Defining a buyer persona (also called a customer persona, audience persona, or marketing persona) helps you create content to better target your ideal customer.

As a social marketer—or any marketer, for that matter—it’s easy to get lost in the details of tracking your latest engagement rates and campaigns. Buyer personas remind you to put your audience’s wants and needs ahead of your own.

Bonus: Get the free template to easily craft a detailed profile of your ideal customer and/or target audience.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a detailed description of someone who represents your target audience. This is not a real customer, but a fictional person who embodies the characteristics of your best potential customers.

You’ll give this customer persona a name, demographic details, interests, and behavioral traits. You’ll understand their goals, pain points, and buying patterns.

You can give them a face using stock photography. Some businesses have gone so far as to create cardboard cutouts of their buyer personas to make them a real presence within the office.

The idea is to think about and speak to this model customer as if they were a real person. This allows you to craft marketing messages targeted specifically to them. Your buyer persona will guide everything from product development to your brand voice to the social channels you use.

Since different groups of people may buy your products for different reasons, you might need to create more than one buyer persona. You can’t get to know every customer or prospect individually. But you can create a customer persona to represent each segment of your customer base.

How your business should use buyer or audience personas

1. Reframe your work from the customer’s perspective

Marketers too often use corporate-speak and a lot of buzzwords that don’t really mean anything. Buyer personas can help you avoid that trap by reminding you to think about the real humans who read your social posts and engage with your content.

Buyer personas keep you focused on addressing customer priorities instead of your own.

Think about your buyer personas every time you make a decision about your social marketing strategy (or overall marketing strategy).

Does a new campaign address the needs and goals of at least one of your buyer personas? If not, you have good reason to reconsider your plan, no matter how exciting it may be.

Build your social strategy based on helping your personas meet their goals, and you’ll build a bond with the real customers they represent. It’s all about boosting sales while creating brand loyalty and trust.

2. Target your social ads more effectively

Social advertising offers incredibly detailed targeting options. Once you define your buyer personas, you can create social ads that speak directly to the target audience you have defined. Then, use social ad targeting to get your ad in front of exactly the right people.

You can create separate ad content for each of your defined buyer personas. This advanced level of targeting increases conversion rates and improves social ad campaigns.

3. Increase ROI with the buyer persona spring

Developed by professors and authors Aleksej Heinze, Gordon Fletcher, Tahir Rashid, Ana Cruz, the buyer persona spring is a model for connecting your business objectives to your buyer persona. It’s called a spring because it involves three distinct loops:

  • Content: What kinds of content will speak to your buyer persona?
  • Channels: What social channels does your buyer persona use most?
  • Data: Good data allows you to monitor your efforts, report on your success, and revise your strategy as needed.

Each loop includes four points, at which you plan, act, observe, and reflect.

We’ll get into the details of gathering and planning with this information in the next section.

How to create a buyer persona

Gather your information as you work through these steps. We’ve created a free buyer persona template you can use to put it all together when you get to step five.

1. Do thorough audience research

Your buyer personas need to be based on real-world data, not gut instinct. Here’s a basic overview of how to learn about your audience. For a more in-depth look at these concepts, check out our complete guide to audience research.

Compile data on your existing customers and social audience

Consider details like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • spending power and patterns
  • Interests
  • Challenges
  • Stage of life

For B2B, also consider size of business and who makes purchasing decisions.

Gather this information from:

Learn which social channels your audience uses

You need to reach your customers using the right channels. Start by learning where they already spend time online. Some great tools to help include:

Check out the competition

Take some cues from the customer research your competitors have already done, using tools like:

  • Buzzsumo: To search for top shared content across social networks, including engagement data.
  • Search streams: In your Hootsuite dashboard, set up streams to monitor your competitors’ posts and look for patterns in hashtags, post type, and content strategy.

For more detailed strategies, check out our full post on how to conduct competitor research using social tools.

2. Identify customer pain points

What problems or hassles are your potential customers trying to solve? What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals?

One key way to find out is to engage in some social listening and social media sentiment analysis.

