social media messaging

Infinite Touches—Finding Social Media Brand Evangelists

Infinite Touches—Finding Social Media Brand Evangelists

In the previous post in this series, Scaling Social Media with Infinite Touches, we talked about brand evangelists (don’t call them ambassadors) and a bit about our Infinite Touches™ process. Let’s take a look at  how you can find brand evangelists.

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Finding Social Media Brand Evangelists

As we’ve seen in this series of posts, social media can scale by creating a web of relationships mediated by your most fanatical fans. And that’s great because research shows that people really listen to friends when making buying decisions.

In a June 2010 Harris Interactive poll, 71 percent claimed reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.[1] Similarly, a Nielsen study found 90 percent of consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.[2]

The stats about evangelists are even better: They write more than twice as many posts about brands and forward between two and three times more of other people’s online communications. They are also are 50 percent more likely to create a post that influences a purchase. [3] Wow!

Preferred Source of Product Information - Nielsen

Preferred Source of Product Information – Nielsen

So if you want to multiply your business’ social media efforts, forget about Facebook page likes or numbers of Twitter followers or even numbers of pins on Pinterest and focus on the people your company delights. Figure out how to enable them to spread the joy and you’ll be able to scale social media no matter how big you become.

To do this, you need to not only reach your loyal fans, but you must deputize them and enable them to find and develop other loyal fans, whom you need to enable to find even more fans, and on and on. How are you going to find your brand evangelists? You can start by doing the following:

  • Google “I love [your product, organization]” — If you’ve got the nerve, and want to know your enemy, also Google “I hate [your product, organization]”
  • Google Blog Search your product, organization — You can use Google Blog Search[4] or other blog monitoring tools
  • Search Twitter and Facebook — Twitter’s search has gotten a lot better. Facebook search is OK.
  • Set up Google Alerts and Twitter Alerts — Google Alerts[5] can send you daily updates based on your keywords. You can set up and save a keyword search on Twitter but you’ll need to manually run it. You can set up automated alerts using TweetBeep.[6]
  • Use Sentiment Analysis — Tools like the free Social Mention or Salesforce.com’s expensive Radian6 can help find people who are saying nice things about you

This last technique – sentiment analysis – involves automated determination of the meaning of social media posts. The best we can say about this evolving field is that it can be interesting, if not definitive. This video of a presentation by Kate Niederhoffer, ex-Nielsen BuzzMetrics and principal of Knowable Research is a good introduction to the concepts and limitations of sentiment analysis. It’s long, but well-worth watching.

Sentiment Driven Behaviors; Sentiment Driven Decisions (Kate Niederhoffer, Knowable Research) from Seth Grimes on Vimeo.

However you do it, the first step in assembling an Infinite Touches network of brand evangelists is to find some likely candidates. We talk about how to activate this network in the next post.

Next up: Infinite Touches—Activating Social Media Brand Evangelists


Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code WXG8ABP2

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances


[1] Harris Interactive’s Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Tweets: bit.ly/HRurjY

[2] Nielsen’s Global Advertising: Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Mostbit.ly/s1oxsS

[3] Social Media Examiner’s 9 Reasons Your Company Should Use Brand Advocates: New Researchbit.ly/IZelVm

[4] Google Blog Search: bit.ly/dy7s5O

[5] Google Alerts: bit.ly/3fbcHD

[6] TweetBeep: bit.ly/dduOQK

Scaling Social Media with Infinite Touches

Scaling Social Media with Infinite Touches

In the previous posts in this series, beginning with Social Media is Not Advertising. Duh! we talked about the proper uses of social media (not traditional advertising), the lessons of Obama’s 2012 campaign (microsegmentation), and a little bit about our Infinite Touches™ process for using social media to create mass relationships. This post takes a look at the problem – creating relationships with thousands, millions, or billions of people – and how brand evangelists can help.

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Brand Evangelists Are Key to Scaling Social Media

Let’s say you’re Coke (Congratulations! Can I borrow a couple hundred grand?) You’re one of the most savvy social media marketers on the planet, and by your own count, you deliver 1.7 billion “servings” per day. That’s billions of opportunities to engage. (My spreadsheet refuses to display the yearly number as anything other than 6.205E+11.)

