Why and how to segment your audience by engagement level
Last updated: November 1, 2023
Segmentation is one of the best ways to engage your audience, earn their trust and ultimately drive sales.
With so much data at your fingertips, you’ve got an infinite number of ways to split your audience: by demographics, interests, purchase history, and a combination of other factors.
But there’s another form of segmentation that’s just as important — one doesn’t get talked about enough: Segmentation by engagement level.
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Tailoring your outreach to someone’s level of interest is important on a number of dimensions: Email a somewhat active subscriber too many times and they’ll report you as spam (and give you deliverability issues). But if you take a softer touch, you could nurture their interest over time. And on the flip side, if someone’s already checking out your website several times per week, a little outreach could convince them to subscribe.
In this post, we’ll explain why you should segment your audience by engagement level – and give you ideas to get started. Read on to learn more:
Why should you segment your audience by engagement level?
- Adapting your strategy to each user’s engagement level allows you to nurture their interest in a way that’s unobtrusive but not totally passive. This way, you can earn more interest and revenue (whether from ads or subscriptions) from even your lightly engaged users.
- Adjusting your email sending patterns based on someone’s engagement history also keeps you from spamming people that haven’t opened an email. That keeps your email metrics and sending score high — and reduces your risk for deliverability issues.
- Engagement-based segmentation makes it easier to evaluate your conversion funnel as a whole. If people aren’t becoming more engaged over time, that’s a sign you need to rework your content, lead generation and/or nurture strategies. Better yet: Big drop offs between specific segments tell you what parts of the funnel are failing you. For instance, if you have a lot of “engaged” users, but none of them are subscribing, consider promoting your subscriptions more aggressively via website personalizations or targeted emails.
- You can use data from your most engaged users to extrapolate broader trends among the rest of your audience.
- You can create loyalty programs and exclusive subscription bundles for your most engaged users, which increases retention and lifetime value.
- Analyzing your most engaged and least engaged users separately helps you see what content and offers get temporary website traffic — and what brings in serious business.
How do I measure “engagement”?
Before you create engagement-based segments, you need an easy, standard way to quantify engagement.
How you go about this depends on the accuracy and breadth of your audience data. If you use a customer data platform that takes in data from every marketing touchpoint, you can easily see how everyone in your audience engages with you across every channel.
From there, you can query your audience for the number of engagements they’ve had over time, the breadth of their engagement, or the intensity of their engagement (how long they spend on site when visiting), or a combination thereof.
If you use Omeda, you can measure engagement by querying your database on a variety of factors, including:
- Most recent engagement date: This metric captures the last day someone opened an email, purchased or renewed a subscription, used the website, or participated in other behaviors (like signing up for a webinar or downloading a whitepaper).
- recent subscription verification date
- email clicks and email opens within a specific time period
- form submissions within a specific time period
- website visits within a specific time period
- most recent behavior date
4 engagement-based segments (and how to move the needle with each one)
Engagement-based segmentation will uncover different groups in your audience, from unengaged “at-risk” subscribers to superfans. When planning your audience marketing strategy, your goal is to move each of your users to the one engagement “level” to the next, whether it’s from at-risk to consistently engaged or from regularly engaged to subscriber/fan.
Below, we’ll tell you more about each of these groups — and give you a game plan for engaging each one.
At-risk. Your least engaged users. On Omeda, this means that they’ve engaged before, but they haven’t engaged with you across website or email in the last 2 weeks.
Your main goal at this stage: Get these people in the habit of visiting your site and interacting with your content. Here’s how to do it.
- Use content recommendations to keep users on site. On Omeda, content recommendations are tailored to each viewer’s individual browsing history. So once somebody has visited the first time, recommendations are more accurate — and more likely to yield repeat visits.
- Give them more interactive content, like quizzes, surveys or videos. Someone who’s passively interested in your content might not stick around if you’re throwing a bunch of 5,000-word longform articles at them. But if they see something less taxing, like an interactive quiz? They’re more likely to stick around (and eventually look at your long-form stuff.)
