How Personas Can Help Your Content Strategy

Last Edited January 24, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in UX

How Personas Can Help Your Content Strategy

 

What is a persona? This is how a person views things, how they act, what they believe, and the like. It incorporates the most important things that make them who they are, and organizes it into a profile. This is why personas are so important for businesses—they need to know all of these things about their customers. This is when they would create a web persona. Essentially, this would be a fictional profile that represents the target audience according to averages that have been calculated regarding the customer's buying process, their personality, and their demographics. Personas and user archetypes are used by companies in guiding their decisions regarding new product launches, new features, site design, and interactions with customers. It is important that they understand the goals and patterns of the audience in order to create a successful archetype that will satisfy this targeted group. The aim is to make a persona that represents the total package of the target audience. When this happens, it allows the business to appeal to the maximum amount of their real life customers.

When you create a successful persona it will help you to deal envelop invoice that is effective for your company, understand the target audience's beliefs and goals, help you to know the audience on a personal level, determine which products or features will or will not be accepted by the audience, enable the company to make smart decisions, and build a vocabulary that can be shared between the business and consumers to avoid confusion. After creating a successful persona, this will aid in identifying the customers in the process of buying and allow the business to maximize their conversion rate.

Doing Research


When looking to create a successful persona, what you will need is to research the target audience. This can be done in two ways. Either analyze statistics that have been previously obtained, or conduct your own usability testing and research through interviews of current and past members of the target audience. Gather their personal information like age, gender, location, occupation, and like when interviewing them and determine how they came across your business, ask them what their impression is of the site, get to know how internet savvy they are, and determine if they visit any competitor websites, and then ascertain whether they are necessity oriented or service oriented. When you acquire and then analyze this data, you will be able to develop a more comprehensive idea of who the target audience really is. It will also tell you how they spend their time and what exactly they value as being important. When looking at this data, certain patterns will start to arise. These patterns will then become the basis for the persona.


Building the Archetype


Once the data has been collected. It should then be analyzed. When analyzing this information you will be able to see both similarities and differences between the customers. Remember that the personas represent the audience's behavior patterns—not what they do for a living or where they are located. This information is important to know, but those details are not the foundation of the archetype. When a persona is defined properly, it will provide a picture that is well-rounded to include the customer's skills, attitude, and goals. It is not a resume. Once the data has been gathered it should be organized in a way that would successfully complete a picture of a person. With this it would include important traits like buying process and behavior patterns and other behavioral information like their content consumption and their role in purchasing to form a cohesive persona. This information gathered in the research portion should be able to form a cluster of personas that the business feels best represents their audience.


Each persona should be different, just like a real target audience—they would want to look for different things. It is important to know that when creating personas, they should never be modeled after somebody that is known in real life. This will create a bias. The persona should be solely based on fictional characters that best represent the audience. This allows the business to concentrate more on the real audience to address their needs.


When testing out a new campaign or feature, keep in mind these questions: will it offer a, obvious benefit to the persona? What sort of language is to be used? Is industry jargon appropriate? What should be provided to help the persona understand the new campaign? Will the persona realize the issue that the new campaign is aimed to address?


Refining the Persona


Once the persona has been created, it should be shared with other team members in the company to get their opinion. They will have valuable opinions that will aid in editing the personality of this customer. This is the time to fill in any information that has been left blank. You should also name each persona in order to easily differentiate it from the others. When multiple team members are responsible for refining each persona, this ensures that the profile does not too heavily represent someone that is a real person, deliberately or unintentionally. Collaboration on personas can provide multiple outlooks to produce a more cohesive persona. It will also ensure that the multiple personas that are produced cover the largest variety while still within the parameters of the target audience. Some may even find it helpful to assign a picture to a profile to really be able to imagine this archetype as an actual person.


Putting the Personas to Use


You have named the persona and it has all identifying characteristics filled out. You know what it wants and where has come from. But this is not the end of the persona it is now put into action. Use the personas in role play case studies, to evaluate new features, for making design and product decisions, for user testing, and it in developing programs for customer service.

