Building Successful Superuser Programs

Recruiting and Onboarding

Selection Criteria

Begin by identifying the right people for your program. What sector of your population do you want to target? Do you want top influencers, leaders, customers, partners, vocal community members or event organizers? What makes them champions? Is it tenure, product knowledge, engagement and activity, or your relationship with them?

You need to think about what kind of people you want representing your brand, what kind of tasks they are going to be required to perform, and what skills or traits they will need in order to perform those tasks.

Refer back to your planning document and fill in the objectives, tasks and skills sections.

Most people can learn the necessary skills to competently answer support questions or moderate a forum community, but true leaders are more difficult to find. Superusers need to be effective when it comes to forming and nurturing relationships (both with other members and with your organization), modeling behavior, commanding respect and motivating their peers.

You need people that share your brand’s vision – people you can trust to act as a public-facing extension of your organization.

Select a diverse group that represents the full range of member archetypes. This helps the group to gain the trust of other members across the spectrum. The outcome will be a community that feels well represented, and advocates that feel validated.

Two common approaches to recruiting and onboarding are:

  • Data driven (based on previous activity)
    Using information pulled from your own and/or external systems to identify people that have been the most effective in carrying out the required tasks during the past year.
  • Nomination or application (based on expected future activity)
    Allowing people to apply or nominate others according to how well they fit a set of predefined criteria.

The type of person that is ideal for your program will depend on your goals.

  • If you want to drive traffic, look for people that have great content that they are happy to share.
  • If your program is focused on lead generation or brand awareness, look for people that love marketing and attending events.
  • If increased engagement is your primary objective, look for people that are social, knowledgeable and willing to help others.

Establish what data you have available and use that to identify the best people for the job. Quantity isn’t the only measure. Superusers don’t have to be the most frequent contributors. They may add something uniquely valuable that sticks in the minds of your wider audience and makes you stand out from the crowd.

Let’s break down increased engagement as an example.

Most community platforms provide metrics at an individual member level. Identify the top 10% of members by post count as your starting point. Eliminate those that aren’t making highly valuable contributions or that display other behaviours that raise a red flag. This might mean extended periods away from your community or the propensity to respond in haste when provoked.

Examine those that remain and prioritize based on peripheral skills or characteristics. Do you need strong writers? Look for people with that skillset.

It’s important that the people you choose are legitimate, transparent and credible to members of the wider community. If they are going to be brand ambassadors, choose people that are high-profile, energetic or influential. If they are going to be answering questions in a product support community, profile is less important than knowledge. You need people that have a deep knowledge of your products or peripheral skills to bring to the table (e.g. marketing or communication).

Nina Wilkinson (formerly from group management platform Mobilize) recommends creating an environment for superusers to stand out and identify themselves. That might mean setting up a product review platform, opening up feedback channels, or even encouraging your audience to promote you via social media.

The approach you take to identifying members may depend where you are in the lifecycle of your program. In the inception or early stages it makes sense to leverage relationships rather than demographics or psychographics. Until you have had time to collect reliable data, keep control by utilising the people that you have a strong, trust-based relationship with.

A data based approach also affords you the opportunity to gain quick and valuable insights into community leaders by region, role and market sector, which can be useful for identifying who to connect with for specific initiatives or opportunities.

For more established programs you have the opportunity to widen your net because you’re past the testing and iteration stage. That’s when the objective of your program becomes a key factor. For instance, you might start targeting specific demographics if you want members to run or attend events. If it’s about driving traffic to your site then demographics matter less than psychographics. Look at your goals and decide whether you need engagers, content writers, nurturers, marketers, or a combination of types and talents.

Hootsuite uses geographically selected ambassadors for localisation initiatives. Members translate content in geographic areas where the organization doesn’t have an office.



Running or attending events Product support
Local knowledge or language based tasks Online engagement
In-person sales or referrals Online sales or referrals
Product testing (for workshop attendance) Social reach
Product advocacy/marketing* Content creation

*in situations where the product is on display – e.g. Lululemon Ambassadors

Thermomix devised a formula to help identify their top influencers by giving them an influence potential (IP) score. The score is based on a scalable algorithm and can be used to make predictions on future user activities and address cross-country differences to locally customize community activities.

In some programs the criteria will be simple – members that use your product and are socially savvy. Product knowledge doesn’t always have to be a consideration. If you build your program with a role-based structure, members who don’t know your product intimately can help with onboarding other members, stimulating engagement, moderating, starting self-disclosure discussions, and sustaining the health of the community.

Regardless of the type of program, some things are fundamentally important. Above all else look for temperament and communication skills.Tweet This You need people that can be diplomatic and handle situations tactfully under pressure. The ideal candidate is articulate and knowledgeable but also approachable.

Consider building a superuser or ambassador persona. Where do they hang out on social media? Do they have psychographics, demographics, behaviour patterns, or something else in common? Building a persona will help future program managers to identify the right kind of people.


  1. Selection is generally either data driven (based on previous activity) or by application (based on future activity).
  2. The type of person that is ideal for your program will depend on your objectives.
  3. Demographics and psychographics come into play when it comes time to scale your program. Before that, rely on data or relationships.
  4. Always look for members with good temperament and communication skills who are diplomatic by nature.



 LinkedIn LinkedIn

 Google Plus Google+