If your brand is used to shouting its message on every social channel and wary of joining the digital customer exchange, this webinar is for you. Register here!

Introducing Your New BFF: The Superfan

ImageWe all know what it’s like to be a fan. Have you ever bought a mag­a­zine just because your celebrity crush was on the cover? Or pre­ordered an album before hear­ing it out of loy­alty to your favorite band? Some­times it’s purely sen­ti­men­tal, like cheer­ing for the same team your dad cheered for every Sun­day. Some­times we’re moved by admi­ra­tion, like a writer mail­ing a let­ter of appre­ci­a­tion to an influ­en­tial author.

Every now and then, peo­ple sur­pass mere fan­dom and develop an obses­sive, all-consuming love so extreme that they require a new label. I’ve coined them the “super­fans.” Justin Bieber has a lot of fans, but not all of them would wait in line for three days and miss their senior prom to see him per­form. You have to have a seri­ous case of “Bieber Fever” to be that delusional—I mean, er, dedicated.

You don’t have to be a pop star to inspire super­fans. Every­day prod­ucts and com­pa­nies also have super­fans who show their alle­giance by buy­ing, tweet­ing, com­ment­ing, review­ing, and start­ing con­ver­sa­tions online sim­ply because they want to. You may not know it yet, but your brand has a loyal, enthu­si­as­tic fol­low­ing just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered and nur­tured into scream­ing, faint­ing superfans.

The Super Value of Superfans

Super­fans are highly valu­able to your brand because they rep­re­sent a pre­dictable, reli­able cus­tomer base that will help spread your mes­sage across all chan­nels. Super­fans deliver value in mul­ti­ple forms: from engage­ment and loy­alty, to active con­tent gen­er­a­tion and social influ­ence, and of course pur­chase and repeat purchases.

Some­one who leaves a com­ment on your Face­book wall may be talk­ing about you else­where. When you see that per­son as an indi­vid­ual, and not a tally mark, you might dig deeper and find that they also men­tioned your brand on their per­sonal blog, Insta­grammed a photo of your prod­uct, and left a review on a con­sumer forum. Upon closer inspec­tion, these mul­ti­chan­nel impres­sions may be con­tribut­ing directly to sales. Because of the many forms of value they will­ingly pro­vide, our super­fans are our superheroes.

Look Beyond Buzz to Find Real Value

Most com­pa­nies lack a model for how to acti­vate their super­fans and build a mea­sur­able busi­ness case around them. Even huge, house­hold name brands stum­ble some­times to take advan­tage of all the value their fol­low­ers offer because they treat them like just that: fol­low­ers. Ear­lier this year, Coca-Cola dropped a dra­matic state­ment say­ing that “online buzz has no mea­sur­able impact on short-term sales.” Peo­ple were puz­zled; how can the most socially engaged brand, with mil­lions of fol­low­ers, see no ben­e­fit from social?

Coca-Cola’s ini­tial find­ing reveals the pit­falls many com­pa­nies run into when try­ing to tie social activ­ity to busi­ness value. “Buzz” meant they were only count­ing the num­bers of likes, tweets, and men­tions in comments.

Social media strat­egy and mea­sure­ment needs to go beyond this. Enter, the super­fan. My con­cept of the super­fan does two unique things. First, it puts the per­son behind the social activ­ity front and cen­ter. Sec­ond, it incor­po­rates social activ­ity as only one of three key com­po­nents brands must look at to assess the total life­time value of a super­fan. It also merges tra­di­tional busi­ness met­rics for life­time value, such as aver­age order value and total spend, and how influ­en­tial the per­son is in the cir­cles that matter.

What About the Bot­tom Line?

Merely count­ing the num­ber of likes, tweets, or fol­low­ers is a shal­low way to mea­sure your social media impact. If you’re not engag­ing the indi­vid­u­als behind the tweets, you’re wast­ing a whole lot of super­fan power. These num­bers are only one com­po­nent of a value-rich rela­tion­ship that leads to deeper engage­ment and loy­alty, more pre­dictable pur­chase behav­ior, and crit­i­cal new brand assets like user-generated con­tent. When cal­cu­lat­ing the value of the super­fan rela­tion­ship, you can fac­tor in con­sis­tent, future cash flow from pur­chase, con­tri­bu­tions to social assets, and greater influ­ence … mak­ing them a marketer’s best investment.

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