How do you find your biggest fans?

You can do market research. You can study focus groups. You can try to start a Facebook group or roll your own online community. Or, if you are Robert Scoble and Seagate, you can invite your fans to meet you in Times Square for a free hard drive.

Seagate fans in Times Square

Scoble tweets the Seagate winners

New Seagate FreeAgent

Seagate just launched the fall lineup of their FreeAgent external hard drive family. They rented space on the two biggest screens in Times Square to tell everyone about it. And they gave away a handful of drives to some of their best fans.

Seagate only handed out about 50 hard drives, but they gave them to the right people. Podcasters, video bloggers, bloggers and Web 2.0 developers. The people waiting for Scoble in Times Square were gearheads, techies and early adopters. Of the first twenty people, fifteen had iPhones and three had BlackBerrys (the other two apologized for their lame phones). Just a block from Lehman, and iPhones outnumber BlackBerrys five to one. Because these people are activists. They are early adopters. The activists and apologists. Seagate made fans of the people willing to camp out, the ones who would wait in line, the people crazy enough to show up early for a cool new product.

Seagate was able to reach the activists in that crowd in Times Square. But in the Twitter/FriendFeed contest approach they made fans of the influencers. Everyone in Times Square was there because somebody told them. Several hadn’t even heard of Robert Scoble before, but they knew someone who had. Everyone was there because they listened to someone with a voice. Bloggers, Twitter addicts and web influencers all said something, on the off chance that someone waiting in line would mention their Twitter id. I was there because of @OrvilleWarnick. The guy next to me heard about it this morning from a friend on FriendFeed.

For the cost of a handful of drives, Seagate made fans of activists and influencers. Over two thirds of the people who won hard drives are bloggers. Of those bloggers, several have already mentioned it. Great move, Seagate.

And, for the record, this is a really cool hard drive.

Seagate FreeAgent