Recently I was honored to present some “best practices” tips for community management at the Social Brand Forum. As is quite typical, I received a great question via Twitter after my presentation that I felt warranted more than a 140-character answer:
@karyd My only question is that I would have liked to hear your thoughts on a VIP program for your most active members of a community.
— Mike Gerholdt (@MikeGerholdt) October 18, 2012
Great question, Mike!
Active community members should be treated as VIPs
Your active community members are indeed an important set of influencers, and should (as Mike implies) be treated as VIPs. Beyond typical reward and brand loyalty programs, there is tremendous value in developing specific engagement with these VIPs. Here are my suggestions for doing so:
Ask them for their feedback. The most important thing you can do for your VIPs is to listen to what they have to say. These loyal customers likely have a lot to share about your company and your product. Make sure you give them ample opportunity to share this valuable information with you (and then it’s your job to make sure to share it with the appropriate people/departments within your organization). Also, take the time to ask them what they want from this community. In addition to asking for feedback via public posts and polls, consider using Google hangouts or inviting these VIPs to a private Facebook group to share their feedback.
Give them access to exclusives. Reward these VIPs by giving them sneak previews to upcoming product releases, company news (make sure it’s news they care about) or peeks behind-the-scenes into your production or operations. For example, invite them to a private event (online or offline) to reveal a new product; give them access to a video tour of the assembly of your most popular product; connect them with interviews with “celebraties” in your industry.
Give them premium content. Beyond coupons or product discount codes, think about ways to encourage these active influencers to do what they do best – share what they love with their own network of friends, family and colleagues. If you’ve been listening to them, you’ll start to form and understanding of the types of content they find worth sharing. Perhaps it’s an informative “how-to” video or a special offer they can pass along. In other words, help them look even more awesome to their network.
Feature their posts and comments. Your VIPs are likely posting and commenting some great thoughts, feedback and testimonials. Go beyond just saying “thanks” in a comment thread and feature their comment or post for your entire community to see. Consider “pinning” featured posts on your Facebook Fan page; featuring great comments or ideas from your VIPs in your e-newsletter; or pulling an RSS feed of favorited testimonial tweets into your website.
Invite them to become a guest blogger. Once you’ve really gotten know them, some of your VIPs will stand out as pretty talented content producers or writers. Perhaps some of them are already blogging on their own. These would be great people to invite as guest bloggers for your company blog. Word of caution, though – keep the parameters open, asking them to blog about their passion and experience surrounding topics related to the industry and community. This isn’t a solicitation for a product endorsement.
Strengthen your connection.
Don’t allow your VIPs to get lost among your online community. By giving them opportunities to shine, you deepen the relationship you have with each of them, strengthen their connection to the rest of the community, which ultimately leads to a dynamic and growing group of prospects, advocates and brand loyalists.
What have you done to reach out to VIPs in your community?