Are You a Fan of the Team or the Players on the Team?

During a conversation about sports and loyalty last night I mentioned to a friend a thought I recently had.  I love the Seahawks.  Always have.  Players have come and gone but when the rubber meets the gridiron, my loyalties lie with the team as a whole, regardless of the team members.

Go Seahawks!

Go Seahawks!

My friend however, is more a fan of individual players.  He followers players across teams and into and out of leagues.  He is a fan of the individual players rather than the franchise as a whole.


So, I do admit Patrick Kerney is my favorite player :)

His loyalties are easy to explain.  He’s a fan of an individuals characteristics, charismatic qualities and abilities.  My loyalty however, is a bit harder to explain.  Is it the logo? Is it the branding efforts? Is it regional? Is it the community (12th Man)?

Brand or Employee Loyal?

Think about this now in terms of your customers.  You or your employees actively involved in social media are in charge of engaging your customers and increasing their level of loyalty.  But who is actually the target of this loyalty?  I came across a post today that stated major blogs could lose 90% of their value if their founders were to exit.  If you and your company are busy building loyalty between your customers and an individual champion then you are surely in trouble when that employee (or, to their point…founder) are to leave.  It’s easy to see how this can happen.  An individual is out mingling with your fans/friends/followers on the ground level.  Replying to comments, addressing @ mentions and generally mingling and socializing.  If there isn’t a proactive and well thought out approach taken your customers will surely identify with this person and become loyal to them.

How to Increase Brand Level Loyalty

There are, in my opinion, a few strategies that an organization can employ to help ensure your customers don’t lose interest when your employee loses their parking spot:

  1. Make Your Customers the Champions: Acknowledge users when you notice repeat engagement to instill a sense of pride in them about the community they are apart of.  Give them a digital high-five when you see customers helping one another out in forums or within your blog comments.  Make them, and their actions, the center of attention.  Use them as examples in your community and raise them up to direct the spotlight back in their direction.
  2. Share the Spotlight: Enlist the help of other individuals in the company in your social media efforts.  Sure you need a point person, but by bringing others into the social media fold, the attention on any given individual is dissipated.  This way there will be familiar faces and names still around when the lead SM pro takes their leave.
  3. Integrate Pre-emptively: If the transition is known ahead of time then bring in the new social media person early.  Make their presence known and allow them to begin building relationships with the community before the familiar face/name exits.  This will help the community transfer their loyalties without losing engagement.
  4. Take a Less Personal Strategy: Much of social media involvement for businesses involves giving the customers a face to relate to.  But be careful that this face isn’t stealing the stage.  Keep an eye on your efforts and your engagement so you can adjust your approach when it is apparent that customers are reacting more to the individual rather than the brand.  Pull back a bit with personal level engagement and spend more time focussing on the brand, company or organization.  This of course, doesn’t have to be a permanent adjustment but can be used like a dial when need be.
  5. Ask Yourself if This is a Bad Thing: Every organization is different.  For some having a popular person on the front lines getting the attention may work best.  Own it.  But be prepared during the changing of the guard.  Be extremely judicious in the exit strategyof this employee.  Be even more judicious when choosing someone to fill those shoes.  People drive organizations.  Amazing people drive amazing organizations.  Find an amazing replacement for your social media person and let them do what they do best.  With a carefully outlined transition strategy, and post transition monitoring, the chance for success of the “changing of the guard” will be greatly increased.

Surely there are many ideas about how to manage the “Team or Player” positioning.  I would absolutely love to hear your ideas.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.