How To Turn Your Superfans Into Guerrilla Marketers

Teens are natural marketers: they are extremely enthusiastic about the things they love, and they want to share the newest and coolest things in their life with their friends. This is why many teens often make up the lion's share of brands' "superfans" -- people who will aggressively share your message with their network of friends.

For example, in a recent campaign for recording artist Cady Groves, RCA offered a free merchandise pack to every fan who got five friends to download a free Cady Groves song from the web site. While many fans shared to complete the offer, quite a few superfans took sharing to the next level, coming up with their own tweets, direct messaging friends and posting on Facebook to recruit hundreds of new fans to the Cady Groves web site and Facebook Page.

These superfans can wield tremendous power when it comes to spreading the word about your brand, but how do you encourage their natural inclination toward sharing? Superfans aren't necessarily motivated by the offer for themselves; they're interested in promoting a favorite artist or product, getting free merchandise for their friends and establishing their reputation as someone in the know. The key is to provide them with ways to do this.

Here are five creative approaches to motivating your superfans:

1. Grant exclusives.

Play into teens' desire to be part of an inner circle by offering content that isn't available to the masses. This strategy is frequently put into play in the music industry: as with the Cady Groves example above, artists will often offer previews of music videos, song tracks or merchandise to fans who share with several of their friends.

2. Raise the stakes for playing the game.

Teens are especially keen on the gaming aspect of social media -- they like the competitive challenge. Tie in gaming with a way to raise the rewards, and you have the perfect way to lure superfans into sharing. BookRenter, which rents textbooks online, recently ran a scholarship contest in which the scholarship increased as more people shared it with their friends.

3. Provide a platform for expression.

Just as teens like put their own stamp on their rooms and their fashions, they want to show their creativity online -- and they want to know that their opinion is valued. Let teens voice what they want to view or buy, since they're more inclined to share something that they've had a hand in creating. For example, StyleFactory, which sells unique home furnishings and accessories, places a Facebook "Like" button on products, and lets shoppers choose the designs that should be produced. People who share their favorite designs get discounts on the top choices.

4. Recognize loyalty.

Teens want to cement their reputation as pack leaders, and they'll share more when the process comes with recognition of their early adopter status. You can use badging to allow teens to advertise their ability to build a fan base. For example, offer exclusive icons to teens that get friends to sign up for group deals or get people to like your brand's Facebook page.

Also consider giving your most loyal fans an opportunity to win public recognition in return for sharing. For example, Stiletto Music recently ran a campaign for artist Tally Hall where people who shared her web page were entered into a contest to win a personal theme song written and recorded by Tally Hall.

5. Help them do good.

According to the United Nations Foundation, in 2010, 79% of U.S. girls contributed food or clothing, 53% gave money, and 66% asked family or friends to give or volunteer. Look to feed into teens' budding altruism with shareable campaigns. For example, to celebrate his 17th birthday last March, Justin Bieber asked his 7.7 million Twitter followers to donate to Charity: Water, a nonprofit devoted to bringing safe drinking water to developing nations. Bieber's tweet about the campaign was retweeted by hundreds of his fans, and those who contributed got to post a birthday message to Bieber on the Charity: Water website. The result: $30,000 raised in just two days.

Keep in mind that while teen superfans may be interested in your social offer, they may be more excited by the possibility of sharing it: promoting a new band, getting free stuff for their friends, and highlighting their status as someone who knows what's hot and what's not. Your job as a marketer is to provide teens with ways to carry your brand message as they extend their influence online.

Tags: loyalty, teens
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