Behavior Segments vs. Behavior Lists

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Behavior-based segments and behavior-generated lists are different in ways that will affect which you create and how you use them.

You can create both lists and segments using the response behaviors of your contacts. In either case, the response behaviors include activities such as opening messages, downloading media, submitting forms, and attending webinars. That's where the similarities end.

Which contacts can be included?

  • A segment is a subset or a portion of a list; you first select a list and then define a segment of that list. In Act-On, each segment is included under its 'base' list'.
  • When you create a segment based on response behaviors, the only contacts that can be included in the segment are contacts that are in that list.
  • When you generate a list from response behaviors, it can include any contact in your account, regardless of which list it's already in.
  • So, a list generated from response behaviors includes contacts from all the lists in your account, whereas a segment based on response behaviors includes contacts from its base list only.

How do the contents change?

A segment is a 'filtered view' of a list. Every time you use the segment (e.g., by sending a message to its contacts or even viewing it in Act-On), it includes all the contacts in the base list that fit the segment definition at that moment. In this sense, a segment is dynamic: if you've added a contact to the base list, and that contact matches the segment definition, then the segment will include that contact the next time you use the segment.

A list contains only the contacts that have been added to it (i.e., uploaded or appended data from a file or another list, data collected from submitted forms, etc.). Once you've generated a list from response behaviors, you can modify its contents in the same way as any other list.

For example, in a Marketing list that includes, the activity history records might show that Joe has opened a message, clicked a link in the message, and viewed a form. If you create a list called Not Submitted, generated from the behaviors Viewed Forms: At Least 1 time and Submitted Forms: None, the Not Submitted list will include If another recipient, Susan (, subsequently views a form, and that activity is automatically recorded in the activity history, her address will not be automatically added to the Not Submitted list.

In that sense, a list is static: Behavioral activities recorded after the list is generated do not affect the contents of the list.

So which should I use?

This depends on what you're trying to accomplish. For example:

  • If you want to send a periodic reminder to people to download a catalog or white paper, you could create a segment of your marketing list, defining the segment based on the behaviorDownloaded Media: None
  • If you want to start a lead nurturing program, you could generate a list from the behavior Downloaded Media: At Least 1 time in the Last 30 Days and use that list to follow those contacts through the various steps (follow-up note, email about using the information in the white paper, an invitation to consider your other products, etc.)

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