One of the biggest obstacles I’ve seen in the publishing industry is the lack of audience intelligence and segmentation for the purpose of marketing. News media companies have immense resources, high online authority, and lots of traffic. But most of this is just background noise without an effective way to connect to the individuals.

Media companies can always employ “Big Data” and develop strategies through behavioural databases, in-bound marketing techniques, and identity resolution technology. Those are great if you have the time, money, and personnel.

However, for a quicker and less expensive method, try using Facebook and a few inexpensive tools to grow your marketable audience.

Stop drawing blood from the current and former subscriber stones by converting them to digital or print plus. The objective is to add new e-mail contacts to those shrinking lists and to segment them into marketable buckets so when you reach out to them, you know more about what they value.

Marketing based on expressed value from the consumer is much more successful.

If you’ve looked at your Facebook insights, you’ve probably noticed a few interesting statistics in the demographics. If you haven’t . . . you should start looking.

A common occurrence I’ve noticed when looking at some of our markets is that even when the demographics are majority male for the fan base (and usually they’re not), the engagement data and reach data almost always skew female.

This tells me two things:

  1. There’s room to grow in the male demographic, especially the 18-34 segment.

  2. I have a target audience in the female demographic. Even in the breakdown of reach and engagement there tends to be a shift in the female demo. Reach skews to a younger female demo while engagement seems to trend older.

    The reasons for these are worthy of more discussions but for our purposes, how do we get back to segmenting our Facebook audience?

Once you’ve determined who you’re going to target through insights or event-based targeting (sports, news, politics etc.), you’re now ready to build a funnel and capture those consumers.

To do this you need to offer something of value to those segments. Sports can offer a team schedule; politics can offer an info-graphic; news can place polls and quizzes around topical stories.

Remember though, don’t ask for everything. I don’t even like to give Best Buy my e-mail when I am paying for something. Getting personal information from a Facebook fan seems even more daunting but it doesn’t have to be. If you plan ahead you will be surprised at your results. To be successful you need to identify a value and create the funnel.

Again, for value you should look to content, events, and topical anomalies. Sometimes opportunities are cyclic and present easy opportunities like sporting events. Sometimes, it will take some quick thinking around topical events that strike a chord in politics, entertainment, and even business.

Once you identify the value around which your audience will gravitate, it’s time to offer them something. I’m not talking about an iPad; offer something that reinforces their tie to the event or content. Sometimes, just offering them a voice is enough to get them involved and to hand over a few morsels. For these events you can set up polls or even quizzes.

Other times an event lets you know it’s coming and you can prepare accordingly. For example, recently one of our markets created a tournament bracket PDF for March Madness. They offered this as a free download to their Facebook fans.

Knowing their market’s interest in the U.S. college basketball championships, they created the bracket and creative to promote it. Using a social app design tool, they created an app that collected data and facilitated the download of the bracket.

After the download, the visitor can take a poll (optional) and vote on who they think will win. The vote is immediately counted and the live results are then shown.

To make sure they received even more participants, a cover photo was used in the Facebook cover photo header to draw attention to the tab and the call-to-action (CTA) in the allotted space on their Facebook page. This is important since the tabs don’t jump out at you.

We’ve all been conditioned to look for the photo tab on our friends’ pages, but the tabs on business or brand pages can change and no one will notice. Adding the CTA and special creative to the cover photo increased the amount of entries almost 200:1.

To download the bracket, the user needed to enter just their e-mail. Fields were generated for first and last name and there was an opt-in to the paper’s newsletter. The latter was left un-checked so the user had to physically opt-in. The next screen gave them the bracket download and the poll.

Here’s what it looked like with the cover photo (left).

This entire process was measured in hours not days, required no developers, IT or technical gurus, and experienced more than 200 entries in the first day and a half. As I write this, it’s still ongoing so I can’t give final numbers.

But a previous campaign for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) ended up yielding a significant amount of new e-mail contacts, once scrubbed through the e-mail client. These were new e-mails of people that liked the ACC . . . an expressed value.

The March Madness campaign will provide more e-mails with similar values. These are being segmented for future promotions, services, and products, and you can bet the marketing will center on basketball or sports.

Instead of trying another blanket US$0.99 four-week trial, get more people to sign up for subscriptions, visit your sites, and engage with your brand. Use one of the many tools available and capitalise on some value specific traffic.

There are a number of tools that allow you to build Facebook apps. Some of these even allow you to make micro-sites so you can link to them like as landing/splash pages. These micro-site versions are published to the Web in the same way, without developers, Webmasters or IT.

Try using these in re-marketing campaigns or even sending existing e-mail contact to them and breathe new life into seemingly dead e-mail lists. Have a list of former subscribers, but if that’s all you know about them . . . send them a new e-mail asking them to participate in the poll and get the bracket.

If they convert, you know they’re college basketball fans. Stop sending them 50% off our annual subscription blasts and tell them that March Madness lives beyond March when they subscribe.

So dust off your ShortStack or Pagemodo and start building e-mail lists based on interest; success will vary but this is a lesson in refinement and repetition. You’ll get better at it and more creative the more you do it.

Experiment with other segmentation than e-mail or interest. Ask them if they have a smartphone. You can use that later to get them to download your app and increase usage.

Heck, ask them if they are a subscriber. Not all your Facebook fans are subscribers. Find out which ones aren’t, find out what they value and start marketing to the individual, not the group.