When I first read ‘Permission Marketing’ by Seth Godin in around 2001, it blew me away. I swiftly applied many of the methods as I could see how people ‘opting in’ through giving their email address to receive some content in return, was a powerful marketing tool. In particular, as a marketer or a brand, one was able to reach an audience and relate to them directly through their inbox.
Times, however, have changed and whilst I believe permission marketing is still thriving as a concept, the methods of engagement have changed as technology has evolved. With email getting ever increasingly noisy as a medium, we can clearly see social as the next stage – with Facebook and Twitter having lead the way. Now, however, with Google+ we have a new opportunity to connect brands with the people who love them in new ways.
Circlecentric Marketing (an introduction)
This is what Circlecentric marketing is all about. Moving the relationships a company or brand has with their fans/existing customers toward the centre of nested, or concentric, circles – hence the name I have dubbed it, ‘circlecentric marketing’, using the core tools of Google+ circles and communities.
Quick note: if you are not familiar with Google+ you may like to check out The complete Google+ user guide for business first.
How it works:
People start by ‘following’ a brand – this being one of the main way to ‘opt in’ to the relationship using the Google+ tools.
This can be done directly from a website if it has the ‘follow’ button, or from company information brought up in Google Search, from a Google ad in e.g. search, through promotion of the brand page, from a brand’s Google+ post, comment the brand makes, or the Page as a destination itself within Google+, to name a few.
Similar to movement down a sales funnel, through every interaction, people can be moved from an outer circle toward an inner circle, hence deepening the psychological relationship and in essence moving them to a point where there can be a ‘sales conversation’. This conversation could be started from any circle, but the deeper the relationship, the easier it will be to have that conversation.
Five ‘levels’ of Circles
Looking at an example of just 5 levels of Circles we see…
Circle 1 – outer circle
When this happens when the ‘follow’ button is pressed, and means people have put you into their circles and will receive content in their stream. The content, however, can easily be missed but it is a start to the relationship.
Next we look at the the Page (brand/company) being able to deepen the relationship. Once someone ‘follows’, the brand can also see who has circled them and can then circle back – in turn, they will see they’ve been circled. The current limit to have is circles is 5000. So the step from ‘following’ to adding them to circle is a circle inward.
They can also research on the person’s profile to see what other circles to add them to as well. If for instance someone was key target audience, then adding them to a circle where one can communicate more intimately may be an appropriate next step…
Circles 3 a/b/c
Here we’re categorizing by the different nature of interactions for different people. Using circle management techniques, a person can be made to feel more and more listened to e.g. +1ing their posts a) every time they post (have them on notify) b) daily c) weekly etc
So instead of just expecting people to relate and engage with your content, you step outside of that to engage on their content. Pay special attention to your active engagers and return the favor.
Other ways to strengthen connections would be to:
- Share circles publicly when people are your best engagers e.g. sharing the most posts within a week.
- The page can also +theirname and interact both on their own posts, the person’s posts, or even ‘pinging’ people onto content of other relevant posts.
- Asking them if they would be happy to receive notifications. This is a deep level of opt in. You have been given the right to push content in their direction.
- You can even email a number of people e.g. 100 as well as notify them. So, each 100 people circle you create can have a specific message associated with it.
- Public community – this too could be considered as within Circle 3. Anyone can see the content in a public community, but there is still a feeling of belonging and a deeper relationship can be formed here too.
I recently used this on a campaign I worked to support the promotion of Guy Kawasaki’s latest book and he commented he’d never seen anything quite like it before!
Private community – this content is not seen on the web, and can lead to an increased level of intimacy. This could be a small, select group of people that you engage with at the high e.g. private posts, increased one-to-one engagement and exclusive offers etc.
Circle 5 – Inner Circle
Either form of community could have an inner circle where the individual can be invited to events, including hangouts and hangouts-on-air. The value of this is huge.
If you are a business, wouldn’t you like to get face-to-face with your customers for 30 minutes?
The nature of the Inner Circle will be determined by your business, but ultimately, this is where the magic really happens.
This is where the circlecentric marketing can be flipped upon its side and extended outward to be seen as a sale funnel.
Each step inwards, they move into a deeper relationship with you/the brand/company, hence moving you further into the core of the concentric circles – ending up in the Inner Circle.
And note: all of this can be done as soon as the person clicks the ‘Follow this Page’ button – no more requesting of their ‘name’ and ‘email address’ – this is incredible!
But, of course this needs to be used cautiously as moving people too quickly to a central circle may have the consequence of people feeling your relationship is moving too fast…
In turn, for instance, people could mute the Page – this would be punishment and effectively jumps them back/outward a circle or two.
Here is a quick taste on how people enter into the relationship from the ‘follow’ button:
So, within the circlecentric model we can see we have:
- The number of circles and the nature of interaction within each circle
- Simply ‘following’ is the entry point, although a brand could pull people into a circle by +theirname, without them even following – this in turn could begin the relationship)
- The criteria for inclusion of a person within a circle
- The depth of relationship and nature of interactions specified for each circle
- The speed of movement from one circle to the next
I am using this approach with clients more and more now, already we are able to take social media activity to a truly meaningful place – engaging potential customers into having conversations that matter. Using circlecentric marketing as an extension to traditional Permission Marketing, you can use the power of Google+ to extend your reach like never before. It does, however, need a plan. The nature of the circles and the key principles of: engage (both ways, +1s/comments/shares/hangout etc), relate (content), connect (reciprocation, trust, knowing etc), will all affect results. It will is an incredible opportunity for businesses and marketing consultants alike.