The terms ‘brand ambassador’ and ‘super user’ are thrown around so much that they’ve become cliche marketing buzzwords. But behind all of the hype, there is some serious value. The benefits of finding and cultivating super users are endless because of two simple marketing principles.

First, people trust people - not brands. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, but only 14% will trust a brand’s ad. Empowering people who love your brand to spread the word is more valuable than any big budget advertising campaign. Second, the most valuable customer is the one you don’t lose. Cultivating super users is a great retention tactic for the social, personalization age.

So, how can you identify and leverage super users for your brand?

1. Define and Discover

First, recognize that you already have super users. Or, at the very least, users who are willing to become super users. The first step is to discovering them through analytics and KPIs. But in order to do that, you must be able to define who falls into the category of ‘super user’. Are they simply frequent visitors, or are they the users that engage consistently with your key features? The definition of a ‘super user’ will vary between companies, but the most important first step is to identify the individuals that you need to be cultivating.

Look at the people constantly revisiting your website. If you’re like most brands, the majority of your website traffic is from new visitors. Instead of just trying to increase your percent of returning visitors, focus on increasing their engagement. Use Google Analytics to segment your traffic. Compare new visitors and returning visitors in terms of pages per visit, average time on site, goal conversions, bounce rate, etc. Focus on increasing the engagement indicators - not just their visits.

Define KPIs that indicate high engagement and willingness to go to the next step. Segment those customers based on those KPIs, and figure out your baseline. Once you’ve identified your criteria for a ‘super user’, use your data to find patterns of behavior and find areas that these users have in common. Ask yourself what can be leveraged in these users experience that can move them to the next level of engagement. Push those buttons, make it happen.

2. Make it Personal

Now that you know who your super users are (or at least who could become your super users), it’s time to cultivate them by creating relationships and personalizing their experiences.

Creating customized user experiences doesn’t mean you need to pick up the phone, or spam users with dozens of emails just to ‘check-in’ on how they’re doing. By putting in place analytics tools that allow you to identify and track super users you’ll be able to personalize their experience with your app or website based on previous actions that they’ve taken.

Right in the experience, reach out to them through a chat window, banner message or a pop-up thanking them for their engagement to date (ideally referencing specific previous actions that they’ve undertaken), and guiding them to the next level of engagement with the product. Be sure to suggest a concrete next step that they can take, such as giving a testimonial, or  signing up for a ‘super users’ program. Consider Yelp, which publicly recognizes certain users as “elite”.Elite Yelp users get invited to exclusive live events with other elites. The program is designed to leverage the current elites and inspire would-be elites to contribute high-quality content.

Not only will they feel valued and supported, but their understanding of the product will be deepened, which opens up new doors for engagement.

Tip: Hide easter eggs throughout your app or website that are relevant to the particular user. These surprises can increase engagement, and are a simple way to recognize and reward your super users.

3. A.B.T. (Always Be Testing)

Now that you’ve outlined your criteria for a super user, and you’ve begun engaging with them through the use of personalized dynamic messaging, it’s time to evaluate whether your results are paying off.

Using an engagement platform, track, analyze, and score user engagement over time. You can set which KPIs, events, etc are important for you and quickly see how engagement is changing over time for that user. You may find, for example, that your ‘thank you’ message results in a longer visit, or more frequent usage - while your invitation to sign up for the private beta of a new feature yields few click-throughs.

Monitoring the ROI of your customer engagement efforts not only helps you refine your practices and adjust your messaging, but it also helps make sure that your investment of time and resources is a wise one.

Discovering and cultivating your super users is a different process for every brand, but the results are the same: more passionate users, more positive reviews, more new users, more passionate users, more positive reviews, more... The cycle is endless.