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Posts Tagged ‘social media marketing’

To blog is human

to blog is human

Sometimes you have to unlearn the writing rules to find a more human blogging voice.

It’s been over a year since I wrote my first blog post and I’m just starting to get to the humanity of it.

I started with the goal of blogging as an extension of my job search. Creating a narrative that shows my marketing chops. That shoots steroids into my resume. That builds my online presence and personal brand. You know, all that marketing jazz.

Turns out, to get good at blogging I had to unlearn some of that marketing jazz.

A blog seemed the ideal platform for me. Much of my career has been devoted to direct marketing copywriting, brand strategy and business publishing. I’ve been an editor for many business newsletters, so why not wade into the blogosphere?

I learned blogging is different.

I had to set aside some of the journalistic tendencies of detached reporting and put more of myself into posts. I had to let go of the “brand guideline” approach to controlling the message and polishing each message to a fine sheen.

Related: Before you write your next post, remember just one thing

The polished, technically well-crafted posts were still missing something essential: a human connection with the reader. They were missing a unique perspective, a personal story and emotional oomph. So I looked for ways to add that to new posts. In reading other blogs, I asked myself some questions:

How were exceptional bloggers accomplishing this?

Do they have unique skills apart from other writers?

How can I figure this out more quickly?

born to blogBorn to blog

The answers came in the mail when I received my copy of Born to Blog, the new book by two of my favorite bloggers Stanford Smith and Mark Schaefer. They have written the essential handbook for personal and business blogging.

It covers the basics of setting up a blog, content planning, attracting readers and monetization. Most exciting for me are the sections that help you focus on your purpose and find your unique voice.

Related: What every blogger can learn from Frank Sinatra

One of the things I love about the book is its examples of blogging success by everyday people who share their personal stories. The stories range from battling weight loss, surviving cancer, reaching fitness goals and sharing their hobbies. They touch readers on a human level, and in the process build a community of followers.

These stories lead into a practical examination of successful blogging traits and essential skills that everyone has and can develop. At least half of the book goes deep into the “inner game” of blogging with action steps to develop the tenacity, focus, flexibility, consistency and courage to succeed.

The authors help you understand the reason why before the how to of blogging. Their stated purpose of the book is to explore “how blogging is changing people and businesses from the inside out.”

It doesn’t stop there.

Discovering your blogging skills

Another insightful section of the book identifies the core skills shared by successful bloggers. It is exciting because they are not unique talents, but skills everybody has to some degree. Through their research the authors discovered:

Blogging isn’t an elite marketing strategy. It’s a natural form of communication with skills preprogrammed into us all. You practice these skills every day. You just need to know how to summon them and put them to work.

What are those fundamental skills? In a nutshell:

  • Dreaming – Do you dream of making a difference?
  • Storytelling – Can you tell a story?
  • Persuading – Do you have passions and opinions?
  • Teaching – Can you answer readers’ questions?
  • Curating – Can you critique or categorize a subject?

If you can answer yes, you can blog. The good news is there are ways to summon these skills and the book shows you how. Chapter nine provides a simple evaluation tool to help you identify your strengths so you can focus on your dominant blogging skills.

Born to Blog is a perfect example of the maxim “good things come in small packages.” In 165 pages it gets to the guts and glory of blogging. Whether you are a blogger or part of a social media marketing team, it will help you connect with your audience on a human level. I wish I’d had it when I started a year ago.

[Disclosure: I have met Mark and guest-posted on his blog.]

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The paradox of scarcity on the social Web

social networking-scarcity

When is scarcity the wrong persuasion tactic for social networking?

Maybe it’s more a paradigm shift than a paradox, but scarcity as a persuasion technique seems to have lost some of its luster in our social networking age.

At least where exclusivity in wielding social influence is concerned.

This observation began with something I experienced on Twitter the other day.

I was checking out new followers to decide if I should follow back. I was pleased to see one of them is a former associate who I haven’t heard from in a long time. What a great opportunity to reconnect!

