Monetizing Social Media Is About Targeting First, Everything Else Second

By Ryan Deutsch
About 60 days ago, my team was working on an email program with an online retailer focused on expanding participation in their loyalty program. Unlike previous programs, the call to action of this email was not to “click a link” and join the loyalty program; rather; it was to share the experience of the loyalty program with their friends and encourage them to join as well.

This was no simple share-to-social initiative. The retailer created several incentives to motivate sharing behavior. Next, they tracked the number of invitations each customer sent to their friends and attributed those that actually “subscribed” to the loyalty program back to the initial inviter.

The results far surpassed previous email campaigns; in fact, the social program described above generated three times the number of subscribers than the previously launched un-socialized programs. Major results included:

  • 1 new member for every 1.8 peer-to-peer invitations
  • 10% of new members went on to purchase
  • 4.3 emails sent, on average, by each influencer

While the program clearly extended reach and subscriptions to the loyalty program, the team believed there was an opportunity for optimization — and implemented two minor yet critical tweaks, both focused on enhanced targeting of the socialized campaign.

The company looked at their loyalty program members and created a segment based on engagement metrics: for example, how long a subscriber was part of the loyalty program. Targeting based on engagement is not a new concept to email marketers. Transactional email programs garner a higher response rate than broadcast campaigns do, because they target the customer at the point of maximum engagement: during a purchase cycle or some other lifecycle activity.

In addition to developing targets based on engagement, the company did more analysis to identify “Super Influencers” within their recipient lists. Super Influencers in this case are customers who already have a defined Web presence within a specific vertical.

In the retail space, there are a number of “Discount Bloggers.” These bloggers aggregate special offers on blogs or personal Websites. These customers can have a huge impact on campaign performance, since they already have a following relevant to a specific space with people looking for new content or the next great deal. The identified “Super Influencers” were added to the segment and the optimized campaign was ready to go.

The email program was launched to the new, targeted segment with the same offer and creative. The result? The targeting impact was off the charts.

  • 420% Increase in loyalty member subscriptions from the initial campaign
  • 326% Increase in purchase conversions from the initial campaign
  • Thousands of additional subscribers and hundreds of new purchases

The lesson is a simple one: Do not abandon the best practices you have grown to rely on when developing programs in the social space. The same email strategies you have been applying for years need to be relied upon as you activate new channels.

At the same time, it is critical to understand that not all customers are created equal on the social Web. There is a big difference in extended reach between me posting an offer on my Facebook page and a serious blogger embedding the offer for their followers to take action on.

Ryan Deutsch is vice president, strategic services & market development, for StrongMail Systems, a leading provider of online marketing solutions for email and social media. Contact him here.
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