Turn your early customers into co-creators with a Superfan Community

Amy Jo Kim
4 min readNov 14, 2019

Have you ever wondered how to leverage early customers and turn them into co-creators? If so, this week’s video is for you.

Our question comes from Xiying Wang, a user researcher at Neurotrack, a hot Silicon Valley startup. Xiying says:

“I been using the Game Thinking techniques to find early customers and validate our ideas. But after we play-test our designs on Superfans… what’s next? How can we keep them motivated and engaged?”

Great question. Our Superfan Funnel shows you how to find the right early customers to test your ideas on, using a screener, speed interviews, and low-fidelity playtests.

And once you’ve found these enthusiastic high-need customers, you naturally want to keep them engaged, and (ideally) get ongoing feedback to help you build the right product.

So… how do you do this? How do you keep your best customers engaged in a high-value way that benefits everyone?

Create and run a private community, just for Superfans

A Superfan Community is a invite-only group where you stay in touch with enthusiastic early customers. Think of it as a continuous research panel where your leading-edge Superfans talk to each other, as well as directly with you.

When you’re innovating, an engaged Superfan community becomes a key strategic asset that lets you supplements any scheduled testing sessions with continuous micro-feedback from people who matter.

How Happify used a Superfan Community to build the right product

Take my client Happify — the hit mental wellness app. Early-on, the founders tested their game idea on several different cohorts — and found a hot-core niche among stay-at-home parents who’d recently left the workforce. Once we zero-ed in on these hot-core Superfans, we created a private Facebook group and invited around 50 testers to participate.

Each week, the community manager would post ice-breaker questions and polls — and on Fridays, after our weekly builds, we’d post updates and questions from the dev team. Sometimes, we’d show them two alternate home page designs. Sometimes, we’d sketch out features we were considering. Sometimes, we’d do Q&A with company execs, which was always super-popular.

Because they’d participated in early playtests, everyone was under NDA. They knew that the group’s discussions were intensely private, and we had strict groundrules that anyone who broke that trust would be kicked out. We had an aggressive development schedule, and this community helped us move quickly and add “the voice of the customer” to our weekly discussions & decision-making.

5 Steps to a high-value Superfan Community

Here are 5 steps that’ll help YOU setup and run your own high-value Superfan community.

STEP 1: Setup your group where your Superfans already hang out

Don’t get hung up on the community platform. This group could live in WhatsApp, FB, Mighty Networks, Discord, Slack, or message boards. What’s important is to make it easy for your Sueprfans to participate. Setup your group where they already hang out.

STEP 2: Recruit a community manager from your team

Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of setting up a community & hoping it’ll run itself. Assign someone on your team to be a part-time community manager. They could be from product, design, marketing, content, research, customer service — any of those could work. That person will need 2–5 hours a week to manage your Superfan community, depending on the size and message traffic. It’s a manageable — but super-important part-time role -

STEP 3: Start with ice-breaker questions & polls

Once you’ve invited Superfans to join, you can build habits by publishing regular content. A great way to start is with ice-breaker questions and polls. Brainstorm a list of questions that they’d enjoy answering that reinforce your brand. The idea is to show your community to itself — to show everyone what “we” think, what “we” like, and how “we’ like to connect.

STEP 4: Turn your Superfans into co-creators

Wanna leverage — and delight — your NDA-ed Superfans? Pull back the curtain, and show them the design and product issues that you’re struggling with. Post regular developer updaters to the group. Share UI sketches, concept walkthroughs, and new feature ideas. Turn them into co-creators — and you’ll have enthusiasts for life.

STEP 5: Use short videos to collect actionable design feedback

Sharing design ideas doesn’t have to be difficult, or time-consuming. One of the best tactics for communicating with Superfans is short-form video. Try sharing a quick 2-minute video walkthrough of your ideas to the group, with a pointed question they can answer in the comments. It’s a great way to get into the continuous feedback habit.

So there you have it! A starter pack for setting up and running a high-value Superfan community. To help you apply these tips and super-charge your product design, we’ve created a Superfan Community Cheatsheet. Click the link below to grab it NOW!

Get your free cheatsheet at gamethinking.io/community