Social Media Profiling with Flowtown
Create More Detailed Customer Segments for Your Email Campaigns
Summary: Flowtown is a new service that allows internet marketers to upload a list of emails and get back comprehensive information on their customers’ social media presence.
Segmentation and personalization make most email campaigns – and marketing campaigns in general – more effective. If you’re engaging in email marketing, you’re probably already explored options like different send times, content variations, and splitting your list up into different groups of people. Often, email marketers have some kind of tool or database for building out customer segments based on customer attributes, past behavior, and any other relevant information they’ve been able to access.
Depending on the email campaign, you may be looking at:
* Geographic Location
* Engagement Level
* Past Purchase $$ Amount
* Time Since Most Recent Purchase
* Previously Purchased (or Favored) Product Categories
* Self-Selected Hobbies or Interests
* Customer Industry
* And Others
As social media gains a stronger footing alongside email as another customer communication channel, where does social media fit within the push marketing mix? Flowtown wants to help you integrate social media and email marketing, and insure that you gain insightful information in the process.
A Social Media Profile Data Mining Service
Flowtown is a relatively new service that gathers together information on the social profiles of your email list. The service is integrated with MailChimp, if that’s your ESP of choice, but you can also upload your list via a spreadsheet or paste in the emails. Flowtown then goes to work putting together profiles based on the email addresses. Does it violate your customers’ privacy? Not technically, since the information pulled is all publicly available on profiles if you dig enough. Flowtown cuts out the legwork by performing the data mining and compilation for you. Does it seem a little voyeuristic at first? It can. It’s surprising to realize how many profiles are being scanned to compile the information, but other online applications have also started pulling in this social profile data as well (email tools like Xobni and Threadsy come to mind).
Flowtown automatically compiles info from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Amazon, and StumbleUpon. It also adds in a Klout ranking so that you can sort by your potentially more socially engaged Twitter customers. Other networks that I’ve seen pop up within profiles include Tagged, New York Times, LA Times, Washington Times, Costco, Hi5, Pandora, Classmates.com, Care2, and Plaxo. And there are likely many more that I haven’t come across yet.
How is this helpful? You get quick stats plus detailed profile information on anyone in your email list with a public social media account. You can use the newly-created profiles to start segmenting your users by social network, engagement level, or interests. You also gain a better understanding of your customer base. Not all of the information is accurate, as some users have a propensity to lie about things like their age on MySpace, but it will give you a starting guesstimate for your user base.
Isn’t There a Cheaper Way to Gather Data?
Flowtown is a paid service, but the plans are reasonable and are based on the size of your email list. If you’re a bare bones marketer, you could take a DIY approach and setup a new Gmail or Hotmail account, add everyone from your email list as contacts, use a service like Twitter with your new Gmail account, and choose the “Scan My Contacts” option to find friends who also have accounts. But then you’re left to make your own pretty graphs. Flowtown does offer info on your first 50 email addresses for free, so it might be more time efficient to get your profile mining fix that way instead.
What I’d Like to See in the Future
As a new company, Flowtown has made a great start at putting together a useful tool for marketers. I’d like to see the service grow to include more niche-specific networks as well. These could be incredibly useful for retailers or companies operating within certain verticals. I don’t know if they have APIs available, but I’d love to see sites like Kaboodle, ThisNext, and Stylehive added to help retailers, and sites such as Yelp and Epicurious would aid restaurants or dining establishments. I’d also like the service to include integration with location-based networks like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, and Loopt to fill out people’s profiles.
Possible Use-Case Scenarios
The Neighborhood Cafe
A restaurant or cafe may collect comment cards or customer feedback cards as part of their efforts to insure that they are providing quality service, great food, and an inviting atmosphere. Customers can fill these out anonymously, but they can also include their email if they’d like to be entered in monthly drawings for free meals. The restaurant keeps this list of customer email addresses and also collects emails through their website from people interested in receiving monthly menus and notices on special events.
If Flowtown ever integrates with Yelp or a similar service, this will become an amazing resource for restaurants and cafes. They would be able to determine which of their customers were active Yelp reviewers and send an occasional message out to the Yelpers asking for reviews or highlighting reviews from the past month. They might also be able to dedicate a little manpower to sifting through their patrons’ Yelp profiles to see what types of restaurants they liked best and what price ranges their customers gravitate towards.