That opportunity was thwarted when I tried to follow back. I was notified that the account is locked, the tweets are protected, and my follow is pending approval. I’ll take a pass.

It seems to me this approach is anti-social. It runs counter to the fundamental idea behind social networking. The message it sends is “I don’t trust you and what I have to share is so awesome, you have to qualify to see it.”

That might work for selling luxury items, but it doesn’t make sense on social networks.

What does work on social media is accessibility, sharing, connecting and responding. Trust and generosity are the underlying values enabling that.

RELATED: Going the extra mile activates the butterfly effect

The paradox of scarcity is that its power lies in limiting those things in order to create desire for them.

I have an ongoing story arc in my own home that illustrates this paradox.

A tale of two kitties and social influence

social networking - cats

Bela & Uma, social influence coaches

I have two feline housemates that allow me to share living space with them. If you are a cat owner, you know what I mean.

One is a Russian Blue named Bela. A characteristic of that breed is they are very shy, untrusting and only bond with one human. I didn’t learn this until I brought him home.

I’ve had him more than 10 years and most of my friends and family have never seen him. At the first sign of a stranger he hides in the basement. My mom refers to him as my imaginary cat, since she’s come to doubt his existence.

Because of his limited access, he has succeeded in generating curiosity and desire to see him and experience his presence. He is anti-social, but esteemed from a distance.

My other cat is a Siamese named Uma. A characteristic of that breed is they are very talkative and social. She makes her presence known in every situation, constantly underfoot, demanding attention and engaging in every conversation despite the language barrier.

Because she has greater trust, she is accessible to everybody. She connects with a wide variety of people in far greater numbers than Bela.

Social success belongs to connectors

Connectors are critical to spreading word-of-mouth epidemics on social networks. Malcolm Gladwell describes them as:

  • Gregarious and intensely social with a knack for making friends
  • Knowing a lot of people
  • Knowing a variety of people from different worlds and subcultures

Bela, with his limited access, will never have the social influence or reach Uma does.

Another example of this is Amanda Palmer, performance artist, musician and social media innovator. In a recent TED Talk she told her story of building a tribe through connection and extraordinary trust. It’s a great message. What do you think?

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Make your digital profile stand out with a personal video

November 20, 2012 7 comments
video for personal branding

Creating a video resume gives you a dynamic way to make your personal brand stand out and to leverage word-of-mouth across social networks.

Have you considered creating a video introduction  for your personal brand? It could be a difference-maker in your career advancement or job search.

Anyone who has had the experience of seeking a job in the past four years already knows it is tough terrain.

Aside from the difficult economic times, the job search game has changed dramatically. Applications are only accepted online, where they are deposited into a database of potentially thousands of candidates.

Another reality of the modern job search is most jobs – as many as 80 percent – are never posted. Advertising open positions on websites and job boards is the last resort for recruiters looking to fill a position. Their preference is to search candidates from within their network before looking outside it. In this environment, getting on the radar of recruiters and hiring managers requires a new approach.

We are all marketers now

The cold-blooded irony of today’s job market is that the most-prized candidates aren’t actively searching for a new job. They are pursued. Job seekers need to become the pursued. They need to think like a marketer, specifically like an inbound marketer in the digital world.

The inbound marketer focuses on creating content that is found and valued by desired customers. For job seekers, I would break it down to two imperatives: be found and be awesome. Develop a personal brand identity that distinguishes you from the masses and build a digital footprint that demonstrates your value. Here is how I have built my digital footprint:

My blog is the content hub for sharing information and showing my expertise and thinking about marketing strategy.

My weekly e-news digest extends my digital publishing profile and demonstrates knowledge of business technology trends affecting the marketing industry.

My personal website is where I have dedicated pages focused on accomplishments that reinforce my personal brand identity.

