FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: Use search and social data to create effective audience personas

This week we talk about using search data to understand your audience and to create personas for content creation.

Erin O’Brien, President & COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Marketing & PR Manager GinzaMetrics


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Karen: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our YouTube video and podcast that covers topics and trends in content marketing and SEO. I’m Karen.


Erin: And I’m Erin.


Karen: This week we’re going to do the first in a two-part series where we’re talking about creating content, audience personas based on search and social data. There was just too much for us to cover in one episode so we decided to go ahead and go deep and talk about this in two parts.


First, let’s separate personalized content which is really trending right now from persona-based content and why it might make sense to create targeted content that is interesting to a cohort group instead of a single person.


Erin: I’ll start out by saying that it actually makes sense to try to do both. What we’re looking for is the best possible content that you can create so what what’s most likely to create a conversion event and a positive interaction with someone. If you have the ability to really understand this information at the unique individual level and personalized content at that specific level, obviously that can be really valuable. For many that’s not really always possible. It may not even be really necessary. So I talk about what persona-based content is and what that can look like.


I think that sometimes we’re not always all talking about the same thing when we talk about personas. The personas used to develop used to be like a general cross-section of people who have been brought to your product or service, look for some similarities and group them based on common characteristics. So this might be something like women aged 25-45 who have had kids or something like that. It was kind of a broad cross-section.


In concept that’s the case, but now we could actually get a lot more narrow and specific in terms of what can actually be comprised with these groups. We can track user activity engagement across a ton of different touch points, both online, both on our site, offsite, as well as with some offline content tracking too. We can get beyond that mind of surface data to stuff like narrow or age ranges, women who prefer to shop at organic grocery stores, spend X number of hours on specific types on social media, specifically these types of social media who are mostly likely engaged with these types of influencers and people. You can actually start to slice and dice data a lot better when what you’re looking at is a lot more data points, and abilities to not just group people based on traditional things like age or gender but more at the behavioral level is really what we’re starting to talk about.


Karen: I wanted to go back to talking about doing both persona-based and personalized marketing. It depends on your goal. But for an audience that’s going to share your data, you might want to look at those broader persona-based categories instead of so personalized because if something is so personalized, people aren’t necessarily going to share it.


When we’re talking about what to include, let’s also talk about what not to include when we’re creating those persona groups. I think especially B2B marketing, I’m not sure we need to know what sports they like, or what flavor of ice cream they’re eating. What do we need to know and how much do we need to know about what they’re day is like, what they care about, and how can we focus those questions to get to the information that will help us create useful personas for content marketing?


Erin: The goal is to segment in both the broad and narrow ways so that you can create cross-sections within each of these. Maybe you’ve got some broad categories and then some [4:09 inaudible] in between those. Maybe you’ve got some broad categories and you’ve got some narrow runs that layer across those.


You can create narrow segments looking at combinations of a lot of things including stuff like channels used, messages responded to, purchasing habits, tendency toward a specific type of channel, gravitation toward particular styles or tones. One of the things that is interesting with B2B is we’re talking about B2B and not caring about sports they play or ice cream flavors or whatever. But I do believe that there is some level of personal information that can help you resonate better with your audience.


Some of this goes to the differentiation with branding where a lot of things just start to look the same after a while. You get the same e-mail message from all B2B providers especially those of a particular type. If you look at us in enterprise software game, a lot of everybody’s software material all starts to look and sound really similar and you can’t really tell the difference. That’s where differentiation comes in. I think it’s a thing that the more B2C space has always recognized as being important and B2B is starting to get there.


The really funny thing that I saw the other day is there’s an agency out in New York and they have a really fun website. They’ve got this interesting way of going about expressing themselves but then they’ve also got something in the top called shop. I was like, “This is interesting because it’s an agency. What could this possibly be?” The first couple of things are normal agencies swags – swag things you can buy the shirts that they wear. But then as it goes down, it’s really bizarre stuff like hyperbaric chambers and armadillo, whatever, and it has weird pricing for all these crazy things that you’re like, “Why would they sell this?”


But it’s unique and interesting in the fact that one of the things that they’re doing is they’re describing some stuff and selling you on some of these products which I think is kind of interesting. It also gives you a bit of a flavor as to what they’re about and what their sense of humor is and what it might be like to work with them a little bit. I think that sometimes while it doesn’t necessarily matter with regards to the sale what someone’s favorite ice cream flavor is or what sports they like, getting to know your audience a little bit better and letting them get to know you a lit bit better can help you create a more of a match that goes beyond just feature-level conversations.


Karen: I think that’s important that you want to be relevant to your audience. I just need to ask, did you buy an armadillo and what would happen if you did? Are they actually really selling these things?


Erin: I’m currently constructing its cage.


Karen: The most common types of personas are the buyer personas. We talked a little bit about negative personas. Let’s talk that a little bit more. Can you explain what negative personas are and how they’re used?


Erin: Yes. I think we touched on this a long time ago in another episode. Some people ask some questions: what did that mean? A negative persona – what we’re talking about is more than just the people who have made purchasing decisions in your range. But what we’re really talking about is the full range of people who had been exposed to your content. Not the whole population of the world, just the people who are somehow in the realm of where your content is going to be.


What you want to do is segment people who have never bought, considered but are unlikely targets, and then opportunity and then missed opportunity. People who have never bought or will never buy and then considered your product but are unlikely to ever do anything – these are really interesting to look at and we’ll get to that in a second. Opportunity and missed opportunity are people who have actually engaged with your brand, with your product, with your service or whatever, and are either still considering but haven’t done anything with it for a long time or people who have engaged, considered, tried, whatever, and still aren’t biting.


