Using Audience Personas from the Inside Out

By Lippe Taylor / Posted on 20 January 2011

I am so excited about today’s blog post – ’cause it’s written by someone brilliant!

I met Nate Riggs at an AMA convention last fall and instantly could feel his intelligence and presence in the industry. He’s a consumer marketer who has a particular focus on social media,but it’s not just social media for social media’s sake … he applies the fundamentals of good marketing to his work. Like really understanding his consumers. He’s a fellow runner and a fellow marketer, so we naturally became fast “friends.”

I asked if he’d write a guest post for my blog and he graciously said yes. So here he talks about building personas, and using them as bridges to brand loyalty.

The fun part is that Nate is also simultaneously hosting one of my guest posts on his blog today too, which you can read afterwards at nateriggs.com. How fun is that?!

May I present the wonderful Nate Riggs, better known as @nateriggs.

Nate, what’s your experience? Jim.

Using Audience Personas from the Inside Out

I’m kind of obsessed with browsing around the Zappos site. In my opinion, it’s one of the best online shopping experiences in the game.

So yesterday, I figured that after stepping in a puddle and winding up with cold wet toes, my running shoes were pretty much kaput. It’s time to buy a new pair.

Except there are dozens upon dozens of shoes to choose from, and buying any type of apparel online is tough. You can’t feel it. You certainly can’t try it on, and even though I know that Zappos has a killer return policy, I want to make a good choice on the first round.

Enter Andrew, one of Zappos’s buyers who kindly demos and explains the technical parts of the shoe to me while displaying the product in a neat little video hosted on the site.

I get why they chose Andrew to deliver the spiel. He seems to know his stuff. In reality, I have no idea who Andrew is, but he’s about my age and his build and demeanor give me the impression that he’s most likely a runner, just like me.

Watching Andrew’s video demo a few times, I get strange this feeling like I can trust this dude. As runners go, he’s one us.

Being One of Us

Last year, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith released Trust Agents. The book that would end up topping the charts as a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller in about a week.

The authors outline a framework of 6 principals that humans can apply when using the Interwebz to build trust among their fellow humans, some of whom might one day buy there stuff.

For me, one of those principles has stuck in my mind as most relevant and applicable to the next generation of brand marketing: “One of Us”.

The concept here is simple. We humans tend to trust other humans who are similar to us in terms of belief structures, cultural interests, and behaviors. If we can identify with another human in the sense of “Hey, he (or she) is just like me…”, we feel safe. We trust based on the emotions that the feeling of “One of Us” evokes in our psyche.

What One Earth Does This Have to Do With Personas?

Everything.

For years, marketers and brand strategists have found value in personifying the audience. It helps us establish a feeling of connectedness and understanding of the audience we are trying to reach.

The result? We become better equipped to craft relevant and timely brand messages that evoke an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer.

Change is Happening (Right NOW)

You already know that some aspects of marketing have changed.

Supported by social media and the popularity of user-generated content, a fair majority of brand marketing now resides in the interpretation and re-distribution of content by the audience.

While exciting, that change can also be a scary one for brands to wrap their head around.

So what do we do? How to we make it less scary to engage with audiences on the social web?

Reverse Engineer Your Personas

As more and more brands begin to think in terms of conversational marketing and command centers as a part of their marketing mix, the opportunity arises to use audience persona data to identify individuals inside your own company who can act as agents, utilizing social networks and media to connect with specific audience segments.

Think about it. Who better to represent your brand across social media that a genuinely influential member of the exact audience segments you are trying to reach?

At its root, the idea is simple. However, the process to get there can be a bit more complicated.

Here’s 5 things to consider when identifying the agents who will be “One of Us” with your audience.

1. Find those who match – work to identify folks in your company or your clients company that match the traits, attributes and behaviors of your target audience personas.

2. Develop your agents’ communication skills – train the selected individuals to be proficient in not delivering your message to the audience, but also in using technology to communicate the content.

3. Be a coach – be ready to offer guidance as to the objectives of the business as related to reaching your goals.

4. Assess regularly – find ways to continuously measure how your agents are communicating the messages and creating response among your target audience.

5. Boost their presence online – Help them develop their human brand and increase their level of influence among the target audience.

What else would you add? What are the things you believe to be important when you send an agent into the social web to become “One of Us” with your audience?

- Nate Riggs, Social Business Strategist at nateriggs.com