How to recognize and reward your brand's top fans

Your brand's biggest influencers are the people who actively and continually talk about, comment on, and spread the word about your products and services. These people are crucial to your bottom-line sales, but they are few and far between. In fact, it's said that just 1 percent of a brand's fan base on Facebook and Twitter drives 20 percent of traffic to its website -- and these influencers can directly influence 30 percent or more of your sales just by recommending your products or services to their wider social network.

I recently wrote an article about the critical importance of finding and identifying this 1 percent, pointing out that most brands today have largely focused on amassing a large quantity of fans, instead of cultivating and engaging their highest quality fans. While it's great to have tens of thousands of people following or friending your brand, the majority of these "fans" will probably never visit your fan pages or company website -- or maybe once. You'll get a lot more impact out of directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities and unique content because that person will indirectly promote your brand to thousands of others who are part of his or her social sphere.

But once you've found your 1 percent, how exactly can you engage them? What type of incentives, rewards, and offers will they respond to?

Finding out what your influencers want is an ongoing process. Sometimes you just have to try out different promotions and then use social media monitoring tools to find out if the content resonated with your influencers, if they shared it, with whom, and what impact the content had on your site traffic and bottom-line sales. There are no hard-and-fast "rules of engagement." However, there are some proven engagement strategies that have worked well to attract and maintain the interest of key social influencers. The key is to continually offer new and enticing content to your top social influencers, like promotions, discounts, games, free stuff, and sweepstakes.

Here are some tips to help your brand begin building a long-term influencer engagement strategy -- so that your biggest fans become your biggest marketing weapon.

Skip the flashy Facebook page
Having a Facebook page for your brand or product is de rigueur today, but you don't need to spend a lot of time making this page look like a flashy, feature-rich website. Most of your Facebook fans will rarely visit your page. Instead, they will get updates about your brand or products through their feeds. The content you deliver through this feed is critical -- but building out lots of fancy tabs and adding zillions of photos to your main Facebook page is not.

Status updates that reach your fans through their feeds are a great way to quickly see who your most active Facebook fans are, as you can see who "liked" the update, who commented on it, and who shared it. Also, if you have already identified your top influencers, status updates allow you to measure which promotions, content, and offers resonate with these key fans. The bottom line: It doesn't matter if your fans never visit your Facebook page -- as long as they are engaging with your brand through their daily feeds.

Reward your top fans
Keeping loyal customers happy is your top goal. Your fans love deals, promotions, special privileges, access to inside information, and other perks. The type of incentives you extend to your entire fan base and those that you extend to only your top 1 percent will of course vary based on your business and industry. But what all incentives have in common is that they are enticing, interesting, or useful to your customers. For a gaming company, for example, incentives for your top fans might be free game points, previews of games, access to secret codes, or the ability to join an exclusive online network of top gamers. For a consumer products company, incentives might be discounts available only to top fans, free samples, an invitation to write a guest post on your website, or a gift of their favorite product every year on their birthday.

Create your own currency
On your Facebook page, Twitter account, company blog, or other social site, you can create your own "fan currency." By allowing your top fans to collect "points" every time they engage with your brand -- such as 10 points every time they write a review, or 100 points if they make a purchase -- you'll build a loyalty program right into your social pages. Fans can redeem these points for prizes, content, or information. In addition, loyalty point programs give you another way to identify key influencers; people with the most points are the most engaged with your brand. Have fun with this program. On a music site, maybe you give away "notes;" on a sports site, fans could tally up "goals" or "dunks."

Make your influencers "stars"
Your biggest fans love your brand or product -- so you should love them back. While everyone likes a special deal or promotion, your top fans are probably more motivated by fame than fortune. If someone takes a lot of time to create and share content about your brand, they want to be recognized as an expert on your products. Recognize the people who create or share the most content about your brand; invite them to write a guest blog post, put their name on the front of your fan pages with a "top contributor" badge next to it, or call them out in newsletters or email communications. Let them know you're listening and appreciate their contributions.

