superfan_sFacebook and other social platforms offer a lot of metrics that, at first glance, look like they would be useful for gauging how your campaign is faring. However, “likes” and “followers” aren’t really an accurate measure of effectiveness. In fact, they can actually be detrimental to your promotional efforts because they reduce social media marketing to little more than a popularity contest.

So how do you really measure the success of your social media marketing campaign?

As with so many other things, a successful social following depends not on the quantity, but on the quality of your fans. In September-October 2012, Napkin Labs (a Facebook app developer) conducted a study across 52 Facebook brand pages with 200,000 to 1,000,000 fans. After analyzing fan activity over eight weeks, they discovered that only 6 percent of the fans actually engaged with the Facebook content. The study also showed that the amount of engagement doesn’t necessarily increase with the number of fans. For example, brand pages with 900,000+ fans had 60 percent less engagement than pages with half that number.

Enter the Superfan

The term “superfan” has been with us for a while, although it has traditionally referred to folks who paint their faces for hockey games or name their firstborn children after Vulcans. However, in recent years, it has come to refer to social media fans who not only “like” your brand, but continue to engage with it in meaningful ways. Superfans are advocates, zealots, and the lifeblood of any successful social media marketing effort.

Napkin Labs defines superfans as “a brand’s top 20 most engaged fans,” and claims that one superfan does the work of 75 average fans. Every month, the average superfan will like 10 posts, share five pieces of content, and will comment at least once. This, in turn, encourages the other fans to participate and drives up engagement on the brand’s page.

“Every business has to measure what they do and make sure that it is effective,” Riley Gipson, co-founder and CEO of Napkin Labs, claimed in an interview with Mashable last October. “Likes can be part of that measurement, but we need to start looking beyond that a bit, and start looking in more depth at what fans are actually doing.”

Cultivating Superfans

So how do you go about turning your fans into superfans? Here are some useful strategies:

  • Post like a human. People want to engage with other people, not with faceless business entities. Talk to your fans as if you were talking to your friends, and let your personality show.
  • Encourage dialogue. Instead of focusing on one-way messaging (promotional messages, coupon offers, etc.), give your fans the opportunity to interact with you and with each other. Spotlight your fans, invite them to share stories, and participate in the conversations.
  • Own your mistakes. If you screw up and your fans call you on it, own up to it. Handle that potentially embarrassing situation with grace and honesty, and you just may convert a disgruntled customer into a lifelong superfan.
  • Acknowledge your superfans. If you have some enthusiastic brand advocates out there, let them know how much you appreciate them with rewards, privileges, or a simple, sincere note of thanks.

Building meaningful connections with your fans certainly isn’t easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But as long as you make an effort to convert them and give them a reason to engage with you, these superfans will repay you many times over with their brand advocacy.

Only 6% of Fans Engage with a Brand’s Facebook Page [STUDY] – Mashable

Napkin Labs Study Shows that Facebook Doesn’t Help Brands Drive Engagement; Superfans Do – Marketwire