Not long ago, (in a galaxy far, far away…haha) I came across this fascinating article talking about how the team behind The Mandalorian show sought help from a local fan group when they realized they were short on Stormtrooper costumes for filming a specific scene. My immediate reaction: Now THAT’S a member benefit!
This volunteer fan organization is called the 501st Legion, and they have more than 14,000 members around the world. I immediately started some serious Googling to learn about them. What I found was a passionate and considerate community that is much much more than just a fan club.
What I love:
The onboarding process is lengthy, and I like it that way. If anyone could join this group just by filling out a few text fields, the organization wouldn’t have the same appeal or reputation. The founders of the 501st have figured out how to ensure that only the most-dedicated fans become part of this, and that starts with meeting certain basic registration criteria. Then, you have to find or create a Stormtrooper costume that is up to par with their requirements. And then, you can apply by submitting your photograph (in costume of course). Read through all of these steps here.
Trooper of the Month & Trooper of the Year awards. This honor takes “Member of the Month” to a whole new level. This reward is selected out of the entire global membership, so I would guess that this is not something that’s easy to achieve.
The charity element. You can request to have the 501st Legion attend an event, and while they do not ask to be paid, they do ask that a donation is made in their name to a charity of your choice. This aspect is an integral part of their work as it’s even included in their official Mission statement.
Use of terminology. The founders have cleverly adopted terms that are specific to the Star Wars franchise to identify themselves. There seems to be many facets to this, everything from the numbers that individual members get to choose (similar to how the clones in the movies were referenced by numbers, not names), to the labeling of the levels of their group, such as “garrisons,” “squads,” and “detachments.” I would imagine that the use of these terms also creates a feeling of inclusion, as only true Star Wars fans would know the references.
My wish list:
List out the member benefits. I got a sense of these as I perused the site, but it would be helpful to potential new members to see a page like this linked from the main navigation, and I would bet it would be a highly-trafficked spot as well. One of the major member benefits that I don’t find mentioned anywhere (and that I only came across by chance) is that there are active forums they can converse in!
Explanation of terminology. I’m sure there are people who come across this site, with little-to-no understanding of Star Wars. It may be helpful to have a section that explains all that terminology for a newbie. While I wouldn’t deem this “necessary,” it would be more like a “nice-to-have.” Right now, there’s some of this information scattered throughout the site, though it would be better all in one place.
Design tweaks. If I were in charge of a redesign, I’d do some things on the home page to more prominently feature certain calls-to-action. I’d also place a component, or something like it, above the fold to call out the number of members. This is a BIG impressive number (more than 14K), and I think it should be more easily seen/noticed.
What do YOU think of the 501st Legion’s digital community?