When a musician or actor gets on stage to accept a big award, they often make it a point to thank their fans. Some even go as far as to say I’m nothing without my fans. This statement can also be applied to brands because they, as well, are nothing without their fans.
This week #CMGRClass held a online panel over Google+. We were lucky enough to have apanel of experts from four companies: Gavin O’Hara from Lenovo, Alexandra Dao from Vimeo, Caira Conner from PolicyMic, and Tracey Churray from Foursquare. One of the biggest themes I saw emerge from this discussion was the need to build and nurture a community of super fans, otherwise known as brand ambassadors.
Know Your Community
The first step to building an army of brand ambassadors is to get to know your community. A lot of the community managers during this panel said that community for them started out as customer service and support. They needed to answer all the tweets when customers had problems, and soon community and support melded together. Each of these community managers had to go where their customers were and be available to them through these social sites. After spending all this time interacting with their consumers, they really got to know them inside and out.
Connect Your Community to Each Other
Tracey Churray explained that Foursquare recently launched a forum for their superusers. This mutually beneficial project allows about 40,000 of Foursquare’s most involved users to have an equal baseline of knowledge of the service, and chat with each other. This forum allows the users to connect with each other and bond, but also increases chatter about the service. This thus creates a greater brand loyalty to Foursquare in general because it is constantly the topic of conversation. Foursquare also has three levels of superusers, that all lead up to the hand chosen SU3s who actually get to interact with the Foursquare engineers.
Foursquare sometimes taps into this loyal community to get feedback about how the service is functioning in different parts of the world. One of my favorite stories from the panel was when Tracey discussed how Foursquare contacted the superusers to improve the “Chinese Restaurants” tab of Foursquare locations in different parts of the world. Chinese restaurants as we know them in America take on a different meaning in China, and Foursquare was able to talk to their users about what categories of Chinese restaurants are necessary to have in each country. This made the service more targeted and meaningful in each part of the world, and was all made possible by the suggestions of their superusers.
Situations like this get users involved in the creative process and make them feel like valuable assets of the company. Gavin harped on this point by saying “casual exchanges make [users] feel like they are peeking behind a veil and are a part of something bigger.”
Even further than this, the panelists encouraged Gavin’s nurturing of a superuser community by providing examples within their own community. Vimeo offers around the clock customer service to their premium users, and makes it a point to hightlight 5 to 6 user videos each day. Another panelist said, “Don’t be afraid to give them some inside information, before you release things (people don’t like change after launch). They are often very excited and own it because they are a part of it.”
Bring Your Community Offline
The last important aspect of a superstar brand ambassador program that the panelists brought up, was the need to bring any online connections offline, to really solidify them. Creating and encouraging opportunities for the community members to connection offline with each other, as well as you, really allows people to connect on a human level. Gavin jokingly commented that “We need to throw parties,” and although he presented this in a joking way, the message still stands. Tweeting, emailing, and Facebooking are all nice, but your job is to manage a community of people, so you must treat them as such. Brand loyalty stems from this feeling of connection and unity.
What do you think about these tips for building a brand army? What brands do you think have the best “superuser” programs? Let me know in the comments below!