A broad demographic with fickle yet discerning tastes, nerds can be either a super-sidekick or an archenemy to small businesses. Nerdist's Chris Hardwick and Peter Levin speak geek, and they offer these tips for casting a level-12 charm spell on this influential audience.
Share your passion. "You can nerd out on anything," Levin says. Say you run an auto-parts dealership--that really means you're into classic cars and engineering. If you own a vineyard, you're nerding out on agriculture, weather and topography. "You can extrapolate that pretty far, as long as you stay true to the intersection of passion and information."
Find your niche. The internet makes it easy to access specialized content, so don't try to be everything to everyone. For instance, when Hardwick expanded the Nerdist blog, he hired writers whose interests differed from his. "We had a guy, he proposed writing about sharks, and I was like, 'Sure! Write about sharks!'" he says. They also hired experts on beer and wristwatches, making the content broader and expanding the site's readership.
Hone your voice. No matter your area of expertise, there will always be a bigger nerd than you. So instead of trying to dominate the discussion, develop a distinct voice that adds to the community's conversation. "We've never pretended to be the end-all, be-all resource for any of the categories we spoke to," Levin says. "We just give our perspective."
Grow organically. Levin contends that taking marketing shortcuts like buying social followers or e-mail lists can poison your prospects. Instead, let word-of-mouth and social buzz attract the audience your company deserves. "We never bought audience, and a lot of other players in our space did," he points out. The result: Nerdist's audience is highly engaged, as shown through metrics like high e-mail open and click-through rates.
Be inclusive. A welcoming company philosophy can build brand loyalty and encourage customer interaction. Nerdist's consistent, positive messaging is one reason for its swift surge in popularity. "We're pretty much cheerleaders, because I don't want people to feel bad about themselves, the way I did when I was growing up," Hardwick says. "We want people to feel good about what they like."