The Value of Your Biggest Fans

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fan_smallADOTAS – How much is a fan worth? A real “fan” of your brand is worth his weight in gold.

These influencers, who spread the love about your products or services to thousands of others in their social networks, have a huge impact on brand building and bottom-line sales. In fact, it’s said that just 1% of your online fanbase on Facebook and Twitter drives 20% of traffic to your website. And these influencers can directly influence 30% or more of your sales just by recommending your products or services to their social network.

Yet many brands do not focus on identifying these influencers and cultivating a privileged relationship with them, but instead set a goal of amassing as many fans as possible. That’s the wrong approach to social media; as the old saying goes, its quality, not quantity.

The real promise of social media isn’t to amass millions of fans just for the sake of it, but instead is the opportunity to analyze the traffic and activities of your fan base to identify key influencers. Then once you know who these people are, cultivate a lifetime relationship with them by offering them special promotions, regular communications and privileged access to your products and services. These influencers will then turn around and spread these messages to their entire social network.

I spent the earlier part of my career helping build Siebel Systems, the company that created the customer relationship management (CRM) software category. This was long before the days of Facebook and Twitter, but what I learned from CRM applies to today’s social networks: customers choose how they interact with your brand, and it’s your job to follow their lead.

For example, one day a customer might visit your website, another day stop by your store, and the next time email or call your customer service center. Using CRM, companies can manage and synchronize all these channels of communication to maximize the lifetime value of each customer relationship.

Social media offers an added benefit: not only can you identify your best customers (fans) and build a lasting relationship with them, but by doing so, they’ll spread the love to thousands of others. Social media, when done right, is like CRM on steroids.

It isn’t that difficult to leverage social media to build a fan base, identify key influencers, and create programs to engage these influencers that creates a lifetime relationship with them. But it does take a more concerted effort than just posting a Facebook page and creating a Twitter account and waiting for your fans to appear.

The first step is to stop thinking about social media as advertising. As I explained above, social media is closer to CRM than it is to advertising, yet many brands are still focused on measuring views, clicks, impressions and conversions on their social content as a way to gauge the success of their social initiatives. If you start thinking about social media as a way to build a rich customer database, then you’re moving in the right direction.

Once you’ve amassed a sizeable fanbase, using traditional, viral, and social marketing methods to boost your number of followers, then it’s time to identify your biggest influencers. You can track each fan’s level of engagement by offering sweepstakes, contests, promotions, lists, polls and other interactive applications on your fan pages.

Brands that offer these types of applications usually see a seven to 10 times increase in interaction rates with their social media content, and often quadruple sales through the social channel, but the real value of these applications is the ability to analyze your fans’ behavior. You’ll begin to see patterns in who participates in these promotions, who shares them the most, who completes purchases, and which fans are most active overall – with clear influencers emerging.

Lastly, treat all of your fans with the utmost respect, building a lifetime customer relationship with them by providing enticing promotions, product information, and soliciting their feedback on a regular basis. But when it comes to your “1%” of top influencers, pull out all the stops. These influencers are not only loyal customers, but are your best viral marketing asset.

By directly engaging one influencer with exclusive opportunities and unique content, you indirectly engage the thousands of others who are part of this influencer’s social sphere. Make your 1% feel special by promoting them on your fan pages and granting them insider access to people, deals or information.

When brands stop seeing social media as an advertising medium — and instead realize it’s all about building a customer base, analyzing customer behavior, and engaging with key customers to build lifetime relationships — they’ll be well on their way to understanding the true value of each fan.

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