Leverage (or Exploit?) Your Email List With Flowtown

May 4, 2010

Today I imported a small sample of one of Digett’s subscriber lists housed at CampaignMonitor into Flowtown for the first time. Flowtown is a brand-spanking-new social media mining tool that takes my company’s email subscriber lists and tells me way more than I thought possible about my subscribers. The results are pretty stunning—almost scary, really. What once was a very generic list of generally faceless and unknown newsletter subscribers suddenly talkes on a multi-dimensional and “living” character, as Flowtown matches a significant percentage of imported email addresses with one or more of their owners’ social media profiles.

A Whole New World

Anecdotally put, in the time it took to enjoy a single sip of coffee, “john@johndoe.com” became Jonathon Douglas Doe, Jr., and Flowtown gave me links to John’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn profiles, as well as his photostream on Flickr, his music list on Pandora, and his wishlist on Amazon. I went from knowing John’s email address to knowing what he had for breakfast (from his last tweet), who he hangs out with (from his Facebook profile), where he works, and what he does for a living (from his LinkedIn profile). I also happen to know now that John likes fishing and running. Whoa.

Because I imported my list into Flowtown directly from CampaignMonitor, Flowtown inserted custom fields into my CampaignMonitor subscriber list and injected values for fields it labeled networks (the social networks the subscriber is associated with), city, state, country, gender, and age group. Suddenly, the gross inattention I’ve shown toward segmenting our own house list seems slightly less consequential, as I now have a remarkable amount of data associated with my subscribers, all at minimal cost in time, effort, and dollars.

Klout Integration

One other piece worth mentioning is Flowtown’s integration with Klout, which allows Flowtown to display an “influence rating” for each of your subscribers—or at least those for whom Flowtown finds an associated Twitter profile. I’ve not used Klout before, so I had to experiment with it a little for myself. Klout “scores” a person’s influence on Twitter as determined through consideration of five criteria:

  • Reach—person is gaining a strong following and message is being heard
  • Demand—person is sure to engage with others and not just follow to be followed
  • Engagement—person works on building relationships through conversation
  • Velocity—content has been interesting enough for others to spread
  • Activity—person is able to generate conversations with very influential people

By knowing the Klout score of your subscribers, you theoretically have a prioritized list of people that you may want to engage with more often if you want your own messages to be spread.

Email Campaign Generation

Turns out that Flowtown has a rudimentary email campaign capability built right in. So if you’re not using CampaignMonitor, MailChimp, or one of the many other platforms, you could conceivably use Flowtown’s built-in email platform. However, my own inspection of this facility—admittedly a bit hurried—revealed an interface too simplistic to indicate a well-developed tool. I did notice, however, an auto-responder capability, something that’s been missing from CampaignMonitor for way too long, in my opinion.

Since the campaign tool is probably not extremely useful, then Flowtown’s ability to provide code allowing one to embed a subscription signup form on one’s website may not be practical, either. But keep in mind, Flowtown is brand new, and my guess is that many of the seemingly immature features will continue to develop over time. Given, however, their choice to integrate with popular and rock-solid email services like CampaignMonitor and MailChimp, I’m thinking that developing another alternative to existing email platforms may be more of a distraction for Flowtown right now than its value would warrant.

Is it Useful?

So we have this frightening amount of information about our subscribers at our fingertips. Now what do we do with it? Simply knowing something about a subscriber does not necessarily improve my marketing tactics if I fail to make use of it. And just because I suddenly know where to find you on four or five separate social networks doesn’t make me your online friend. I'm wondering whether I wouldn’t personally be creeped out a little if someone approached me through Facebook, for example, and said “Hey, I see you subscribed to my company’s email newsletter! Can we be friends?” Uh, that would be a “no.”

Don’t get me wrong. While I might struggle to envision a practical scenario for leveraging this information in a meaningful way, I can’t help but think someone, somewhere will find great value in it. Truth be told, after exploring the social media profiles of only a few subscribers on my newly augmented subscriber list for just a few minutes, I reached out to one of them on LinkedIn, gaining a new connection in the process.

I used a pickup line similar to the one above, mentioning that I noticed they subscribed to our newsletter. I wanted to see the reaction I would get and figured LinkedIn users might be less annoyed with this type of approach than would users of a more intimate and personal network. For what it’s worth, my new connection seemed totally unaffected by my mining of his information, whether out of ignorance or indifference. Maybe I’ll recognize more opportunities to leverage Flowtown now that I’m aware of this amazing capability.

I’ll end on a cautionary note. This post might serve as a wake-up call for those of you who were not aware that by just providing an email address you potentially open up details of your life to be seen by people whom you may not have known existed. It’s fine if you’re okay with that. But if not, you might want to point your browser to Flowtown for yourself. Try it out for free to see what they might be revealing about you.

Comments

It is scary

Wow Mark - this is the second one of this type of product that I seen this week. It is scary - glad I have three email addresses: One for Junk, One for Work and one for Personal. Ran one of our email lists through - and it was easy to pick out the "lookie-loos" from potential clients by looking at their profiles. Fun to find all our competitors on the list too.

Thanks for the info

Objective Point of View

Mark,

Just wanted to thank you for writing this great post about our application - we realize that our service might bring into question privacy issues - however, all the data we find is all publicly available ... it's kind of like doing an advanced Google Search and manually curating the results.

We do offer a global opt-out list if any of your readers would like to be removed from our system - just email ceo [at] flowtown.com

Dan
@danmartell
Co-Founder
www.flowtown.com