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September 5, 2013

Who Are Your Superfans? Five WOM Tips PR Can Learn from Lady Gaga, Shaun White and Justin Timberlake

By Brian Pittman

What do pop stars like Lady Gaga and the world’s fastest growing brands share in common? They know how to use content to attract brand evangelists and drive buzz. If you’d like to ignite word-of-movements of your own among followers and customers, read on for some quick tips provided by PR University panelists past and present:

1. Segment audiences. “We looked our audiences and realized we needed a content vehicle that would appeal to them,” shared Eric Hausman, Sr., group manager of public relations at Target, when discussing “A Bullseye View”—the company’s behind-the-scenes online magazine that covers ideas, people and happenings that make Target what it is.

“The site serves up daily editorial—interviews, photo galleries, videos, articles and infographics—that bring Target news and perspectives to life in sharable ways,” he explained. “Our goal for ‘A Bullseye View’ is to provide authentic and compelling content related to Target—and to increase brand affinity and awareness.”

Since its launch, “A Bullseye View” has evolved to reach three different types of audiences—and the brand tracks engagement metrics to ensure it’s delivering content that continues to be relevant to these audience sectors:

  • Media and influencers. “These include journalists assigned to the Target ‘beat,’ bloggers who cover lifestyle topics, and Target partners and collaborators,” said Hausman.
  • Target super fans. “Consumers passionate about the brand and eager to consume and share its content.”
  • General audiences. “Consumers simply looking for interesting content online.”

2. Zero in on super fans. Not every company or client has the resources to launch an editorial vehicle targeting various audiences. However, most can—and should—zero in on “superfans” or “one-percenters,” as marketing expert Jackie Huba dubs them. “These are your true customer evangelists,” explains the author of “Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics,” whichwas released in May. “They not only purchase from you regularly, but feel compelled to tell others.”

What else sets one-percenters apart from others—and what traits should you flag when segmenting customers? Huba says superfans:

  • Passionately recommend your company to friends and colleagues.
  • Believe in the company and its people.
  • Purchase your products and services as gifts.
  • Provide unsolicited praise or suggestions of improvement.
  • Forgive occasional sub-par quality or dips in customer service.
  • Do not want to be bought; they extol your virtues freely.
  • Want to feel part of something bigger than themselves.

3. Engage, engage, engage.How to engage with these superfans once you find them? Here’s what Lady Gaga does to engage her “Little Monsters” fan base, shares Huba. It’s a good guide for PR, marketing and social media pros:

  • Lead with values (your brand values).
  • Build community (online and off).
  • Give fans a name (Gaga names her one percenters the “Little Monsters”).
  • Embraced shared symbols (logos, icons, etc.).
  • Make them feel like rock stars (RT, like comments, share their posts, offer them exclusives, etc.).

In addition, Intel Social Media Strategist Renee D. Edwards offers these guidelines for consistently creating content that will engage your superfans and one-percenters:

  • Be “creatively rapid.” Adapt to shifting event, conversations and trends
  • Think “native.” Tailor content to suit audience and expectations per channel.
  • Move the audience. Trigger social actions, inspiration, engagement, desire to dive deeper.
  • Respond and engage. Build relationships and expand ideas.

4. Ride celebrity coattails. Target’s Hausman said influencer marketing can give your WOM or brand evangelism program a boost. “Big names bring fans,” he assured. “When ‘A Bullseye View’ engages with a well-known blogger, celebrity or designer, readers respond.” Shaun White and Justin Timberlake are just two examples of influencers Target recently leveraged in its content marketing initiatives.

5. Hook them with a cause.Again, not every company or client can afford to ride the coattails of celebrity appeal. So what’s an economical way to hook a celeb, blogger or influencer to your brand or program? Answer: Find a common cause and experience—one shared by your brand fans and any given influencer, celebrity or otherwise. When doing so, “Make sure you identify programs missions and philosophies that align,” cautioned Kat Smith, director of social media and commerce at Petco, during a recent PR University webinar. “Pick your passion—communities respond to authenticity.”

For example, Petco partnered with Sony in support of the Petco Foundation’s “Think Adoption First” program—and worked with top bloggers and music artists like Gavin Degraw to drive buzz around the program.

“Causes and experience go a long way to igniting your brand ambassadors,” confirmed  Smith. What’s more, 91% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, according to a recent 2013 Cone Communications/ Echo Global CSR Study.


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