The Persona: Your Audience, Individualized

A persona narrows your audience to a single individual, whose thought patterns and personality can help better suit your digital content.

A persona narrows your audience to a single individual, whose thought patterns and personality can help better suit your digital content.

By: Jessica Fisher

Given the massive number of people a company’s digital content today reaches, it remains a challenge to on a personal level speak to the niche audience you’re the fit for. There is no pleasing everybody, but in order to experience growth and reach business goals, you will need to keep your target audience close. A persona, I found out in Tuesday’s strategic social media lecture, in a brief mentioning, is a devised “individual” who reflects your target consumer well, and who you run questions through in order to best suit your digital content. I thought this really interesting- of course there needs to be this communicative link between the messaging and those on the other end, but I hadn’t really thought there might be. Rather, I was under the impression social media managers kind of just went with their gut feeling about what they were posting.

But yeah, you know what, that probably wouldn’t work.

“A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design,” Kristina Mausser quotes in her article Why Personas are Critical for Content Strategy. By “asking” this user questions such as “what are common pain points or frustrations?”, “what are common strengths?” and “what does a typical day in the life of your audience look like?”, you can more understand the perceptions from which they’ll be viewing your online content. Kristina claims that with the emergence of digital platforms, traditional target audience segmentation- ex. “males over 40”- is outdated. “Personas are the insurance policy that all organizations need to protect a key component of one of their largest digital assets – their content,” she says.

An article by Adele Revella on the Content Marketing Institute outlines key mistakes some make in building these reflective personas. For one, it’s important to understand your audience through real conversation, in the developing, and to not simply make things up. This is important also because “you will need to uncover specific insights that are unknown to your competitors.” However, she in her next point advises against getting caught up in irrelevant facts which help little when devising content. “Unless you’re a B2C marketer, the buyer’s gender, marital status and hobbies are rarely relevant,” she says. In the article Revella also warns against creating too many personas- like one company who tried to build 24- and in conversing with buyers, using scripted Q&A interviews, which will reveal little about the individual’s thought processing.

Developed thoughtfully, a persona can help keep your company truly in tune with the target audience you hold so dear. He/She can really aid in keeping content not only relevant, but of interest to those you’d like to speak to. Personally, I think the concept’s great- sounds fun to make ’em, too.

To get a better understanding on your business’s target audience behaviour, you may want to utilize an audience insights tool, as shown here –

-Jessica Fisher, @jssclnn

This Article Has 8 Comments
  1. Drew Forrest says:

    When I first heard about a persona I thought it was so weird. On second though, I realized how brilliant it was. When thinking about who your target audience is why think about a large group of people when you are really targeting one. It was interesting to learn that marital status, interest and those other factors may not matter. Engage your audience in a conversation so you can truly narrow down who you are targeting!

  2. Darin Shelstad says:

    The first time I learned about a ‘persona’, it made a lot of sense. Just like you I had always thought the management team posted what they thought would reflect on them/the company’s goals the best, but it seems so obvious now that they would utilize a persona. After reading the first article you linked, I felt this line you quoted couldn’t be more accurate, “Personas are the insurance policy that all organizations need to protect a key component of one of their largest digital assets – their content.” Great post.

  3. Margaret Sutherland says:

    I feel like this is a really important topic, and yet one that seems to be consistently overlooked. In any informational interview I’ve had, the professional I’m speaking with has always stressed the importance of a voice. Not only a voice but one that conveys and aligns with your brand identity. I think it is important to be yourself, but on a professional network like Twitter, be consistent.

  4. Andrea Harvey says:

    I’m glad we got to learn about this briefly and that you wrote about it! I had never heard about it before, which is weird because it seems so important! I feel like most companies are not doing this and would definitely see some improvement if they did. This would also kind of force you to do more thinking before you post. And I agree that it sounds like one of the more fun things about social media strategy & planning. I could totally see myself going all out in naming them and giving them a compelling and probably way too in-depth backstory.

  5. Sophie Wenet says:

    Like many other commenters on this post, I found it very beneficial to get a glimpse into the concept of a persona. Though I do feel it is important that a brand should vary in character to a point, because it is important to make your brand relatable to as many people as possible, it is also extremely important to create a brand that people recognize based on its consistency. I agree that most, but not all, companies should implement a persona in order to create a cohesiveness among the brands employees and the customers or followers.

  6. Nick Hanlin says:

    Looking to an individual for this persona is at first questionable. However, when the topic is explored deeper it becomes obvious that it is truly the best way to reach the best audience. A brand must stay loyal to that audience, and constantly staying familiar with the individual persona is a great way to do that. I think a company that does that really well is Hurley. While they are branching out and making street wear clothing and women’s clothing as well, they are keeping the surfer at their core. Forgetting the core target audience can lead to the demise of a great brand, like Rebok for example.

  7. SSM Student says:

    I’m a bit wary about this concept of a persona. It’s a very tricky rope to walk to cover hundreds or thousands or millions of people by describing the life of one person. Marketers and advertisers are starting to do this more and more instead of the traditional “40 year old males” as you said, but that classification describes more people than
    “45 year old Derrick, from Saskatchewan, loves Game of Thrones, is afraid of balloons, bikes to work, and really, really cares about his preferred brand of dish soap.”!!!! This is also why I’m wary of one person being in charge of a company’s entire public face/voice. It’s simply too risky in this day and age of PC and non-offense.

    -Alexander Cano

  8. Makenzie Hammond says:

    When we first talked about persona’s in class my first thought was “wow that is really odd.” But after thinking about it I realized how brilliant it is. It also makes the job of the marketers so much easier when trying to come up with social content and marketing materials. It really helps you look through the lens of your audience and be able to know what they feel about the content you may be targeting them with. The only thing I see as a possible threat with persona’s is that if you’re not careful you could exclude part of your audience unknowingly.

    Great post, Jessica!

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