Typically what people do is they throw away this whole idea of the “never bought” group. But the problem is there’s actually really interesting information in there because somehow or another these people are somehow targeted or in the way of your content. Let’s say it’s us with enterprise SEO software. We got to be going somewhere to get to the fact that you’re looking at enterprise SEO software stuff because we’re not just in People Magazine. Wherever you are, why were you there and how are you not at all the right audience? Because that means maybe the places we’re targeting aren’t as relevant as we thought.


What I want to focus on a little bit more, because that’s a whole other story, is the opportunity and missed opportunity folks. Opportunities obviously are people who fit your persona but didn’t engage with you necessarily and missed opportunities fit your profiles or personas engaged and then didn’t actually continue to convert. These people are important to examine for similar qualities because you want to know why these people who have traits that match or seem to match your personas aren’t converting.


So you’re looking for differential traits and what you’re trying to do is gather up enough differential traits to say, “Hey, it actually turns out that we can really narrow down people who might buy and probably won’t by narrowing it on things that prevent these people who generally fit this section from not doing that.” You can better target to the remainder of the segment and you may figure out what it is that’s going on that’s a similarity from people who don’t purchase that you could change and actually persuade them back on track. It’s really important to consider these negative personas too and not only focus on the people who are working but be like, “We thought these people should work and then they didn’t, so what happened?”


Karen: I think that was important what you said. Not only are you going to figure out why they haven’t been a target but maybe what you need to do to bring them in. If they’re fitting those personas, supposedly they should be someone who’s likely to buy. Figuring both of those I think is important.


Creating audience personas that are meaningful to your brand means getting more specific than say, “Our audience is marketers.” Let’s talk about the kinds of things to include in audience personas.


Erin: I really look at persona creation as being similar to dating. If you’re a man and you’re looking for a woman, technically you’re going to start out with potentially the population of all females and then hopefully you narrow it down to the pool of available single women and then you’re likely targeting an age range close to yours and hopefully legal. Then you’re probably also generally looking for people within your geographic areas and so it’s kind of harder to start a relationship and maintain one thousands of miles away, and you need to be able to create regular touch points. This is similar to working with personas, the way that you develop information and get to know more is you go on dates and you have these touch points.


Once you have this population of potential targets, now that somebody is technically available to you and within your general realm of availability, now we’re getting down to real feature sets. We’re talking about interests, appeal, values and things like that. When we’re talking about creating content, I’m talking about how you plan a date. If you’re taking out a woman who’s really into music, you might want to take her to a concert or a bar that plays live music. Maybe bring her a bouquet of drumsticks. Similarly, if you’re dating somebody who is a vegetarian, you probably want to avoid steakhouses and hotdog stands. These are things that are considered common courtesy and that you’re listening and care about the person who’s your audience that you’re trying to convert with.


The same thing goes for appearing in someone’s inbox and their search results or social media feed are alongside their content on their webpage is not having considered what their likes and dislikes may be or how they would want to have a structured conversation with you or how they want to be approached. Everybody says that the Golden Rule is to treat other people how you want to be treated but the real Golden Rule is to treat people how they want to be treated. When you’re talking about communicating with someone, you need to communicate with them if you would like for them to communicate well back the same way that they would want that conversation to go.

Karen: That’s good. That’s interesting. It’s interesting to think about matching someone’s persona type with maybe their intent, what they would do next. Can you explain what you would mean by doing that, by intent?


Erin: Going back to this dating metaphor, if we’re talking about being on a first date and the other person’s expectation is a goodnight kiss and you propose marriage, you’re probably got a little bit of a disconnect and intentions aren’t really clear and may scare somebody off. This goes back to multiple touch points. You got to go on a lot of dates, got to build up some rapport, got to understand and build that knowledge about what this person is about and how they want to be approached. Then once everybody has considered hopefully rationally and logically, whether or not this is a good long-term fit, that’s when you can get more to that point.


We talk about how e-mail, social, paid, PR, content, offline all work together to create this positive experience that starts to feel relevant and starts to feel like a more trusting environment for the audience member and the brand, this is what traditional marketing would really talk about being the funnel approach. There are things considered top of the funnel or even out of the funnel which are purely awareness drivers where further down you’re really considering. Maybe you’re reading case studies and whitepapers, having more integrated sales calls and things like that.


Now with the proliferation of a lot of different types of content being everywhere, the user has a lot more ability to pick and choose their own journey in terms of picking and choosing what types of content are available to them, when and where. Now one of the things that we’re starting to see that I think we’re going to talk about a little bit next week is that traditional marketing persona development had a little bit more trouble because there’s all this fluctuations and differences of [15:36 inaudible] and some people will dive in and get a ton of really deep granular information all up front and sometimes people will stay really high surface level for years.


People will just lightly engage with your brand for years and just never really take another step no matter what you do. That’s difficult because marketing and advertising used to work very differently to that which was marketing and advertising really controlled the conversation. They would tell you what content you could have when and sales. All these things work together and that’s just blown up a little bit recently. So I’m looking for kind of digging into that again next week.


Karen: That’s interesting and also I think people are turning to creating content hubs to really define what type of content is where on their website and creating those journeys. We’re going to be having some conversations about that in the future, as well.


Next week we’re going to continue this conversation about personas and using some of your social and search data to actually help you create those personas. We’re going to talk a little bit about how your audience is not you and that you need to be sending out messages that your audience wants to hear and not what your product manager wants you to say.


Erin: That’s what I wanted to talk about.


Karen: Yeah, we’ll be talking about that next time. Since we’re going to be continuing this conversation, we’d love to get your feedback. If you can send questions and comments to me at and we’ll make sure we address those in our next episode. You can always join our conversation at #FOUNDFriday.


That’s it for today, Erin.


Erin: All right, until next time. See you then.


Karen: We’ll see you next time.


Erin: Bye.


Karen: Bye-bye.

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