As a company founder and leader, the community you create around your company is one of its most valuable assets.
In the social media era, your customers, followers, and fans aren’t just a source of revenue; they’re an army of brand ambassadors who can drive new business your way, contribute valuable feedback, and inspire you to create future products. And now—thanks to equity crowdfunding (also known as “community rounds”)—they can now act as a long-term source of stable, founder-friendly capital.
Community engagement is the key to unlocking all that potential—and over time, the positive impact it has on your business compounds. Look no further than the reigning queen of community engagement herself: Taylor Swift.
Love her or hate her, Swift is arguably the most famous person in the world right now—and you don’t have Taylor Swift without her Swifties. The Swiftie community, comprising hundreds of millions of fans across the globe, is one of the most passionate, active, and uniquely connected groups on the planet.
For example: last month, Swift attended a Kansas City Chiefs game amid rumors that she’s now dating tight end Travis Kelce. The following Sunday, NBC estimated that 2 million more female viewers tuned into the Chiefs game—making it the most-watched Sunday show since the Super Bowl. Kelce’s jersey sales have reportedly spiked by 400%. And for a few days, the NFL changed its Twitter bio to “NFL (Taylor’s Version).” All Swift had to do was show up; her community did the rest.
That kind of loyalty doesn’t just happen by accident. Swift is, objectively, an incredibly talented and prolific artist—but she’s also a brilliant businesswoman (a “Mastermind,” if you will) who knows exactly how to create an audience and maximize its value.
If there’s one thing Taylor Swift is the definitive master of, it’s understanding her fans’ wants and needs, and catering to them.
Take the Eras Tour, for example—which is on track to become the highest-grossing tour of all time, generating an estimated $2.2 billion in revenue. Every show on the US leg sold out completely within minutes of ticket sales launching—and the cheapest sold for nearly $300. On average, it has cost Swifties about $1,300 apiece to attend the tour so far, which means that in addition to being almost impossible to get in the first place, tickets to see Taylor Swift have been far out of budget for most of her fans.
To say that her community was devastated would be an understatement. Swift and her team came up with a brilliant solution: a feature film of the tour that will be played in theaters worldwide, starting this week. It’s a win-win—giving her fans the opportunity to experience the show for under $20, continuing to pump revenue into the tour, and keeping “Eras” in the news cycle while Swift is on break this fall.
As a founder raising capital, you should look for win-win opportunities like this one. Pay attention to your investors’ behavior as they move through your funnel. For example, if your offering’s average cart value hovers at or just above the minimum investment amount, that may indicate that you’ve set the price too high. A good way to test this is to offer a limited-time “discount” on shares. If a wave of new investors floods in, poll them to find out why they invested, and optimize your pricing and messaging accordingly. The more you listen and learn, the bigger a community you can draw.
Part of what makes the Swiftie community so special is its radical inclusivity and personal connection. As long as you’re kind to others, you’re in—there’s very little, if any, of the gatekeeping culture commonly seen in fan communities, allowing for a broad base of inclusion (or as the New Yorker called it, “startling intimacy”).
Despite having one of the largest fan bases in the world, Swift works hard to ensure everyone feels special. She connects with her community in incredibly personal ways; in 2014, she invited hundreds of her fans into her home for a pre-release listening party of her 1989 album. She has also helped her fans pay off their student debt, showed up at their bridal showers and birthdays, and sent dozens of personalized care packages over the years—including gifting one lucky fan with her own coat. Swift goes out of her way to ensure her fans feel recognized and loved by her—and her Swifties return that love to her tenfold.
When you give your community a seat at the table, you’re sending them the message that they are important to you and your business—and that they deserve the opportunity to share in your future success. That’s why customers who become shareholders spend 54% more, are 60% more engaged, and refer twice as much new business—they’re returning that commitment back to you.
This is a strategy you can return to again and again, both by running multiple offerings, and by engaging with your existing investor list. A good rule of thumb is to update your investors once per quarter. You can use these updates to share your progress, celebrate wins, and even ask for feedback or help with challenges you may be facing. Maintaining a warm relationship with your investors is the best way to extend those bottom-line benefits for years to come—and when it’s time for your next raise, you’ll have a built-in audience of brand ambassadors to tap back into.
This summer, photos and videos flooded social media depicting mind-boggling scenes from the Eras Tour: tens of thousands of fans who couldn’t score tickets, singing and dancing on highway overpasses and in parking lots outside stadiums throughout the US. It was reminiscent of Beatlemania in the 60s and 70s, when fans screamed so loudly they drowned out the music—except an order of magnitude bigger, thanks to the community-amplifying power of social media.
