Understanding Your Audience Through Personas

By Posted in - Audience Research on January 19th, 2015 0 Comments

So you know who your audience are, and you’ve done some research (through surveys, interviews, or observations) – now how can you use this information to inform your content strategy?

Personas are a great way to put your research into practice, and make your research findings more meaningful.

Personas are characters constructed to represent your different audiences or users. They have names, jobs, interests, needs, motivations, challenges and behaviours that are important to how you interact with them.

Personas should always be informed by research as much as possible. It’s easy to make up personas based on what we think we know, but better to have evidence to support our assumptions.

They can be as detailed or as basic as you like (within reason!) –  if they’re too detailed they become too specific and unrepresentative, but if they’re too basic they won’t help to inform anything.

Here are some things that you might want to include for each of your personas:

  • Personal details – name, age, marital status
  • Their employment experience
  • Their current job role and responsibilities
  • Their motivations and values
  • Their fears and challenges in life
  • Their likely influencers
  • Their hobbies and interests
  • The websites/media they consume (including social media preferences)
  • The information and services they might need from you as an organisation
  • Their social technographics profile (in general and in relation to your organisation)

Think about what they want from you as an organisation – consider what tasks they might be seeking to complete i.e. what are they coming to your website or using social media for? And try to have a clear sense of what motivates them – this will help inform the content types, format, tone, imagery and language of your communications.

If your primary audience is students, then you might also want to consider the following:

  • Their course and year of study
  • Their previous educational experience
  • Their career ambitions and goals
  • Their parents and other influencers
  • Their financial situation

The social technographics profile will help you to think about what to expect from your audience, and will help inform your aims and objectives. For example, “spectators” are unlikely to like and comment on your social media updates, and “creators” could be a key aspect of your strategy if they are developing their own useful content.

You can create as many or as few personas as you like, but generally 3-5 per audience group should help you to create a realistic picture. For example, if you have decided that your primary audiences are current students and parents, you would ideally need 3-5 personas for each of these two audiences, so you would have 6-10 in total.

Now you can use your personas to plan and create useful content and communications that meet their personal needs.

This might include:

  • Information or advice that helps them to overcome a challenge or fear
  • Advice on achieving their ambitions and goals
  • Information that aligns with their hobbies and interests
  • Content based on their channel preferences for example video vs. text
  • Content aimed at their influencers (maybe parents, teachers, celebrities) as well as directly at them

Here are some useful tools and resources that will also help you create your personas:

The Forrester Social Technographics Profile Tool allows you to categorise your audience based on their age, country and gender. However, these criteria are obviously very broad and with more research and insight, you can profile your specific audiences more accurately.

The YouGov profiler launched in 2014 and will help you to build a picture of your audience based on their preferences. You can search for brands, people or things, and YouGov will then “identify” people who have expressed a preference for that thing. The data is combined to present a profile that includes demographics, lifestyle, personality, online behaviour and more.

If you need a bit more information, Buffer have written a “Complete Beginners Guide to Marketing Personas” which has some more examples and templates to help you plan your persona.

Need more help?

We have worked with many universities and schools to conduct audience research and create marketing personas to help content planning and strategy development.

Contact us and we’ll help you get to know your audiences better.


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