My LinkedIn profile is search optimized to be found by recruiters for the skills I want to be known for. It is also the primary platform I have for sharing content and engaging with my network of influencers.

My Twitter account is exclusively used for engaging with professionals in my industry. I approach tweeting as a publishing platform, with consistent topics balanced with regular engagement. Anyone looking at my Twitter stream will get a good idea how I use social media as a marketing channel.

My Facebook profile is primarily for personal use. But it is open for the public to see and many of my friends are past colleagues. I consider it a part of my professional digital footprint.

Most recently I have added YouTube video to my footprint. Here is my video resume.

What video can do for your personal brand

Inbound marketers know the power video and images have to persuade and engage users. Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. When you are found by a recruiter, a video can break through the clutter and quickly convey your personal brand message. Here are the primary objectives for my video.

BRINGING THE BRAND TO LIFE

It tells my story in a unique, engaging way. In it, I can include aspects of my life experiences and work history that a hiring manager cannot discern from a resume. The use of images humanizes the storyline of my career path and reinforces the unique traits I have that comprise my personal brand:

  • Learning. My lifelong passion for continuous learning, inside and outside my profession
  • Creating. My creativity in developing strategy and producing marketing communications
  • Leading. My history of effective teamwork and serving as a leader
  • Achieving. My record of accomplishing objectives and striving for improvement

ENGAGEMENT

According to flip.net, videos have a 400 percent higher engagement than static content. My objective is to get attention, build interest and push recruiters deeper into my digital footprint to learn more. The call-to-action is to discover the details of my accomplishments and contact me to talk further.

BEING FOUND

Uploading video to YouTube with the proper tags and keywords increases the likelihood of being found on search engines. According to MarketingWeek, video results appear in 70 percent of the top 100 search listings. YouTube is the second-most used search engine after Google.

WORD-OF-MOUTH

A video gives me one more way to spread the word through social sharing. Besides embedding it in my LinkedIn profile, the video can be shared via this blog post, on Facebook, Google+ and other social networks like Twitter. YouTube reports that 700 videos are shared on Twitter every minute. With some luck, mine – and yours – will be one of them!

Technology has enabled video creation to be within reach of anybody with a laptop, smartphone or digital camera. Content marketers and brand managers leverage its power to engage, enchant and influence customers online. Job seekers can do the same.

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Why is consistency hard?

November 14, 2012 6 comments
consistency and context marketing

Old Town Cozumel

For marketers, consistency has been a simple rule to follow for communicating across channels and optimizing customer experience.

However, it’s not always easy to achieve consistency. Let me illustrate with a story.

One of my favorite vacation spots is Mexico. Years ago I discovered Cozumel, and became infatuated by its charm. It offers all the things I enjoy in a getaway: tropical weather, beautiful beaches, authentic food and interesting tourist attractions like Mayan ruins.

Wandering around the port district is an escape into old town Mexico, where roving Mariachi bands and bazaar merchants are framed by colorful, historic architecture. It is an atmosphere that takes you into a different world.

One year I planned a return trip, but all the hotels were booked solid. The alternative was to go to Cancun instead. It was nice, but not the same experience I had in Cozumel. In particular, the shops did not have the same native charm. In fact, they weren’t shops at all. They were strip malls with all the slick stores and merchandise you’d find in any city in the U.S.

The contrast was striking. It set my marketing brain to reeling. Logically it makes sense for retail chains to create a consistent shopping experience for customers wherever in the world they may be. But the context didn’t fit my expectations. This consistency seemed, well, inconsistent. Does consistency matter as much as we have assumed?

The case for marketing consistency

Consistency is a key ingredient for social influence, brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and integrated marketing communications success. Consistent actions and messages deliver many positive benefits.

Consistency builds trust and integrity. In Return on Influence, Mark Schaefer’s book on influence marketing, he notes “a high degree of consistency is normally associated with intellectual strength, logic, rationality and honesty.”

