How to use personas in blogging

Mannequins

Putting a face on your readers with personas can improve your blog and content marketing efforts. (Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/499007)

Many marketers use personas to help them better understand their customers and design products and marketing campaigns that will be attractive to those customers. You can use them to improve your blog or other content marketing efforts — podcasts, videos, white papers and so forth.

What is a persona?

A persona is a fictional character used to better understand the desires, goals and motivations of some set of potential customers.

If you’re running a blog about weight loss, you might use personas to understand the differences between a 19-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man when it comes to losing weight. Chances are they have different motivations, different values and different circumstances in their day-to-day lives. Rather than treating those two sets of customers the same, personas allow you to clearly fix in your mind how each group is distinctive and will likely seek different information as they explore weight loss solutions.

Properly constructed personas are built off extensive research, which could include interviews, spending time with people in their day-to-day lives and collecting statistics about a target group of customers. If you have the resources for that sort of research, then you have a huge advantage compared to your competitors. But even if you don’t, you can still use personas to rough out some basic ideas about different audiences.

You can still consider all the people you know in real life who are representative of potential readers. That can help you define personas based on interactions and communication you’ve had with real people.

Also note that you can have multiple personas for a single brand, product or service. Different groups of people may purchase the same product for different reasons. Effective marketing communications will still take into account the needs, aspirations and values of these different personas in creating an overall marketing plan.

Four steps to building blog reader personas

1. Figure out who your readers (or potential readers) are. Or, if you don’t have any readers, figure out who you’d like them to be. Are they male or female, young or old, from your country or from abroad? Just the basics here.

2. Figure out what your readers are looking for. Do they want actionable information (how-to posts), industry news, strategic perspective or insights into the big picture? And take this beyond merely what kind of information they want. Ask yourself why they want that information: What is their root motivation?

3. Decide how knowledgeable your readers are. Are they rank beginners? Jaded experts with decades of experience? Somewhere in between?

4. Craft persona portraits. Once you’ve figured out your readers are, what information they’re looking for and how knowledgeable they are about your subject matter, write short bios for each persona. Here’s an example of a persona profile I wrote last year for this blog:

Media Michelle – A young professional in media, marketing or PR who is just getting into social media and wants to learn more about them. She needs basic information about how to do things better and more efficiently, plus examples of others doing things well, ideas and some basic theory.

I’ve seen personas much more detailed than Media Michelle, so don’t hesitate to pile on the detail if it’s relevant and helps you form a richer picture of who you’re trying to reach.

How to use reader personas

Once you’ve got your reader personas developed, you can start to use them to guide your content development. For each persona you can come up with content ideas (blog posts or whatever) that meet the persona’s needs. You can edit and review content you’re creating with an eye toward how well it works for the target persona. And you can check your persona or personas periodically to make sure that your blog or content marketing efforts aren’t leaving any important audiences out.

Have you ever used personas for a blog or other content marketing efforts? If so, please share your thoughts and ideas in comments.

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