Last week, I explored the birth of the “superfan” in social media, drawing from the superfan concept at sporting events and pointing out some fan qualities that my company has observed on our clients’ Facebook Pages. This week, I’m going to discuss how to harness the passion of the superfan in order to convert them into an ambassador for your brand.
Once we had identified the superfans — the Facebook fans who not only liked a brand’s page but also participated and interacted with others on the page and even came back on a daily or near daily basis — we knew we had to do something more.
Sure, we could give them a special gift or recognize them publicly in a status update saying “Thanks,” but was that it? What’s so “social” about that? Isn’t social media giving us far more capabilities? And if someone is that engaged with a brand, what else do they want? Clearly, having this kind of unprecedented contact and communications with a brand fills some unidentified need in individuals who revel in the opportunities that social media tools provide.
Why Do Fans Become Superfans?
First, let’s explore what motivates people to do more than just click “Like” on a brand’s Facebook Page, what drives some of them to become active members of an organically-forming community on that Page.
I posit that what we are seeing on Facebook Pages is similar to what we’ve seen in online communities going all the way back to Usenet Newsgroups: People want to feel part of something larger than themselves. They want to belong. It’s human nature to be drawn to communities, and if one doesn’t already exist, then some people have it in them to start building one themselves.
When we see a person moving from clicking on a Like button to responding to status updates to then commenting on what others are commenting on to visiting a page daily and announcing their arrival, we’re seeing the natural community builders rising to the top. These are our superfans. Some of them could become even more than that to a brand. Some of them want to be more, but don’t know where to start.
How Do You Convert a Superfan Into a Brand Ambassador?
Once we identified one of our client’s Superfans, we knew we were onto something much more compelling than just people who were active on a Facebook Page. So I came up with a process to strategically and respectfully offer opportunities to superfans to become something bigger: a brand ambassador.
The term “brand ambassador” has been bandied about in marketing for years. Merriam-Webster defines an ambassador as “an authorized representative or messenger or an unofficial representative.” In this context, the concept of a brand ambassador is clear: someone who publicly and positively represents and promotes a brand. Note that I’m not talking about buying someone’s loyalty; this isn’t about paying them to be a brand ambassador. In my mind, once you pay someone a fee for their “ambassadorship,” what you’re really getting is a paid spokesperson. What I’m talking about it is how to create mutually beneficial and transparent relationships with brand superfans, to harness their passions and convert them into social media brand ambassadors. Here’s how we’re doing it.
- Identify superfans.
- Recognize superfans publicly.
- Privately request that superfans respond to a questionnaire to get a better sense of who they are.
- Evaluate the responses to identify potential brand ambassadors.
- Approach superfans privately with a proposal to become a brand ambassador.
- Engage the new brand ambassadors to amplify their passions around the brand.
All of the steps above can be infused with whatever meaning you or your client wants. The choices you make, however, are critical to the success of your brand ambassador program. First and foremost, you have to understand the dynamics of social media, online communities and the meaning of value. You then have to be sensitive and respectful to the individuals with whom you are interacting. Let’s face it: You need them way more than they need you.
The 4 Promises
To strike the right balance of mutual benefits, I put together a list of four things that the brand would do for each ambassador, and four things that our ambassadors would do for the brand. I was careful to balance the perks with “feelgood” things and tangible things. I didn’t offer money, but was not closed to the possibility in the right circumstances. For example, if a brand ambassador had a popular blog reaching the right target market, we’d never ask for ad placement on that blog for free. That would be highly inappropriate, and disrespectful.
Why did I decide on four promises for each side of the relationship? I felt that four was a nice, manageable number of actions to take. Not too overwhelming, not too demanding, but valuable enough for each party to feel they were getting something meaningful out of the relationship.
Not sure what to offer? Ask. Simply ask the people you’ve identified and are interacting with privately: “What would be valuable to you?” You’d be surprised at what basic needs their honest answers will reveal. They usually boil down to being respected, recognized and rewarded in simple ways.
Once we get people to accept the position as a brand ambassador, we invite them to a private Facebook Group to interact with them more directly. We also make it clear that they must always reveal that they are a brand ambassador for the brand when spreading the word publicly about the brand and if asked what they receive as compensation, they are encouraged to be totally forthcoming. There are no secrets here. There is full transparency.
The only thing the public isn’t privy to are the behind-the-scenes communications that inform the brand ambassadors about upcoming promotions and help them understand what we need specifically from them. By having the brand ambassadors learn about these things first, we are providing them with the additional value that they seek: being “in the know” before everyone else.
We’re using a combination of Net Promoter score plus our own proprietary measurement analysis to gauge the value of the activities of our brand ambassadors. Even at this early stage, we can say that brand ambassadors are driving sales.
How are you leveraging the passions of your best customers to bring in new ones via social media?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise