When creating a social media strategy for your brand you need to know your audience. It sounds simple, right? But too many marketers assume they know their customers based on bird’s eye view data or, worse, just instinct. On social media, your brand is interacting with real people. Your strategy needs to be built with empathy for them.
Whatever the business-related goals of your strategy, you need to focus on the user-centered goal of bringing value to your audience through your social media presence. By empathizing with your audience you will build content that will make your brand more relatable and more trustworthy which will ultimately translate into brand awareness, website traffic, customer leads, revenue, brand engagement, loyalty, or success with any other business goals you may have.
Use Personas to Gain Empathy
Personas are good tools to help you start building a social media strategy with empathy. A persona is a fictional person you create as a means of synthesizing and communicating the information you have collected about your customers through interviews, observations, surveys, and demographic data.
Personas represent a group or groups within your overall brand audience that share characteristics or behaviors. They are built, though, like the profile of a person with a name and a photo to help you better empathize with them. Those who use personas in their work are even known sometimes to reference them by name, such as “I think this copy would resonate the best with ‘Jane’ on Twitter.”
I’ve posted previously about personas in relation to user experience design of websites and apps, but they are also widely used outside of product design in marketing, sales, public relations (PR), customer support, and, yes, social media. What these areas have in common is they each help shape the overall experience design of your brand.
Customers don’t differentiate between a social media post from marketing and a live chat with customer support the way your business’ internal structure may. These all just add up to a singular experience that can positively or negatively impact a customer’s perception of your brand. Personas can be a great way to get everyone in your business on board with the same understanding of your audience to make sure each customer interaction you have control of is a positive contribution to the experience.
There is no exact prescription for the content or design of personas as it’s more about clearly presenting the information you think is most relevant to your brand and your goals. Personas with the same information can be used company-wide or each area can have versions containing information specific to that area’s responsibilities.
For example, product teams may find it more helpful to see device and browser preferences (iPhone vs. Android, Firefox vs. Chrome) whereas marketing and PR could care more about a persona’s most used social media platforms. In general, though, personas should include specific customer goals, needs, and challenges related to your brand and identify some opportunities your brand has to help with these.
You can have as many personas as you want for your brand but remember that you’ll never be able to talk to everybody or solve every problem. It’s best to strategically focus on creating personas to represent your larger customer groups you want to target to get the most payoff for your efforts. That’s what I did for my 2 sample personas – “Regular Rachel” and “Special Order Sarah” – for Scratch Baking, a small business in Milford, CT.
If you have a larger team or more time and budget to run social media campaigns that include such things as multiple versions of custom worded and targeted posts then more niche personas can be useful. For a small, one location brand like Scratch, though, it isn’t really necessary to create more than 2-4 personas.
Scratch’s target demographics on social media, as I reviewed in a previous post, are women, 25-65 years of age living in a suburban setting with an annual household income of at least $40,000.
Rachel represents all of Scratch’s regular customers. This audience is the most important audience for the bakeshop and the main reason why most of their current social media content is based on communicating and showcasing either daily specials or regular menu items. They are very financially dependent on this audience segment and their purchases. Since Scratch products are not cheap and purchasing them regularly, even one day a week would cost more than the same products at the grocery store or at a fast-food restaurant, Rachel has an annual household income of $200,000.
Rachel is a 52-year-old woman because a majority of Scratch’s customers are women – that percentage increases for their social media audience – and older working professionals tend to have more income to expend on non-essentials like eating out.
She also represents the audience segment that’s value-driven to support locally owned businesses and who are more willing to pay a little more for products as well as the segment interested in the convenience of a breakfast or lunch place within walking distance or a short drive of home or work. Scratch is located in the highly walkable, downtown area of Milford, CT so members of their regular breakfast and lunch crowd commonly live or work close by.
For social media, Rachel could be best used to create strategy and content to reach Scratch’s core audience on Facebook: 45-65-year-old women living or working locally in the suburban area of Milford who are solidly upper-middle class. However, since women of all ages use Pinterest, she could also be helpful for strategy and content creation on that platform.
“Special Order Sarah”
Sarah is representative of Scratch’s audience segment that doesn’t usually buy unless it’s a special occasion. They order pies at Thanksgiving, catering for a work event, or a birthday or wedding cake, but don’t routinely purchase regular items. She also represents the segment that is drawn to Scratch’s business model of baked goods made from quality ingredients. This segment may be attracted to knowing exactly what’s in their food and where it came from for reasons such as allergies, dietary preferences, or even climate change.
The median household income in Milford, CT is around $80,000 so Sarah helps represent that prospective customer with an annual household income of $95,000. She’s female for the same reasons as Rachel, but she represents the younger 25-45-year-old age range of Scratch’s female audience. This allows her to be more helpful with Instagram and Twitter strategy and content since these platforms are most used by those under 40. She is, of course, also helpful for Pinterest.
Sarah also contains some characteristics and goals of a baking hobbyist in order to be useful in creating content aimed at attracting social media users interested in the subject of baking rather than specifically Scratch’s brand and products. She is defined as living in a suburban location, but she may not necessarily be in Milford, CT. Social media baking enthusiasts could live anywhere, although in-state or regional ones would be most beneficial to attract for long term business goals, and special order customers are on average willing to travel a little farther to buy something than a regular customer is.
Personas and Micro-Moments
As we’ve transitioned to a mobile device-driven world, our decisions and preferences as consumers have become driven by micro-moments. Micro-moments are all those moments throughout the day when you get a goal in your head and you instinctively reach for your phone or your tablet to find something to help you with that goal. Brands who build social media strategy to meet these moments are more likely to be seen favorably by their audiences and find success. By helping customers achieve their goals, they will help your business achieved its goals.
