Dear CMO:

We’ve discussed the role that highly engaged users play in your brand ecosystem. Throw a virtual rock in the blogosphere and you’ll hit three posts that are all a-Twitter over evangelists and why creating them is so smart. And don’t get me started about blogs about blogging. Not many talk about the “how,” though, and that’s a missing piece of an important puzzle, so let me throw a crumb out on the water for your evaluation.

The best way to create an over-class of super-human proto-users, to whom all uninitiated will flock for informed and credible advice, is not to try to create evangelists — after all, evangelism is a state of being chosen by the individual, not by you, the humble brander — but to create experts.

Creating experts does several things, all of them important. You transfer knowledge, teach teachable (and learnable) skills that make using your product more enjoyable, push the experience further and faster down the learning curve, create peer groups of super-users, and create a culture of exclusivity amongst the best of all possible users — the ones who care the most.

Creating evangelists is like launching a “viral video.” It’s up to everyone other than you to define whether your “video” is, in fact, “viral.” So, it stands to reason that you can a) want evangelists, b) tell people you’d like it if they were evangelists, c) give them various incentives and tools to become evangelists, and lastly, d) hope that they will, in fact, begin to act like evangelists. But you’re fishing in waters where you have little proof that there are any fish.

Experts don’t rely on chance any more than a master angler would tie a brick to a rope and call it bait.

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Key Takeaways:

> Creating experts creates evangelists, many with super-human powers.

> Experts are the best possible “evangelists” because they just know more, speak with more authority, and have more credibility.

> The best “expert” training comes with knowledge not covered casually in the manual or the website and should be credentialled — credentials equal authority, and authority means exclusivity. And we like exclusivity.

> Most importantly, you can create an expert — you can’t create an evangelist.

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Examples abound of expert-making done well. I wrote some time back about Audi’s Advanced Handling Course (at the time taught by the Panoz Racing School, now purchased by Skip Barber). The recently promoted Travel Video Bootcamp from The Travel Channel hits this squarely and looks to be an outstanding idea. I’m sure there are others.

Look critically at your own product or service. How could you teach a self-selecting group to be super-users? What would a national footprint of experts do for you?


(Photo courtesy of Flickr)