social media how toDo you have many subgroups (or tribes) your business relies on? Have you figured out how to connect with these groups?

Some brands, like Wachovia, use a single corporate channel for all of their social media efforts. Other brands, like Kodak, created multiple corporate channels that are managed by individual business units.

Why Tribes?

As businesses look toward new opportunities to grow their presence, it may be time to reconsider your strategy about tribes and determine whether you’re truly delivering “value” to your followers.

Marketing segmentation offers an interesting opportunity to continue to grow your following while delivering highly targeted content that is relevant to your most profitable customer segments.

Market segmenting is dividing the market into groups of individual markets with similar wants or needs that a company divides into distinct groups which have distinct needs, wants, behavior or which might want different products & services. ~Wikipedia.

Put simply, market segmentation is creating groups of your customers based on a criterion that signifies that they have similar interests and needs.

Visionary Seth Godin put a new spin on segmentation in his book, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us, and shares his ideas in an extremely powerful Ted Talk.

Seth talked about tribes in terms of leadership, but there are unique opportunities to empower similar movements that already exist within our customer base using basic segmentation tactics.

Here are 7 different types of market segmentation you can use to empower your own tribe.


Create a strategy around passion. Image: iStockPhoto

#1: Passions

Are there groups of your customers who share common passions?

Aligning with something your customers are already passionate about and delivering content that’s specific and relevant to that theme is a great way to generate a bigger audience of others who are also passionate about the subject.

For example, Kodak could create a strategy around serving photographers specializing in nature photography.

#2: Generational Dynamics

Does your brand attract a specific generation or span across multiple generations? Each generation has specific wants, needs and value systems that make it difficult to utilize a broad approach and address. “Each generation of the US population has unique wants and needs that marketers and retailers should address differently,” according to The Nielsen Company.

conversations between generations

Each generation has different wants, needs and values. Image: iStockPhoto

#3: Life Events

Are there large groups within your customer base who have experienced specific life events that create synergy and passion around the subject? For example, you may find that your products provide a unique offering that’s helpful for divorcées, cancer survivors or new parents.

The key to selecting a life event is to discover something that becomes part of how people will define themselves as a result of going through the experience. A passing experience won’t generate the kind of following you are looking for. Think about life-changing events and how your brand can support customers at that time.

#4: Life Stage

All people go through a series of life stages as they mature, and while they are in each stage they have unique perspectives and needs based on the life events that typically occur at each life stage.

For example, newly married couples may be considering purchasing their first home, balancing work and family life and planning when they should have their first child. This is drastically different from what may be top of mind for empty-nesters, whose children have just moved out of the family home. They may be thinking about what they will do with their newfound freedom, downsizing the family home, preparing for retirement, paying for college and planning care for their aging parents. Does your brand have an opportunity to provide value to these conversations?

#5: Demographics

Another opportunity may exist within specific customer demographics. You can look at demographics such as gender, marital status, income and ethnicity to determine if there are unique needs that you can provide value around.

For example, AdAge took a look at multicultural targeting today and found that, “delivering of a message about a product or a service is best done when the advertiser understands the lens through which a consumer is viewing both the culture they’re in … and how their own experiences map onto it.” Will segmenting based on demographics allow you to provide more highly relevant, targeted information to your audience?

#6: Geography

For brands that use a local or regional marketing strategy, it may be appropriate to use a similar strategy for your social media channels. This is usually important in areas where having a local presence is critical to success. Strategies can vary from moving from global to country-specific and all the way down to cities, counties and provinces. Take a look at the type of geographic targeting you are currently using and see if there is a natural fit that makes strategic sense.


Look at your current geographic targeting. Image: iStockPhoto

#7: Product Choices

The final option is to segment based on which products a customer has shown loyalty toward. Typically, the product a customer buys tells you something about him or her and gives insight into how you can add value to his or her life. For example, Proctor and Gamble has a separate social presence for its Pampers brand where they provide customer service and games that give customers points for diaper coupons.


Finding ways to give away their products and services.

Before you select a target, consider whether you already have resources to support the group. If you don’t, put together a list of the resources you would need.

The largest need in any niche strategy is content. It’s ideal to have a blog and content calendar for the types of content you will have available that are targeted to your audience segment. If you can’t create all of the content yourself, don’t worry. With a few searches you can probably find third-party sources who are already writing great content that you can leverage with your outreach strategy.

What tribes exist within your customer base? How can you give them a voice? What platform can you offer them to help them spread and grow? What are you doing to connect them? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Images from iStockPhoto.
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  • Segmentation is extremely powerful because it allows you to position your product or service in a way that resonates with a group of consumers.  Since this group (or tribe) finds your product superior for their needs, they buy.

