Lurkers And Superfans: Why You Need Both In Your Facebook Communities

SuperfanSuperfans are the most important people in Facebook brand communities, but getting them to engage is only one-half of the battle. They are by nature a small, crucial minority of a much larger fan ecosystem. A successful influencer-activation strategy must take into account how to shape a great experience for the many different types of fans.

These superfans are incredibly effective brand ambassadors; research shows that fans are 70 percent more likely than brand spokespeople to be seen as reliable sources of information, and 50 percent more likely to create persuasive content that influences a purchase.

Getting great fans to say good things is important, but the other side of the coin is the audience that those advocates reach and impact. Those impacted by advocates often do not have immediate resultant actions. This can make these individuals — dubbed by influential blogger Ari Herzog as the “lurkers” — tricky to measure and convenient to ignore, but brands do so at their own peril. In order to succeed, brands must build communities for both superfans and lurkers, and provide experiences that entice both to stay.

Superfan: Validation-Driven Content Creators

In any great brand community, there is a role that only great fans can fill. To ring true, some value points key to a brand’s identity need to come from inspired superfans rather than from the brand itself. This is especially true on social channels, where all fans expect a more conversational, distributed, and personal experience.

Brands can surface these influential individuals out of the much larger crowd by assessing the quality, not quantity, of their contributions. The best fans contribute out of an extraordinary passion for the brand and its mission, and they feel like they can talk about themselves and their own values when they talk about the brand.

Validation is the currency of the social Web, and good communities thrive when the actions of the top content creators are appreciated, curated, and enjoyed by passive lurkers. Beyond lurker validation, by entering the conversation to directly validate comments, photos, and feedback, the brand re-energizes their superfans and confirms that their participation is significant and appreciated.

Nilla Wafers attracts and retains top fans by starting great conversations, while also engaging in conversations started by fans. The brand does a great job of replying to fans consistently in a very human and authentic way. It recognizes the great emotional resonance the childhood treat has with its fans, and it is active in fostering those personal relationships, both directly by engaging its superfans, and at scale by championing fan-driven conversations out to its wider fan base.

For example, when a fan spontaneously shared a photo on the brand page of her two young daughters hosting a tea party with Nilla Wafers as the featured offering, the brand thanked her and complimented her adorable children. Feeling that they are involved in a larger community that values their contributions, Nilla’s advocates come back, bring friends, and enthusiastically keep the brand conversation going.

Lurkers: The Dark Matter That Holds Communities Together

Lurkers are the dark matter of social communities. They are hard to see and harder to measure, but they make up the vast majority (about 85 percent) of that universe and play an absolutely critical role in holding everything together.

Lurkers can take on fluctuating levels of engagement over time. Anyone who’s weighed restaurant reviews on Yelp or product reviews on Amazon before making an initial decision has spent time in the lurker camp.

Although lurkers tend to remain anonymous, this group is a key asset — the requisite audience — motivating the superfans with the potential of validation. Lurkers consume, curate, and validate community-generated content.

One of the largest failures around fan-activation strategies is to view the types of fans using the marketing funnel metaphor we’ve all become so familiar with. Healthy communities make people feel comfortable, where someone might test the community’s water with a like, and then progress to a reply before commenting or posting.

While nice when it happens, it is not a goal in and of itself to make everyone comment, share, or opt in to an exclusive experience. There are many kinds of great fans, and some of the most frequent likers or sharers never comment, never want to, and might fly completely under the radar of even actively engaged brands.

Brand communities, like all communities, need to foster a great experience for all members in order to thrive. They need to humanize the individuals and make sure the involvement of all different types of fans is measured and aligned to feed into itself, not fostered in isolation or ignored completely. Authentic engagement unfolds and is heightened when fans gather around each other and share stories in a comfortable place.

Readers: Do you know what makes your Superfans tick?

Dan Sullivan is the founder and CEO of “after-like marketing” firm Crowdly.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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