Among the many beautiful gifts that modern day marketing via the Internet gives us is the ability to segment and micro-target. Back in the Mad Men days of mass TV ads and junk mail campaigns, you threw your promotions up against a huge wall and hoped they stuck to some of the bricks. Now thanks to personal profiles and all kinds of tracking and data-collection mechanisms, we can pretty much find and direct our messages toward people who are most likely to want or need what we’re providing. The cost saving because of this efficiency is enormous, and it has done much to democratize the marketing world. You can’t just buy your way to customers anymore.
Google+ Circles to Save the Day! Right?
When Google first introduced Brand Pages for Google+ last winter, they frequently touted Circles as Google+’s secret weapon for businesses looking to target customers and prospects via social media. Just create a circle for each of your different kinds of customers, we were told, and then share highly-targeted and specific message with each circle, fine-tuned for that circle.
Sounds brilliant, and it’s still something brands on Google+ should do. But…it doesn’t always work as magically as Google+ described it. The reality is, without a ton of very intensive work digging into every follower’s profile and posts, it’s difficult to know what circle to put people in. You could ask your followers to tell you which circle to put them in, but many may be reluctant to state that, or might balk at the idea of being “put” in a circle for targeting purposes. Plus if you only share a post to certain circles, it isn’t public, and therefore not indexed by Google, and so you lose its SEO benefit.
Don’t Fall Back into Push Marketing
Another problem with this approach is that it slides us backwards in marketing history. It encourages a return to “push” marketing, where you’re trying to force feed a message at a target. Notice the metaphorical language that brings forth? “Push” and “force” and “target.” Who wants to be a target?
So maybe you just post all to “public.” While better for your SEO, this may not be so great for your followers, especially if you post about a diversity of topics, or have different services or products you post about. Someone who is only interested about Topic A may get annoyed when they see posts from you about Topics B or C.
But wait, there’s more bad news before we get to the good: Last week, apparently in an attempt to cut back on spam in Google+, the platform completely changed the way Google+ notifications work. My post linked in the previous sentence goes into all the details, so I won’t labor them here. But here’s the crux for this discussion: the ability to notify circles of a post has been limited, and made possibly more annoying to your followers.
A Better Way of Offering Content to Your Followers
First, credit where credit is due: I owe the germ of this idea to Google Plus rock star +Fraser Cain.
Experienced marketers know that any list into which their followers opt-in is far more valuable than any message pushed at them. This is why opt-in email lists (when done well) still have the best conversion rates compared to other outreach methods. So what if you could create opt-in subscription lists on Google+?
You can! Here’s the wonderful secret: you can create a Google+ page about virtually anything, including a topic. It doesn’t necessarily have to be connected with a brand name. So here’s the simple strategy for using Pages to create opt-in subscription lists about specific topics:
- Figure out the topical areas you post on that get the most engagement and interest from your followers.
- Create a Google+ page for each of those topics. Don’t worry about branding the title: keep it short and to the topic (“Bicycle Safety” not “XYZ Brand’s Bicycle Safety Page”). This will help the Page rank better in Google+ search for the topic and make sure that the whole topic name is seen. You can brand on the posts, as I’ll cover below.
- From time to time post about your selection of topic pages. Invite your followers who never want to miss your posts about “whatever” to follow the related page. And then instruct them to do one more thing (which takes advantage of a new feature on Google+): tell them to place the page in a new circle called “Subscriptions.” Then instruct them to select that circle from the tabs at the top of their G+ home page, and slide its slider all the way to the right. This subscribes them to that circle, which means that they will get notified of any posts by any person or page they have in that circle. You can tell them they can use this circle for any “can’t miss” people or pages they follow.
- Whenever you create a post that fits the topic of one of your topic pages, post it on the topic page. Anyone who has placed that page in a subscribed circle will get notified of the post as they have opted in to be! You have a guaranteed receptive audience for those posts, and the recipients have a better feeling toward you because they are getting what they want from you. Win win!
- While I suggested you not brand the title of the topic page, feel free to brand away on the page’s About tab and on its individual posts. I would put something like “This post brought to you by +XYZ Brand” with the brand name being a + mention link to your official brand page. Also, of course, on the About tab talk about and link to your business, for the benefit of strangers who find your page by search.
Some additional tips about using this topic page subscription list technique:
- You may still want to put the same post on both your official brand page and it’s relevant topic page. If you’re worried about double posting to people who follow both, use a tool like HootSuite or the Chrome extension Do Share to schedule the post at different times on the two pages.
- Create a list of all your topic pages, along with brief instructions on how to subscribe to them, on your official page’s About tab.
- Create similar links on your business’s web site and blog.
- Remember from time to time to post a reminder post about your topic pages, so new followers know to subscribe to them.
- The one downside of this method is you can’t know who subscribed to what topic. If this is a concern, at least you can keep track of who engages with the posts on each topic. You can be pretty sure those are subscribers, and they are obviously your most valuable subscribers on that topic as well.
Have fun with this new way of reaching and delighting your audience, and let us know in the comments how you’ve put it to use, and if you come up with any tips or tricks of your own.