We need more likes on our Facebook page! We need more followers on Twitter! More! More! MORE! Okay. Then what? As brands of all shapes and sizes race to get build an increasingly social brand, the early focus is often on amassing the largest follower count on your social network or networks of choice. However, few take the time after hitting their magic follower number (or not) to articulate a system for elevating your very best, most passionate customers and rewarding them. 

And yet, when brands do take this extra step of reaching out to their most committed followers they reap rewards and further increase their reach online. Let’s look at a couple of examples of brands reaching out and elevating passionate followers.

Implement a Discovery Process

How do you find your most passionate users online? The answer is so simple it’s easy to forget. To discover your most passionate followers you first need to implement a listening station that catches conversations across various social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. While there are certainly enterprise-level solutions like the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Google’s Wildfire, you can also find robust tools at a reasonable price via Sprout Social and Raven Tools. You can even hack a listening post together with Social Mention, Google alerts and iGoogle, and a good schedule to remind you.

Regardless of your system, you need a concrete process in place to discover not only who’s talking about your brand but who’s talking about your brand the most passionately. (Of course, this process will also catch the converse — your most dissatisfied community members. But that’s another post for another day.) Advanced tools like Salesforce will have means of measuring the sentiment of your mentions as well.

Develop an Escalation System

Last year I interviewed Chobani Greek Yogurt after an amazing interaction on a Twitter chat that had nothing to do with yogurt or food of any kind. It was a brand-focused chat (#BrandChat) that I jumped in on after a morning run and mentioned that I was eating a Chobani to recharge while tweeting. In no time, a member of Choabani’s social team had jumped into the chat and started a conversation with several of us. At the end, they offered to send a special gift to any of us that would direct message or DM them. As any savvy Twitter user knows to DM them we would have to follow them, thus opting-in to more brand updates.

As I’ve noted previously, I was a moderate fan of their yogurt before but little things like this gift pack and some swag during the Olympics have turned me into something of a greek yogurt snob and, more importantly, a passionate brand advocate. The escalation continues as they recently reached out to send me some new flavors for testing. How cool is that?! First, as a fan it’s neat to be asked to be involved in the process. Second, it allows the brand to get market research and feedback from a high-volume customer at a minimal cost.

In planning for your brand’s outreach you need to think of all of these actions as steps in a fan escalation system. Chobani first reached out unexpectedly, demonstrating superb listening skills and elevated me up to their inner circle with a free gift that, though it was not free for them, cost very little in the grand scheme of things. Next, they continued reaching out to me as a member of their inner circle during their Olympic sponsorship, which had a large social focus. Finally, after my advocacy has reached a near shill level as I’ve included them in blog posts and an ebook, they’ve elevated me to a level where I feel like a close member of the team trying new products.

Don’t Just Focus on the Big Influencers

Last week at Blogworld’s New Media Expo in Las Vegas, Tamsen Webster of Allen & Gerritsen addressed this very topic in her session Maximizing Influencer Outreach as part of the event’s BusinessNext track. I’ve embedded her slides below but a big take-away was her grid breaking down the four types of social influencers on the axis of connections (broad vs. personal) and probability of action — Connected Catalysts, Passionate Publishers, Every Advocates, and Altruistic Activators.

influencer grid

When it comes to outreach, many think only of those with broad-reaching connections (Guy Kawasaki, for example) while missing the fact that your altruistic activators can often deliver just as much action on behalf of your brand. Though this group often has a fraction of the following of the Connected Catalyists, your outreach is more likely to deliver a an impactful “WOW!” to that individual user prompting more advocacy than you might get from super users if you’re lucky enough to land on their radar.

The example Webster focused on in her talk was another favorite of mine, glasses game-changer Warby Parker. Like me and the yogurt, Tamsen documented many cases including her own where passionate users felt the need to rise up and answer their friends’ questions on where to get glasses. In many instances, fans’ mentions of Warby Parker on Twitter are serving as the brand’s discovery process, after which they often jump in with recommendations and assistance.

Warby Parker ensures such strong fan coverage via outreach to all influencers on the grid — from highly Connected Catalysts like Ashton Kutcher to those like Webster and myself with significantly smaller followings when compared to Kutcher but with great commitment to the brand within our own networks. Warby Parker rewards this advocacy by treating passionate fans to moments of “WOW!” such as the video Webster received from Santa Claus at the Warby store in New York wishing her a Merry Christmas by name.

Don’t Homogenize Your Social Media Engagement

Ultimately it comes down to building a three-dimensional social media strategy that reaches beyond simply engaging with the most people. A truly social business will find a way to employ the Pareto principle, commonly known as the “80/20” rule, to reward those most passionate about the brand. However, this only happens when organizations commit to listening, escalating, and recognizing influence in all shapes and sizes.

Photo via Flickr user dwan.mac