Like many businesses, one way you can manage lots of fans is by using community managers—saintly folks who respond to comments and questions, create and nurture the relationships, and keep order online. But even if you ignore those billions of potential engagement points, think of the scale of trying to manage just the main Coke US beverage sites: You have 41.1 million Likes on Facebook and 800,000 Twitter followers. And don’t forget the other 200 countries you do business in. How many community managers, then, do you need?

There’s a social science theoretical concept called Dunbar’s number[1] that posits a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. The generally accepted value for Dunbar’s number is 150. This means the average human can maintain up to 150 stable social relationships.

Coke Zero mention map

Coke Zero mention map

But, you’re Coke, and you have, let’s say for the sake of making the math easy, a billion customers. Your community managers need to have relationships online with many more than 150 customers each. Either that or you’re going to have to hire 6,666,666 community managers.

So how are you going to do that? Well, if you accept the concept of Dunbar’s number, and you want to maintain relationships with huge numbers of supporters, you’re going to need lots of people: like you, your management, and your employees. Well, let’s see. Coke has 146,200 employees. So each needs to handle 6,849 customers. Sure, you could argue that not everyone on social media needs personal attention. In fact, many experts subscribe to the 90-9-1 rule of social media:

  • 90 percent are lurkers who read but don’t contribute
  • 9 percent contribute infrequently
  • 1 percent participate a lot and create most of the posts

Fine. Coke employees only need to worry about handling the 1 percent – 68 customers each. And do their other jobs. You see where this is going. It’s impossible to scale the kind of social media practices that today are the most prevalent, and most effective.

All is not lost, however. There is an answer to the problem of scale: evangelists, also known as brand ambassadors. We talked a bit about brand ambassadors in the first post in this series, Social Media is Not Advertising. Duh! We prefer the term brand evangelist because, frankly, ambassadors are stuffy, bound by protocol, and not generally gonzo about anything.

Brand evangelists are people who love your product or service and already tell their friends about it. According to Jeremiah Owyang, formerly of Forrester Research and now with Altimeter,[2] “An evangelist’s role is to go beyond understanding and get others to believe in your product or service. This is beyond just communication and advertising and gets to the fundamental root of human communications – building trust.”

You want to find the people who are in love with your company and your products. You want to treat them well, and reward them for beating the bushes for customers. Often it’s quite enough just to give them recognition, or perhaps small discounts. Sometimes just encouraging them is enough. You have evangelists already, if your product doesn’t stink.

The trick is to find them, cultivate them, and enable them to spread the word and, of course, find more evangelists, enable them to spread the word and . . . you get the picture. Using evangelists is really the only way you can scale the relationships you need if you’re a company of any size, with thousands or hundreds of thousands of customers.

Coke understands this, but even as savvy as they are, they are making a mistake by ignoring their huge social media franchise and instead expanding their tried and true real world brand ambassador program. We briefly described this type of approach in the first post in this series as “paying some schmo off the street to distribute samples and ‘generate awareness and excitement.’”

To be fair, Coke also pays local, national, and international celebrities to be ambassadors. Coke’s idea is to push this celebrity-endorsement-cum-brand-ambassador program down into the grass roots, and they’re doing quite a bit of it in India. Google the term Coke brand ambassadors and see what I’m talking about.

It remains to be seen whether this effort is successful, but I can tell you for sure that it misses the opportunity that social-media-based online evangelists present for their business, and for yours.

Of course, you’re not Coke (perhaps that’s a relief after reading the preceding!) Your business may not even be able to support a single community manager. But using our Infinite Touches approach, you can deputize your most rabid fans and create a network of evangelists to create that gold of social media: relationships with real people that deliver bottom line results. How? That’s the topic of tomorrow’s post.