Setting up search streams to monitor mentions of your brand, products, and competitors gives you a real time look into what people are saying about you online. You can learn why they love your products, or which parts of the customer experience are just not working.

It’s also a good idea to check in with your customer service team to see what kinds of questions they get the most. Find out if they can help you identify patterns about which groups tend to face different kinds of challenges. You could even ask them to collect real customer quotes that you can use to help give your audience personas depth.

Bonus: Get the free template to easily craft a detailed profile of your ideal customer and/or target audience.

Get the free template now!

3. Identify customer goals

This is the flip side of pain points. Pain points are problems your potential customers are trying to solve. Goals or aspirations are positive things they want to achieve.

Those goals might be personal or professional, depending on the kinds of products and services you sell. What motivates your customers? What’s their end game?

These goals might be directly related to solutions you can provide, but they don’t have to be. This is more about getting to know your customers than it is trying to match customers exactly to features or benefits of your product.

Your personas’ goals are important even if they don’t relate specifically to your product’s features. They can always form the basis of a campaign, or they might simply inform the tone or approach you take in your marketing.

Social listening can be a good way to gather this information, too. And just as your customer service team was a good source of insight for pain points, your sales team can be a good source of insight on customer goals.

Your salespeople talk to real people who are thinking about using your product. They have a deep understanding of what your customers are trying to achieve by using your products and services.

Ask them to collect real quotes that embody the customer experience. You can also ask them for any tactics they use to overcome buyer objections when selling your products or services, which leads us to…

4. Understand how you can help

Now that you understand your customers’ pain points and goals, it’s time to create a really clear picture of how your products and service can help. As part of this step, you’ll need to stop thinking about your brand in terms of features and dig deep to analyze the benefits you offer to customers.

It can be hard for marketers to get out of the feature mindset—which is one reason buyer personas are so important. They help you flip your thinking and consider your products and services from a buyer’s point of view.

A feature is what your product is or does. A benefit is how your product or service makes your customer’s life easier or better.

Ask yourself three key questions for each of the pain points and goals you’ve collected:

  1. How can we help? Capture that in one clear sentence and add it to your persona template.
  2. What are your audience’s main purchasing barriers? And how can you help overcome them?
  3. Where are your followers at in their buying journey? Are they researching or ready to buy? Looking for reviews?

Again, talking to your colleagues who deal directly with customers can be a great way to learn. It can also be a good idea to consult your customers and social fans directly through a survey.

5. Create your buyer personas

Now, gather all of your research and start looking for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, you’ll have the basis of your unique customer personas.

Let’s say you identify a core customer group of fathers in their 30s who live in big cities, like to camp, and own motorcycles. Great—now it’s time to take this abstract collection of characteristics and turn them into a persona that you can identify with and speak to.

Give your buyer persona a name, a job title, a home, and other defining characteristics. You want your persona to seem like a real person.

Aim for about the amount of information you would expect to see on a dating site. Or what you might learn from a short conversation on an airplane or at a bus stop. Don’t forget to include pain points and goals.

For example, your group of motorcycle-owning urban dad campers could be represented by the persona you name Moto Mike. Based on research, you’ll give Mike representative characteristics that make him a real person:

  • He is 40 years old
  • He has two kids, aged 4 and 1
  • He lives in Boston
  • He works at a tech company
  • He owns a touring motorcycle
  • He likes to camp throughout New England
  • He has limited vacation time

And so on.

Remember, a list of characteristics does not equal a persona. A persona is a realistic description of a person who represents one segment of your customer base.

Sure, not all people in this customer group match the characteristics of your persona exactly. But this persona represents this customer group to you and allows you to think about them in a human way rather than as a collection of data points.

It’s a lot easier to speak to Mike than it is to speak to “men.” Or even “35-year-old dads who own motorcycles.”

As you flesh out your customer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition.

3. Real-life buyer persona examples

1. Amsterdam Dance Event

The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) is an annual electronic music festival and conference held in, you guessed it, Amsterdam.