    For segmentation to work, you need differences, as you point out.  You also need a segment that is large enough to provide value — since segmentation often increases costs, those increases much be balanced by increased sales.  You also need a way to selectively reach them and that’s where social media can be particularly valuable, allowing you to reach like-minded consumers in a channel without too much dilution with folks from a different segment.  Otherwise your positioning gets a little murky.  You can read more about segmenting and targeting here:

  • Passion is what I think will make running a business smoother. You have to have a customer base that have some sort of passion to even continue to engage into your business.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • I think the product choices segment is very important.  I run a business that offers 3 products: 

    1. A free version
    2. A one time purchase
    3. A recurring subscription.  

    Obviously I want all my customers to purchase product 3 above.  However in order to get them to do that, I need them to build trust in my company first.  So to do that I give out free content in the form of product 1.

    Once they see the content is good, it becomes easier for them to transition into a one time purchase of product 2.  When they do that, and see how easy the process is, it becomes easier to later ask them to invest in product 3.

    I have found that segmenting my audience this way has resulted in a lot more sales and customer satisfaction than when I tried to promote product 3 to everyone.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Adarsh – 

    Awesome! It’s nice that you have the 3 product choices to help facilitate your buying cycle. I love that you are using a free product to help generate interest and establish credibility for the paid product. That is a strategy that many companies are leery of because there is concern over “cannibalizing” sales of the paid product. However, as you show here it can greatly increase sales from customers who never would have bought otherwise. Great insight!

    Thanks for sharing. 

  • Nichole_Kelly

    If you can align your products with your customers passions it is so much easier to create a sense of loyalty. Harley Davidson is a perfect example of a company who leveraged their customer’s passion for the open road with a need to let out a little of their wild side to generate long-term loyalty. I always say if you have a brand that people are willing to tattoo on their body, you have done something right!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Angela – Thanks so much for sharing. I think the increased costs that used to hold segmentation strategies back are becoming less and less. With the increased usage of online strategies and email marketing it is leveling the playing field for segmentation strategies to be feasible for even small companies.

  • Kshea

    We definitely have “tribes” in our business… and are trying to discuss how best to serve them.  One thing I was disappointed was not covered in this article (because it’s our ongoing debate) is how best to actually set up this communication.  Separate Twitter feeds for each?  Segmented Facebook pages?    Would love to know how other companies with multiple strong and distinct (read: don’t care about other tribe’s info) tribes are handling this from a logistics point of view. 

    Managing 13 separate Facebook and Twitter feeds sounds exhausting!

  • This is food for thought for Google+ circles. 

  • Eamon O Buadhachain

    Although widely in use in social media, I do not think that ‘tribe’ is the correct word to be associating with your business, it has many negative connotations and than perhaps clan or kinship would instill more confidence 

  • I have four aspects of my business, so it is a challenge to create an e-zine,blog, iTunes and You Tube material that is relevant to all.
    Thanks for the ideas.

  • Nichole, you are a certified ninja for bringing consciousness to this often neglected area of marketing!!!

    I was just listening to Dan Kennedy talk about how he was questioning why a weight loss company who had almost zero male customers had male testimonials in their marketing and neutered language in their copy to make it bi.

    One of the ways he see’s that any company can cut their costs and boost their profits by going through and seeing who can remove from your prospecting efforts. One company had never asked the questions you’ve asked above about their buyers and when Dan ran the geographical test, they found they could completely remove California from their mailing list because they found that almost no sales were coming from that state. That’s rare, but that’s a huge amount of money saved on NOT mailing to that big ass – unprofitable state.

    I hope you’re kicking butt and taking names with these distinctions you’ve pointed out here and thank you for reminding me how important they are!


  • Nice article, Nichole. Yes, I do have segments of followers, including beginner, intermediate and experienced bloggers. While my blog is predominantly intermediate, I make sure that I throw in plenty of beginner and experienced information too and it seems to do the trick. 

  • We also have to take into consideration sub-cultures that the customers may fall under. Whether these subcultures are governed by ethnic background, or aesthetic preferences, they still provide a common thread to a group of consumers.

  • Hi Nicole, thanks for a great article and some inspiring thoughts. Sometimes companies are just far too busy trying to find business without really looking at or even considering different tribes.

    I love the Seth video, I’ve seen it (probably) dozens of times but still find it true and entertaining, if only people listened to Seth more!

    I also like the way you use Wikipedia, I often use Wiki just to define things in blog posts, this gives people little choice but to consider a TRUE definition, rather than their own definition.

