How to Acquire Your Ideal Audience with User Personas

Now that you have an idea of what your social media marketing strategy entails, it’s time to focus on your target audience. This essential step will help guide what type of content you post and on which platforms.

Who are these mysterious beings who like your posts, read your tweets, and share your images? Understanding who your audience is and putting time and effort into cultivating who you would like them to be will help you drive long-term engagement, because a more engaged user base is going to make your posts more discoverable.

Narrow down your audience

Start by taking a look at your current engagement rates. If you’re not hitting your target engagement benchmarks, either your content isn’t speaking to the right audience (your existing followers) or the people who are following you are not the right audience.

When you’re just starting out you might think that in order to be successful you need to reach the largest audience possible. However, if your content isn’t relevant to your audience they aren’t going to engage with your posts.

To give you an example, PicMonkey has nearly 2.5 million Facebook followers. When we pay to boost our reach for certain posts, we have to target smaller segments of those followers because most of our audience won’t engage with every post. Facebook reads that as, “PicMonkey doesn’t post interesting content” and decreases how often our posts show up for everyone. When you identify an ideal audience and tailor content specifically towards them, you’ll get more engagement because you’ll be speaking more directly to what they care about.

Another point worth mentioning is just like every piece of content might not be right for every part of your audience, not every social media platform is right for every company—and it’s important to home in on which channels are right for you.

For example, if you’re representing a business-to-business (B2B) company that specializes in client management software, it probably makes more sense for you to post a blog article on LinkedIn than to post a series of Snapchats about your daily office antics.

That’s not to say that if you’re on a more “serious” platform like LinkedIn, you can’t also have a presence on a more “lighthearted” platform like Snapchat or Pinterest. At PicMonkey we have all of the above—but the important thing to note is that we’re not targeting the same exact audience on LinkedIn and Pinterest. We know that certain platforms are more relevant to certain audiences and we curate the content specifically for each platform (company branding, job postings, and small business articles on LinkedIn, how to’s, inspirational images, and project-based content on Pinterest).

Using personas to identify your ideal audience

This talk of identifying your audience is all well and good, but how do you actually go about doing it?

Breaking your audience into different user personas can be a good way to get a read on what’s relevant to them and what types of content might be interesting to them. Plus, creating a social media persona is not so different than creating a marketing or buyer persona, in fact the efforts can be one in the same.

If your company already has customer personas, congratulations! Your work is half done. If not, this is an important exercise not just for the social media component of your business, but for your business as a whole. In this post we’ll show you how to create personas that you can use both for your social media and for your wider business.

What exactly is a persona? A persona is a made-up person who represents a certain type of person that you’re targeting. Personas are important, explains Scott Rassatt, business planning manager at PicMonkey, because “They align your company on what your product and marketing strategy is. Personas can help give you a clearer idea of who you’re selling to and how you’re going to reach them.

Every business is different, so it’ll help to start out by thinking about how many personas you need. Some companies, like Anthropologie, only have one and that works for them. Any of their employees could give you basic demographic information about her, “30 to 45 years old, college or post-graduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000” but they can also describe what her personality feels like. Anthropologie president Glen Senk told Fast Company, “She’s well-read and well-traveled… she gets our references, whether it’s to a town in Europe or to a book or a movie. She’s urban-minded. She’s into cooking, gardening, and wine. She has a natural curiosity about the world.” Having such a clear picture of their customer has helped guide everything from the layout of their store, to the merchandise they carry, and how they market.

The decision to create more than one persona really depends on how varied your business is. Do you have multiple use cases for your product(s) or service(s)? Do you have users that spend vastly different amounts of money? Can you segment them into distinct demographics? All these factors can help determine how many personas you create. Rassatt recommends creating no more than you need—somewhere between one and seven or so depending on the size and variety of your business. “Once you get to that number, there are probably more ways you can combine them.”

For example, if you’re a jewelry store, one of your personas might be Toby, a 32-year-old lawyer from the city who doesn’t really know anything about jewelry, but is looking for an engagement ring for his girlfriend. You can see how Toby is a good example of a customer this store might have, but he definitely wouldn’t be the only customer they have.

If you’re starting from scratch or looking to expand your customer base, it’s a good idea to take a careful look at what your competitors are doing and understand your customer journey. Rassatt says, “You should understand not only what people are doing with your product, but also how your product fits into their overall work. How does it help them reach their goals or solve their pain points?” In other words, if you solve one aspect of a problem they’re working on, think about whether or not you can create more value for them by helping them solve more of their problem. “It’s important to understand that so that when you grow your business, you know where to move next.”

Looking at your competitors is also be a helpful step since it can identify holes in the market. Rassatt says to ask yourself, “Do you think you could do a better job [than your competitors]? Do you think you can fill a gap that they’re not addressing?”

Who’s my ideal audience? Take the quiz.

It might sound silly that an internet questionnaire can actually be part of the solution, but asking yourself the following questions can be a surprisingly fruitful exercise. Photographer and marketing guru Jasmine Star frames it this way,

So often new I see entrepreneurs start a business without taking the time to outline who their services or products are perfectly suited for… I asked [a new business owner] a litany of questions and at the end, not only did she create the client of her dreams, she had a much sharper marketing approach and reframed her branding techniques.

We’ve compiled a list of general questions to help you identify who your customer might be and where you should be marketing to them. This list is purposefully general, since it’s meant to be applied to many different types of businesses, so feel free to use it as a jumping off point. Feel free to add any questions that are more specific to your industry.

