MY PATH TO SUPERFANDOM

I rolled into the neighborhood liquor store to pick up a bottle of cherry vodka (this isn’t something I make a habit out of, mind you). Inside the store, my mission was (fortunately) diverted by a sample table from a newish vodka distillery out of Bend, Oregon called Wild Roots. Each bottle of Wild Roots Raspberry Vodka contains a pound of locally sourced raspberries — and it tastes, and smells, as good as it sounds. I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought a bottle of liquor, let alone a bottle of $33 vodka. But it's safe to say, now, that a shot of that deep red with some cold lemonade on the rocks is a little piece of heaven in my eyes.

Being that social media is somewhat ingrained in my blood, you can only imagine what I did next. Yes — I stalked Wild Roots on FacebookTwitter and Instagram (admittedly on Google+ as well, to no avail). I wasn't afraid to share, with the world mind you, my newest brand infatuation (unfazed by the potential gossip that would ensue from friends, family, colleagues and clients as I'm a Mom of two kids under four-years-old with an unbridled crush on a bottle of vodka).

Then it hit me. I have become one of them. One of those people I get paid to help clients hunt down. I have become…..a superfan.

So what happened next? Wild Roots has favorited, and replied to, some of my Tweets …that was nice. Could Wild Roots have leveraged my obsession to their advantage? Should they have? Yes and yes.

LET YOUR SUPERFANS TELL YOUR STORY

Through social media engagement, brands have the opportunity to strengthen relationships with those who already love them, creating life-long fans who will tell theirstory to all their friends. Yes, tell your story! Brands and marketers spend a lot of time and money telling their stories in hopes they touch their audience on an emotional level, building loyalty and trust and ultimately converting that audience to customers. Now, through social media channels, your superfans want to tell your story for you. Jackpot! But are you prepared for when they do?

MANAGING SUPERFANS

For small businesses, the process of identifying superfans may involve manually scanning your company's Facebook wall and Twitter stream and noting customers who regularly engage with your brand in a positive way. Double points for those fans who mention you across multiple social media sites (guilty). It's even likely that, as a small business owner (and the voice behind your social channels), you know who those fans are without the need to look them up. Keep track of them. It's as simple as creating a spreadsheet with your fan name, their social media profile URLs, and a summary of their engagement with you.

Larger corporations may enlist the help of a tool, like Branderati  to create an entire program around fan identification, engagement and cultivation. Branderati has coined the term "Advocate Influencer" which refers to "people with a wide reach who are already committed to your products and already endorse them in their daily lives". Digital products and services like Branderati give marketers, who are challenged with the daily task of wading through both positive and negative social chatter, a way to leverage positive sentiment in campaigns and advocacy programs. In a Convince & Convert post, Mark Organ (founder of Influitive) says “advocate marketing will be as mainstream in a few years as email marketing is today.”

In a 2013 report, Why Consumers Become Brand Fans as part of their Value of a Facebook Fan Series, Syncapse reported that "78% of Fans are current brand users," with the number one reason for fans becoming a brand Fan was a desire to support the brands they like. Do you hear this brands and marketers? Your Facebook Fans choose you! They like you. They WANT to hear from you. As a superfan they wouldn't mind a super thank you (as emphasized by Ekaterina Walter in this post), a Tweet back or, as Gary Vaynerchuck explains here, even a 39 second phone call. A small price to pay for a fan for life.

FIND, ACKNOWLEDGE, CULTIVATE

The concept is fairly simple; someone likes you, you like them back and let them know it, they like you more — a superfan is born. Now go out there, find your superfans, acknowledge them, thank them, and maybe surprise them (I'm talkin' to you, Wild Roots). Heck, you might want to even hire them.

How have you identified and engaged with your superfans. How has your advocacy program helped grow your business? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experience.

This article first published in Social Media Today.