Consistency establishes authority. This year Altimeter Group published a report on digital influence identifying topical relevance as a pillar of influence. When an individual or brand invests in a topic of interest, they earn authority and expertise from a community of focus.

Consistency builds confidence. Successful relationships thrive on predictable actions and messages. When others know what to expect of you, they are comfortable in knowing you will deliver on promises.

Consistency strengthens your message. “People cannot focus on two conversations at once,” says Harry Beckwith in Selling the Invisible. A focused message repeated over time has power to influence and persuade.

Consistency sells. “Would you like fries with that?” There is a reason fast food cashiers are trained to ask you that. Joseph Sugarman, author of Triggers, says once a purchase commitment is made, a buyer tends to act consistently with the decision and is more agreeable to buy more.

consistency and context marketing cancun shopping mall

Cancun shopping mall

Challenges to consistent messaging

The “always-on” nature of new media puts demands on business communications that make it difficult to maintain marketing consistency. In an environment of rapid change, it can even render consistency moot. Consider:

Information overload. With the sheer volume of information on the Web, social media messages can evaporate soon after they are published. One recent study found the median lifespan of a tweet to be 18 minutes. You have to question the real impact of consistent messaging in that environment.

Real-time communications. Being able to respond to events as they unfold on social media is a powerful marketing opportunity. In the heat of real-time marketing it is also an opportunity to veer off-message and off-brand.

The attention economy. Because of information overload, we are increasingly challenged to find ways to make ideas stick. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath note one characteristic of a sticky idea is that it is unexpected. One way to get someone’s attention is to break a pattern. They explain, “Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Consistent sensory stimulation makes us tune out.”

Putting it in context

Are we witnessing the end of consistency as a marketing maxim?  I don’t think so. It’s more of an evolution pushing content marketing toward a higher degree of context. It’s a call to a deeper understanding of customer and prospect personas to reach them where and how they are consuming our message. And of course, this has a shiny new name: context marketing. One of the better explanations I’ve seen describes it as using known qualities of prospects to present content in a frame of reference that is natural or noteworthy.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Has marketing consistency become irrelevant?

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Measuring Klout: Love it or hate it, influence marketing is here

November 6, 2012 6 comments
Influence marketing is here

Social scoring has touched a nerve with some consumers, but it is a revolutionary business opportunity for marketers to reach influencers.

The Klout phenomenon escaped me for a while. It seemed to divide people into two camps: those who object to the principle of saddling individuals with a rating score; and those who obsess over gaming social media activity to elevate their score and lead them to glory. Much of the dialog felt like the jocks versus the nerds during homecoming week.

Now I realize both sides are missing the big picture. I finally got it when I read Mark Schaefer’s book Return on Influence. It was an eye-opener, which I can only describe in two words. Awe. Some. I knew I was in for an interesting read when I came across this passage in the introduction:

We are at the dawn of the creation of a new social media caste system determined by how and when you tweet, connect, share and comment. The haves may score better jobs, higher social status, even better luck on the dating scene. The rules of personal power in our world have been changed forever. And there’s no turning back.

The new rules of online influence

The book lays a solid foundation for understanding online influence from its historical applications in marketing, to its basic elements, its role in content marketing, scoring processes, and current and future applications. It covers a lot of ground and is a compelling read for today’s online marketer.

In the first section he talks about the evolution of earned authority on the Internet. The glut of information available to users renders choice irrelevant. So we have a natural inclination to seek out authorities as a filter. Authorities earn trust by an online presence characterized by consistency, commitment and affinity.

Scarcity also plays a role for online influencers. While content is free, the real commodity is time, attention and reach. Influencers serve as brokers or gatekeepers to move content. The real power on the social Web is in reciprocity, the subtle indebtedness of exchanging favors for the distribution of ideas and content. These new rules are a dramatic change from traditional marketing. And they are being incorporated by marketers in new ways.

