In his book Audience, Jeff Rohrs made a compelling argument for why brands should consider audiences to be prized assets. The process to build a proprietary following of subscribers, social media followers, and mobile application users is paramount to gaining advantages over competition.
If you haven’t read Jeff’s book yet, I think you should. He’s exactly right. Companies have been bought and sold based on the size of their known customer base, especially their email contacts. The ability to invoke meaningful activity from a motivated group with whom established and positive relationships already exist might be the most powerful weapon a brand can have at its disposal.
As an added bonus, advertising technology introduced by Facebook and Twitter and embraced by marketers has allowed us to communicate with and involve our email subscribers in territories beyond the inbox. Simply upload your email list and a few clicks later, you can communicate with your email subscribers on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. These groups of email subscribers to whom we can promote paid messages are commonly referred to as custom audience.
About Custom Audiences
Here’s how this program works.
- Let’s say your company has an email list. In addition to sending these contacts permission-based email marketing messages, you want to communicate with them on Facebook.
- In the Facebook Ads Manager, you navigate to the Audiences tab. Here is where you can create a new “Custom Audience” comprised of those already on your email list.
- You create a new audience by uploading, pasting or importing your email list.
- Here is where Facebook goes to work. They match the email addresses you just uploaded with email addresses associated with existing Facebook accounts. Typically you can achieve a match rate between 60 and 80%.
- Once this audience has been identified and created in Facebook, you can begin to deliver targeted Facebook advertising to them.
Twitter has a similar program that allows email marketers to promote Twitter accounts, individual tweets, and Twitter cards to an existing email list. The audience creation and list upload process is very much like Facebook’s (see below).
News came out recently, that Google is going to introduce a similar audience creation technique not offered previously from their tools. Very much like the Facebook and Twitter programs, Google will rely upon matching Gmail addresses and other secondary email addresses provided when users initially create a Google account.
What’s In It For Me?
Sure, all this advertising technology is pretty great from a marketing viewpoint, but from the vantage of a business person, what’s the point of paying to advertise to an audience already owned. Why not just send them an email?
A few sample campaign types follow that demonstrate why and when such advertising campaigns targeting email subscribers should be deployed.
Grow Social Subscribers
Just because an individual has subscribed to your email, does not necessarily mean they follow your brand on Twitter or Facebook. Campaigns can be configured to promote a Facebook Page or Twitter presence to email subscribers who have not yet connected on social.
Double Up Email & Social
If your organization is especially focused on making absolutely sure a message is communicated and promoted to a defined audience, an email might not be enough. Promote events, new products, service/software upgrades, and other “need to know” messages to subscribers in as many channels as you can. Roll out email and social advertising campaigns in a simultaneous blitz effort to damn near guarantee you are heard loud and clear.
Utilize Lookalike Audiences
Want to find new email subscribers that model the behavior traits and interests of your current subscribers? Who wouldn’t? Facebook and Twitter both allow for Lookalike audience creation. Each service builds a potential prospect group that match up with your current email subscribers from a demographic and psychographic standpoint.
Amplify Social Content
Any social media manager can tell you that sometimes the posts that don’t necessarily appear to embody winning material can resonate. For individual social posts that show great promise via simple organic reach, promote them to your email subscribers with social advertising. Keep a good thing going, and amplify effective social media content to your entire audience.
Finally Make the Sale
Sometimes prospects provide their email address in advance of purchasing a product. Content marketers are all too familiar with the tactic of providing a valuable asset in exchange for contact information. Promote your brand’s product or service to those subscribers who have yet to officially graduate to customer status. This strategy is especially useful for targeting subscribers who have previously received every message in an extensive email nurture campaign without making a purchase.
If you haven’t had many positive interactions via the email channel with a subscriber, it might be time to try another route. Upload a custom audience to Facebook or Twitter that consists of only inactives. Deliver a compelling invitation or piece of content that encourages them to re-engage.
Building an audience is just half the battle. Use effective tools, even those outside your email marketing wheelhouse, to engage and maintain it.