By Alexandra Zamfir

January 22nd, 2016

An increasingly empowered customer base is now used to carrying out much of the pre-purchasing process unaided. In fact, some estimates suggest that your buyers complete as much as two-thirds of the sales cycle unaided.

To ensure that customers can find the information they need to make an informed decision, brands have begun investing in content marketing campaigns. But as more organizations have become involved in content marketing, the web is rapidly filling up with low-quality, poorly-targeted information that is far too generic to address the specific needs of customers.

In a brave new world, nothing has changed
The best advertising campaigns have always been finely targeted to specific subsets of people. Through the use of surveys and focus groups, brands could begin the painful process of creating personas and demographics that would then form the basis of more targeted campaigns.

The emergence of social media platforms has greatly simplified the process of gathering this information – so long as you are tapping into the right social media analytics.

"The more you know about your customers, the more you can provide to them information that is increasingly useful, relevant, and persuasive."

Jay Baer

So although the methods used to gather customer insights have changed, the actual principles have not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How do your followers describe themselves
Quite often your followers will publish their basic details in their social profiles. Age, location, occupation and interests are all readily available and give your marketers a head start in segmenting the audience. These basic insights are key to creating useful, realistic personas for content marketing campaigns.

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These biographies allow you to create the very basic framework upon which a persona is built. You could even “borrow” names for each persona from real profiles if that helps spark your imagination.

What are they sharing about?
Social media provides almost limitless insight into the interests, likes and dislikes of individual customers. The challenge occurs when trying to comb through all the large amounts of data at your disposal. Your social media analytics program needs to be well-defined and have your business purpose as a strong foundation. Only then is when a social listening tool is most effective and should come into place.

For example in our webinar with Social Media Today, Andrew Ashton, Digital Marketing Specialist from Pizza Hut, stressed that their data is directly connected with their business interests. They never listen just for the sake of it, but they do it with a purpose – they want to sell pizza, so they use social listening as a primary research platform. 

You should also consider multiple facets for your analytics program – the one that naturally comes to mind is listening for mentions of your brand. But what about everything else out there? You need to be able to identify what keywords make most sense for the direction of your program: are you looking for new opportunities? Are you monitoring your competitors? What about reputation management? There isn’t one proven way to go about it, so your strategy should be based on continuous research and testing.

Although most social media analytics and social media monitoring tools can find instances of particular keywords, it is equally important to understand the sentiment behind each post. Is the post positive or negative? Sentiment may actually be the most important insight when properly segmenting users to create personas so that you can also target dissatisfied customers.

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What are their pain points?
Properly targeted content is less about pushing products and services, and more about addressing genuine issues that they encounter at home or at work. But in order to be able to create this breed of content, you have to know what those pain points really are.

Again, social media analytics provides a way to cut through the noise to identify the frustrations and issues customers face. Look for common needs, goals, and problems, and consider how each could be addressed as part of your content strategy.

Don’t stop analyzing!
Customers have ever-changing priorities and pains, so your personas need to be revisited regularly. Constant monitoring and analysis of social feeds will help you stay abreast of these developments – even allowing for the adjustment of personas and content in the middle of a campaign, if needed.

It may be that your content is so good at solving the customer’s problems that you need to find new ones to help with!

The modern business environment is marked by the need for accurate data at all times, allowing for improved decision making and strategic change. The same applies to your marketing campaigns too, so don’t stop looking for ways to improve your personas and the content you serve them.

Personas in place? Get creating!
Personas will always be a “best guess” because it is still not cost effective to create specific content for every individual your business comes into contact with. But many of your followers, fans, and prospects will have common interests and pains that you can create content to address.

Don’t forget that your social media analytics will also help to uncover the types of content that your target persona is most likely to engage with too. Ensure that your content creation plan also properly addresses the issue of where it will be shared or promoted for maximum effect, so that each item of collateral is further tuned to the needs of your customers.

Your personas serve two purposes; to identify the traits and preferences of your ideal customers, and to be just general enough to help you reach a group of like-minded customers. But at the end of the day, your persona should be the cornerstone of every piece of content you create – not least because it ensures your customer is at the heart of everything your business does, from initial contact through every step of the sales cycle.

Understanding Social Media ROI

Effectively measure the ROI of your social media marketing so you can optimize it.

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