To answer these questions, Comedy Central recently executed a major international study. The resulting project, “Fandom,” unveils a whole new world of passionate young people

This study revealed that for young people, being a fan is about three things:

  • Self-expression. Fans don’t just follow—they lead. More than 8 in 10 people aged 18-34 agree that being a fan allows them to express themselves. For many, fandom presents an opportunity to exert their individuality, with 63% agreeing that “being a fan helps you stand out from the crowd.”
  • Discovery. Fandom helps young people develop and define their identities.  For 90% of 18-34s, being a fan of something guides them to other, related things they like. And that, in turn, leads to new passion points and interests.
  • Community. Being a fan gives a sense of belonging within the community of fellow fans. Every fan has their own online network: the average young person has 230 Twitter followers and follows 231. More than 8 in 10 18-34s agree that “being a fan of something makes you feel like part of a community.”

The power of fans comes from “fandorsement”–three elements that together mean young people have a big impact on the things they feel passionately about:

  • Influence. Fans have the power to persuade others. Two-thirds of young people consider themselves influential.  And 1 in 4 are particularly influential: the ‘Influential Catalysts’, who we will be exploring in more depth in the next newsletter.
  • Word of Mouth. Young people are vocal about the things they love. More than 8 in 10 say people come to them for recommendations, and a similar proportion have talked to someone about something they are passionate about in the last month. Averaging 391 Facebook friends and 231 Twitter followers, this generation is highly connected–and understands the importance of speaking up.
  • Their Followers. With power shifting away from celebrities to ‘normal’ everyday people with large online networks, fans’ endorsements and points of view have become more meaningful. More than 3 out of 4 18-34s believe that fans aren’t just followers; they have their own fans and followers, too. Nearly 9 out of 10 agree that normal people with large online followings can be just as influential as celebrities.

Understanding this new era of fandom is the key to connecting with the most influential, passionate and vocal young people out there. Most recently, we delved into how the meaning of “fandom” has changed.

Future blog posts from this series will uncover the segment of influencers that brands need to be talking to, and illustrate how brands can harness the power of fans.