Next up: Infinite Touches—Finding Social Media Brand Evangelists


Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code WXG8ABP2

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances


[1] Dunbar’s Number: bit.ly/bgZ4jh
[2] Understanding the role of an Evangelist at a Web 2.0 Company by Jeremiah Owyang  bit.ly/UdMYbu
Social Media with a Slow Hand

Social Media with a Slow Hand

Back in the day, I was confused when I heard that guitar god Eric Clapton’s nickname was Slow Hand. His playing, always tasty, always appropriate, seemed fast enough for me. But as I pondered this apparent contradiction I noticed that, unlike some of his flash guitar peers, such as the unbelievable Jimmy Page, Eric rarely broke out a really fast solo. He wasn’t obsessed with notes per minute, like today’s YouTube subculture of BPM guitarists.

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A few years later, I came across a Clapton quote that put his approach in perspective: He said his goal in life was to make his audience cry with just a single note. That’s impossible, I thought. A single note without a context to prepare the audience means nothing.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Two things:

  • It’s not all about the speed, but rather about tastefulness and appropriateness
  • In order to have your audience respond to a single note, you need to build context

I don’t want to take the Clapton metaphor too far, but his guitar playing does have a couple more lessons for social media.

First, he is probably the most tasteful and economical guitarist currently playing. He doesn’t embellish needlessly like an Eddie Van Halen. He’s not trying to impress you with his virtuosity like a Joe Satriani. He plays no more than what is required, and always in service of a cohesive solo.

The second Clapton lesson is that he rarely repeats himself during a solo, unlike pretty much every other guitarist, including other great guitarists like Joe Walsh and especially Carlos Santana, he doesn’t have a bag of clichéd musical phrases that he trots out frequently.

Slow Hand Social Media Messaging

Put all these Clapton attributes together and you get a pretty nice framework for your approach to social media messaging.

  • Don’t overload your audience. Adopting the Old Media advertising paradigm of more impressions and more repetition equals more sales can be ineffective. You need to strike a balance that enables you to be heard above the noise while not causing your followers to ignore your boring repeated messaging.
  • Be tasty. The Online Slang Dictionary defines tasty as “something really good, attractive, or just cool.” In the guitar world, taste refers to choosing what to leave in and what to leave out. Often, less is more. Martin Smith of Atlantic BT refers to online marketer’s penchant for spewing a torrent of information as Chinese Army Marketing. You don’t need to overwhelm your community with every little detail of what you’re selling. Leave space in your music.
  • Create the context for an emotional response. This is a big one, and a hard one for most marketers to get. We make decisions primarily from our gut, like Homer Simpson. Yet most social media marketing is geared toward our Spock-like rationality. During the 2011 holiday season, the social media ninjas at Coke showed us all the best approach. Coke selected several Filipinos working in America, sent them back home for Christmas and followed them with video cameras. They posted a YouTube video that had not a single mention of the brand in it. It’s about family and people and feeling good. And it makes me choke up a little as I write this because it is so sweet and compelling. I have told dozens of people about this in the intervening time, and have included it as an example in the books I write. What’s that worth?

Provide context and an emotional connection when using social media and you’ll see better results.

The bottom line? Social Media isn’t advertising. Overwhelming your audience with repetitive messages may work in the short term, but your goal should be to forge a relationship and an emotional connection with your community (not your target demographics). Be tasty. Strive for that one note that makes people respond. Avoid Chinese Army Marketing and use a Slow Hand, like the Pointer Sisters preferred.

P.S. I love all the guitarists I mention in this post so haters, don’t hate . . .


Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code WXG8ABP2

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances

Infinite Touches vs. Advertising

Infinite Touches vs. Advertising

In the previous posts in this series, Social Media is Not Advertising. Duh!It’s the End of Segmentation As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and Infinite Touches – Segmentation on Steroids we talked about the proper uses of social media (not traditional advertising), the lessons of Obama’s 2012 campaign (microsegmentation), and a little bit about our Infinite Touches™ process for using social media to create mass relationships. This post begins to examine current social media practice vs. our Infinite Touches approach.

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Advertising and Social Media

The article that inspired this series of posts is entitled Brand Engagement Rate Still 1%, But Facebook Is OK With That which appeared in Ad Age on 11/15/12. In addition to the implications in the title, several comments in the article got my blood boiling. Foremost among them was this assertion:

Facebook is becoming more and more like traditional media. It may be time for advertisers to move on from worrying about how many fans they have to instead explore how many category buyers Facebook can reach, for what cost, and to what effect.

