some great connections about how to tell your “story” biz in a way that generates passionate addiction.

  7. says

    Love Glee but never have time to watch and I can’t remember when it’s on but your advice is spot on. Being yourself is one of the most important things you can do when writing for your blog. Having confidence will go a long way in bringing your readers back time and time again.

  8. says

    I never thought I’d enjoy something Glee-related… until reading this article. I detest that show, but this was a kickass post! I’ve gone back and forth on how much of my ups and downs I should share with my readers, but time and time again my biggest supporters have told me that they like seeing what makes me human. I don’t want to seem untouchable, anyway.

    • says

      Thanks, Liz! I’m glad that someone who doesn’t like Glee was able to get something from this post. And yes, the more open and genuine I am with my readers, the more they seem to like what I write. It’s scary sometimes, but I just have to remember that we’re all really cheering each other on, anyway. Except for a the few trolls and bullies out there, we’re all wanting to see each other succeed. At least that’s what I believe!

  9. says

    What I really love is that the show as well as the points you made fit almost all age groups. Count me gleek. Great post and great writing.

  10. says

    Agree with Liz – I really dislike the show, and yet was sufficiently intrigued by your kick-ass title to read – and enjoy – the article. I really see what you mean about underdogs, and can’t help wondering why I never thought of that before! Lots of great insights, Beth – and fabulous titles that make me want to stay and read everything here. You can bet I will be back to check out more of your articles.

  11. says

    Wow, Beth! This is amazing. I haven’t watched Glee (hey, don’t knock me – it’s in the streaming queue) but that doesn’t matter. This is solid advice whether you’ve watched the show or not. And even having not watched it, I know the fans are… um… fanatical. My favorite part was about letting your freak flag fly. I’ve found the people I respond to most positively are the ones who do just that. They’re just more fun! Great post. Keep ’em coming.

  12. says

    Thanks Beth! I’ve never watched a single episode of Glee, but I love this post. I really love your point about having a platform and a place for people to connect with you. Just producing something that people love isn’t (sadly!) enough: you can have a great book, website, etc., but Twitter and Facebook really give people a forum to gush about how much they love your stuff :) Thanks for all of this inspiration; it’s like a year’s worth of marketing ideas in one blog post!

    • says

      Thanks, Corinne! Have you started a Facebook page for your business yet, so fans have a place to gush about you? If so, I need the link! And you need to put it on your websites!

      • says

        OK, that’s the one venue I’m resisting so far, but you may have pushed me over the edge. I am pretty responsible about updating my blog and Twitter, but I do need to think about FB, especially with another book coming out. Thanks for the nudge :)

  13. says

    Beth, thanks so much for this post! I’m a Gleekster and loved it!. You obviously fancy yourself as a Gleekster, too, or you wouldn’t have picked up on so many of the subtleties in the show. What I hadn’t thought of until reading this post is that (1) I really do need to emphasize and celebrate that underdog more often; and, (2) while you are talking about clients needing to know what we’re standing for and against, I was reminded that I need to be clear about what I’m standing for and against . . . before I can expect my readers / clients to know what I’m standing for and against.

    Thanks for the fun post! Hope to see you back here again soon!

    The other thing that jumped out at me was

    • says

      Hey Tamara – That’s a great point. If your not clear on what you’re about (and what you’re standing for/against), you won’t be able to communicate it properly to your audience and you’ll miss a great opportunity to get them on your side. I’ll bet mind mapping would be a great exercise for helping to figure that out.

  14. says

    Dear Beth, Like many others, I LOVE the advice to let our geek flag fly — I’m now pondering how to give voice a little more to my own geek flag on my website…. great stuff, and very common sensical!!!

    thanks !

  15. says

    Beth, just when I was thinkin’ I should “stifle,” as Archie Bunker used to tell Edith, you come along with this fabulous exhortation to be our real selves on our blogs. Thank you, and hope to see more of your posts on Copyblogger, which I love.

    • says

      It is so freeing think about being more “me” in my posts. It’s true…we tend to love the quirks, flaws and isms more than perfection in people. Thanks for advocating fearless personal expression!

    • says

      Gail – I know you’ve gotten a lot of pressure to stifle yourself, but I say let that flag fly. We’re at our best when we’re fully expressed and totally authentic. Thanks for the comment!

