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In my last post, I introduced you to your new BFF: the superfan. I know you can’t wait to embark on a long, fruitful relationship with your most loyal, vocal, valuable customers. But some of you might be thinking, “Sounds great! Just one teeny tiny question: Who are my superfans and how do I find my them?”

If you don’t already know them, chances are your superfans are in hiding or disguise. They’re like Superman before he understood his powers or Batman before he found his reason to fight. You need to know how to identify them so you can motivate and nurture their special powers. To help you recruit your own league of superfans, I’ve outlined three types of people to target. Each “type” offers a different form of super value.

1. The Enthusiast, aka Luke Skywalker

Remember Luke Skywalker before he knew how to use the force? He couldn’t be discouraged. He knocked down Yoda’s door and begged to be trained. He had energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and loyalty in spades. He just need to be trained. Embrace your enthusiasts so you can be the Yoda to their Luke.

Luckily, they’re the easiest superfans to spot. The enthusiast is the fan page moderator who tweets you three times a day and patrols forums to make sure people know how awesome you are. They are generating content about your brand on a regular basis, fueled by pure love. That doesn’t exactly mean anyone’s listening to them, yet. That’s where you step in, offering them a more visible platform for their content and pulling them into your social loop. Feature their content on your pages; retweet, like, and share what they do; and encourage others to do the same. If you return their love and reward them with inside perks and special attention, they will be forever loyal.

The value will come back to you tenfold in the form of authentic content. This superfan will become even more vocal and actively engaged in digital communities. The content marketing they generate is invaluable to your brand because it’s genuine (i.e., trustworthy) and can touch audiences who are inclined to ignore brand messaging.

2. The Influencer, aka Iron Man

Iron Man’s unmasked identity is powerful billionaire engineer Tony Stark. He throws lavish parties, builds skyscrapers, and makes women swoon. In other words, he’s got serious clout. Iron Man’s digital equivalent is the social media maven with a wildly popular Tumblr blog, viral videos, and their own superfans.

The one problem with influencers is everyone wants a piece of them. This person may or may not know a thing about your brand, and you’re competing for his or her attention. Your tactic is to introduce Tony Stark to your brand and court him with highly unique incentives. If you can find out what he values and make a better offer than your competitors, Iron Man just might emblazon your logo on his chest.

The value of the influencer’s endorsement is unbeatable. When a perceived authority advocates for your brand, people take note. Most of us are far more likely to act on a recommendation from a real person than click on a banner ad. The social capital of this superfan is their own network of followers. If they can ignite their personal audience, it’ll be a wildfire of new fans for you.

To keep them loyal, however, you will need to uncover something unique that only your brand can offer them. Otherwise, they may jet off with another shiny new brand.

3. The Lifer, aka Robin

Robin is Batman’s loyal sidekick. He is strong, fast, capable, and perfectly content to play a supporting role and let Batman take the lead. He trusts the caped crusader with his life, and he’s got his back, no matter what. The lifer is your already loyal customer in the shadows. Lifers make regular repeat purchases and are highly satisfied, although they haven’t really engaged with your social marketing efforts. They don’t have much of a following and aren’t very active on any platforms, but they have tremendous potential.

What makes Robin great? He’s grateful and feels indebted to Batman. If Batman asks for help, Robin is happy to oblige. If you ask a lifer nicely, they’ll be glad to leave a review or retweet your latest promotion. Especially if you make the process simple and rewarding. Give them access to more perks and inside tips through social so it becomes a natural and compelling extension of their offline relationship with your brand.

The lifetime customer value of any superfan is off the charts. But the lifer is particularly primed to upgrade their service or buy the latest product model with the slightest nudge. Instead of pouring marketing dollars into awareness building campaigns that might generate a 1 percent conversion rate from new customers, a simple email to your most loyal superfans can yield windfall profits.

How Do I Activate My Superfans?

The key to activating your superfans is to build a relationship with them. Reach out, pull them into your inner circle, and offer them the attention and value you hope for in return. And be sure to make it easy for them to review and recommend you and to create more impressions for your brand. Having high-quality, sharable content readily available for them to tweet or repost is your job as part of the super duo.

If you’d like to be part of a more in-depth discussion of activating and deriving value from your superfans, vote to bring my panel to SXSW 2014. Don’t forget to cast your vote by September 6, 2013!

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