You may know singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles from her recent radio hits (Love Song, King of Anything, Bottle It Up, or newest single, Brave) or from her judging stint on the third season of NBC's The Sing-Off. The members of the SaraBFans Community can tell you about her awesome Twitter interactions, her early college a capella days, and how awesome it is to see her live with a group of your best fan friends.
The community's creator, Clément Grellier, took some time to answer our questions about how Sara Bareilles fans have made one of the best fan-run communities on the web.
The SaraBFans community is a fan community dedicated to Sara Bareilles. She is a singer/songwriter from California. SaraBFans is a place for all the fans to connect, discuss and share their passion about Sara. It has now become the first online community dedicated to Sara worldwide.
What made you start a dedicated online community?
I am a fan myself and wanted to create a place to meet other fans. I wanted to give the possibility to people to interact, talk about Sara's music and much more. Living in Paris and being a fan of an American singer/songwriter sometimes makes you feel like you're far away from everything. I decided to build the community to meet fans from all over the world.
What other options did you consider?
I first created a fansite which is still online and is mostly used for announcements and news. I then created a forum back in 2008 but to me, it was not satisfying. I wanted to provide more than just threads and topics and decided to go with Ning to offer a complete community for the fans.
Have you achieved your original objectives?
I think so. My main goal was to connect with other fans and today, I have wonderful friends whom I met in person thanks to this community. It's pretty cool.
How do you measure success or the ROI of the time and effort you put into cultivating your community?
The community has grown so much since its creation, it's amazing. I do put a lot of time and effort into maintaining the community, providing daily news about Sara Bareilles and organizing projects, but it has definitely paid off. There are now almost a thousand members on the community, and SaraBFans is also really active on social networks (3400 followers on Twitter, 770 likes on Facebook, 1800 followers on Instagram, 800 followers on Soundcloud, 850 followers on Youtube and 600 followers on Tumblr). Since the community has become the one place where the Sara Bareilles fans go to get the latest news and interact, I am now working with Sara herself and her management to help engage fans. It's a wonderful opportunity. Thanks to this new collaboration, I was able to set up a Twitter live chat with Sara under the SaraBFans account and it went really well. We were also supposed to become the official fan community but sadly, it didn't work out. Let's hope we will have other exciting opportunities in the future.
How did that Twitter chat come about?
A couple of years ago, Sara followed sarabfans on Twitter and then emailed me to say thank you for the support. That's how we connected in the first place. It took quite a long time to set up the Twitter chat as Sara's schedule is pretty busy and we had to postpone it a few times, but Sara and her management made it really easy to organize and everything went well.
How else has your community helped you and your mission?
I am a web developer. Founding an online community has taught myself a lot about engaging people, community management and has definitely improved my English skills :).
Yes, absolutely. That is what is beautiful with this online fan community in my opinion. People ask if other fans are going to the same show and decide to meet up. A lot of friendships started online. In December 2010, we even organized a "SaraBFans Reunion" in San Francisco. I, and more than 15 other members, flew to SF to go to a Sara Bareilles show but also discover the city and hang out. It was a lot of fun and I really hope we'll get to do another one really soon. I have wonderful memories and I'm sure the other members have too.
The Official Sara Bareilles website had a community aspect for a while, but doesn't appear to any longer. Did you notice an influx of members when it shut down? Why do you think your community has thrived instead?
Yes, they shut down the community they built using Ning in 2008 I think. They then tried to create another one in 2010 but it didn't really work out. Before that, there was also an unofficial forum called "Many the Miles". I was a member too and it was a wonderful place. After all these places were shut down, I did see an influx of members on SaraBFans. It was pretty rewarding since I had put so much time building the community and was doing my best to post the latest news and add the latest photos. I think it thrived because I just never gave up and provided new live videos, news, pictures as soon as they were available online. It's also thanks to all the members, actually. They start great discussions and it has become one beautiful family. To engage more fans, I, with the help of some members (Jen, Ana, Lizzy...) often organize projects like fan videos and other cool things. Our fan music video for "Beautiful Girl" was posted on pretty much every US radio website.
What's your favorite track on "The Blessed Unrest?"
Picking just one favorite is really tough. It changes all the time. But right now, I think it's Satellite Call. A beautiful, haunting song.
What features of the Ning Platform are most important to you and your members?
The forum is definitely the main feature and the most important one. It's where all the magic happens :). The chat comes second as it is another way for the fans to interact. Photos and videos are a great way for people to contribute as well.
Do you have any advice for other groups similar to you who are considering building an online community?
I think my advice would be to go for it and don't give up, even if members are not coming as quickly as you wish. It takes a lot of time and work but in the end, it's really worth it. I think that creators have to promote their communities on other social networks, too. Finding people on Twitter or Facebook who could become members is one of the most efficient way to spread the word about it. I would also recommend creating a video about the community and post it on Youtube or Vimeo. Maybe a creative video explaining what is the community and why people should join. If it's original and well done, people will share it and it could definitely help. My advice is also to always reply to the members' questions on Ning or on Twitter because it helps building a community and people will trust and recommend you. It can take a lot of time but it's really important. Good luck!
Thanks, Clément! Want to become a fan yourself after reading all about Sara Bareilles? Join the community!
Photos: Clément Grellier, SaraBFans Community