Ride Like a Penguin, marketing, entrepreneurs, Nicole DonnellyTrekkies, groupies, H.O.G.s: all groups of people united by a shared passion. Whether it be a sci-fi show, band, or louder than necessary motorcycle, the power of fan groups like these are undeniable—just  ask Walmart about a little site that cropped up a while back call walmartsucks.org.

So what does this mean for you? It means you need to go out there and find your super fans, the people who will spread you story simply because they love what you are about. Corporations know the power of consumer groups; H.O.G. or Harley Ownership Group is one of the largest groups of this kind in the world with over a million members. These members spend more, act as ambassadors, and have created an entire sub-culture around the Harley’s they identify with and love.

The brand loyalty is invaluable to a brand and is something you must begin cultivating in your own business. Having a group of supporters like this gives you friendly platform to make announcements, get opinions, and promote new products. The goal is to create a community in line with your company’s values that you can call on to mobilize in support of your projects. In the digital age this is called a Virtual Street Team, or VST.

A VST should contain people that have a higher than average dedication to your product and are essentially willing to spread the word for nothing but the personal satisfaction they get from spreading a message they identify with. To cultivate a powerful VST, you should acknowledge the group often, recognize members, offer special privileges, create content for them, and seek their opinion. Doing so will validate their efforts and increase loyalty.

With a powerful VST and online community, you have a great place to monitor your reputation and customer satisfaction. It is a way to communicate on an individual level and maintain a positive relationship with your customers. In the event of bad press or a slip in reputation, your VST will be there to help support you in regaining your image or fixing a public mishap.

Communities, especially fast forming and fast moving ones that form online these days, are a powerful force; make sure that you are working to create one that will work in your favor and not against you.

Ride Like a Penguin Chapter 12: Where Are You?