Lauren Parajon is social media specialist at Standing Dog Interactive, a Dallas-based innovative online marketing agency for the hospitality and entertainment industries worldwide.
In social media, you hear a lot of talk about the importance of cultivating of "brand advocates" and "brand ambassadors." As you should; they're a vital part of a successful social media strategy. Advocates and ambassadors are people who not only follow your brand on Twitter or "like" your Facebook page, but they also occasionally comment on your blog posts, share your status updates and retweet your content on a somewhat regular basis. They trust you. They listen to you. They respond to you. And in doing so, they're promoting your brand to their networks for free.
One step beyond ambassadors and advocates is an enthusiastic group of people we like to call "superfans." When I try to describe what a superfan is, I can't help but think of my mom. She was always in the stands cheering for me at my various sporting events and giving me high-fives after the game. She bought countless boxes of Girl Scout cookies and rolls of wrapping paper to support me in my school fundraisers. She hung my sloppy artwork on the refrigerator and give me high-five. She was (and still is) my biggest fan-my superfan.
Mom is to kid as superfan is to brand. Superfans on social media don't just like your brand; they love your brand. If you're running a contest on Facebook, the superfan will enter AND tell all of their friends to do so. If your company is trying to raise money for a charity event via social media, you can count on the superfans to donate and help spread the word. If you've cultivated at least one superfan (besides your mom), you know you're doing something right.
The question is, how do you find them? Do they start as advocates and turn into superfans? Or were they already supporters of your brand offline, but they're better able to express it online?
I realized in writing this blog post that I'm a superfan. Yes, a Standing Dog superfan for obvious reasons, but I'm also a superfan of Red Mango and UnMarketing for less obvious reasons.
Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing, blew me away during a keynote speech at BlogWorld last year. He included his Twitter handle in his presentation, so I immediately followed him from my mobile Twitter app. During a session later that day, he was sitting a few rows ahead of me in a room packed with at least a hundred people. I tweeted, "Scott Stratten from @Unmarketing rocked this morning! He's sitting 3 rows ahead of me & I have the sudden urge to high-five him." Seconds later, Scott stood up, scanned the room, matched my face with my Twitter avatar and walked over to give me a high five. Instant superfan. That was a year ago and my superfan status hasn't wavered. He continues to reply to my tweets, whether I mention him or not. And every time he does, it feels like that high-five. If you look at his Twitter feed, you'll see that he does that for each and every one of his followers. @UnMarketing has 106,631 followers on Twitter and I bet at least 100,000 of them are superfans.
In the case of Red Mango, I started as a customer. In-store signage prompted me to become a fan and follower. Without even noticing, I became a brand ambassador by uploading pictures of my frozen yogurt creation to my Facebook wall or tweeting them on Twitter. And when Red Mango followed and tweeted me back, well, that began my rise to superfandom. They didn't just respond with a "thanks" and call it a day, they started a conversation. They built a relationship. Dan Kim, Red Mango's founder and CEO, is also active on Twitter and Facebook, where he makes himself accessible to customers and fans. Through his personal account, we've chatted about Dallas, blogs and sometimes even frozen yogurt. Sometimes he reads my personal blog and retweets my content, and in a way, it makes me feel like my superfan status is mutual. Therefore, I feel a personal connection to the Red Mango brand and its people.
In both cases, the president or CEO of the brand played a role in my superfan status, but I don't think that's has to be a constant in the formula for superfan cultivation. It wasn't the title of the tweeter that had me sold; it was the content, the interaction and the personalization of the tweets. It was the way the brand made me feel appreciated. It was the virtual and physical high fives.
Here are four tips for virtually high-fiving your fans:
- Whenever possible, meet your fans and followers face to face. Host fan-appreciation parties or fan-only events. Create opportunities for physical high-fives.
- Don't just monitor your mentions and your inbox, read your Twitter feed. Listen to what your followers are talking about and identify conversations you can start or join based on what they're already talking about.
- Reply. Reply. Reply. While this can be time-consuming for some brands, it can mean the world to a superfan.
- Be human. Be casual. Be funny. Everyone knows there's a human being behind your Twitter handle or Facebook page. Don't pretend there's not.
These tips are solely based on my experiences. We want to hear yours. Are you a superfan? If so, what brands and why?