By Matthew Klein

June 30th, 2015

What are your goals when you create content for social media? Engaging your audience, entertaining them, driving clicks, signups, and sales? How do you decide what will get people to pay attention (which is becoming harder to do, considering the volume of content being produced) and help you reach these goals?

The immense amount of data generated by social channels can help guide you in content creation. Data on engagement or audience demographics can be pulled from individual social networks as well as looked at from an overall point of view.

But all this data isn’t much good if you’re not able act on it in a way that has a positive impact on your business. In order to do so, you have to look at your social data critically and act on it strategically.

Creating social customer personas is an effective way to accomplish this. Social customer personas can allow you to craft better social content that helps you reach your overall business goals.

What is a social customer persona?

Customer personas are not a new concept. Marketers have long used them as a tool to reach their customers more effectively. They are essentially profiles of your target customers, incorporating information that will help you understand how to reach them, what their needs are from you and your brand, and what marketing messages they might be receptive to.


"Of companies currently using buyer personas, 82% say it has improved their value proposition, 90% say it has led to a clearer understanding of their customers, and 56% say it has led to higher quality leads."


Generally more detail is better, but you should also be able to capture a representative target with a few key points. For example, if you are a an electric carmaker with a US presence, one of your customer personas could be “Jane” a 33 year old attorney living in Washington. She has one child, lives outside the city, loves yoga, and needs a car mostly for commuting and taking her son to activities.

This information should be based on solid market research, information about existing customers, and your brand’s positioning.

Customer personas are remarkably effective for the marketers who implement them.

Data from research organization ITSMA states that of companies currently using buyer personas, 82% say it has improved their value proposition, 90% say it has led to a clearer understanding of their customers, and 56% say it has led to higher quality leads.

A social customer persona performs the same function, but it also integrates social dimensions. These dimensions can include data on behavior on different social networks, content consumption patterns, and how social media influences purchase behaviour.

If you have an existing customer persona, like Jane, you could add the information that she is most active on Facebook and spends a significant amount of time on Pinterest. She logs in to Instagram once or twice a day, and uses Twitter only passively a few times a week. With a combination of research and data pulled from your social media presence, you can add details like how she uses each network (Facebook for news, and keeping up with friends, Instagram for sharing photos of activities), and what type of post she’d be likely to engage with on different networks. The idea is not to make every single piece of content for a persona, but to have a clear picture of whom you are aiming to reach with different campaigns.

Why go to the trouble?

Social media already provides rich data on engagement. You can see what content performed the best with various audiences on different networks. Why not just use that information to create more content similar to the stuff that’s already working?

Using social customer personas helps you cut through the noise when creating content, and to focus on engagement without losing sight of your broader business objectives.

For example, you have fans who aren’t customers, who might never be, who are still going to be active on your social channels. This can be a good thing—just because they aren’t customers doesn’t mean they can’t spread positive messages about your brand, either on or off social media.

And when looking at data like comments and social sentiment, some of the voices are louder than others. Sometimes they are loud because they’re passionate about your brand, but sometimes it’s just because they’re loud.

These fans and this data are important to take into account, but it shouldn’t dictate your entire strategy. Having clear social customer personas is a way to incorporate social data more intelligently; it prevents you from shifting your message based on a blip in the data. Instead of looking just at what worked, say, last week on Twitter, and repeating it until it stops working, you can build content that is in line with a fuller set of engagement data and your broader business objectives.

It also helps you do better on specific networks. If you’re teasing content on Instagram and getting poor engagement, does that mean it won’t work anywhere else? Or is it poorly suited to the channel and your community there?

A critical tool for a social business environment

Social customer personas can have an impact that goes far beyond social—the customer personas you use for all your marketing should integrate social dimensions. Social media is gradually being incorporated more and more deeply into business in general, and is a key element of the overall customer experience. Having a clear picture of your targets’ and customers’ presence on social media can help you build a more effective framework for social customer care. As marketing and sales begin to converge, it becomes critical to have information that can be shared and acted on at all points of the customer journey.

Eventually, nearly all customer-facing activities will have some social dimension. Creating social customer personas helps ensure that they will truly take the customer into account.

Companies should always seek to know their customers better, and to create content that is engaging for them as well as on message for the brand. Taking the time to establish social customer personas can help you succeed at both.

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