Influence marketing in practice

In another section, Schaefer outlines several case studies of companies using social scoring as a driver of marketing strategy. It is a powerful testimony of the potential for leveraging influencers to create buzz that achieves business objectives.

APPLYING SOCIAL PROOF TO TRADITIONAL MARKETING

An online merchant that matches buyers with trustworthy sellers added Klout scores to seller listings and saw likelihood of sales increase by 500 percent. Social proof gave juice to the purchase decision. The scores gave buyers added comfort in purchasing when they could see how long sellers have been online and how active they were.

ENGAGING INFLUENTIAL FANS

Auto manufacturer Audi used Klout to engage technology influencers outside of traditional trade press to nurture brand advocates on the social Web. They also used Klout scores to interact with millions of Facebook fans, employing targeted content. It enabled a more meaningful engagement. The outreach resulted in the buzz and reach they were seeking over and above traditional marketing.

Return on Influence coverINTEGRATED INCENTIVE PROGRAMS

A consumer packaged goods marketer devised a conquest strategy by combining social listening and Klout data to identify unhappy competitor customers and targeting them with coupon promotions. It is part of an overall strategy to move from expensive coupon blasts inserted in newspapers to more organic advocacy and pass-along activity online.

MANAGING ONLINE SENTIMENT

One company CEO interviewed is integrating influence scores into customer service to craft rapid responses to customers with the most potential for spreading negative word-of-mouth online.

PUBLIC RELATIONS AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT

A corporate director shared how he used social scoring to manage a potential PR disaster that could have affected company stock prices. A blogger posted that a key client might be going bankrupt, an assertion based on faulty data. After reviewing the influence scores of tweeters sharing the information, he concluded the misinformation was unlikely to spread enough to have an impact. The data gave the management team confidence to watch and wait. The meme quickly died.

These are a few brief examples of how businesses are currently using social scoring outlined in Schaefer’s  book. Beyond the applications of early adopters, he concludes with a look to the not-to-distant future.

The future of social scoring

In researching the book, Schaefer interviewed 70 prominent thought leaders on social scoring and influence. Here are some of the developments they foresee for influence marketing.

1. The social scoring trend will help people reclaim their data and the value of that data.

2. Scoring algorithms will advance to measuring the dollar value of probable referral sales from the individual.

3. Technology will enable the understanding of network structures and influence of interactions in the network. Scores will be more about subjects of influence and the impact on the network.

4. Social scores will integrate into other key business metrics such as customer loyalty, satisfaction, retention, attrition, CRM.

5. Marketers will look to combine influence scores with location-based data.

6. Technology will seek to connect online conversations with offline behaviors.

7. Social scores will evolve into a form of social currency, where services are customized to individual levels of influence.

In this video, Mark Schaefer talks about the ideas behind influence and social media marketing discussed in his book.

‘We are numbers now’

It should come as no surprise we have arrived at a time when we can put a score to our individual influence. Google and Facebook keep track of massive amounts of data about our activities, habits and preferences. We are scored for our creditworthiness. Database marketers score us for propensity to buy. The natural progression leads to scoring our influence on social media. It has gone mainstream and has led us to new opportunities.

For those who struggle with the humanity of being rated for social influence, Schaefer offers this concluding thought: “Yes, we are numbers now. Unavoidably, we will be known for our Klout scores and followers and badges of social proof. But the smartest marketers will always remember that we are people too.”

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Is enchantment the new influence?

October 16, 2012 7 comments

Guy Kawasaki showed how to take influence to enchanting levels at the MIMA summit in Minneapolis.

Guy Kawasaki has a new calling.

The former chief evangelist for Apple is preaching the virtues of enchantment to bring personal and online influence in the digital age. On October 10, he delivered the luncheon keynote to the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) summit meeting in Minneapolis. Attendees were treated to highlights from his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds & Actions.

What is enchantment?

When Kawasaki talks of enchantment, he means more than customer service. It is more than traditional persuasion, influence or marketing techniques. It holds a deeper power to motivate voluntary, enduring change in others, interpersonally or on social media.

