By Srinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

If you have been blogging for more than a few months than you have super fans whether you know it or not. You just have to keep an eye out for them. Fortunately there some key indicators.

  • They comment regularly
  • They send you personalized emails
  • They share EVERYTHING you write

But simply knowing who they are is not enough. The same way you water seeds for a plant, you must cultivate your super fans.

Approachability

One of the things that will immediately set you apart from other bloggers is how approachable you are.  As people become more well known online they seem to become less approachable.  Approachability may not scale, but it doesn’t have to since it leads to raving fans.  My two rising stars who are extremely approachable are Leo Widrich and Marcus Sheridan.

  • Leo’s startup Buffer has been wildly successful in the last several months. It was recognized by the Wall Street journal as twitter app of the the year. I’m a huge fan of the Buffer team because they are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Success hasn’t gone to their head.
  • If you read GROW, then there’s a good chance you know Marcus  Sheridan. In the last year Marcus has really made a name for himself and his career is taking off.  If you go to  The Sales Lion,  you’ll see that he responds to every single comment and he’s extremely down to earth.  Despite starting to become “famous” online he’s still very approachable.

Vulnerability

In the book Click Ori Braffman analyzes the factors that lead to instant connections between people. One of those factors is vulnerability.  When you allow yourself to be vulnerable with your content, you become human. You put yourself on the same level as your audience. You end up talking to them instead of at them.

A few weeks ago I thought about emailing Mark and giving up my contributor position here at {grow} because I couldn’t meet his quality standards — I was having trouble coming up with anything original to say. I thought most of what I had been writing lately was garbage. When I told him this, he said I should write about the fact I have nothing to write about!  Looking back I realize that anytime I’ve been stuck, Mark encourages me to be vulnerable because people are able to relate to it. Chances are, other people are having this problem too.

It’s easy to create this picture of success online. But when you let your guard down, and expose your imperfections, people click with you and start to become super fans.  Vulnerability makes you human.

Go far down the social media rabbit hole

When somebody comments on your blog or tweets one of your posts, if all you do is respond in those mediums, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to cultivate a super fan. When somebody you’ve never heard of shares your content or mentions your name on twitter for the first time, make it to point to check out who they are.

  • Find out what their real name is
  • Visit their blog
  • Add them as a friend on Facebook or other social network
  • Get a more in-depth view into who that person is beyond their twitter handle

You never know who you’re talking to.

Setup a Circle, List, or Group of Super Fans

In Tribes Seth Godin talks about the importance of enabling the members of your Tribe to communicate with each other,  but usually the communication ends up being limited from member to leader in the form of comments.  I think a fantastic example of somebody who has managed to cause communication between the members of her Tribe is Gini Dietrich. If you look at the comments on her blog that becomes immediately obvious.

You’ve probably also heard before that it’s easier to sell something to people who are already your customers than it is to sell to new ones. Anytime somebody buys something for you or is extremely supportive of your work, you should create a list, group or circle specifically for them. These are the people who will cause your tribe to reach 1000 true fans. Treat them accordingly.

One on One Conversations

In his book Little Bets, Peter Sims highlights the work of Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank.  Yunus was actually a professor of economics, but what resulted in the idea for the Grameen Bank, was going out into the trenches and talking to people. Yunus won a nobel prize for his work on the Grameen Bank.

You’ll learn more from 20 minutes of talking to one of your readers or customers on Skype then you ever will from surveys and market research. If somebody sends you an email raving about your work, setup a conversation with them. These lose informal conversations allow for a much deeper and more rapid diffusion of valuable information.

Create Content Specifically For Them

One of the greatest things about the technology that we have at our disposal is an ability to customize somebody’s experience with our content or business. Once you’ve identified a group of super fans, one of the best ways to ensure that they will stay super fans is to create content specifically for them. Here are a few ways to do that

  • Ask them to send in Questions and record a podcast/video in which you answer all there questions
  • Write an report or free e-book specifically for your super fans

Highlight Them in Your Content

One of the nice things about creating content specifically for your super fans is that it naturally results in you highlighting them in your content. When you mention one of your fans, they automatically feel a stronger connection to you.  You can do this in a few different ways

  • If you have a blog, link bank to something they wrote
  • If you have a podcast, mention them in an episode
  • If you’re doing video, mention their name on camera

Cultivating super fans really comes down to one thing: listening to your audience. If you look back at everything above you’ll notice that all of these ideas are about becoming a better listener.

Srinivas Rao writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did and his the host-co founder of BlogcastFM.  You can follow him on twitter @skooloflife

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