Talia Shani
Head of UK Marketing @ Yotpo
September 3rd, 2015

This is part two of a two-part series on the importance of brand fans. Check out the first post, “Why Content Marketing Needs Customers Who Don’t Convert.”


Table Of Contents

Brand fans are like a ripple in the water. They may just be the stone that drops in and never surfaces again, never making a purchase from you, but the ripples they spread carry on far further than they do.

These ripples matter for your business – word-of-mouth marketing is powerful stuff, and brand fans are your key to getting more of it.

Why brand fans matter so much

The consumer decision-making process is more fragmented now.

People read a piece of your content, forget about you, then they see you again because a colleague shares a blog post and…they promptly forget about you again.

The truth hurts:

A percentage of brand fans might convert but the majority of them never will.

So, you need to focus on how to build up your brand fan’s loyalty so they spread the word to bring new potential customers to you.

How can you build a legion of brand fans who will spread the word and bring in referrals?

Getting loyal brand fans relies on 3 key concepts:

Create a Community from Exclusivity

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx

As Groucho Marx noted, exclusivity is very desirable.

In fact, the scarcity heuristic — by which we place more value on things that are difficult to acquire– is hard-wired into our psychology.

What Marx got wrong is that people actually enjoy being invited to certain clubs — as long as they maintain that air of exclusivity.

Huge companies like Pinterest, Gmail and Spotify have all taken advantage of this by doing an initial invite-only launch.

In the case of Pinterest, the company was able to grow rapidly and still maintain exclusivity due to the fact that people needed to be invited (or receive invites from friends) to join.

brand fans

People who were users were creating a buzz to show off their invites and because they felt like a part of an exclusive brand community.

And people who weren’t users were creating a buzz by asking for them.

Ultimately the company became the fastest to hit 10 million users, largely based on this strategy of exclusivity.

When people feel like they’re “in” on something — like they know something not everybody else does —they’ll develop a special loyalty to the brand.

The same way Pinterest, Gmail and Spotify give out millions of “exclusive” invites, big restaurant chains like In-n-Out and Starbucks have “secret” menus that build a personal connection by making customers feel like they’re in on the secret.

brand fans

Businesses can copy this tactic by offering launch invites (LaunchRock is a great service for this), creating a Beta Testing group, offering VIP access to special features or promotions or even creating a “secret menu” of their own.

Build an Emotional Investment

A 2014 study looked at how badly the reputation of automotive brands were damaged after a big recall.

The study looked at Toyota, GM, Ford, and Hyundai, four companies that spent about the same amount of money on lawyers and had similar advertising (with similar budgets) and offered similar discounts after their recalls.

Toyota came out resoundingly on top.


Toyota’s fans have an emotional connection to the brand built from powerful messaging that re-instills the belief that Toyota is reliable, strong and durable.

Despite recalls, fans emotionally connect and believe this message, causing them to stay loyal despite slip-ups.

The lesson?

True fans who are emotionally connected to a brand will allow for more mistakes and forgive more easily.

This makes their loyalty extremely strong and valuable.

UGC is a great way to foster an emotional connection. Look at how brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs use user generated content to advertise on Instagram and increase brand love, as well as build stronger relationships with their dedicated brand fans.

brand fans

Reward Fans

Rewards shouldn’t just go to paying customers.

Look for brand advocates who are repping your brand online and off, and find ways to reward them. Rewarding your fans shows them that they matter to you – and this is important if you want to keep them around.

Try to offer rewards for those who aren’t necessarily buying, but are spreading the word. It can be as simple as responding to a silly tweet, or as elaborate as sending a car to pick up a Twitter follower who was tired of taking public transportation in the snow.

This is what Virgin Airlines did in 2013 when they looked at their list of Twitter followers to see who was having a bad day and could use a pick-me-up.

They did everything from chauffer service, to delivering mittens and scarves to showing up at an office with 100 cupcakes.

Keep in mind, these weren’t even people who necessarily mentioned the brand — they were just Twitter followers.

But they certainly mentioned Virgin Airlines after the fact.

After the first few gifts were given and the buzz started, thousands of people also started tweeting at Virgin to share their bad days, hoping to get a surprise — spreading the word farther and having more of an impact than any marketing campaign.

The lesson?

Rewards your fans and they’ll spread the word! Fans may love you, but if they feel invisible, they may not be loyal forever.

Make sure you’re acknowledging the fans who may or may not spend money with you.

Whether it’s something small as a public mention on Twitter or big like sending them a gift, they will appreciate it and spread the word.

How to measure brand fans

But, how do I measure love?

Granted, “brand love” is hard to measure.

But there are things you can track to see how much people love your brand and if that number is growing.

Here are four metrics you can look at to quantify brand love:

1) Referral traffic from social networks

Because a lot of brand obsession happens on social networks, referral traffic from social is a good number to look Mentions, shares and retweets on social.

Engagement is one of the surest ways to measure brand love, but you can throw page and post likes out the window.

Look for people who are actually sharing their brand fandom with their friends by focusing on mentions, shares and retweets — stuff that shows up on their social feeds, not yours.

2) Monitoring Google Trends for your company name

Though this is not necessarily direct proof of brand fans, if you start using the tactics I mentioned above, you should start seeing your name in Google Trends steadily increasing over time.

If this is happening, it probably means you’re doing a good job of creating and encouraging advocacy for your brand.

3) Create a list via multi-touch

Look at people who have a huge amount of touches with your brand but haven’t taken the final step like checked out your pricing page, requested a demo/trial or visited your checkout page — at Yotpo we use Kissmetrics for this.

Maybe they’ve downloaded tons of your content or visited your blog a million times, but because they haven’t shown any “ready-to-buy” behavior, chances are they aren’t converting — at least not anytime soon.

These people are brand fans. You should call them out and show them you appreciate it! Create an email that let’s them know “We’re cool with the fact that you like us but probably won’t convert.”


There you go — everything you need to know about identifying and engaging the powerful fans who can help you harness word-of-mouth marketing and grow your business even more.

Now you know how to get the customers who matter, but do you know how to get the traffic that matters? If not, check out our guide to turning these brand fans into measurable traffic.

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