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Audience Segmentation Lessons from Google Plus

Authors: Rebekah Henson Rebekah Henson
Posted Under: Social Media
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Let me get this confession out of the way first: I’m kind of a Google fangirl. So I was pretty excited when the search giant announced Google+, their foray into social networking.

I’m pretty fed up with Facebook and its constant changes (that don’t really improve my user experience) so I signed up for an invite shortly after Google announced its new project. When I set up my profile and started connecting with friends, I noticed something: Circling friends in Google+ feels a lot like segmenting email subscribers.

Humorous Google Plus Circles from
Humorous Google Plus Circles from

Circles holds potential for email and content marketers with its unlimited targeting capabilities. Even if Google+ isn’t in the plans for your marketing mix (and we’ll know more about that when business pages are launched), Circles can inspire good audience segmentation practices.

Inside the Circles of Trust

Circles drove much of the early buzz about Google+, in that it allows users to categorize their contacts based on their relationship and how much information they want to share. Your friends go in the “Friends” circle. Your co-workers go in the “Work” circle. Your boss and parents might go in a “Share With Caution” circle.

you can selectively share information with all or just a few of your circlesOnce you have your contacts organized, you can selectively share information with all or just a few of your circles. Which comes in handy when you don’t want your mom or boss to know about last night’s crazy bender. Or when you want to send your college friends updates about the 10-year reunion. Or if you have some industry blogs to share with colleagues at work.

Facebook’s answer – the recently revamped Lists feature – works the same way, allowing you to group your friends by relationship and share status updates with whichever lists you choose. Facebook automates the process for its default lists, but you can add or subtract friends from any List you want.

Google+ (like Facebook’s Lists) is all about sharing the right content with the right people, just like segmenting subscribers in a well-targeted email campaign.

Circling Friends = Saving Segments

Google+ has default circles to get you started, labeled “Friends,” “Acquaintances,” “Work,” and “Following.” But you’re not limited to these categories. The beauty of Circles is that they allow you to get as general or specific as you want when classifying your friends and followers.

You can circle people based on their industry, location or special interests to target links and updates to them. Or place them into sharing categories, like “Everything,” “Work Projects,” or “Limited Information” based on what you want them to see.

Think about targeting your email subscribers the same way. Not everyone interacts with your brand on the same level. Not everyone is interested in the same kind of content, either.

  • Grouping your subscribers by loyalty helps you target rewards and surveys. Send loyal “Friends” a special thank-you offer for all their support. Connect with more distant “Acquaintances” through a targeted reengagement campaign.
  • Ask subscribers for some demographic information, either on your sign up form or in an email survey. Knowing who your customers are and where they’re located makes it easier to target your emails to their needs.
  • Survey your subscribers to find out what they want to hear from you. Are they more interested in daily deals or how-to articles? Segment subscribers based on their answers to give them a personalized email experience they’ll appreciate.

The lesson here: Just like you can create special groups of people to share information with in Google+ or Facebook, you can group your email subscribers by segments to target certain emails to in your campaign.

First Impressions Matter

Like Facebook and Twitter, Google+ sends notifications when someone new adds you to a circle. Any updates and profile information they share with that circle are also visible to you. If the person circling you isn’t a close friend, what’s the first thing you do? If you’re anything like me, you check out their profile first and see what they’ve posted recently. Who is this person and how is he (or she) relevant to me? Am I interested enough to follow this person’s updates?

So how does this relate to email marketing? Think of your sign up process (landing page, web form and any incentives you offer) as the notification that piques subscribers’ interest. Once they respond by signing up, your welcome series (or autoresponders) is those first few updates they’ll judge your value by.

If your subscribers don’t find your follow up email series relevant enough to their needs or interests, you might find yourself filtered out of the inbox or relegated to the Junk folder.

The better you segment and target your content, the more responsive your subscribers will be. So take a lesson from Google+ and Facebook’s new Lists. Segment your subscribers in ways that will help you send the best content tailored to their interests and keep your content fresh to stay in their “Inbox” circle.

Rebekah Henson,Guest post by Rebekah Henson, a playwright and SEO writer who blogs about building an online following through email marketing at email service provider AWeber. More of her tips on marketing with email are at the AWeber blog.

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