Forget Fans, Lithium Eyes Facebook Superfans

Startup Lithium aims to drive deep engagement on Facebook.

Getting Facebook users to like a brand page is only the first step to marketing success on the social network. The ultimate goal is to “drive deep engagement with customers on Facebook,” and turn fans into superfans, says Lyle Fong, co-founder and chief strategist at social customer-relationship-management firm Lithium.

Superfans, according to Fong, represent just one percent of a brand page’s user base, but they are responsible for 80 percent of word-of-mouth about the brand, as well as 85 percent of content based on the brand.

To that end, Lithium, Fong, and recently named Lithium Chief Executive Officer Rob Tarkoff are pushing LevelUp, a suite of social applications for Facebook aimed at helping brands to encourage “customers to engage with the company, to drive and incentivize them to participate,” Fong said in an interview.

Fong came from a gaming background, as the co-founder of GX Media and a driving force behind the development of gaming portal He sought to bring elements from that arena to Facebook marketing, saying, “How do we get people to stick around? We applied dynamics from gaming to customer engagement. LevelUp is infused with gaming mechanics — badges, achievement, rank, reputation.”

Sephora and Home Depot are among clients using LevelUp, which allows brand managers to:

  • Create community apps that enable users to engage with each other and share opinions, reviews, and tips;
  • Use content from fans, such as ideas and photos, to drive campaigns;
  • Tag, filter, and moderate wall posts and comments across all of a brand’s Facebook pages; and
  • Access proprietary analytics and the customer intelligence center dashboard to monitor engagement, buzz, sentiment, and social influence.

Fong said Lithium has a “background in helping companies indentify their strongest advocates, figure out how to engage them in meaningful ways, and incentivize them,” adding that the company has been “doing this for years on companies’ branded communities on their dot-coms.”

He discussed the different types of users that have been drawn to brand pages, saying that Lithium stresses “quality over quantity” by allowing users to give kudos to quality posters, adding that when sites successfully attract quality content from users, that content often turns up in Google searches.

In addition to experts on a topic, Lithium seeks out “joiners,” who contribute and are rewarded in different ways, as well as, “collectors,” which Fong defined as “not active posters, but active in the background, flagging issues.” He added that the challenge is, “How to build real social engagement in communities, versus features that people may or may not use.”

When asked about the impact of the changes Facebook began implementing in recent weeks, Fong mentioned that Facebook investor Benchmark Capital is also an investor in Lithium.

He added:

We had a lot of insights ahead of time. Every time Facebook makes changes like this, brands realize that they don’t get to own the content, they don’t get to own the data — their brand is in Facebook’s hands. How can they tie all of that end-to-end and ultimately tie it into their business systems, their CRM systems? Brands don’t have the time nor the inclination to keep up with that realm, so they turn to us to keep up with those changes. Our app builder component allows brands to build different apps — contest, Q&A, structured chat. And the data are now owned by the companies themselves, as opposed to being owned by Facebook.

Facebook is a really great place to reach a mass audience, but what Facebook doesn’t provide is that the real advocates and enthusiasts aren’t hanging out on Facebook. The most die-hard enthusiasts are not spending all of their time on Facebook talking about that stuff. How do we leverage that and try to drive real, enthusiastic engagement?

Readers, have you ever connected with a brand in a strong enough way to engage with it like a “superfan?”