How to Create Audience Personas

By Andrew Pressault


Image via Bethany Khan under CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s no secret: The better you know your audience, the better you will be at engaging with them. The better you are at engaging with them, the stronger the relationships you will build with them. And the stronger the relationship with them, the easier it will be to sell to them.

So it all starts with knowing your audience. How? You can’t get to know every customer or prospect. That’s the value of audience personas—archetypes of your customers that include basic details about them, their goals, and their pain points. It’s a valuable snapshot of your customers that you’ll refer to time and time again.

Building audience personas requires some research chops, a touch of intuition, and a bit of creativity. It will be worth it, though—what you learn may very well change many of the assumptions you have about your customers. Read on to learn how to create audience personas that will get you closer to your customers.

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.

Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.

Research your customer

Collect customer demographic information: basic info that includes gender, age, income level, employment, location, and education. There are a few ways to get this kind of data, depending on what resources you have access to. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer basic demographic data, so they’re a great place to start. A bigger budget, higher traffic, or big email list might allow you to create email surveys, online surveys, focus groups, and even conduct customer interviews. Remember, the more data you accumulate here, the more accurate your personas will be later. For more customer research tips and tools, download the free guide above.

Look for trends

You’ve done the research, now look at the data. What’s it telling you? For example, are you seeing a concentration of women in their early 30s? Men in their 40s? Perhaps they’re mostly situated in large cities—or even specific cities. Are you seeing similar (or even the same) job roles, too? What other commonalities are coming to light? Find as many trends or patterns in this data as possible and make note of them.

Mould the clay

Notice what’s happening? Those data points are beginning to resemble something that may kind-of, sort-of look like a real person. With enough good demographic data you should have anywhere from two to five persona profiles that fall into specific gender and age ranges. Organize them into primary, secondary, and tertiary profiles, going from most common characteristics to least.

Turn the data into people

Now you transform these commonalities into your audience personas. Give each of your personas names. Give them job titles. Give them alma maters. Give them marital statuses. Give them career histories. Give them a place to live. Provide each persona with the kind of identifying information you might glean from someone during a short conversation in line for coffee or at a bus stop.

Uncover goals

Whether they’re personal or professional, your audience has goals and aspirations. As such, so should your personas. So, what motivates them? What’s the end game? It could be home ownership. It might be warmer feet in the winter. Look at your product or service and identify which goals your product or service helps your personas achieve.

Know the pain points

Similar to uncovering your personas’ goals, you must also know each of their pain points. Maybe it’s a box that’s too heavy to lift. Or maybe it’s an unintuitive online banking experience. What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals that your product or service helps overcome?

Dig deeper

Most marketers stop there. Details are in check. Goals and pain points are uncovered. What else is there to know? A lot. Here are a few other questions you can ask to give your personas even more depth: Where do they get their hair cut? Cats or dogs? What kind of car do they drive? What kind of car do they want to drive? How many pairs of shoes do they own? Pizza or tacos? What sports do they play? What do they care about outside of work? iOS or Android? The list is endless.

These questions may seem arbitrary or even downright silly. In some cases they are. But so are human beings. The sum of these questions begins to reveal who your personas really are. It makes them relatable. It makes them real. And it makes them uniquely yours.

A good persona isn’t just list of details or traits that you’re trying to appeal to—it’s a picture that you’re painting of your customer—of who they are and who they want to be. It will affect and inform the way you think about and interact with your audience, helping you create a meaningful bond between them and your brand. It will help not only guide your social media content strategy, but your entire marketing strategy. It will be at the center of every single customer-facing decision you make. And it will play a huge role in driving your business forward.

Hootsuite Analytics can provide the data you need to create audience personas. Try it free today!

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