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If you are an online marketer, you are probably familiar with advertising via email, Facebook, Twitter, and third party display buys.
And they probably all work OK, at least in relative isolation of each other.
Annoyingly, all the above channels operated mutually exclusively. That is, until now.
Welcome to 2014, the age of Custom Audiences: the biggest revolution in email marketing since… email marketing.
If you don’t know what Custom Audience targeting is, or if you want to learn more, or if you want to see a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head, read on.
Don't forget your digital passport before travelling around the interwebs
I bet you have a Facebook account, and a Twitter account. And for that matter, LinkedIn, iTunes, Amazon, and who knows what else. What do they have in common?
When you log in, you need to give your credentials: an email address and a password. (Sure, you can log into Facebook using a phone number… but do you actually know anyone who does this?)
The only thing that connects you across all these disparate sites is your email address. In essence: your email address is your digital passport.
Think about the last time you went on holiday. When you boarded the plane, you had to show your passport. When you got to immigration, same thing. When you checked into your hotel, same thing. Your email address is the same thing, but for your online voyages.
Without your email address, you can’t board FacebookAir, or get into TwitterLand. And don’t even think about going anywhere near LinkedInVille. Without your email address, you effectively don’t exist online.
If you take away one point from this post, take away this concept: that your email address is your digital passport.
Just imagine if you got permanently locked out of your primary email account – how big a pain in the ass would that be? You would effectively cease to exist as a digital citizen. You’d be stuck in one country for the rest of your life, never leaving and never travelling.
You’d be the equivalent of Sarah Palin in 2007. You could see Russia from your porch, but you’d be unable to get there.
So why does a digital passport matter?
Previously, when people invested in advertising on Facebook, Twitter and in email newsletters, they were generally broad demographic buys.
Someone “likes” bunnies? Target them. Someone “follows” you? Target them Someone receives a newsletter from a specific title? Target them. Throw a bunch of poop at the wall and hope some of it sticks.
The problem with this is clear. All these media buys happen in isolation from each other, and also everything else for that matter.
The results are usually middling, because the targeting is not based upon where your prospects and customers are in their buyer journey; instead, it's based upon a "like" button they clicked when drunk.
Further, and perhaps more importantly, there’s no easy way to determine the aggregate effect of advertising via these channels together.
See, this is the thing to bear in mind: advertising works. For sure, right? But also, advertising works better when a campaign is integrated across channels. And, analytical marketers love it when you can determine the uplift delivered to a campaign per channel – that online marketing Valhalla called "multichannel attribution."
But this has always been hard. Very hard. Many an Excel geek has been flummoxed by this very problem.
Why Custom Audiences are the future of integrated campaigns
If you don’t know what Custom Audiences are, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And if you’ve heard about them, and maybe even had a bit of a play, great – but read on nonetheless… there’s lots more to be said about them.
In case you are confused, here's my promised picture of a bunny to help you feel better about marketing, Custom Audiences, and perhaps even life in general:
In a nutshell, Custom Audiences are a new targeting method available on Facebook, Twitter (although they call them 'tailored audiences') and in email newsletters.
To set the scene, does this sound familiar to you:
I’ve spent thousands of dollars and/or pounds and/or other currency units building up a huge email list and I send them periodic emails about stuff – newsletters, competitions, offers and the like.
But, depressingly, when I'm having a good day, 20% of people open them. And of those 20%, I have no way to connect with them on other channels, like Facebook or Twitter.
And the 80% who don’t read my stuff at all – I’ve got no way to connect with them other than sending out more emails! (Which is a good strategy – see here – but it’s not the only strategy…)
With Custom Audience targeting, you can upload a list of emails to Facebook, Twitter or LiveIntent (which offers Custom Audience ad targeting in 3rd party email newsletters.)
Only people with whom you already have relationships will see ads. No more wasted spend from shoddy demographic ad buys. No more mistargeted creatives trying to sell people things when they aren’t in buying mode. No more uncertainty about who is seeing your adverts (or for that matter when and where.)
So think about this. You have, for example, a list of dis-engaged email users who don’t read your emails. You can now connect with them on three disparate, third party channels by using their digital passports as a targeting mechanism.
Another quick example: say you’ve got 1,000 people who purchased from you last week. You can re-target them with upsales and cross sales messages.
And if you want to go completely cray cray, you can robustly calculate out the engagement uplift you deliver by combining response rates from both email and Custom Audience channels, since you can see who purchased when they check out… because they get their invoice sent to their digital passport.
Welcome to multichannel attribution Valhalla
Remember: You have a digital passport – and so do your customers.
For years, we’ve thought of email as a pure direct response channel, and social and third party media buys as acquisitive, mutually exclusive media buys. But this is no longer the case.
Your email list is now your unique access point to your customers across the channels that they use on a daily basis – Facebook, Twitter, and 3rd party email newsletters. You can now target people via social and display channels at the logical point in their buying cycle.
If you want to travel around the world, you need a passport. If you want to exist on the internet, you need an email address.
Don’t get stuck in Alaska. See the world. Experience life. Live the dream. And importantly, start using Custom Audiences.