That’s a rubbish idea.

There’s some truth in the first part of this statement – Facebook  is being used by advertisers like just another channel. That doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it effective.

But the conclusion trots out the old advertising paradigm: there are channels and you address them by the shadows cast on the wall[1] by customers, known as demographics.

Yes, advertisers should stop worrying about how many fans they have and start measuring the intensity of their fandom and their effectiveness. I can’t tell you how many brand pages I’ve liked on Facebook never to return. So what was my contribution to Facebook’s People Talking About This algorithm’s score worth? Zip.

The Ad Age article hits several other interesting, if not entirely believable points, like:

[The] concept of brand loyalty is a myth and that marketers should worry less about reaching a few loyal fans and heavy buyers than hitting a large amount of light and medium buyers. This orientation leads to a rejection of the notion that social media should be privileged over other media that can help the marketer in its central quest of reaching as many people as possible.

Notice that the quote talks about “reaching” people. Not engaging. Not creating a relationship. Just reaching. That’s all that advertising, as currently practiced, can hope for: If I put the right message in front of you enough times, you might buy my stuff.

You’ll hear marketers talk about how they can measure the effectiveness of a direct mail campaign but can’t measure results from Facebook. There’s a good reason for this. Facebook is not direct mail.

Direct mail is a proven but extremely wasteful way of creating sales. A great direct mail campaign might get a response of 5 – 7 percent. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) claims that direct mail boasts an average 4.4% response rate, compared to email’s rate of 0.12%, according Yory Wurmser, director of marketing and media insights at the DMA.[2] So their message is don’t use digital; kill more trees wasting 95 percent of your advertising mail to get a weak response.

The only good thing about that approach is it’s predictable. And that’s why some advertisers look at social media as a giant direct mail campaign.

Create and Enable Evangelists

We feel that the way to use social media for marketing is not via an advertising approach. For the first time in history, you can truly know your customers on a mass level. That’s the incredibly valuable capability that social media puts in your hands. Like the shopkeepers of old who greeted you by name and asked you about your kids when you entered their stores, you can finally begin to know your customer as something other than a demographic.

The idea of social media is not to segment and categorize customers into various demographic piles, but to find a way to create relationships with them. Using social media, you are not limited by advertising approaches, but can have Infinite Touches™ of your customers.

Wait, you say. I have millions of customers. How can I create relationships with all of them?

That’s the challenge, isn’t it?

And we’ll examine that question in the next post.

Next up: Scaling Social Media with Infinite Touches


Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code WXG8ABP2

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances


[1] Allegory of the Cave – Wikipedia bit.ly/QYRQHb

[2] DMA: Direct mail response rates beat digital – Direct Marketing News bit.ly/VlXmks

Infinite Touches – Segmentation on Steroids

In the previous posts in this series, Social Media is Not Advertising. Duh! and It’s the End of Segmentation As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) we took a look at brand marketers’ penchant for seeing social media as another advertising channel – the hammer and nail problem. We examined the lessons brand marketers can learn from the Big Data and microsegmentation techniques of the Obama for President campaign in 2012.

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In sum, we believe that the way most marketers approach social media misses the point. And the point is: Social media provides a means to not only microsegment but to establish actual relationships with your customers and prospects. To show that we’re not totally out in left field on this, let’s take a look at what some of the most advanced brand marketers are currently doing with microsegmentation.

Television, always on the vanguard of customer analysis, offers a good paradigm to understand social media microsegmentation. In an article in Broadcasting Cable magazine,[1] Steve Silvestri, director of advanced advertising sales at DirecTV, described how his company is approaching their addressable base of about 11 million DirecTV homes. DirecTV can know a lot about their customers simply by knowing what they’re watching. This can enable them to very finely tailor their marketing.

“We want to get down to the household level, and that’s exactly what we can do today and that’s exactly what we are doing,” Silvestri said. For example, DirecTV could target dog-food ads to dog owners, cat-food ads to cat owners and, to a home nearby with three kids, a minivan ad.

Cable and entertainment giant Comcast has tested addressable-advertising technology, including a Baltimore market test that involved 60,000 homes, and plans more extensive testing. For example, homes already getting cable, phone and Internet could stop seeing triple-play bundle ads and instead see promos for Comcast’s home-security offering, said Kevin Smith, group vice president at Comcast Spotlight.

