4-Step Guide to Creating Superfans

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Andy Crestodina
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I recently read two posts by Srinivas Rao about making the most of a small audience. They inspired me. He says that in the beginning, when your audience is small, you have an opportunity to build super high-quality connections. You may only have a few dozen readers, but this can actually be an advantage! 

I’ve combined Srinivas articles with some advice of my own. Here’s what I have for you: four steps that turn a small audience into loyal superfans…

“If you only have a few readers, treat them like the most important
people in the world because they are.” – Chris Guillebeau (tweet this)

1. Find your superfans.

It’s likely you already have superfans. But unless you’re paying attention, it may not be obvious who they are. Here are the telltale signs:

  • They’re following you.
    When your audience is small, it’s quick to scroll through your fans and followers.
  • They frequently share, mention, like, favorite and +1.
    When you see these happy little signs, take a moment to see who it was.
  • They subscribe, open emails, and click.
    A small list of subscribers makes it easy to scroll through the list of people who opened and clicked on your emails. MailChimp gives a star rating to subscribers to help you find your fans.
  • They comment on your content.
    They’re engaging with your content. So make sure you respond to every comment!

“Find the people who love you. Don’t chase the people who don’t” – Liz Strauss (tweet this)

While you’re looking for fans, keep your eye out for those that may be very useful, such as:

  • Content creators
    Do they have a blog? Are they journalists?
  • “Influencers”
    Do they talk about your industry? Is their audience engaged?
  • Potential clients
    Check LinkedIn. Do companies and job titles suggest they may be decision makers in your audience?
  • Current customers
    Are you already working with any of these fans? You really should know, don’t you think?

Really, you’re looking for anyone who is consistently listening. Pay attention and familiar faces will appear. See them? These are your fans. If you’re lucky, you may find a few legitimate stalkers!

They’re paying attention, so it’s time to return the favor. You’re ready for step two.

2. Keep them on your radar: Circles, Lists and Groups.

Now that you’ve found them, here’s how to not lose them again.

  • Connect with them on several networks.
    They’re really not a superfan if communication is limited to one place. Finding people on second and third networks should become second nature. Of course, use Facebook and Twitter but also sites like LinkedIn, Quora, and Slideshare.
  • Keep Twitter lists and Google+ circles.This is very important. I have a Twitter list called “radar.” Watching this list makes it easier to pay attention to fans and friends. I also have a list called “clients.” You need a way to filter out noise and dial into your dedicated audience.
  • Comment and share.
    When you comment on their posts or share something they wrote, it shows you’re reading back. You care enough to pay attention. This makes such a difference.

3. Personally reach out to readers.

Say hello! Simple, right? And when they share your content, say thank you. Start a conversation, then listen. A small audience is easy to listen to. Once you connect, ask them what topics they’d like to hear more about.

They key to online networking is to keep upgrading from one channel to the next, from the first tweet all the way up to lunch.

Email

Srinivas gives the example of Chris Guillebeau, who personally emailed every one of his first 10,000 email subscribers. Yes, that’s a commitment, but just imagine how it would energize your audience.

Your audience is listening, but they know you’re listening, too. They know you’re accessible. Drop them a line. If they write back, stay engaged. Take the next step.

Phone

I recently wrote a post about how the phone is actually the best web marketing tool. In it, I gave an example of how one simple call led to a flurry of connections, introductions and even a lead. Phones are powerful. Don’t hesitate to reach out and blow someone’s mind.

Just dial, apologize for being so random, ask a question, listen and offer to help. The relationship is now permanently upgraded. It’s easy, unexpected and awesome. See how it goes, then take the next step…

Face, meet face

Call me crazy, but I believe the ultra-premium-platinum-plus connection is only possible through actually meeting someone IRL (in real life). This is how true superfans are made. Big brands could never do this. But you can. It’s easy and fun.

