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The “SuperFan Strategy” and Why More Brands Should Use It

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A fascinating Fortune article reached me recently. It was a feature on how brands like Sephora and LEGO are relying more and more on “superfans” to regulate their online communities.

What’s a superfan? As the author of this article, Kurt Wagner, puts it, these are the most engaged users within an online community of a brand. These are the people who comment, like, and share every Facebook Page post they see for the brand they love.

The feature points out that these fans get paid nothing to essentially patrol online conversations and discussion boards, answering questions and providing product advice. You can see why they have caught the attention of major brands.

I would take it one step further. You see, I have gotten to interact with and observe superfans within my own company’s brand. I won’t say much, except that I have always found them to be among our brand’s biggest assets, and I think we should develop a deeper strategy to capitalize on these engaged users.

The “SuperFan Strategy,” as I call it, is a focused attempt at empowering the most engaged users of an online community, similar to how Huffington Post gives more responsibility to its most influential users. Conversely, superfans of a given brand, let’s say LEGO because they are currently on the cusp of this, could be used as gatekeepers and testers for new products.

This would ensure that LEGO’s latest products are consistently creating new fans and, hopefully, superfans. I know most people would jump at the chance to be a more official advocate for a brand they love, giving them more incentives to stay loyal and active.

This type of strategy also positions the brand as a two-way communicator, constantly listening to their fan-base and being responsive.

Are there significant drawbacks to a strategy such as this? I’m not sure, though the only one that comes to mind is that a superfan can lose some credibility among the rest of a brand’s fan-base if they become a pseudo-employee, so that must be handled with care.

Otherwise, the “SuperFan Strategy” is one I expect more brands to try, as it really is a no-brainer amid the advent of social marketing strategies.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out New Professional News, a list of headlines essential for any new professional, updated daily at 8am.

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How to Get Better at Thinking on Your Feet

Thinking On Your Feet

In the world of public relations and online community building, your weapon of choice is strategy. You take time to think through your given strategy by setting out clear objectives, goals, and tactics. Time is your friend, and most of us in this profession revel in staying up late to perfect a campaign we’re about to present.

Unfortunately for me and others like me, I’m very decisive. When I like an idea or course of action, I tend to decide on it quickly without thoroughly examining alternative options or the consequences of that idea.

Sure, this comes in handy when I’m on a date and the girl can’t decide what movie we should see, but when you’re too decisive on formulating a campaign for a client or your supervisor, trouble can ensue. That is, when you take a narrow-minded approach to creating your lifeline, expect the boat to sink.

This is because even the “best” idea in the world to you can be shot down in the quickest moment. We can try to defend our decision and approach all we want, but all it takes is that one, seemingly insignificant variable to make your strategy completely dismissive. When that variable is thrown at you by the people you are trying to win over, you’re going to have to take a different, albeit scary approach.

You’re going to have to think on your feet.

In a lot of cases, this is your one chance. No time for do-overs. No time for re-convening. The spotlight is on you, and you’re going to have to deliver. Weirdly, I love these sink-or-swim moments.

To be honest, I’ve always had a knack for this. I was the student in school who made up speeches on the spot. When running for student body president of my high school, I took my pre-approved script, crumpled it up onstage and proceeded without any idea of what I should say (and I won).

This isn’t something I’ve always just known how to do, to be honest. It’s something I learned and practiced. Being put on the spot on tends to get your mind moving at double its speed, and when you’re used to it, you can actually have a fair time assembling what you need to say smoothly and coherently. Eventually, you get to the point where it’s actually a thrill.

One of the secrets to this being good at presenting in general. Specifically, you need to be able to sell an idea. Prove that you think it is the greatest idea in the world (by showing it in your confidence), present the evidence and reasoning behind why you think it is the greatest idea in the world, and get people excited about it.

That’s not to say, however, that you’re just pulling information out of thin air. Good listening skills and the ability to read an audience also plays a huge part in assembling an off-the-cuff response or presentation.

A year ago, I was at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Assembly as a delegate for Liberty University. We had regular seminars covering various ethos in the profession, and I attended one that provided insights on ethics.

For this seminar, we were divided up into groups of 10-15 students each and were given the opportunity to prepare an ethical response on a fabricated crisis assigned to us.

Nonsense ensued. My group was in chaos and disagreement over how to address the problem at hand. Three of the students were bickering incessantly, and the rest of the group seemed to have give up on sharing their opinion.

Sitting on the sidelines, I had been taking notes on what everyone was saying and listened very carefully to everything discussed. Before we knew it, our time was up and we hadn’t even decided on who was going to present our response on behalf of the group.

When called upon, I volunteered and gave one of the most frightening speeches I’ve ever given. I’m in a room full of the country’s best PR students, as well industry professionals and opinion leaders. And I had nothing concrete prepared, just a list of points.

Of course, no one in the group even knew who I was and were probably embarrassed for me, but I went ahead anyway. Then something fantastic happened.

Glancing at my notes, I presented the issue by summarizing the opinions and thoughts shared by our group. I didn’t leave anyone out. Using this information, I came up with a solution on the spot that seemed to satisfy everyone.

Apparently the planets aligned because our response was the best in the seminar, and our group was highly praised. I made a lot of friends (and got a lot of business cards) from the group that day, and some of the older professionals in the room congratulated me personally.

The point isn’t that I’m something special. Honestly, I was pretty lucky, and I relied pretty heavily on the hard work of my group.

Really, my point here is that you need to be resourceful when thinking on your feet. Don’t be too proud to call upon the help of others, as long as you give them their due credit. While this isn’t something you can necessarily learn overnight, it is at least a very accessible option for over-decisive troublemakers like myself.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Quick Copywriting (and Twitter) Tip

I’ve been writing a lot of google ads the past two days, which has forced me to re-evaluate my copywriting strategy. Copywriting, like tweeting, is known by many to be one of the absolute hardest forms of writing since you are trying to convey in a few words what could take paragraphs.

Of course, practice and time will surely help boost your copywriting skills, but here is a quick tip that may give you some more legs to stand on: when writing copy, write out everything you want to convey first. From there, analyze the most important details and go from there. Keep a thesaurus handy and make sure you’re using the most concise words possible. Finally, punctuate! Make sure your sentences flow smoothly and don’t use conjunctions or semi-colons that will just drag your sentence out longer.

Hope this helps!

Jon

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