Building Successful Superuser Programs


Ignoring member fatigue

People get tired and busy. Ensure that you recruit enough members so that people can cover for each other when real life gets in the way. Plan for attrition by having a pool of potential members from which you can draw.

The nature of volunteering means that as personal circumstances change, so does the capacity for extraneous work. Unpaid roles are usually the first to go. Given the sometimes sensitive or difficult/stressful nature of the circumstance change, volunteers don’t always communicate their situation and tend to disappear off the radar. An astute community manager will be able to recognize this and intervene – two way communication is vital.

Scaling too fast

Starting small and managing your growth carefully is the key to retaining quality and efficacy. Hootsuite launched with the idea of scaling quickly. The program formed a reputation for being easy to get into and it lost the benefits of exclusivity. As they evolved and learned, they scaled back down to concentrate on the quality of the ambassadors. Membership is now limited to people with whom they can maintain a close relationship. When things get too big, it’s very difficult to monitor what everyone is doing and the value of the program can become compromised.

Not letting advocates use their own voice

If the reason for having a program is to leverage social proof and use ambassadors to amplify your message, let them do so in their own voice. Having a team of people regurgitating sales and marketing messages that aren’t their own will work against you, as your customers lose their trust in your brand. This doesn’t have to mean giving them free reign. You can have a style and tone guide but build it with flexibility so your members keep their authenticity.

Allowing toxic members to remain

Every now and then you’ll get a member that doesn’t turn out to be a good fit for the program. Sometimes their passion for your brand can become unhealthy. Ensure that you have the processes in place to deal with that. Term limits are good for this – have an end date at which point members need to reapply.

Carefully set expectations at the start. Certain behaviours aren’t appropriate and pursuing them will result in removal. Make sure you carefully document issues once red flags start popping up. Deal with conflict via a phone call or voice chat rather than email.

If the situation still isn’t resolving itself, don’t be afraid to remove someone. Allowing a toxic person to remain in the program can sabotage the trust relationship that you have with the rest of the members.

If you do decide to remove someone, do so gently but firmly. Use empathetic language and avoid assigning blame. The downgraded member might still participate in the wider community so maintaining your relationship with them could be critical in keeping them from becoming a vocal brand nemesis.

Internal factors

On occasion, programs fail due to unfortunate operational changes within the business. Organization restructures sometimes mean that lines of ownership become blurred, or a resource is lost. Having one primary program stakeholder is the best insurance against failure of this type. That person will build a sense of ownership over the program, which should ensure that they do a comprehensive job of handing over if they leave the organization.

Another internal pitfall is the failure to prove the value of your program. The Vinted Seller’s Club was a great success anecdotally, but a lack of access to hard data meant that it was closed down because they didn’t have metrics on hand to demonstrate the value of the program to the organization. Establishing data points and having reporting resources may be crucial to long term survival, so shouldn’t be overlooked at the planning stage.

Asking for too much too soon

Never forget that it’s a two way street. Ensure that both organization and member needs are being met. You can’t ask for too much too quickly without giving back. Make sure that your expectations are fair and reasonable. Ensure that you communicate the expected time commitment, and check in regularly with program members to ensure that the workload is achievable. Listen actively, respond favourably to feedback and be transparent in accountability.



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