  16. says

    I just found out yesterday, the term “geek” originated as a reference to circus performers who would eat animals – like snakes and such – whole! They were such outcasts that bullies in highschool (cleverer than the ones that picked on me!) started using the term to belittle math whizzes as “outcasts” and “weridos.” Isn’t it funny how in today’s world the word geek is suddenly a point of pride, and not only that but one that can be marketed to? From Glee to The Big Bang Theory to everybody’s iPad, it is suddenly cool to be a geek! Crazy!

    • says

      Sean – that is bizarre and hilarious! Who knew? And I agree, I think it’s funny that being a geek is really trendy now. Geeks everywhere, UNITE!

  17. says

    I’ve never seen Glee, but I enjoyed your tips as new and confirming thoughts. I’m finding the more competitive the market, the harder it is to grab attention. Thanks.

  18. says

    Glee is on my list of shows to watch, which is ever-growing. I’m currently addicted to Battlestar Galactica…but that’s a story for another day! 😉

    I enjoyed this post even though I haven’t seen any episodes of the show. “Take Risks” is my favorite section; I had no idea that Ryan Murphy took such a chance on Chris Colfer! That’s one heck of an inspirational tidbit. Sometimes you have to trust your gut even if that means muting the voice of reason. And as you mentioned, Beth, controversy for the sake of controversy isn’t necessarily the best route, but there’s no shame in being yourself. It’s impossible to please everyone (even if you keep it vanilla), so let’s all let our freak flags fly high and proud!

    • says

      Hey Jill! I was really surprised to hear that story about Chris Colfer, too. I can’t imagine the show without him! Apparently after his audition, Ryan Murphy said to his team, “Well, we HAVE to use that kid. Let’s write a part for him.” Talk about a risk that really paid off!

      And you’re absolutely right – there’s no way we’re going to please everyone, and we shouldn’t try. So why not take some risks and be ourselves?

      • says

        Watch Chris Colfer for even half a second, and you know it’s no risk! Every time he’s on-screen I’m riveted. Yep, I’m a Gleek too–a recent one. As I prepare to put myself out in the world in a big way, I will take your line with me: “Think of Kurt, and be brave.”

  19. says

    Hi, again, Beth–Awesome blog post–I’m “of a certain age” who had never even heard of Glee, but you’ve tweaked my interest–I’m struggling to absorb this whole social media thing to promote my new book and my blog, “Madly, Kindly, Truly” –sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed and immobilized, like Prometheus chained to my blog/rock–but when I read something from you, I feel like Atlas about to shrug off those chains!

    • says

      Hi Harriet – If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just pick one tool, one platform or one thing to focus on, and just do that. When you’ve got that mastered, move to your next thing. Baby steps, baby steps! :) Best of luck with the promotion of your new book!

  20. says

    Inspiring ideas! And how true that we have to let our own personalities shine through in a blog. I haven’t been doing that as much as I should. Thanks for the kick in the pants. Now off to sing some tunes from South Pacific!

  21. Archan Mehta says

    Society tends to demonize the oddball. In the end, however, it is the wacky kid who makes the dough and heads turn. It may take a long time, but he will achieve that goal in the end. History shows us that creative people are quirky. They may behave in a bizaare way. They may appear eccentric, because they see the world in an unique way. And they live out their lives in a way that make conventional people stand up and take notice. Their behaviour invites critics and raises eye-brows. Even so, it took a college drop-out like Steve Jobs to invent the personal computer in a borrowed garage in Palo Alto, California. It took another college drop-out like Steven Spielberg to re-invent the movie industry. A third college ( Harvard )drop-out named Bill Gates became the wealthiest man on the planet. Richard Branson never attended college and started a business at a young age. Where would we be without such people? What matters is passion. However, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Sky’s the limit for dreamers who have a bias for action. Oh, and don’t forget marketing. Without marketing, you may die “unhonoured, unsung and unheard” like a poet put it once. So, your article here is right on the money. We thank you for your contribution. Cheers.

  22. says

    Thank you for the extraordinary post.

    I like the underdog part. Putting myself as the underdog to create a fan rave. What an idea! There is something more about the underdog. We build a context of “good and “bad”. The good underdogs will attract the fans, while the bad underdogs will attract boos.

    Look at NBA. It the Lakers who has the most fans. They are not underdogs. In the world when there is not good or bad forces, the underdog method may not work.

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