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Shouldn’t You Know Your Superfans?

A five-point plan for identifying your strongest brand advocates, decoding their passions, and collaborating with them on meaningful offers.
Who are your superfans?
illustration by Todd Detwiler

FIAT has 627,000. Spongebob has 41.6 million. Even SPAM has 180,000 Facebook “Likes.” But what do all of those digital endorsements really amount to, in terms of the bottom line? Not a whole lot, say Kevin Clancy and Eric Paquette of Copernicus, a marketing and consulting firm.

You see, your company’s Facebook universe is largely composed of “regular customers” and “loyalists” — two groups of people who don’t feel particularly compelled to talk about your brand. Only a fraction of those Facebook “likes” belong to “advocates,” or the 5 to 10 percent of superfans who “want to support a brand by helping other consumers interact with it.”

Attorney Matthew Rhoden, in a post for the HBR Blog Network titled “Create Brand Superfans,” describes a true brand advocate as someone who purchases the brand’s products or services for family and friends, provides unsolicited feedback, and is emotionally attached to the brand.

Target a message to your regular customers, and you may see an uptick in sales from existing clients. Target the same message to your advocates, and watch the new-customer referrals spike.

So, how can you identify your superfans? And what should you do to keep them happy? Clancy and Paquette offer a five-point plan in the white paper “Measuring & Motivating Brand Advocates”:

1. Track them down. Create a list of users who’ve recommended your company via social media, pinned your product to Pinterest, penned an Amazon review, or gifted your wares.

2. Invite them inside. Create a private Facebook group or other exclusive arena — less fan club than focus group — where your brand advocates can interact more intimately with the company.

3. Dig into their drivers. Take a brand history survey that asks how your advocates found the company, what initially made them try it, and what important problem it solves for them. “Once marketers have determined that set of four to 10 measures of passion that best predict advocacy behaviors,” Clancy and Paquette note, “they can use them to identify advocates in specific media and internal databases.”

4. Estimate their value. According to Forrester Research, every Twitter or Facebook post reaches a minimum of 150 people. Know how many Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections your advocates have in order to accurately estimate their reach — and set conversion goals.

5. Collaborate with them. Ask your superfans what incentives, discounts, and special offers would be most meaningful to them — and begin testing, testing, testing.

Superfans are not your average customers; they're the brand zealots who willingly and passionately recommend your company to others. How do you grade your company’s relationship with its superfans?

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If superfans are so great, why not incubate more of them? On the Social Media Examiner website, consultant Amy Porterfield offers nine strategies for doing just that by converting casual Facebook “likes” into meaningful relationships. The tip we find most provocative: “Test out the 80/20 Rule. When posting to your Facebook page, 80 percent of the time focus on your business, and 20 percent of the time mix things up and show your fans and followers a different side of you—the personal side. Share with them photos and details of who you are outside of work. Remember, no one wants to do business with a brand; we all want to do business with real people!”

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Shouldn’t You Know Your Superfans?

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