Your key influencers are incredibly important, so make sure to treat them that way. By rewarding their loyalty, you'll reap more sales across the entire social web.

Jon Siegal is CEO of Fan Appz.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

 

Comments

Julie Anne Herrin
Julie Anne Herrin July 3, 2010 at 3:01 AM

Hi Jon, these are such fabulous points!

So many companies completely misunderstand the purpose of social media. Many think they can just post links to their blogs or even worse, press releases and call it a day. This is so unfortunate because they are TRULY missing out on a HUGE opportunity! Brand aficionados truly are spokespeople whether companies like it or not. The smart ones are embracing this fact and are legitimizing them by dubbing them brand ambassadors. Access to early information, brand insights, and the ability to have an open dialog with company representatives is so rewarding to these folks. They are the ones that go out and create the buzz for you, so reward them! With the introduction of social media, new loyalty programs need to be developed! People now expect a brand to be responsive and flexible. If you have an impenetrable wall around your organization, you are doomed.

I have sent this to friends who are struggling with their company's mis perception of how social media should be used. There is just something wrong with a baby boomer without a Facebook page determining the direction of an organization's social media strategy. (Nothing against baby boomers or ones WITH a Facebook page running Social Media!)

Thanks for a great post Jon!

Stan DeVaughn
Stan DeVaughn July 1, 2010 at 5:08 PM

"Fan currency" is absolutely key today. Our site, Rec.fm/now, has this up and running. It distinguishes people who recommend products and have some of the proceeds go their favorite charities. It's an online shout-out to our fans and makes feel like a important part of the community.

Debra Castor
Debra Castor July 1, 2010 at 3:02 PM

Interesting information and food for thought

Stan DeVaughn
Stan DeVaughn July 1, 2010 at 2:11 PM

"Fan currency" is absolutely key today. Our site, Rec.fm/now, has this up and running. It distinguishes people who recommend products and have some of the proceeds go their favorite charities. It's an online shout-out to our fans and makes feel like a important part of the community.

Stan DeVaughn
Stan DeVaughn July 1, 2010 at 2:11 PM

"Fan currency" is absolutely key today. Our site, Rec.fm/now, has this up and running. It distinguishes people who recommend products and have some of the proceeds go their favorite charities. It's an online shout-out to our fans and makes feel like a important part of the community.

Stan DeVaughn
Stan DeVaughn July 1, 2010 at 2:10 PM

"Fan currency" is absolutely key today. Our site, Rec.fm/now, has this up and running. It distinguishes people who recommend products and have some of the proceeds go their favorite charities. It's an online shout-out to our fans and makes feel like a important part of the community.

Terry Crosby
Terry Crosby July 1, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Great post.

I also create an "engager" Facebook friend list. Anyone who likes and comments on my updates are included. This list is now a newsfeed with only the updates of my engagers. I comment and "like" their updates often. I also keep up with what they are doing. You can't create a relationship when it is only about your brand.

Terry Crosby
http://terrycrosbyblog.com

Lori Cunningham
Lori Cunningham July 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Jon, your article is right on. Companies would be amazed how what their biggest fans would be willing to do to be recognized as a top fan.

Companies should consider putting into place a Brand Ambassador program to engage fans and spread the word about their brands peer to peer.

Beverly Asleson
Beverly Asleson June 30, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Thanks! I totally agree with you, we have 2 favorite wine shops we go to and one especially we attend all his wine dinners and we brag about them everywhere we go but since I recently was unemployed I had to cut back but didn't stop going to my favorite wine shop plus we kept the wine club. I told him about my lay off, you would think he would give me a bigger discount to keep me coming (besides my club member discount) we would still spend more while we were there during wine tasting we would end up buying each wine on the list. Bottom line he ended up closing his wine shop...due to the economy and the landlord wouldn't give him a break, so giving us a bigger discount would not have mattered. We miss going there it's been a big lose to all of us. The other winery we hardly go anymore.

Heather Blair
Heather Blair June 30, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Brilliant!
Jon I need to speak to you!
Heather Blair