As marketers sharpen their focus on the importance of “superfans” and move urgently to develop more sophisticated consumer loyalty programs to reach them, they’re paying closer attention to increasing the effectiveness of their social media tools.

Superfans, after all, are those heavy brand users who sign up for newsletters, follow the brand on social media, buy from their favorite brands and happily spread the word about products and services, both on social platforms and through referrals to friends.

The focus on developing strong relationships with superfans comes at a time when improving customer loyalty is at the top of the to-do list for many marketers. Forrester Research, an independent research company, found that improved customer loyalty is a top priority in 2016 for 82 percent of the global marketing decision-makers it surveyed at midsized organizations.

Why are superfans so important? Superfans are the epitome of loyalty. They act as influential advocates that have the power to amplify your brand and its messaging.

Marketers today are looking for loyalty solutions that help their companies identify and track their customers, reward behavior and drive deeper engagement. Deeper engagement and moving consumers beyond participation in traditional “spend-and-get” loyalty programs pays rewards in building a larger base of superfans. And brands are leveraging the powerful voice of superfans and the massive reach of social media to provide additional muscle to a brand’s customer acquisition and retention efforts.

Since social media is a critical tool that helps create deeply engaged superfans, it’s important to integrate the channel effectively into multichannel loyalty offerings. Below are four ways to use social media to find superfans and deepen their engagement with and loyalty to a brand:

Identify superfans by using social media data

Each brand needs to determine for itself what constitutes a superfan. Retailers, for example, often measure purchase frequency and customer-spending habits. Consumer-packaged-goods brands, on the other hand, often must track promotional codes that consumers redeem because they lack direct access to customer data from retail purchases.

To obtain a well-rounded view of consumers, marketers should explore social media engagement to find their superfans. They look at digital maps of consumers’ personal identities, their social connections, their activity levels on social media and how often they share with the brand through customers’ comments, product reviews and other venues. Social media data, when combined with the information generated by traditional customer-relationship management, is key to distinguishing superfans.

Reward loyalty program members for their social activities

Consumers want to be recognized for their full engagement with a brand, not just their purchases. Savvy brands are now rewarding consumers with loyalty points for social interaction (tweeting about the brand or sharing products across social media), engaging in online activity such as watching videos and reading a blog or posting a product review.

When Lancôme began offering loyalty points to fans that posted product reviews, it learned more about its most devoted customers’ reactions to its beauty products while creating deeper engagement with them.

Use social media as a tool to activate and reward superfans

More than 90 percent of consumers globally trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing, and it’s crucial to activate superfans to remain loyal and amplify a brand’s products and services.

Zumiez, a specialty brand that sells action-sports-related apparel and accessories, engages its superfans with specially curated gift sets and encourages recipients to use a secret hashtag to post pictures of their surprise on Twitter and Instagram.

Birchbox, a subscription service that delivers beauty and grooming products to women and men, offers dedicated followers the chance to join its blogger network. Bloggers receive weekly emails from the brand with exclusive opportunities such as early access to sneak peeks and products to review on their blogs.

Include social platforms as an integral part of a multichannel strategy

It’s important to stay connected to consumers across multiple channels and platforms and to obtain a single view of their multichannel activity. Thus, it’s essential to connect with them across numerous touchpoints—online, offline events, mobile and social.

Companies can’t expect to engage effectively with superfans on a single platform. Remember, superfans are willing to do just about anything for their favorite brands. Effective strategies include strong calls to action, such as asking consumers to include hashtags in their social posts or share their latest product review.

As loyalty and deeper engagement take deeper hold in 2016 and beyond, superfans will continue to move into the spotlight. Their power to move brands is without parallel. It’s time for brands to build their relationships with them in ways that respect and value their importance.

Resources: ExpertOnline360.com