These efforts are trying to realize the destiny of marketing as described by Peter Drucker:[2] “There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

This future is trying to be born in TV advertising, but there’s a network that exists today that can deliver similar addressability with even better results: social media.

SMPG’s Infinite Touches™

Social Media Performance Group has developed a process – called Infinite Touches – that leverages social media’s ability to enable microsegmentation and also incorporates the power of personal recommendations.

Let’s take a quick look at the effect on buying recommendations by friends have.

Josh Mendelsohn, Vice President of Chadwick Martin Bailey, sums it up nicely:

While social media is not the silver bullet that some pundits claim it to be, it is an extremely important and relatively low cost touch point that has a direct impact on sales and positive word of mouth.

Companies not actively engaging are missing a huge opportunity and are saying something to consumers —intentionally or unintentionally — about how willing they are to engage on consumers’ terms.[3]

Mendelsohn’s company surveyed 1,500 consumers and found those who are Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely to not only recommend, but also more likely to buy from those brands than they were before becoming fans/ followers.

A study across 20 brands by analyst firm Syncapse[4] found:

  • On average, fans spend an extra $71.84 they would not otherwise spend on products they describe themselves as fans of, compared to those who are not fans.
    • McDonald’s saw the largest variability, with Fans reporting spending $159.79 more per year than non-fans
    • Oreo saw the lowest value with a difference of $28.52
  • Fans are 28 percent more likely than non-fans to continue using a specific brand
  • Fans are 41 percent more likely than non-fans to recommend a product they are a fan of to their friends
  • An average fan may participate with a brand ten times a year and will make one recommendation. But, an active fan may participate thirty times and make ten recommendations.

Lest you think that social media only works for B2C brands, take a look at some supporting evidence that shows B2B brands can also benefit from social media: [5]

  • In a June 2010 Harris Interactive poll, when asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product” 71 percent claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.
  • ROI Research for Performance found that 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their tweets, with 48 percent of them following through on their intention to buy the product.
  • In the January 2009 study, “Tech Decision Maker” by Hill & Knowlton, when considering purchases, tech decision-makers gave user-generated sites equal importance with traditional media sources. Decision-makers first consider their personal experience (58 percent) when short-listing tech vendors, followed by word-of-mouth and industry analyst reports, tied at 51 percent. Advertising (17 percent) and direct marketing (21 percent) were listed as the least important information sources when short-listing possible vendors.

So how can you use this powerful segmentation and recommendation tool for your brand? That’s a question for tomorrow’s post.

Next up: Infinite Touches vs. Advertising


Infinite Pipeline book cover

Get our new book, The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success online here. You can save $5 using Coupon Code WXG8ABP2

What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances


[1] Advanced Advertising: Obama Campaign Showed Value of Targeting Viewers bit.ly/10tYmG2

[2] Republicans lost because they forgot marketing fxn.ws/TPUjOi

[3] Chadwick Martin Bailey is custom market research and consulting firm:  bit.ly/izHMWz

[4] Gigaom’s How Much Is a Facebook Fan Really Worth? bit.ly/pw924DLink to the report PDF: bit.ly/mV67os

[5] Quoted in Nuanced Media’s How Important are Online Customer Reviews? : bit.ly/ulgULg

It’s the End of Segmentation As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

It’s the End of Segmentation As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

OK, it’s a sensationalist headline. I don’t really think segmentation should be ditched. Far from it.

But segmentation based on high-level, limited demographics and not behavior is dead in brand marketing because it ignores the real promise of social media.

Obama segmentation

Segmentation as practiced in marketing and advertising today seeks to group people into narrow categories based on demographics. Typical market segments might include the stereotypical soccer mom, limousine liberal, weekend warrior or other combinations of the standard variables age, life-cycle stage, gender, income, social class, and lifestyle.

These variables don’t even begin to describe the whole person, but they are close enough for current practice. However, relying on segment stereotypes can fail to reveal important behaviors.

Back in the late ‘90s, I met with the CTO of the Nielsen Company (my boss’ boss) and offered a heretical thesis: Demographics are crap.

