Google Plus is new enough that I am only beginning to understand all the nuisances. Aside from looking at how Breaking News, Mashable and my local paper The Lawrence Journal-World are using it, my use cases are fairly limited. The experience I am going to share is isolated, but it is first hand.
How @free is using Circles on Google Plus.
In compliance with Google rules, @free doesn’t have a Google Plus account per se, but as an individual I do have an account that is an extension of the brand.
Our company mission is to provide best of what is free to our readers. Right now we are using Twitter and Facebook. Part of the key differentiation from other free sites and Twitter accounts is a level of curation. We don’t post every single offer, but try to find ones that will appeal to a large percentage of our audiences. It is my belief that Google Plus Circles will allow us to share more relevant offers, without annoying uninterested users.
From idea to implementation
With Google Plus I wanted to see if we could take advantage of customer segmentation that is possible with Circles in their present form. In this specific case I wanted to segment based on what phone an individual is using.
The plan was to create Circles based on our user’s phone choices, and only share free Android and iPhone apps based on those preferences. Users would opt-in to these Circles by telling us their phone choice, and then only get offers that were relevant to them.
The only way to test this segmentation was to find out what phones people were using. So I asked.
In response to the above question I got over 50 responses and continue to get more each day.
I created iOS and Android Circles and then added people. Two days later I had a great iPhone offer that I share with the iOS group.
I got two comments that individuals took advantage of the offer and would estimate based on experience, at least a couple other people were able to take advantage.
The great thing about sharing only to the iOS Circle, was Android users didn’t have to be bothered with this offer. They didn’t even know it existed.
Power of Circles
This very basic use study has led me to the conclusion that Google Plus is particularly powerful because it allows for the broadcast and engagement that social media makes possible, while at the same time, allowing you to customize the message.
Other segmentation groups I have considered:
- Location: Country, region, city or even neighborhood.
- Engagement Level
- A/B test similar messages by having different groups.
- Any classic demographic or interests you can think of.
Segmentation does come with some business, and I would say ethical issues.
If I want to only send a free offer for makeup, I would tend to just send it to a circle composed of women. But there is certainly some percentage of men who are into makeup. This poses a quandary. Do I send the message just to women and possibly exclude interested men, or do I send the message to everyone and 45% of my audience doesn’t find it relevant at all?
The short term answer would likely be the former. Hopefully in eventual Google+ business versions, users will be able to control or at least provide input for what groups they want in. The user will opt-in to providing profile or interest information in order to get the messages they want.
In our example case, users could opt-in to wanting makeup offers. Whether I would then include that group only in the offer or also add a broad women circle is another issue that will have to be addressed.
I have no doubt that the direct mail and other industries that are highly invested in segmentation already have dealt with some of these issues, but I am hopeful that those using segmentation in the online, social space will better think through these ethical issues. The power of segmentation for both the individual and business is important enough that these issues will have to be addressed.