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3 methods for persona research for social media marketers

Persona research involves doing research in order to build a buyer persona. Persona research is an important part of a successful marketing strategy.

This is because building an archetypal customer or client helps you to define the audience you are targeting your products/services to. Personas serve as an inspiration for creating valuable content that not only resonates with your target customers, but also brings them closer to your brand, products or services.

Persona research also helps businesses to identify the best way to introduce new products/services to their online campaigns, in a way that attracts and delights the target customer. In a nutshell, persona research helps you to define your target audience, and also helps you to understand how to speak to and reach that audience.

But how do you actually conduct persona research? There are three main ways of creating personas:

  • Proto personas: These are not actually based on research and simply align the marketing team’s assumptions on the audience. Assumptions are inevitable – whether you are trying to advertise a service or product, or establish a brand online – on who your audience is or who you want your audience to be. Proto personas are not very accurate as they do not include research, but they are a good starting point for marketing teams that would not otherwise engage in any kind of persona research at all.
  • Qualitative personas: These are based on qualitative research of the audience, such as interviews, field studies and surveys. Qualitative research is the most popular method of persona research because it is the most cost-effective and does not require extensive training or specific tools. The audience can be reached directly and indirectly. For example, companies can engage with their potential customers through polls and surveys on social media (i.e. directly), or by gathering feedback and comments on a specific product through social media (i.e. indirectly).
  • Statistical personas: These involve initial qualitative research by using a survey tool that gathers a large sample size, with personas emerging from subsequent statistical analysis. This way of creating a persona is the most accurate, as it is based on data. However, it may not be accessible for every marketing team, since it may be beyond some teams’ budget (the tools can be expensive) and the tools might require training or specialised employees who are able to analyse and draw conclusions from statistical data.

The last step is gathering all the research findings and looking for any common characteristics between all the profiles you have gathered. This could be gender, age or the types of accounts that they follow (e.g. if you have 20 different profiles that all follow cooking accounts, then you can safely assume that they are interested in cooking, and that is something you can include for this persona).

Essentially, a persona is just an amalgamation of all these different profiles that you find. You look at all the profiles that you collect, find the common characteristics, and then build the personas from there. It is important to realise that whilst there is a fictionalisation process whereby you merge all the profiles you found into one persona, the people that this persona is based on are real people, so you are talking about real needs and real interests.

Want to learn more?

I hope this blog post has been a useful introduction to the topic of persona research. For more in-depth information and advice, read my full-length guide here! From reading this guide, you will learn:

  • what persona research is
  • why persona research is important
  • how to do persona research
  • how to incorporate the findings of persona research into your social media marketing strategy
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Francesca Masciullo

Social Media Executive at Webcertain
Francesca joined Webcertain in November 2021 to gain more experience with social media and market-related research and practices. She helps a variety of clients to carry out market intelligence reports, as well as to create and run online campaigns across their chosen online platforms. She holds a Master’s degree in Research in Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies from the University of Strathclyde, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Scotland as part of their Interdisciplinary Excellence Award. Originally from Italy, Francesca now lives in Scotland.

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