When a customer posted on the Nature Made Facebook Wall that she no longer wanted to receive the company's status updates, the Internet marketing manager, Sheryl Biesman, responded personally. It turns out that the customer loved the email program and wanted to stay subscribed. She just preferred not to connect via Facebook.

A story with a happy ending for that customer, but such a hands-on approach doesn't scale.

"We sell vitamins, we are focused on the niche, we don't go for mass appeal," Biesman says. "Still, we want to market efficiently and are committed to isolating our most important customers—be they buyers, social influencers, or our most loyal."

The answer is in stronger email and social-network segmentation. For example, Nature Made wants to reach out to Facebook fans who have more than 300 friends in order to share new product concepts as well as test a unique set of offers.

The company is still testing how best to do this on Facebook, where most of its status updates are blog postings from the website.

Meanwhile, Biesman is using segmentation to build stronger email connections with customers and prospects. "There are two ways of talking about social networks in our email," Biesman says.

"We've made 'share' mandatory in our email templates—where people share an HTML version of the newsletter in their own status update—and we also encourage them to become a fan of ours," she explains. "We have two different links in our template."

It's that kind of segmentation that will drive increased revenue from both the email and social channels. "We are looking at different ways to identify people in the database to increase the likelihood of them opening an email," she says.

Nature Made adjusts the frequency and content of emails based on factors that include recipients' previous open and click behavior. By sending custom offers and content based on past click behavior, Nature Made has seen significant lifts in performance.

Segmentation has also helped deepen the value of the Nature Made loyalty program, Wellness Rewards. Although many program members are not currently active, active ones are very active, Biesman says: "They are four times as likely to open over those who are not in the program at all."

One quick win was to adjust the subject line and the images to reflect the age and topical interests of various segments, according to Biesman.

"We've seen slight pops in open and click-through with this simple segmentation," she says. "The content of the message does not change, but we adjust the subject line and the imagery to address the past purchase and demographics of the segment."

"This is a win-win for us and our subscribers," she adds. Which, of course, is the whole point of email and social marketing: to connect through meaningful conversations with content of particular value. Segmentation helps Nature Made achieve that promise.

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Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. (www.returnpath.net). Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or stephanie.miller@returnpath.net.