The quiz:

  1. How old is your customer?

  2. Are they more masculine or feminine?

  3. Where do they live?

  4. What do they like to do for fun?

  5. What brands do they like?

  6. Where do they like to shop?

  7. What types of restaurants do they go to?

  8. What industry do they work in?

  9. What’s their job title?

  10. How much do they earn for a living?

  11. Are they married? Single? Living in sin? Consciously uncoupled?

  12. Do they have kids?

  13. What media do they consume (books, magazines, TV, etc.)?

  14. What’s the highest level of education they’ve completed?

  15. Where do they like to go on vacation?

  16. What’s their aesthetic style?

  17. What sorts of visuals do they respond to? Why?

  18. What social networks are they on?

  19. Who else might they follow on social media?

  20. What sort of need are you fulfilling for them?

Remember, this exercise is intended to identify the customer you would ideally want, not necessarily the one you currently have. When companies make a conscious decision to rebrand and change their target audience (think Old Spice moving away from being serious old man deodorant and targeting young men with Swagger), this sort of exercise is essential.

Changing your target audience will have a major impact on your entire business strategy, but where social media is concerned it will help focus which channels you’re using to market to your users. A new audience will likely live on different social channels and respond better to a different aesthetic than you had before rebranding.

Interviewing your power users/dream customers

Now that you have a hypothesis of who you want you customer(s) to be, it’s time to test your guess by talking to real, live people.

If you already have an existing customer base, try to identify your power users. How you define a power user is going to change depending on what type of business you have. It could be a repeat customer that uses your product to solve one or more pain points. It could be a user who’s only purchased from you once, but is really vocal about your brand on social media. Identify the users you’d like to talk to and set up a time to either talk on the phone or send them an online survey.

If you’re trying to get more information about potential customers, see if anyone in your company knows anyone like them personally. They’ll be more likely to talk to you if you have some sort of connection. If you can’t find anyone that you know do some online sleuthing and find social media accounts that are in the same general demographics (and with the similar interests) to the customers that you want. When you ask to survey them, you can offer some sort of compensation, so they’ll have more of an incentive to respond.

Rassatt breaks down three main topics that you’ll want to ask them about: goals, pain points, and use cases:

  • Goals: How will your product or service help them achieve their goals?

  • Pain points: What issues are they facing that your product or service can address?

  • Use cases: How do they use your product or why do they need your service?

“Try to get as specific as possible with the use case,” says Rassatt. This can help you uncover gaps in your product that you didn’t know were there.

If you want to dig specifically into social media use, ask them about their social media habits, what platforms they use, and what sort of content would help them in their day-to-day lives.

Forming your personas

After you’ve completed your surveys, it’s time to compile the data you’ve gather and build out your personas. If you’re surveys confirmed what you originally thought in your hypothesis, you’re good to go!

Mostly likely they gave you additional information to consider. Decide which pieces of input are meaningful enough to influence how you want to market and build your product and if they are, include them in your personas.

Once personas are finalized, some companies like to include a visual representation of the personas, whether it’s a photograph, a sketch, or a graphic. Having a unique-looking image that you’re marketing to will help make the persona feel more concrete.

Who lives on each social platform?

Once you know who your people are, you can figure out where they’re hanging out online. And from there, you can figure out what sort of content they want.

In order to know where the people that you want are, you need an understanding of how each platform is different and what sort of audience each one typically attracts. From example, our audiences on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, tend to skew younger, female, and are more into passion projects and photo and design inspiration. Our LinkedIn and Twitter audiences are a bit older, female, and use PicMonkey for professional reasons.

You can find audience data on each individual platform, usually under a page called “Insights” or “Analytics.” Visit yours to get a sense of how your social audiences are currently breaking down.

Here’s how the channels break down:

  • Facebook: Most people are on Facebook in some capacity or another (unless they’re under the age of 15, then there are no guarantees) so this is a really important place to make sure that you’re segmenting users. To get an idea of who your most engaged audience members are, click the “People Engaged” tab on your Facebook Insights page. This will give basic demographic information, but we’ll get into this in a little more detail when we talk about ads.

  • Twitter: People on Twitter expect to be able to connect with brands directly and be heard, so this is a great way to engage with users. It is also a good platform to help identify who your most influential followers are. Twitter Analytics can help break out demographic info, like average gender, age, country, and occupation for your followers.

  • Instagram: Instagram users want to see media eye-catching, different, and aspirational, so it might be a good idea to cultivate a visual style here that’s distinct from the rest of your platforms. Instagram can break out your audience by their age and gender.

  • Pinterest: The preferred platform of do-it-yourselfers, Pinterest is about education. Pins can be targeted to really specific audiences since you can use keyword and interest targets.

  • YouTube: Like Facebook, most people use YouTube (it’s not a conventional “social networking site” but it is the world’s second largest search engine, behind Google). Because you can tag videos with specific keywords, YouTube is a good channel to target new users could have an interest in your product.

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the social media network for professionals. If you have a B2B business, this is a great platform for you, as it lets you segment your audience by job seniority, job function, industry, and company size.

Where your followers are is going to impact what content you’re serving them. Do they want to be educated? Entertained? In an ideal situation you’d be nurturing your relationship with them, giving them content that brings them value, and entertaining them along the way. To figure out what’s going to excite them, do a little digging. What other accounts do they like? What do they react to?

Once you’ve got your audience locked down, it’s time to look at driving engagement. Check out our next article to learn more about the one surefire way to increase engagement.

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This article was written by PicMonkey Staff, a multicellular organism of hive-minded sub-parts who just wanna get you the ideas and information you crave, so you can make powerful images that level up your business.