Building Superuser Programs That Succeed

Success Factors

Success Factors

There are many different ways to run a superuser program, but there are a few factors that the successful ones have in common.

Have processes in place to measure success

Tracking metrics from the day you launch sounds logical, but it’s amazing how many organizations don’t. It is important to benchmark your baselines before launch so that you have comparative data down the line. Many established programs publicize ‘success’ metrics but very few demonstrate value that can be attributed directly to their program. If the desired behavior was occurring prior to launch you need to be able to demonstrate that the program drove effective growth. For instance, if your program objective is to stimulate engagement you need to record engagement levels before launch to have comparative data.

Many organizations claim to be tracking data, but are vague when pressed on details. Frequently they will provide growth statistics as a percentage but aren’t transparent around how many data points are included or how the data was gathered.

Successful programs can clearly demonstrate their value to both the organization and their wider audience. If you can’t sell the benefits to the wider organization you won’t have the support of stakeholders. If you can’t demonstrate the value of membership to your ambassadors, they won’t stick around.

“The program was formalized when it became clear that the benefits of being of a Super User were intangible (feedback gleaned by mods when they reached out to super users).”

Spotify Rockstars


Test and Iterate

It is highly unlikely that you’ll write and execute a perfect strategy on the first run. As with any community based project, it is easy to make assumptions about what members will want or how they will behave.

Programs that last the distance are managed by people that aren’t afraid to try new ideas and throw them away if they don’t work. Think of your program as a product – commit to an ongoing cycle of testing and iteration.

As your program grows, the needs of your members will change. Think of new ways to involve them and to leverage their expertise.

“Programs that last the distance are managed by people that aren’t afraid to try new ideas and throw them away if they don’t work. Think of your program as a product – commit to an ongoing cycle of testing and iteration.

As your program grows, the needs of your members will change. Think of new ways to involve them and to leverage their expertise.”

Claudius Henrichs – Skype




Don’t have a program just because you think you should

It is amazing how many organizations decide to start an ambassador program with no real vision of why or what. They put together vague (or no) guidelines, shoulder tap members to join, and then leave them floundering around, unsure of what to do.

Successful programs are either designed to solve a challenge (low engagement, driving referrals, finding reliable content sources) or used to harness and encourage healthy behavior that is already being demonstrated.



Work hard to maintain relationships

Superuser programs are all about strong, trust based, mutually beneficial relationships. It is these relationships that are at the heart of every successful program. Programs that do well tend to be affiliated with community-centric brands.

People will work hard for you if they feel an affinity for the brand and the teams behind the brand and they want to see the brand and/or teams succeed.

Have a primary contact – someone that cares about the community and takes a personal approach. Many programs flounder when organizations restructure, especially if there is no clearly defined ownership of the program.




Align member success with the organizations objectives

Smart programs align the ambassadors’ primary motivations with the company’s main objective.

For example, Hootsuite’s ambassadors are becoming better at social media while advocating for the brand at HootUps. The relationship is symbiotic and intrinsically motivating. The key here is identifying the right people for the role, and making an effort to deeply understand their motivations.

Get to the bottom of member motivations

Start by deciding on what kinds of people you want in the program and then figure out what motivates them.

Google talked to their users and found that they were motivated by respect, recognition and access. They ensure that they continue to reinforce that message by using those words when talking about the program. If your members are looking at advancing their career, give them a title or certification for their resume. Or to take it one step further, employ members from your program. Salesforce frequently employs people that start out as MVPs.



Create structure and stick to it

Think of your program as you would any business partnership. You need to come across as professional because people are hoping to learn from you. Clearly define your objectives, guidelines and expectations, and communicate those to your members. You want members to be proud and vocal about your program, not just your brand.

Make the program sustainable by under promising and over delivering. Going in unprepared and failing may damage future efforts.

Have clear lines of communication. Perform regular check ins to support the health of the community and keep members connected. Regular communication means that you can keep tabs on members, ensure that the brand messaging is on point, and get a jump on potential problems before they happen.




Promote your program

If people don’t know about your program, a large part of the value is lost. Those motivated by status won’t have that motivation satisfied, and you’ll have a very limited pool from which to recruit.

“I think now that we have officially launched, the biggest problem I’m facing is awareness both from customers/potential advocates but also internally. I’m considering changing how we communicate the existence of the program and the audiences we target.”

Robyn Jordan – New Relic


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