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Personifying Your Content Strategy

No matter how small your target audience, you undoubtedly have different segments of people coming to your site. You want to talk to each group in their language about what appeals to them most. Using personas will help you achieve this customized form of communication.

I know you’ve heard about personas by now. Our very talented Manager of Market Research Norris Rowley gave us perfect examples of Personas for Black Friday just last week. Then, of course, there’s Mike King’s Past, Present & Future of Personas in Search presentation. But stay with me, here. Creating personas specifically as part of a new content strategy should be approached from three different angles than usual.

1. Focus On Content Audience, Not Consumer Audience

Oftentimes personas are used to target potential customers, but this should not be your only goal. If you want to be king of your content strategy, you have to think of all the people who will be coming to your website and reading your content. This includes not just people who want to buy products, but thought leaders in your industry, competitors, information seekers, and more.

As king you can’t focus on your loyal subjects only. With analytics data, you already know the demographics of the people who are returning to your site. Now that you’re making a plan for new content, you have to think outside the box about who else you want to attract. The key to drawing traffic to your site is making content that will interest people with all different motivations for visiting. Gaining the attention of thought leaders and others will indirectly lead to sales in the long run because more people will be sharing your site.

Come up with at least four categories of users you want to target, not as customers, but as an audience to your content. Your site’s descriptions, blog and social media content are going to have a wide spectrum of users. Make sure you are being clear enough for those who are new to your industry, but unique and intelligent enough to wow those who know most. Separate these groups accordingly when you’re getting ready to personify them.

2. Borrow Social

A large part of your content strategy will be starting your social media from scratch or looking to make major changes and improvements. Working with nonexistent or underdeveloped social resources won’t help you find your entire audience, so you’ll have to turn to your competitors, using the methods described in this post on sizing up your content competition.

The important difference is this time around you’ll be paying closer attention not to what other businesses are doing to engage their audience, but who it is that they are engaging. Once you find these users, market data from resources like Experian Simmons can come into play to help you define the specifics of users’ actions on the web—what they’re searching for, how, and when.

If you don’t have the resources to use such market data, you’ll have to do a little more digging and make the most educated guesses you can by following the activities of specific influential users. Look for patterns in the way the people with the most social followers act online. Do most of them have personal blogs? What kind of articles are they sharing? What questions are they asking? The more data you collect about these users, the better you will be able to define them as personas.

3. Segment Everything

As you’re planning out your content, you can redesign your website to house it more appropriately. Depending on how extensive of a project you are undertaking, your content strategy could involve new pages including a blog, or just might need some reorganization to become more user friendly. When you’re ready for this step, keep in mind the personas you’ve decided to captivate.

What will an information seeker be looking for on your site? Consider making a glossary of terms. Thought leaders want actionable tips; make sure these are in your blog. Every piece of content you make might not hit everyone on your target, but make sure you have an equal balance of content that is relevant to each of your most important persona groups.

Part of your persona development should also include a “How to Target” section. Decide what types of content will best reach each and mark them down on a checklist. If you know an unfamiliar user won’t understand a whitepaper that’s fine—keep your basics on Facebook where you’ll reach this persona, and put your heavy information in the whitepaper for the persona who would be interested in that.

Finally, segment the layout of your website according to the people who will be using it. Right on your homepage, direct different groups of people to different places—the places that are relevant to them specifically. For example, Citibank not only segments their content into categories at the top of the homepage in their menu; they also have a dropdown so that you can click through to the part of the site you need.

Creating personas within a content strategy doesn’t have to be a radically new process from what you’ve done before, but if you keep these key focal points in mind you should find that your audience is much larger than you thought originally. Once you find it, you’ll be ready to hone in on smaller specific groups and make content just for them.