Segmentation as a key to personalized content delivery, part 2

User experience can drive content personalization.

User experience can drive content personalization.

Welcome back to the second part of our series on ways to segment audiences to ensure a customized, pinpointed content experience for each user. Last time, we reviewed the various considerations and rules that govern segmentation. In this installment, we describe an implementation plan for effective segmentation and incorporating those rules into content classification.

Capturing segments and delivering content
The first task to establishing effective user-facing content is to identify your audience, both intended and actual.

"Develop your audience baseline; i.e., your assumptions about your audience."

Early on, develop a clear strategy built around an ideal user profile, broken down demographically, behaviorally and psychographically. Prior to content delivery, this will act as your audience baseline, i.e. who you think your audience is. Do not treat this ideal user profile as gospel; you may find – once you are up and running delivering content – that your actual user is very different from what you envisioned.

Having set your audience baseline, tag your content according to the anticipated values and interests of each segment demographic. Ideally, this is built off extensive market research or experiential knowledge of these particular users. Again, nothing about this initial tagging should be considered set in stone, since even the most knowledgeable industry experts may have their initial findings challenged when expanding out to the broader audience. In fact, your content management system, such as the Astoria Portal, should allow you to build in rule overrides or retag content that has been published already.

From there comes capturing segments. There are a variety of methods to accomplish this task, from market research to advance data aggregation and analytic tools, but one of the most effective methods is simple self-selection. Make the interface intuitive enough for users to identify their segments, and have this selection drive their user experience.

Tagging and retagging
An example of this in action could be a website gateway for educational materials where the landing page prompts visitors to identify themselves as teachers, administrators, parents or students. After clicking the pertinent segment, the user is then sent to a customized portal, with targeted content delivered directly to them. Alternatively, a site may have a mailing list signup where users are prompted to input demographic and interest data (age, sex, location, how often they buy certain products, how much they spend), which can then be used to automatically deliver content to each email subscriber based on their personal preferences.

"Are unexpected content requests coming in?"

Once users have started interacting with your content, the true test of your segmentation rules and category-level metadata begins. This can be determined by looking at user behaviors: Are users spending more or less time with some content compared to others? Are unexpected content requests coming in? Regular auditing of your metadata tagging may help pinpoint misclassifications, evolving user needs or even create more granular tagging rules.

Keep segments clean and segregated
It is critical that the user experience be as intuitive and streamlined as possible. When it comes to delivering customized content, start with a common set that works across all the different user experiences, sharing some of the same essential data and supplementing and restructuring the experience based on the user persona. Avoid prompts that could lead users away from the central content hub and instead try and have content flow inward. A good technique is a prompt like "Read more", which can expand content on the current page with supplementary materials.

By having audiences self-identify based on their content preferences, you can match metadata tagged content while measuring results versus expectations. This can offer vital insight for content managers about how effective tagging systems – and the content itself – serves the intended audience segment.

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