Even without a Yelp integration, the restaurant could probably make some inferences about a subset of their patrons by looking at the info gathered by Flowtown. (Note, this is only a subset. The customer who willing gives up an email address on a comment card or who signs up to receive menus via email isn’t necessary a representation of all your customers – unless, perhaps, you are a cyber cafe). From the geographic data, it may become clear that many customers are locals but a sizable chunk are tourists who visited on vacation. You may choose to send fewer emails to the out-of-towners or change your marketing message when sending to them; “Hey, next time you’re in town, we thought you’d like to know…”
Do you have a cozy cafe that encourages lingering over a good book? Do you have a segment of customers with Amazon and New York Times profiles? Maybe these are the people you want to notify first about the new sofas you’re getting or the extra magazine subscriptions you’ve just picked up. Do you have a popular lunchtime cafe in the city center or the business district? Is there are a group of your customers who appear to be locals, professionals with LinkedIn profiles, and are in their 30s – 50s? You might target this group first with announcements about lunchtime rush specials and offer them exclusive discounts on your newly formed corporate catering service.
The Niche Community Site
So you have a community site with an actively growing user base. You haven’t really put a lot of time or consideration into formal email marketing, but you do have email addresses from all your registered users. You’ve been considering adding a second login option to encourage more new users to join who might not want to create yet another account on another website. You’d like to use either an Oauth Twitter login or a Facebook Connect login as your second choice, but you’re not sure which is best.
You’ve considered sending out a rare email to your users asking which they’d prefer, but they already technically have accounts with your site. You’ve also considered just picking the choice that’s easiest to implement. With Flowtown, you can see which social networking sites your current users already have accounts with. It turns out that 70% of your current users also have Facebook accounts, but only 20% have Twitter profiles. Based on those numbers, you decide the Twitter login isn’t the best idea, and you’re more motivated to set up that Facebook fanpage for your site.
The Fun & Games Ecommerce Store
You’ve got a small ecommerce site, and you recently dove headfirst into social media. In fact, you set up sites on every social media platform you could find. Now you’re realizing that it takes time to maintain all those profiles, and you’re having a hard time connecting with cool people or potential customers in some of the social spaces. You want to do a really awesome social media scavenger hunt, and you’re setting up clues that you’ll post on all the different sites so that users can track down product prizes.
Well it turns out that organizing clues and scavenger hunts for all the social sites is also a lot of work. You decide to pare back to just a few social platforms, but you haven’t decided if you want your clues to encourage users to be active on all the networks, or if you want to offer separate clues and prizes for scavengers on each of the networks.
You take your list of orders from the last three months and upload the emails into Flowtown to find out where your most recent customers have been hanging out. You pay special attention to the habits of your biggest spenders. Do they have things in common? Could you profile them and direct some focus into acquiring more like them? You notice that your biggest spenders don’t have a lot of social media klout, but there are some customers with high klout in the next tier of spenders. Maybe they’d be more likely to spread the word about your scavenger hunt?
Based on the breakdown you get from Flowtown, it seems like your shoppers are a mixed bunch divided between MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. You start following some of your customers on Twitter that you weren’t already following. Then you sit down to start brainstorming clues for your social media scavenger hunt, all the while going through ideas about how to best contact your customers to let them know about the clues and the game.
Flowtown looks like a great add-on tool for email marketing or social media marketing. But you will likely find it useful even if you never send a single email. If you have a list of any type that includes emails (orders, leads, users, people who’ve donated to your non-profit), you can gain insight into the online personalities of this group of people and collect useful information that may help you better target your product or service. The insights gained on the ages, genders, interests, and online haunts of your users could help direct the development of new features for your website. Or if you’re preparing to do some Facebook advertising, you may want to target people who match characteristics of your existing customers. If nothing else, you’ll gain a better idea of where to focus your social media marketing efforts. (Got a list with zero Twitter users? That might be why your “Tweet to Win” campaign didn’t go so well.)