There are many companies that really do not have good communication skills. Sometimes it is within the company, but other times it is between them and their customers. A few months ago, I began research on MusclePharm’s Arnold Series brand line. My original goal was to see if people on twitter using the hashtag arnoldseries were actually part of a community or network.

Through my Writing for Electronic Communities course at Rowan University, I learned a great deal about what it takes to be a community. Mark Duffett described fan community in his book Understanding Fandom. “–the fan community is a physical manifestation of the fan base, a mutually supportive social network of people that can–and do–regularly communicate with each other as individuals.”(Page 244) I found this to be very interesting as Duffett continues to explain that this idea of fan community shares information and support for the artist.

Before I knew it I wound up being a part of this community and having direct communication with MusclePharm via Twitter. I saw that people were following every move that MusclePharm made and constantly asking them questions and getting responses. Intrigued, I began supporting them and getting a response in return.

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With all of the new media today, “social network” doesn’t mean what it used to. Adapting to this new meaning we can see new ways to support each other and communicate with not only other fans but also the artist themselves. What I found was a step further than simple fandom. I found contact with who I was fandom-cizing in a sense about! I would show my support and they would show their gratitude.

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Through all of this, I had an archive of tweets for #arnoldseries that constantly updated. I wrongly assumed that hundreds of them would be retweets of sweepstakes. What I found was a great deal of support for the company and back and forth communication. I created several codes to describe these tweets and found that Modeling–showing the support of the product after trying it–came out on top. People weren’t simply posting the hashtag for laughs or free things, they did so because they supported what the company sold.

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What I found at the end of my hunt was that I wanted explicit participation and not implicit participation. Mirko Tobias Schaefer helped motivate me to that idea in chapter 2 of his book “Bastard Culture!”. “It requires explicit action to participate in a community and consciously produce media texts and artefacts.”(Page 44) This pushed me to not just be a closet fan, but to actually reach out and give to the community.

It began with Wikipedia updates. After reading through MusclePharm’s page on Wikipedia I felt almost sad for how plain it was. It practically gave a negative view on the company. I began by adding their mission statement and eventually made several other updates. It’s amazing what you can do if you truly care about something.

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I didn’t let it end there. Since I could actually feel like part of the community I figured I would take on another project. I wound up creating a website that gave my review on the whole Arnold Series line. I realized that many people wonder about these products and need an honest review. So, I made my own website that would give that exact thing.

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I say all of this only to show that you can give to what you enjoy. We spend so much time taking that we forget to give back. Through this class I realized not only what a fan community looks like, but also what being in that community feels like. My support will continue as I prepare for a podcast with a radioshow in another country. Find what you support and learn how you can do something for THEM. You never know how much fun it can be.

Written with StackEdit.

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