Swift’s tour seems almost tailor-made to be shared on social media; before the first show was even over, videos of Swift appearing to dive into a pool under the stage went viral. Each night of the tour features two surprise songs that are very rarely repeated, which means fans have a constant supply of never-before-seen tour content to share, which further fans can take viral. Meanwhile, Swift has used social media as her main channel for big announcements, like the release of her re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
The resulting effect has been incredibly powerful: the overwhelming sense that Taylor Swift is literally everywhere, all the time. Barbara Walters once said, “Taylor Swift is the music industry;” today, she’s more like the economy.
The takeaway here is that social media is your best friend—a limitlessly powerful tool that has made it possible for companies of any size to build passionate, engaged communities. In this ecosystem, raising capital online is a no-brainer; not only is it a way to streamline and digitize a complicated process, but it also empowers you to reach a much wider audience than you ever could before.
Invest in building a strong social media presence; create shareable content (explainer videos, creative ads, even funny “spoof” content—whatever works!), and encourage your followers to engage with your brand. This is a strategy that pays dividends in the long run: the more active your community is online, the faster it will grow.
Later this month, Taylor Swift is planning to release the next of her re-recorded albums, 1989 (Taylor’s Version). It’s the fourth of six albums that will get a do-over as part of Swift’s crusade to regain ownership of her entire musical catalog; her goal is to replace those older works with new versions that render the original masters worthless.
A few years ago, it was hard to imagine this strategy panning out as well as it has; Swift was clear from the beginning that the re-recorded songs would be faithful to their original versions (i.e., they sound almost exactly the same). She was faced with a challenge: how to ensure that listeners across the board, not just her superfans, made the switch to the new version and left the old one behind for good.
The answer was simple but genius: add a handful of never-before-released songs to the end of each album. These so-called “vault tracks” extend each album’s runtime by as much as 40 minutes—and that extra value is enough to make a re-recorded album feel like a gift.
When raising capital online, offering your investors a little something extra is a great way to boost conversions and brand engagement. When the Green Bay Packers raised $65M using our tech, they delighted their investor community by sending them official certificates of ownership; these spread like wildfire on social media.
Sending out a limited-edition t-shirt has a similar effect: to your investors it’s a gift, but to your business, it’s a marketing campaign that spreads the word about your mission. For a zero-cost alternative, try offering your investors a special discount on your products—it’s a win-win-win (for your investors, your raise, and your sales).
One of the most impressive aspects of Taylor Swift’s musical career is its sheer longevity; staying at the top of the game for nearly two decades is a feat few artists have achieved.
How does she do it? Simple: by constantly evolving her music and exploring new genres. Swift is an expert when it comes to creating timely, relevant albums that carefully address her fans’ values and experiences.
Take folklore, Swift’s first foray into the indie-folk genre, released as a surprise during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a major pivot from bright electropop to a softer, earthier, more nostalgic sound that offered her fans a comforting escape from reality when they needed it most. Folklore broke numerous streaming records and catapulted Swift to a new level of fame virtually overnight.
For companies raising capital, making sure you’re tuned into the greater cultural climate is just as critical. A few years ago, when the markets were hot and stimulus checks padded everyone’s pockets, investors were much more likely to back new ideas for more emotional reasons: just for the fun of it, or because they wanted a startup’s product to exist, for example. Confidence, grandiosity, and mission-driven messaging converted very well.
Today, investors are much more pragmatic; widespread layoffs, inflation concerns, and turbulence in the public markets all contribute. In this climate, too much confidence can come off as pushy, and grandiosity can seem like smoke-blowing. Instead, investors are looking for fact-based evidence that an opportunity has potential. A realistic business plan, demonstrated traction, and a clear market need are good examples of what to focus on when you’re marketing an offering.
The Swifties are Taylor’s most valuable customers; they spend billions each year on tickets, merch, and more. They’re avid creators and consumers of ultra-shareable content that keeps Swift at the top of everyone’s minds. They stream her songs tens of millions of times a day, and are the main reason for Swift’s $740 million personal net worth. In short, Swift’s community is arguably more valuable and hardworking to her than any employee could ever be—and they do it all for free, because they genuinely love it.
Taking the time to build and nurture your own community is one of the best things you can do for your business; when your customers, followers, and fans feel like they’re truly part of your story, they generate exponentially more value. The easiest way to supercharge your community is by offering them a seat at the table—and these five Swift-inspired strategies can help you take your community raise to the next level.
Want to grow, nurture, and maximize your own investor community? Click here to inquire about Engage, our shareholder engagement portal.