User Personas and Social Media

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User personas are synthetic profiles of your key customer metrics. They are documents that lay out the preferences, pain points, behaviors and values held by your target users. Such user persona documents can take a long time to define properly, especially if your product or service targets a wide variety of such users. Finding out what your customers think, like and dislike can indeed be rather difficult.

Of course, you have the option of going through a traditional market research. However, the practice itself is somewhat outdated,  expensive, and the value it produces is limited by the particular methodology used by the research vendor. On the other hand, you can use social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, to discover a lot more about your customers’ preferences than you probably would even in the wild. The noise that accompanies social media is much easier to filter than the idiosyncrasies of the real world.

You can use social media to literally follow your customer’s habits, values and preferences as they evolve. The first obvious problem related to using public social media is that your own business or personal account on the same network does not reflect your customers need, but rather your own.

Thanks to the flexibility of the online ecosystem, you can build your hypothetical customer persona or profile  simply by creating a secondary account on a few of the networks. You can then use those accounts to create timelines or threads that mimics the combined preferences of both your known and your potential customers. Use this new, specialized feed of information as source material and ideas for your marketing needs.

Example:

  • Sign up on Twitter and create a user named @mycompany_customer.
  • Locate one of your existing customer’s Twitter accounts and start adding the profiles of users that they are commonly interacting with to your new timeline.
  • Do the same for several customers that fall within the same range as the user persona you are trying to build.
  • If you’re in the B2B world, use the profiles of the key individuals that make up the organizations you are targeting.
  • View and maintain that fictitious user account as if it was your own timeline. It will soon start telling you the story of what’s in your customer’s mind.
  • Keep an eye on your new user account from time to time. You can configure tweetdeck to track the lists, keywords and other metrics that are relevant to your business in their own columns.

While many people nowadays are somewhat weary of displaying too much information about themselves publicly, they will usually make enough information public to enable your marketing team to identify trends and common preferences among your customers. The goal is not to stalk your customers, but rather to serve them better by identifying the elements of your offering that are important to them. You should use that information not only to promote or sell your product, but also to improve it and make sure that it remains in line with that the customers really want at any point in time.

We will cover the finer points of building and maintaining user persona documents in depth in a future article. In the meantime, even if the size of your organization or the scope of your marketing goals warrant a more complex user persona process, you can still use this technique to complement your current practices and improve both your marketing and, ideally, your product.


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