If they’re local, grab coffee. Or find an event to go to together. Or just make yourself accessible (people who know me know where to find me on Thursdays at 6:00). Not local? No problem. Suggest a quick Hangout on Google+ or a Skype call. Jane Boyd’s 45 Conversations is an excellent example.

Anytime I meet someone who has read something I’ve written, I always ask for feedback or ask them to suggest a new topic. I’m always open to input. And now that you’ve had the ultimate chance to listen, you’re ready for step four.

4. Create content for specific readers.

  • Mention fans in your posts.
    I almost never write a post without mentioning someone. (This post mentions four people). It creates a stronger connection, but it can also help them a bit. Mentioning and linking can help with social media and search optimization. How nice of you!
  • Write something just for him/her.
    Here’s a trick that the big blogs can’t ever do. Write something for a specific reader!
    You’re writing custom content anyway. Why not customize it specifically for one of your readers? You can even turn email conversations into an online interview or Q&A session. Now you’re collaborating with fans on content. They just jumped from “fan” to “teammates.” Even better.

When your audience is small,  you can run your blog like a VIP experience.” – Srinivas (tweet this)

When you follow these steps, suddenly your website becomes an online networking tool. You never know who you might meet! Just like any other networking, there should be reciprocity. If they show a little love to you and your content, return the favor.

These tactics may not scale well as you grow, but remember: the goal isn’t to be big, it’s to connect and be real. One superfan is worth more than 1000 casual acquaintances of random followers.

Tip! Read this post backwards and find tips on how to be a good superfan. It’s a fun way to get the attention of a blogger, journalist, or prospect …and to make a new friend. As Srini says, “Make friends, not followers”

Links to Srinivas’ posts:

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Comments (15)
  • Andy,
    Thank you for this post. It’s a wonderful reminder that quality trumps quantity in a lot of cases. And it is useful, as well. This guide is going into my bag of tricks. And, btw, superfan is my new favorite word.

    • @Manya Chylinski Quality absolutely trumps quality. I was talking to someone about email marketing recently and they asked me if it’s ok to buy a list of email addresses. I explained, that’s no way to make friends! …much less superfans. 🙂

  • Great advice and a down to earth approach to making lasting connections. Nice work Andy!

    • @MattN1125 Glad you liked this one, Matt. Great to see you here online! Your comment is an example of how a bit of content can help people keep in touch. We met, what, like 25 years go? Longer? Maybe for the next post, we should collaborate on something about junior high dances and slumber parties…

  • It’s refreshing to put the emphasis on the most important people in a network.  The easy, popular approach seems to cast a wide net and build big numbers of friends, likes, connections, and follows.

  • I’m a superfan!

  • @Watson89 I’m glad you liked this one. I think it’s important to remember that every one of those numbers in Google Analytics represents real people and making a real connection with them that really matters!

  • Thanks Andy! Just found my way here via Gini’s post- definitely saving this one!

    • @RebeccaTodd Thanks, Rebecca! It’s also worth reading those articles by Srini that I linked to at the bottom. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Right?

      • @crestodina I will take a look thanks. But as blogging isn’t something I do personally nor for work, your post seemed more relevant by title alone. I am in sales, and I would rather 1 meeting with a potential Superfan than 30 cold calls. And the numbers back me up on that too.

  • Really great post! I usually just “Like” others’ posts or maybe “Share”, never thought about reaching out in person! It does sound crazy, but why not? Maybe I will start with you, haha!

  • Love this, Andy!  We have a client who built his e-mail list one individual and one business card at a time. He has 800 dedicated followers — as big a universe as his unique enterprise needs.  I will use your great ideas for even better outreach to this select group.  Thanks!

  • @betseyobee Happy to help! Time spending building strong connections with your current audience is likely higher value than slaving away to build a bigger audience. I’d rather have a few superfans than a large group of anonymous strangers…

  • Andy, I can’t wait to see you again. I’m your SuperFan!

    • …and I’m yours. Let’s get together soon! I’m super excited about SOBCon.

 
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