Each persona will need to be used in each of these instances because their responses will be dynamic and will rarely exactly mimic one another. Say, for instance, an internet clothing company whose target audience is women ages 20 to 40. They may find themselves with two personas that are particularly similar— two women in their late 20's that love to shop for clothes online. One woman may do most of her shopping from her computer and one woman may do most of her shopping on her mobile phone. Knowing this information gives you the tools that are needed to go forward and ensure that the company has a website that is conducive to shopping and ordering online, and a mobile version of the website (or even a specialized application) that provides the same services with ease. This is just one of the many ways that familiarizing one's self with all personas and profiles will benefit the company and brand as a whole in the long run.

benefits of personas


Benefits of Personas


In order to create brand loyalty, you will need to speak directly with the customers to gather data and create personas. This means taking the time to ask about what their needs are and what interests them. This will show the customers that the brand is interested in their patrons on a personal level rather than just to make a sale. The brand should want to learn about their customers and what their goals are as well as what is important to them in order to make the product the best that it can be. Customers will remember this move and are more likely to do business with the brand that has taken these actions. You are investing in your customers making it easier for the customers to invest in the brand.


Personas can also alert the brand to any problems that exist. For instance, when a brand is doing research it might discover that the persona covers a larger range of people than they initially thought. When this information is known, it will likely create two distinct audiences that must be addressed. This could mean that the brand needs to create an entirely new product, different instructions, or anything else that would not only fit advanced users but inexperienced ones as well.

Consider if you are not selling to individuals, but buying teams. This means that there is an entire team of buyers that will have a part in the decision to purchase. Even when selling to a group such as this, content marketing that is based on personas is critical. When the investment is larger, it is likely that the investment team is larger. This is true for websites that are aimed at the general public, like social media websites. The point is for as many people as possible to use the platform. This may actually be the most difficult instance to create personas—they will need to represent the entire population to ensure that the website can be used successfully by the largest number of people possible. This is similar to appealing to buying teams, as the general population are the ones that are, in essence, funding the brand.

Knowing the personas will also allow for an easier process when picking the individuals that are needed when conducting research, like card sorting. Wouldn't it be silly to spend valuable resources on this research using test subjects that are not in the target audience? The time that it takes for a team to create and refine personas pays of tenfold when the brand conducts research with real people that are comparable to the personas. The brand is then served with data that is accurate and useful to them.


When Companies Don't Use Personas


A brand might resist the use of a persona because they simply do not understand how the process works or what the advantage is. Often times they will have designed a persona that is too broad or vague, making the persona inefficient with helping point a company in the right direction. When done incorrectly, a persona will cause the company to pigeonhole the audience, which actually negates the purpose of creating a persona. A brand might also believe that their target audience is not a type—but is everyone. While this might be true, this “everyone” will all have similar needs when visiting the website. It just means that the website and its content will have to not only appeal to, but also be usable by, a larger portion of the population. The brand will also need to conduct the tests (like card sorting), and how will they choose their test subjects unless they have a persona to use. Choosing a random person off of the street will not provide the most accurate results or data for the brand, thus acting as a huge disservice.


Drawbacks


When using a strict persona, no matter how much research is done and how much analyzing has taken place, a brand can never know with absolute certainty that they have customers that feel exactly how the persona is portrayed. If a campaign is created that is too close to the persona, the brand risks alienating some of its potential customers. This is the reason that it is vital to create a number of personas; it enables the brand to have a better chance of targeting the largest number of customers.

Conclusion

When all's said and done and every effort has been exhausted, brands are really only using their best guess about who their customers are and what they are looking for. Using these personas will allow the brand to make their best guess and utilize tools that will keep their customers' interests in mind. Even considering the drawbacks listed, these are only a problem when there is not an educated team that is collaborating when creating all of the personas. Seeing as how creating personas is one of the best things that a brand can do regarding its content strategy, any brand that is not yet utilizing the technique ought to think twice.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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