He has taken Dale Carnegie-inspired principles for building relationships and influence, and updated them for today’s culture. “If you want to change the world,” he said. “You need to convince people to dream the same dream you do.” Tapping into peoples’ passion to get behind a cause – social, personal or brand – is a key to creating enchantment. It is built on three pillars:

ACHIEVE LIKEABILITY

Likeability is a much-discussed concept for both personal and social media success. Kawasaki laid out fundamentals of likeability starting with the importance of a genuine smile for making a favorable impression. A genuine smile shows by the crease in the eyes. “Ladies remember,” he said. “If you have crow’s feet, you are enchanting.” Likewise, online marketers can also put on a social media smile by establishing a likeable tone in content for the Web.

Other likeability factors he emphasized are to create an environment of acceptance and to default to “yes” in dialog with others. Having an attitude of helping the other builds goodwill and trust.

I'm enchanting. Resistance is futileACHIEVE TRUSTWORTHINESS

Building trust begins with trusting others first. Kawasaki gave examples of Amazon, Zappos and Nordstrom as companies who have earned the trust of customers by their trusting business policies.

A second element of trust is to apply a philosophy he described as “bake, don’t eat.” Don’t approach your business situation as a zero-sum game, rather be generous in creating value for customers up front.

The last point he made for building trust is to find something to agree on when you meet resistance. Starting on a point of agreement, you begin a dialog that builds rapport and receptivity to your cause.

HAVE A GREAT CAUSE

People will be inspired by a product, service or cause when you give them a reason why. It goes beyond the financial benefits of engaging to an emotional connection to something that matters. Kawasaki said the key to achieving this is to do something DICEE:

  • Deep
  • Intelligent
  • Complete
  • Empowering
  • Elegant

Launching an enchantment campaign

With those pillars in place, he outlined how to launch an enchantment campaign around your business cause. He covered these high-level points:

1. Tell a story using salient words that involve customers; sell your dream

2. Overcome resistance with social proof and reach out to all influencers, not only end-users

3. Invoke reciprocation by making it easy for others to pay back

4. Use technology to touch people; remove the speed bumps to engaging

5. Provide value in the form of information, insights and assistance

6. Follow 3Fs of engagement: Fast, Frequent, Flat (person-to-person)

7. Enchant up the leadership chain by prototyping fast and delivering bad news early

8. Enchant down the ranks by empowering staff and providing vision

With social media, marketers today have a phenomenal way to engage, influence and enchant customers and prospects. A final takeaway from Kawasaki’s presentation is the principle of endurance. An enchantment campaign must be viewed as a process, not an event.

Building a relationship takes time and effort, but the rewards can endure. He used the example of The Grateful Dead allowing fans to video record performances, thus allowing the concert experience to live on beyond the event. Guy Kawasaki’s call for enchantment takes influence to a new level of brand loyalty.

Below are the slides from Guy Kawasaki’s presentation to MIMA.

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On social media, some people deserve to be ignored

Web users on social media are looking for content that solves a problem or answers a question, not content that talks about you.

Web and social media users are looking for content that solves a problem or answers a question, not content that talks about you.

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.

Faber College T-shirt: knowledge is goodThe curse of knowledge

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.”

Creating personas

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
  • Motivations
  • 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:

  1. What are their goals and aspirations?
  2. What are their problems?
  3. What media do they use to find answers?
  4. What words and phrases do they use to describe their business?
  5. What are their daily activities around business challenges?
  6. 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.

lifestyle dimensions for buyer personas

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:

  1. Aiding keyword research
  2. Content planning for websites, social media and company blog topics
  3. Focused messaging of news and press releases, video and podcasts
  4. Email marketing and e-newsletter publishing
  5. Lead management: generating and nurturing leads for the marketing funnel
  6. Customer service content
  7. Targeting paid search advertising
  8. 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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