She let me explain this shocking assertion, and then thought of an example from her own life. “We’re a double-executive-income family living in a pricey Zip code, and you would never know from that that we consume about a case of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese a month,” she said. Right. There’s no accounting for taste . . .

But flippancy aside, she was right. No marketer would target her family as a brand-loyal mac and cheese consumer. They’d be more likely to try to sell them truffles and expensive French cheese.

It makes you wonder what other outlier behaviors families like hers (or yours) exhibit. Are you a wine-lover living in a beer and pickup truck neighborhood? Or a Republican living in a Democratic district?

That’s the problem with the current practice of segmentation: It’s too imprecise. Yet it does work, however imperfectly.

A great example of data-driven segmentation working very successfully was the Obama campaign during the 2012 presidential election. The campaign was not satisfied with addressing broadly general segments. Instead, by combining Big Data techniques and social media, the Obama campaign used micro-segmentation and targeting to pull off a striking victory. By understanding the electorate at a deeper, more personal level, the Obama campaign was able to better-target their fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts.

According to KPDi[1], this degree of “consumer segmentation” had strategic importance in two respects:

  • The Obama campaign was able to show a genuine appreciation of each person’s role in the re-election effort. People were made to feel important.
  • It reflected a “customer-service” orientation that was projected outward from all campaign touch points. The get-out-the-vote superiority was just one of the benefits. More esoterically, the voter-centric model got the campaign out of its own head, and focused on the task at hand: winning vs. ideology.

So you might think that this example shows that the old model works. Well maybe, but it needs to be adapted to the fact that there are more people using social media today than were using the entire Internet in 2008.

An article in by Bob Garfield in MediaPost[2] reveals the lesson of the election: “It should now be blindingly obvious to every marketer, and to more evolved bipeds, that nothing that comes out of the mouth of a brand or any other institution has remotely the influence of what comes from the mouths of 7 billion bystanders freely trading opinions online.”

Time magazine[3] states that social media was extremely important to the get-out-the-vote efforts of the Obama campaign:

Online, the get-out-the-vote effort continued with a first-ever attempt at using Facebook on a mass scale to replicate the door-knocking efforts of field organizers. In the final weeks of the campaign, people who had downloaded an app were sent messages with pictures of their friends in swing states. They were told to click a button to automatically urge those targeted voters to take certain actions, such as registering to vote, voting early or getting to the polls. The campaign found that roughly 1 in 5 people contacted by a Facebook pal acted on the request, in large part because the message came from someone they knew.

The numbers also led the campaign to escort their man down roads not usually taken in the late stages of a presidential campaign. In August, Obama decided to answer questions on the social news website Reddit, which many of the President’s senior aides did not know about. “Why did we put Barack Obama on Reddit?” an official asked rhetorically. “Because a whole bunch of our turnout targets were on Reddit.”

According to Ad Age,[4] for the period between Sept. 1 and Oct. 14, the Obama camp had 497 creatives deployed across the Web compared with the Romney camp’s 90.

So advanced segmentation works, both on and off line. What does that mean for the future of brand marketing? That’s an answer for the next post.

Next up: Infinite Touches – Segmentation on Steroids


Infinite Pipeline book cover

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What Others Are Saying

Infinite Pipeline offers practical advice for using social media to extend relationship selling online. It’s a great way to get crazy-busy prospects to pay attention.”
—Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

“Sales is all about relationships and trust. Infinite Pipeline is the ‘how to’ guide for maximizing social networks to find and build relationships, and generate trust in our digital age.”
—Sam Richter, best-selling author, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling (2012 Sales book of the year)

Infinite Pipeline will be the authority on building lasting relationships through online social that result in bottom line business.”
—Lori Ruff, The LinkedIn Diva, Speaker/Author and CEO of Integrated Alliances


[1] Obamatrix – the Consumer Segmentation Model of the 44th President – Part I, bit.ly/WiNuXM

[2] Advertising Loses In A Mudslide, bit.ly/UgOKek

[3] Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win ti.me/Q93ygB

[4] Obama Outslugs Romney in Digital bit.ly/UHedf4