How Brand Personas can Take Your Content Marketing to the Next Level
Why is it easy to buy the perfect birthday present for your bestie but almost impossible gifting someone more distant? The answer to that question should be easy. Because you know your best friend’s preferences better. This is precisely the idea of personas in content marketing. Get better acquainted with your target group; interests, favorite information channels, likes and dislikes and you will be better equipped to create content and distribution plans that make an impact. In this article, you will get insights on what you should think about when creating personas and which tools and tricks to make use of.
Personas are documented, fictitious characters, representing your ideal audience(s) and when done right, they can make content marketing efforts hit the mark by having a specific person in mind when deciding market segmentation, distribution channels, content angles and influencers. It is much easier to come up with mind moving content ideas for one specific person rather than 25 different people. According to a case from boardview.io the use of personas can improve the customer engagement six-fold while resulting in a 20% increase in revenue.
This is not an exercise performed over a few hours, but a complex and continuous process where data from many different sources reveal an informational pattern that enables you to give birth to fictitious persons who would not only want to consume your content – but also buy your product.
What should I know about my persona?
There is no ‘one solution fits all’ when it comes to personas. It is all down to what type of content, product or service you are doing, the goals for your communication and also whether you target B2B or B2C. In many cases, it will make sense to identify several different personas. For a product like toys it could be the target user (a 5-year-old child) and the target buyer (her mother), you can have different personas for different products or in B2B you can have several different company roles influence the buying decision also calling for multiple personas. Here are some considerations to make.
Demographics and location
Gender, age, profession and geographic location is a good place to start when defining your persona. You should have a good idea about this already but support your assumptions with research as we’ll touch on in a minute. It is a good idea to name your personas as it will be easier to communicate and more relatable to the organization. Names like Marketing Margaret or Evan the Environmentalist both reflect roles/types and are easy to remember for everyone.
Putting some thought into which phase of life your persona is in will give you an idea of obstacles, wants and needs as well as how your particular offering fits in. This could be information on upbringing, marital/parental status and maybe more importantly, interests, preferences and ambitions. If you can combine your content with something relatable for your persona, you will automatically become more relevant.
How would a day in your persona’s day look like? Where would she go and how would she act? How, when and where would she consume content? Knowing these things will make it easier for you to choose distribution channels and timelines for your content.
Obstacles and challenges
You can dig even deeper into the person you are molding. What are her obstacles and pain points in relation to your offering? Are there any specific psychological aspects of her character to be aware of and what are her general day to day challenges. All of this takes a lot of in-depth research, but it will help you with planning your content to perfectly align with your persona’s preferences.
How do I create a persona?
It is important that you base your persona on knowledge and not assumptions and that you have a specific purpose in mind no matter if it is increased audience engagement, increased sales or something else. A persona should be built on experience with your audience combined with solid data. Here are some sources of information that can help you with that.
Target group research/Internal research/Audience interviews
While you probably know your target group pretty well it will always be beneficial to have face to face conversations with people you’d like to target or existing, favorite customers/readers. Conduct a series of interviews tuning in on background, preferences, challenges etc., information that can be used to create your persona. There are tons of interview templates online to get you started. Here is a Persona Interview template from Hubspot as an example. Some experts say you should do at least 5 interviews, but no rule of thumb defines exactly how many is the right amount. The most important thing is that you are able to find patterns in the responses you get. I really like this article from Piktochart, where you get a great hands-on example of persona research through interviews. Author of the article, Laura Francois, conducts 17 interviews in this case before finding a clear pattern.
Google Analytics and search behavior
At Mediaplanet we use Google Analytics when analyzing our online activities and it can be a helpful tool when looking into search behavior and user similarities. When you take a look at the demographics for your site in Google Analytics you should be able to spot patterns in age, gender, location, interests, preferred device etc. Once you’ve sorted your visitors into groups based on that data you can take a look at typical keywords or search patterns used by the different groupings on your website. Knowing what they are searching for and why are they doing it, will help you create a relevant content strategy. If you want to go more in-depth with this Content Marketing Institute has published a good article on how to use SEO data to create personas and here is a great step-by-step guide to how you create user personas with Google Analytics.
Social media and online conversations
User information power plants like Facebook and Linkedin (to mention just a few of the more popular) collect much information on your followership, so make sure to include your social media accounts in your persona research. Audience Insights in Facebook’s Business Pages can provide information on interests, demographics, location, device preferences and much more. Linkedin’s Follower Analytics will tell you where your followers are based, what their job titles are, seniority level and the size of the companies they work for. Once you compare the social media data and find distinctive groups, find out where they congregate and take a look into the online communities for those groupings in or outside of social media to figure out which problems these people face and how you can help resolve them. Remember, that our online personalities sometimes differ from who we are offline, so make sure you combine the digital information with the interview results and have this in mind when planning your content.
How to implement personas in your content strategies, culture and organization
Creation of personas can be very valuable, but only when put to good use. Actually, personas that are created but never used is a very common banana peel to step in. It is important that you make a strategy for the implementation of your persona, and avoid it being a dusty and forgotten waste-of-time-one-pager. Often personas are created in the silo of the marketing department, but never fully rolled out to the rest of the organization.
One important point here is that you have to identify the end users of the personas you create. Include these in the process of creation to maximize the potential and to let them see that you are not just guesstimating here. Once you have documented your persona’s make sure you bring them up in every discussion and have them in mind for every task. Explain to your colleagues how and when they can benefit from the personas in their communication, segmentation, content planning/mapping and much more. Use content mapping and the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) to pinpoint where in the funnel your persona’s get stuck and create content to help them through their obstacles.
Be sure to update your personas regularly and not forget to communicate these updates with appropriate team members, so Ewan the Environmentalist does not end up forgotten on a server somewhere.