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Serious About Superusers: Three Data-Driven Ways To Improve Superuser Programs

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Superuser Programs Are Usually Worth Additional Resources

Pound-for-pound superuser programs are usually one of the best places to invest additional time, resources, and energy to achieve better outcomes.

Few other community initiatives have as linear a relationship between additional investment and superior outcomes. 

Yet when it comes to figuring out how to use resources to improve a superuser program, we often find ourselves in ‘gut instinct’ territory. That’s never an ideal place to be. 

There is a data-driven approach you can take to figure out where and how you can invest additional resources to achieve better results. 

We’re going to break these down and help you identify your priorities.

Three Ways To Improve Superuser Programs

There are broadly three levers we can pull to improve a superuser program. 

These are:

  • Change the size. Increase or decrease the size of the program.
  • Change the composition. Change who is in the program.
  • Change the processes. Change how the program is run. 

Which lever(s) we need to pull depends on the answers to several specific data questions. 

Let’s go through each question in turn and identify the data we need to answer the question. 

Should We Increase Or Decrease The Number Of Superusers?

Intuitively, it always feels like increasing the size of the program makes sense. 

If you can grow it, why not grow it? 

The problem with increasing the number of superusers you might end up with a bunch of superusers with too few questions to answer.

That’s not a healthy situation!

The other problem is the larger a program becomes, the less exclusive it feels. This reduces the motivation of other superusers. 

The final problem is superusers work best when each superuser feels like they can get personal attention from brand representatives.

The more people you have in the program, the more people you have to divide your attention amongst. 

This is why decreasing the size of the program is as valid as increasing the size of the program. 

For example, in the past, we’ve removed the majority of superusers and increased participation by 101%

Your real goal isn’t to increase or decrease the size of the program but to find the optimal number of superusers. This is ideally as few as possible to achieve the best outcome. To do this, you need to answer a few questions. 

  • How many questions are superusers answering? The absolute number is good to track. If it’s declining, it could be because superusers are losing interest or there are simply fewer questions to answer. 
  • What % of questions are superusers answering? When the % of questions answered by superusers is declining, you either need to increase the size of the program or recruit specific categories of superusers. 

If we know the number of answers is rising, but the % of questions answered is falling, this is a clear-cut case for increasing the size of the program. 

If the no. answers is rising, but the % of questions is rising, then the size is fine for me. 

If the no. answers is falling, but the % of questions is rising, so you might consider reducing the size of the program. 

If the no. answers is falling and the % of questions is falling, you might want to change how the program is managed.

You can see this in the table below.

These are rough guidelines rather than specific rules. The context and situation will vary significantly. Adapt it however you need to your situation. 

Should We Change Who Is In The Program? 

The second way of improving the program is to change the people in the program. This can be done through annual renewals or by individually adding or removing people. 

Before you do this, there are several questions to answer. 

  • Are there any specific categories or types of questions where the % of questions being answered is falling? If you’re struggling to attract answers to questions in a particular, you might need to replace some of the people in your program with those who have expertise in that area. This is why breaking down % of answered questions by category is important
  • Does superuser composition reflect audience composition? The composition of the superuser program should broadly reflect the people you’re serving. This relates to audience demographics (location, age, gender etc…) and the diversity of audiences you’re serving (users, administrators, partners etc…).
  • Are some superusers overperforming or underperforming? This is where you pull a chart like the one below and look for any interesting patterns in the level of engagement of superusers. Make sure this reflects the past year rather than the all-time performance. Look for those doing extremely well who deserve more of your time and those who aren’t doing well. You might need to remove some of those at the lower end of the scale to make room for new people.

The answers to this program should highlight if you need to change who is in the program and how to change the people in the program.

As a general rule, if you need to change the composition, you should remove the poorest-performing members of the program.

Do We Need To Change How The Program Is Run?

The final method to improve superuser programs is to change how the program itself is managed.

This often involves tweaking the processes to reflect a change in the environment. First, we must answer a couple of questions. 

  • How satisfied are recipients with the answers?  You need a data point that you can track over time which reflects satisfaction with answers. This is likely a pop-up poll, satisfaction score, or survey which you periodically issue to a random sample of members.
  • What % of questions receive an accepted solution? This question is sometimes indicative of satisfaction with the program but can also simply reflect the likelihood of someone marking a question as an accepted answer. It’s useful to track changes over time. A decline might indicate a need to change the program or simply the changing likelihood of someone marking an accepted answer
  • How good are the answers? This can be analysed by using a sampling technique of responses from each superuser to analyse by accuracy, empathy, and any other criteria which are relevant and important to you. You can pull a sample of responses periodically and review them for their quality. This was covered in more detail by the Microsoft Answers team a while back. 
  • Has the superuser program matured? As a program matures, informal processes need to be formalised to ensure consistency and quality. What works when you have an informal program with a few top members doesn’t work when you have a few dozen members of the superuser program. It quickly leads to accusations of favouritism, bias, and unfair treatment. It’s therefore key to benchmark the program and notice when the program has matured and requires better documentation and processes to support its growth. 
  • Are superusers satisfied with the program? We recommend setting up a survey of superusers to be run once per year to gather feedback on how top superusers experience the program. It’s important to not just gather feedback on overall satisfaction, but with each component of the program so you know what to improve. You might want to ask superusers to rate their satisfaction on: 
    • Level of support from the organisation.
    • Level of access they have within the organisation.
    • Rewards and benefits they receive.
    • Do they feel listened to / heard?
    • Documentation and organisation of the program.

(Each of the above indented questions can be answered on a simple poll showing satisfaction from one to ten).

This will highlight what you might want to prioritise to improve the program. 

Based on the answers above, you should know how to improve how the program is managed and where you need to invest additional resources to achieve the best outcome. 

Like many other aspects of community management, you can quantify the success of the superuser program with data and follow a logical process to improve the program.

Develop Your List Of Priorities

Once you’ve gone through the process above, you should be able to develop a simple list of priorities. 

We generally recommend listing these by the goal, action, effort, and benefit. 

Issue / GoalSolutionEffort
(5 = least effort)
(5 = highest severity)
Priority score
(effort x severity
No. questions have declined resulting in supersers with fewer questions to answer.Reduce the size of the program by 20%.4416
Increase the % of [category] questions receiving answers.Recruit two superusers who have provided the best responses to this category of questions into the program.3412
Superuser satisfaction is declining due to lower perceived access to the brand.Set up bi-weekly calls for superusers to communicate with us.4312
Three highly active superusers are providing poor-quality responses.Remove these superusers from the program.5210
Lack of Indian representation in the superuser program.Recruit two superusers from India339
Superuser program relies heavily on the top two members who provide the majority of responses.Create an elite tier of rewards for the very top members of the program which is promoted to other members.236
Slight decline in satisfaction with answers provided by superusers.Set up a mini-course for superusers to complete to improve the quality of responses.224

Now you have a data-driven list of improvements you can make in the superuser program.

As a general rule, we would recommend undertaking this audit once per year.

Note: If you want external support. FeverBee has several clients who we perform a comprehensive community audit for once per year. Please contact us for details. 

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