On social media, some people deserve to be ignored
The marketplace has spoken: some people deserve to be ignored on the social Web.
I’m referring to the recent introduction of two new apps designed for the sole purpose of blocking or punishing social media users who annoy their friends and followers.
Twitter Doghouse allows you to give certain Twitter users a time-out for various social infractions. If they tweet too frequently, are overly self-promotional or otherwise annoying, you can notify them they are blocked from your Twitter stream for a defined period of time until they clean up their act.
Another app called Unbaby.me allows Facebook users to swap out baby pictures of over-sharing new parents with a default picture on their wall. Some might opt to replace Junior’s mug with a cat, motorcycle or other image of their choosing.
These may sound like extreme reactions, but content marketers should take notice. Self indulgence is not appreciated or rewarded on social media. At best, it is ignored. Why do so many marketers miss this?
I saw an interview of Brian Clark of CopyBlogger, which offers one answer. He said he was glad to have come into online marketing without formal marketing experience. His reason is that he didn’t have to unlearn the principles that no longer work for the internet. He was referring to the interruptive communication approach of traditional media, which fails to interact or engage person-to-person.
Most marketers today – like me – learned their trade prior to the emergence of the internet. The focus then was not to interact with customers. Rather, it was on promoting their products, brands and companies. Customers were “targeted,” “acquired,” “managed,” and controlled. It is an outbound-oriented, we-to-you communication mode no longer suitable for social business. Online customers ignore these messages. If marketers don’t unlearn the old rules, they deserve to be ignored.
It is not easy to unlearn what you already know. In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this the curse of knowledge. The curse lies in the difficulty of imagining what it is like to NOT know what you’ve learned. This makes it difficult to share information because you can’t readily re-create the audience state-of-mind. When you consider how critical that is to your search engine and content marketing success, change is imperative.
Breaking the curse: customer personas
It is not news that marketers need to adapt to new rules of online marketing. David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing and PR is now in its third edition. Yet, we still struggle with using broadcast techniques in new media channels, creating low-value, self-promoting content and with establishing meaningful engagement with customers. In this situation, there is an empathy gap. One way to close the gap – to re-create an audience state-of-mind – is to create customer personas that inform SEO and content strategies.
In The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute, defines them this way, “A buyer persona is a short biography of the typical customer, not just a job description but a person description. The buyer persona profile gives you a chance to truly empathize with target buyers, to step out of your role as someone who wants to promote a product and see, through your buyers’ eyes the circumstances that drive their decision process.”
It’s likely you already have a lot of customer data from which you can use to build persona profiles of your most desirable customers. You can start with demographics and job characteristics such as:
- Title and time in position
- Nature of their work and responsibilities
- Decision-making role
- Job satisfaction, concerns and interests related to your brand
- Media and channel preferences
In his New Rules book, David Meerman Scott outlines a series of questions to answer about customers that help flesh out a buyer persona profile:
- What are their goals and aspirations?
- What are their problems?
- What media do they use to find answers?
- What words and phrases do they use to describe their business?
- What are their daily activities around business challenges?
- What are the current solutions they use?
Another dimension to profiling buyer personas can be found in psychographic analysis, which goes deeper into customer personalities, values, attitudes and mindsets. Marty Weintraub of aimClear has been doing fascinating work using psychographic targeting in social media, which he covers in depth in his blog. Some of the lifestyle dimensions you may want to add to your customer persona profile are listed in the diagram below.
As you compile the data you will see trends emerge that enable you to group customers into logical segments, such as by business function or media preferences. By now you will have enough information to create a narrative biography of 5-7 typical customers. Some organizations add a photo and name to the profiles to make the personas more real and personal.
Sources for capturing persona data
Gathering information for your customer profiles is not as difficult as it may seem. There are several sources you can tap:
- Surveys and interviews of customers, prospects and frontline employees
- Website and social media analytics
- Conversion data
- Keyword research
- Demographics firms
- Blog and social media engagement metrics
- Social listening and monitoring
Putting personas to use
Originally personas were developed for software and web user interface design. For the marketer there are many other strategic benefits, such as:
- Aiding keyword research
- Content planning for websites, social media and company blog topics
- Focused messaging of news and press releases, video and podcasts
- Email marketing and e-newsletter publishing
- Lead management: generating and nurturing leads for the marketing funnel
- Customer service content
- Targeting paid search advertising
- Conversion rate optimization, landing pages and calls-to-action
Developing buyer personas is no longer the academic exercise once dismissed by some. It is a key success factor in creating content that won’t be ignored on the Web.
Tell me what you think. What data are you using for identifying customer personas? Are you using them in other strategic ways?
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