By Mary Louise VanNatta 


Engagement, whether positive or negative, is still engagement. Any entity with exposure to the public is likely to attract its share of online fans. People love to follow celebrities, bands, and favorite brands. However, there’s always that group who engage purely to actively express dislike or disdain for a person or company. Welcome to the world of the “anti-fans.”


Anti-Fandom goes beyond the occasional dissatisfied customer or reaction to a public relations scandal. For whatever reason, these individuals are building a community around “not liking you.” Anti-Fandoms are most prevalent in pop culture. For every die-hard fan of the Kardashian family and its episodic drama, another person finds their antics shallow and signifies America’s obsession with celebrity. These Kardashian anti-fans still can’t help but watch their TV show and engage with them on social media. Whether you like them or not, you probably have an opinion on the Kardashian family.


Businesses and nonprofit organizations are certainly not immune from the phenomena. Starbucks’ ubiquity makes it an easy target for “coffee snobs” who prefer local brands. The animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been called out for its often outlandish awareness campaigns (i.e., demanding the New York town of “Fishkill” be renamed tFishsave”). Even local businesses can attract negative attention for their owners’ political views. 


Are anti-fans always a bad thing? It depends. For some organizations, any kind of attention they receive can be beneficial, driving up SEO and increasing ad revenue. People who speak negatively about your business may inspire greater loyalty and activism among existing supporters. A company may learn something from anti-fan messages that may create a change in corporate behavior.


So how much should you care about anti-fans? Overall, like trolls, haters, and random one-star reviewers, they often can be ignored. It is crucial, however, to monitor momentum and negative comment trends. Make sure you are continuing to develop positive brand champions and supporters to keep anti-fans at bay.


Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations.

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