    Thanks for the post, good stuff and inspiring!, best regards, Peter

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Kshea – I hear you! Managing multiple streams can be difficult. My recommendation is that you have the person who is “in-charge” of communication and managing the channels be the person who is actually part of that demographic and is passionate about it. For example, if you have a tribe of “fathers” as customers, find someone in the company who is a really strong and passionate father manage the social channels targeted to fathers. Also, keep in mind that this person might not be part of your traditional “marketing” team. First, this father would enjoy the dialogue with other fathers so it wouldn’t feel like work. Second, he is more likely to see what the community needs and how the company could serve them. Having a true insider run the channels is far more effective than a marketing person who is trying to understand the audience, but has never walked in their shoes. By spreading out the responsibility through the company, it is easier for a strategy like this to be feasible. Additionally, I would start with one segment and see if it is effective. If it is, and you want to expand to other segments it is easier to justify resources to do so. I hope this helps!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Jeff – Interesting, yes Google circles could make this really interesting!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Eamon – Thanks so much for your insight! Different words definitely have different connotations. The word tribe was selected because it is the word Seth Godin used to describe it and he made a very compelling case. Fortunately, it isn’t a customer facing word, just one that can be used to describe an audience segment internally. 

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Marveen – I understand your pain. Perhaps you could “systematize” parts of it. For example, have a template for each e-zine that has the different sections that will be addressed defined. Then it is just a matter of filling in the sections for each segment versus starting from scratch. Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lewis – Wow…thank you so much. I’ve secretly always wanted to be a ninja! You raise a very good perspective here. Tribes can be about marketing to your most profitable customer segments in a better way, but it can also be about “removing” segments that you are wasting money on. Great point! Thanks for sharing.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ana – Awesome! You definitely don’t always have to do something “different” for each audience, giving them a nice nugget to take away in the information you already produce is a great way to keep them engaged. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Peter – Thanks so much for commenting. You are absolutely right. Many companies consider themselves far too busy to take the time to understand their customer base. That’s like saying we are far too busy to sell more of our products or take care of our customers, right. Perhaps some of these companies could take a step back and see what activities are making them too busy to understand their customers and re-prioritize. 🙂

  • I totally agree. I use my Google circles to determine my tribe of customers for my business and it really works pretty well. 

  • Segments, tribes … I love this Nichole.  There really are subgroups within our market niche and I really appreciate you sharing your ideas and thoughts on this.  I have just recently, what I like to call ‘niched down’ to the subgroups or segments of my market niche.  This is allowing me to focus more clearly on each segment rather than thinking and sharing on a broader level.

  • Ranjan Mazumdar

    Huge nuggets of truth in in what Seth Godin says and also in your unique ways of market segmentation. Trouble is, as an advertising professional I’ve observed over the years, that most marketers in India hate to address smaller segments or Tribes and feel that one should speak to max no of people to sell their products. Today we realise that’s wrong and you cant do that and it leads to huge inefficiencies in your marketing cost and effort. The fact remains that more and more people today are identifying themselves as groups – like home-makers, new parents, i-phone users etc whose needs are specific and brands/products can easily identify them and create specific appeals. Moreover if one can attach a social or leadership angle to the usage of the brand as Godin espouses it becomes that much more meaningful. But great stuff and very insightful. Pl keep showing us more lights like this in future too.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ranjan – I hear you. From a corporate perspective it goes against our need to scale and build in efficiencies, but from a customer perspective we want people to talk directly to ME, not to everyone else. Finding the balance could lead to huge gains!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ranjan – I hear you. From a corporate perspective it goes against our need to scale and build in efficiencies, but from a customer perspective we want people to talk directly to ME, not to everyone else. Finding the balance could lead to huge gains!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lynn – Thank you so much. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the post. How is it going with your own segmenting? Are you seeing progress?

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lynn – Thank you so much. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the post. How is it going with your own segmenting? Are you seeing progress?

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  • I believe Nichole that when I did focus more on each segment of my business it provided much more traffic to my site and my rankings took a nice leap. So if anyone is in too ‘broad’ of an industry, try to think about each ‘segment’ you can niche down to.

    Hope that is helpful and thank you Nichole!

  • I believe Nichole that when I did focus more on each segment of my business it provided much more traffic to my site and my rankings took a nice leap. So if anyone is in too ‘broad’ of an industry, try to think about each ‘segment’ you can niche down to.

    Hope that is helpful and thank you Nichole!

  • SAPTrainer

    Hey, Every time you people do posts very helpful content…keep rocking…


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