- Consider using fewer content meters for this audience. One of the biggest drawbacks of metering is that it keeps new users from seeing your publication’s full value. Depending on your business model, this might make perfect sense for you. But if you need to convert one-time visitors to regular readers, consider un-gating your most popular resources or only targeting “engaged” users with your meters. How to do it: On Omeda, you can set a specific audience for each of your meters. Just query your audience by number of engagements in last 30-90 days, then exclude anyone with 0 engagements in the last 30 days.
Consistently engaged: Now we’re moving into your engaged user base. These are people who visit your site once per month or more — and regularly read multiple pages per session. On Omeda, they have a higher total # of interactions, frequency, and intensity scores. These customers are visiting often as well as consistently over a longer period of time.
Regularly engaged: These are your highly enthusiastic audience members. They’ve engaged recently and their activity has picked up significantly over the last 14 days.
Your main goal: Turn your engaged users into active fans — people who will spread the word about you and subscribe.
- Collect more first-party data via webinars, quizzes and gated content: It doesn’t take much to get someone on your website once. But to get someone’s business, you need to provide consistent, tangible value over the course of weeks or months. Personalizing your content is the best way to achieve this. And you can’t do that without complete, current audience data. So as your occasional and regular audience keeps engaging with you, get more information about them via quizzes, webinars, and gated content. From there, you can keep personalizing content to their individual needs and strengthen your relationship with each one. (Learn how to implement a robust progressive profiling strategy here.)
- Use dynamic content in your emails: Many of your occasional and regular readers will also be subscribed to your newsletter. Using dynamic content in those emails ensures that they always see the content that’s geared to their individual viewing habits, not those of “all C-suite executives” or “all 18- to 25-year-olds.”
- Provide the option to follow specific topics or writers (or subscribe to topic-based newsletters)
Fans: These are your most loyal viewers — ones that have been “regularly engaged” for a long time. Compared to their counterparts, they’re most likely to be subscribed to your newsletter, attending your webinars or downloading premium content assets.
Your main goal: Convert non-paying fans into paid subscribers. For subscribers, top priority is continuing to prove your value and nurture your audience’s loyalty over time.
- Reward their loyalty: People in this group have put a lot of time, love and sometimes money into your business. Now it’s in your best interest to repay that loyalty. Depending on your resources, you could give them access to exclusive content, networking circles or events. Or you could offer subscriptions or add-ons for a discounted “VIP-only” price.
- Promote subscriptions via website personalizations and email: Promote your subscription packages to this audience via website personalizations, targeted email campaigns and meter messages. (Note: We’ve found that standard modals and exit-intent modals are the most effective at eliciting subscriptions.)
- Cross-promote related publications: By now, you’ve collected a good amount of data on your fans. Now you need to use that data to maximize their experience. One great way to do this is through a well-placed cross-promotion. Say that someone is subscribed to your manufacturing magazine. But you can see they’re also reading about engineering on your website — and they haven’t subscribed to that publication. You might send them an email with an exclusive “VIP” discount on the engineering magazine. Your customer gets another publication they’re sure to be interested in — and you get incremental revenue. It’s a win-win situation, all thanks to your audience data. (Learn more about harnessing your data for cross-promotions and upsells here.)
- Create exclusive ad packages targeting this group: The more audience data you can give your advertisers, the more you can charge. And your most loyal fans are your best source of data. So planning your ad packages around your fans can net you significantly more revenue and rebookings. Take it from AC Business Media, one of our clients. After using our lead scoring model to identify their most loyal audience members, they created profile sheets with their demographic, behavioral and contextual data, then shared it with their premium partners. (See how they did it in this case study.) This gave advertisers access to AC Business Media’s most enthusiastic audience members — and the information they needed to drive conversions from them. In return, the AC team got revenue that they could use to create even better content for their fans.
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