Highlighting Your Fans

Highlighting Your Fans

What has been by far the most effective social media marketing tactic I’ve used? That’s simple: Highlighting fans.

It’s easy to do. Fans love it. And it’s the content that is most likely to be shared. Basically, it’s a no-brainer.

And yet… I’m still seeing it done in a not-so-great way. So let’s buckle up and talk about some fun ways you can highlight your fans.

Their story, their words

This used to be my bread and butter content. I say “used to” because it’s simply harder to come by. So if you’re having trouble finding this kind of thing, you’re not alone.

One thing I have found when I have asked fans for a story, they want to give you something big and they want to give you a whole lot of it. It’s overwhelming to me because of the amount of work I need to do with it, and if I posted that, it would be overwhelming to fans since they really relate with smaller, every day stories and not the big ones.

But what do they randomly post to social media from time to time? They share what is happening in their day-to-day life. That small content that fans can relate to and share. Whether it’s how they’re dealing with a problem in their life or the results of a doctor’s appointment, it’s a tiny glimpse into their life in their own words. There is not as much care to pretty it up as there would be if I outright asked for a particular story, so you have the raw emotion that others understand. It’s such a win-win for fans and organizations.

How do you find it?

Look, this used to be so easy to find. Follow a few hashtags on Instagram and I’d get it again and again. Fans have become more private and consequently, aren’t sharing these updates to an open audience very frequently. So if this is the kind of content you want to get, you need to dig. You need to find the people who are sharing and follow them. Then you have to actively check in on them to see if they shared anything appropriate. Rinse and repeat to make sure you have a constant flow of new people. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it can still be done.

Humans of New York-style content

Sometimes it’s worth working with those stories you get when you ask particular community members for them. For the particularly compelling ones, I usually will chop them up into several parts. For the most part, I leave the content alone and only fix glaring grammar errors. I then ask the fan for more photos than I need, so I can choose photos to go with each part.

And then I dribble out the posts little by little. The exact cadence is really dependent on the community and their expectations and needs. But it’s a nice way to get fans to continually check back in for updates. You also get loads more sharing from the highlighted fan’s friends and family, since there is a larger number of posts to share about them. And on top of that, I have found communities really love to cheer the highlighted fan on, so it usually results in much bigger things other than just better engagement numbers.

How do you do it?

I pepper question posts throughout my content plan that are related to the kind of stories I’d like to see and then go through the answers and contact those who have the most promising answers. I give them a bit of direction by showing them past stories, but overall, it’s up to them what they give me. A very good percentage of these people come through with a story, but I would not count on any until you have the story in hand. And then when I do publish the stories, I make sure I have a form at the end where people can submit their own stories. Basically always make sure you have that pipeline open and flowing.

Show what they love

With products and events, you likely have fans who love at least one thing you do. If you don’t, well… you have bigger problems than I can address here.

Take advantage of what your fans love. Ask them to provide content on how they use the product or what they get out of the event. Most will likely jump at the chance, and it can be much more like peer-to-peer advice rather than marketing.

Where I see a lot of organizations messing up on this is by trying to push a square peg into a round hole. For example, you’ve heard video gets more eyes, so you are set that all content you are going to ask for will come in the form of video. What about fans who are better at taking a photo or writing? The idea of getting on video is pure hell to them. Either they will skip helping you altogether or the video will be unwatchable because they are uncomfortable. Let your fans participate in talking about your event or product with the method they are most comfortable with, instead of what works best for you. What you get will be much more authentic and effective.

How do you do this?

Your most enthusiastic fans will leave comments, reviews or even send emails praising a product or event, so make sure you are maximizing the amount of times they can do that. When you post about either, leave open-ended questions about the kind of content you would like to find to promote it in the future. Take note of who is responding and follow up with them. Give them basic guidelines of what you’d like to receive that includes flexibility allowing them to be themselves and make sure you include a due date that is well before you actually need it. And then let them do their thing.

Check in once before the due date to make sure they don’t have any questions. Expect that they will be late. Leave plenty of time for lateness as well as for editing and any approvals that will need to happen. And then be sure to thank them profusely. This is a huge gift they are giving you, so be sure to acknowledge that. And then hopefully, they love working with you so much, they’ll do it again.

Highlighting your fans is such a great tactic for social media, so it should be used whenever possible. Just make sure it’s on their terms and that you are super grateful for their contribution. There is no bigger turn off than forcing a fan to do something they are not comfortable with and then showing your displeasure at the result. Try your best to not be that person.

How are you highlighting your fans? 

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