Super fans (and what to do with them)

Article from Inc.com

Marketer Seth Godin famously says the key to success is finding your 1,000 true fans. It’s an insight that has sustained a lot of people, marketers, and businesses. But let’s talk about people who go beyond true fandom. Let’s talk about super fans.

You might have seen the first part of this story after it went viral last week: A fourth-grader in Florida, whose name has been kept private, wore a homemade University of Tennessee t-shirt to school for “college colors day.” The shirt looked — well, it looked like a fourth-grader made it. So what?

The kid was bullied by classmates over it, and was “DEVASTATED,” as described by his teacher in a Facebook post. Someone at the University of Tennessee saw the post, took the opportunity, and created an official t-shirt based on the student’s design. The university has sold thousands of them, donating the proceeds to an anti-bullying initiative.

Here’s the seond part of the story: On Thursday, the university made an even smarter move that’s worth imitating. It gave the fourth-grader honorary admission to the University of Tennessee class of 2032, and — most importantly — a four-year scholarship covering tuition and fees (assuming he eventually meets the Tennessee admissions requirements and decides to attend).

I don’t know this fourth-grader’s name, and that’s fine. Maybe I’m getting old, but I think 10 years old is too young to go viral, anyway. I do know this: This young man is a super fan. Super fans don’t just recommend your brand to others. They advocate for you, even beyond what you’re willing to do yourself. And Tennessee just showed how you should treat them in response.

Let me put it this way. I’m a Northerner, through and through. When it comes to the Southeastern Conference, I’m a complete outsider. So, a colleague explained this whole “Florida kid wearing a homemade Tennessee jersey” thing to me in terms I’d understand. It’s like if I’d shown up to my Massachusetts grade school in a New York Yankees t-shirt or a Montreal Canadiens jersey.

Hardcore, man. Super fan.

I’m sorry to say that not enough people know how to treat their super fans. There’s a temptation to think: Why bother? They’re already doing everything they can. That’s the wrong answer. For one thing, super fans will surprise you. For another, you never know who else is watching. And third: It’s simply the right thing to do.

You can’t do enough for super fans. You can’t possibly repay them for their advocacy. If you’re smart, you can be generous and thankful. And treating them better than they’d ever imagine? Ultimately, you’ll do well by doing good.