A SurveyPlanet survey distributed through Facebook provided the building blocks for a buyer persona with the following characteristics:

  • Aged 22 to 29
  • Active on social media
  • Is a student or worker
  • Has attended ADE more than once
  • Attends ADS to experience electronic music with friends, meet like-minded people, and express themself
  • Has a medium level of disposable income
  • Is price-sensitive for tickets an on-site spending

However, in order for this to be a true buyer persona, it would need to be even more specific. Remember, a buyer persona should describe a person, not just a set of characteristics. So, to take this to the next level, let’s create a persona for ADE, taking some additional cues from this ADE Facebook post.

Buyer persona: Dancing Dave

  • 27-year-old business student at the University of Amsterdam
  • A regular visitor to local dance clubs
  • Attended ADE last year with two friends from school
  • Works part-time in the university library
  • Shares and likes images of Amsterdam’s nightlife on Instagram Stories
  • Follows ADE on Facebook to be notified about early-bird tickets

2. Fan Fit

Fan Fit is an app that grew out of a project at the UK’s University of Salford. It combines fitness tracking with sports news and social networking through personal “leagues.” UK sports teams can whitelabel the app to engage their fans.

Two business professors worked with the app founders to define their buyer personas in a case study for the university where the app was created. And these are not just any business professors. They’re the same business professors who developed the buyer persona spring mentioned above.

Here’s what they found:

Persona 1 (B2C): Jim Watson, a sports fan

  • 52-year-old van driver living in Salford with his wife
  • Season ticket holder with Salford Red Devils
  • Avid soccer fan
  • Uses TV, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube
  • A former athlete who has gained weight and thought about buying a fitness tracker but is unsure what to buy
  • Motivated to use a mobile app to improve health and quality of life after a friend suffered a minor heart attack

In this Facebook video, two Fan Fit users who are Salford Red Devils fans talk about the weight they’ve lost using the team’s version of the app. They each say they’ve lost about three stone, or about 40 pounds.

Salford University Takeover Day – Fan Fit App

👊 At our recent The University of Salford 'Takeover Day', we spoke to two of our monthly Fan Fit winners who – along with winning great prizes – have managed to lose weight thanks to the Salford Red Devils and Salford Business School app, developed by Dr Alex Fenton.💪 #TogetherStronger

Posted by Salford Red Devils RLFC on Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Persona 2 (B2B): Andrea Rogers, works in marketing for a sports team

  • Senior marketing and communications rep for a major soccer team
  • Manages a small team of social marketers
  • In her 30s and recently married
  • Uses Facebook and Instagram to connect with her family, and Twitter and LinkedIn for professional networking
  • Interested in apps, IoT, virtual reality, and eSports
  • Wants to connect the team with younger and more female fans
  • Is frustrated that her team has no plans to build its own app

3. HaparandaTornio Tourist Information Centre

This tourism office for the twin cities of Haparanda, Sweden, and Tornio, Finland, lacked a clear digital marketing strategy. A business administration student at the Lapland University of Applied Sciences worked with the tourism center to develop an audience persona as part of a new digital marketing plan.

Buyer persona: Maria Suomalainen

  • Born in Germany but lives in Tornio
  • Aged 25 to 34 years with two children
  • Travels with her family
  • Has a bachelor’s degree
  • Uses the tourism centre’s website to look for events, restaurants, places to visit, and shops
  • Is frustrated by the tourist centre’s boring social media, lack of visual content, and lack of interaction with visitors
  • Uses Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Pinterest
  • Prefers video, photo, and text posts, along with Instagram Stories

The Tourist Centre is now using more visual content, shares loads of events, and has social share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest on its website.

Glad Påsk! 🐣 Iloista Pääsiäistä! 🐣 Happy Easter!Foto/Kuva/Photo: Eva-Lena Björkman

Posted by HaparandaTornio on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

One challenge with this buyer persona: No person is aged 25 to 34 years. While that age range may describe the tourist centre’s target audience, the buyer persona should have a specific age.

Think about your buyer personas every time you make a decision about your social media content and overall marketing strategy. Do right by these personas and you’ll build a bond with the real customers they represent—boosting sales and brand loyalty.

Save time on social media with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can manage all your accounts, engage the audience, measure results, and more. Try it free today.

Get Started