Google’s research has found there are 4 types of micro-moments – I want to know, I want to go, I want to do, and I want to buy. You can use personas to help you brainstorm possible micro-moments for different segments of your social media audience for which you could then strategically create and target content based on.
Using my Scratch personas, I’ve created the following examples:
Micro-Moments for “Regular Rachel”
- I want to know what today’s special menu items are.
Rachel is a customer who buys from Scratch most weeks and knows their products. She is interested in learning menu updates and trying new products to add variety to her purchases. Scratch could set a routine of releasing the menu specials every day on its Facebook and Instagram Stories when it opens in the morning to help Rachel know exactly where to look or entice her with a post about new menu item to make a purchase.
- I want to go to a business within walking distance of my house to pick up lunch.
Rachel doesn’t have much time in her schedule to grab lunch and would like to go to a place that’s easy and quick to get to from her home office. She’s also interested in supporting the local economy and enjoys feeling a part of her neighborhood community. Besides keeping its Google My Business account updated with correct information, appealing product photos, and review responses, Scratch could create Facebook posts featuring a lunch menu item with copy such as “Hey neighbor! We’ll have lunch waiting for you when you’re ready.” It could target this post to be delivered to users within a close radius of the shop.
- I want to plan ahead for lunch tomorrow.
Being busy during work hours, Rachel has a bad habit of skipping lunch. In order to stop that, she wants to take care of the mental work of lunch the night before, so she doesn’t get distracted and forget to eat. Scratch could create Facebook posts that focus on its night before online ordering. For example, it could create a fun, comical video with its employees acting out the steps of pre-ordering or an infographic with the steps to show how easy and convenient it is. It could also post at the end of the day a tease of a menu item for the next day with copy that encourages customers to pre-order because stock is limited.
- I want to buy a coffee drink that goes well with my breakfast.
Rachel has been purchasing from Scratch for a while and trusts they know their products. Like most regulars, she often buys food items, but doesn’t buy drinks as much so when she does, she wants to may sure her choice won’t decrease her enjoyment of the Scratch flavors she loves. To help with this, Scratch could create a series of weekly posts with content featuring various pairings of its coffee drinks and breakfast items. On Instagram, these could be high-quality photos or graphic and photo combinations and on Facebook Scratch could have bakers share in 30-second videos their favorite pairings. These posts could then offer a discount code if Rachel ordered the highlighted pairing in that week.
Micro-moments for “Special Order Sarah”
- I want to know if you use any artificial flavors or colors in your products.
Sarah needs to know the ingredients in food because her daughter has allergies to certain food additives. She tends to ask these questions of businesses upfront to decide whether they are good options for her family. To help Sarah, Scratch could create videos for its Instagram Story featuring its bakers walking users through all the ingredients in certain menu items to show transparency. It could also figure out the percentage of its products that are, or can be made, vegan, gluten-free, all-natural, organic, etc. and tweet those statistics or create fun graphics with the stats on Instagram. This could show how friendly and committed Scratch is to accommodating its customer’s dietary needs or requests.
- I want to go to an independent bakery near me.
Sarah wants to find an independent bakery to do business with because they tend to know their products and ingredients well and are more likely to be able to accommodate her daughter’s dietary restrictions compared to, for example, a chain grocery store. Plus, as a baker herself, Sarah thinks the quality will be better, which is important for the special occasions for which she’d be placing orders. Assuming Sarah is located relatively near Scratch, but not familiar with it, making sure Google My Business information is correct would be important. Writing friendly replies to reviews on Yelp and Google would be a good way to provide a friendly first impression. Using hashtags known for local businesses in the area, eating local, etc. on all Instagram posts could also help Sarah discover Scratch since she might follow these types of hashtags. Also, tagging posts with Scratch’s can help Sarah learn exactly where the shop is and how close it is to her should she discover them on Instagram.
- I want to bake brownies from scratch.
Sarah enjoys being a home baker for stress relief and as a way of showing love to her friends and family. She’s always on the hunt for ways to improve and new things to try. Her partner’s favorite is brownies, but she’s never been very good at getting them just the way her partner likes them without using a premade mix. Scratch could publish a foolproof brownie recipe on Pinterest and pin other favorites to a board dedicated to brownies and blondies. It could also have its bakers offer advice in videos on Instagram or even offer a cooking class on Instagram Live. Tips or recipes could also be tweeted. All these approaches would require research to find and use the best tags/hashtags or targeting based on user interests in order to increase the odds that Sarah and the most relevant audience would discover the content.
- I want to buy a custom cake for my daughter’s birthday party.
Sarah’s 3-year-old daughter has a birthday coming up and for her party, Sarah needs to order a cake that accommodates her daughter’s food allergies as well as matches the party’s theme. She’s unsure, though, exactly, what the options are for special order cakes at Scratch and how to place an order. As a part-time nurse and part-time stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have time to call during business hours to ask questions and order. Scratch could pin pictures of many different cakes it has created and ones it finds inspirational and would like to make on a birthday cake Pinterest board. Scratch could point to this from its website for reference as to the range of flavors and decorative styles they do. Customers who order cakes for events could be encouraged to tag Scratch in photos from their events or provide photos from them of the cake and people for Scratch to share on Instagram. It could also add “Would you like to make a special-order inquiry?” as one of the suggested questions on Messenger in order to encourage Sarah to feel comfortable starting a conversation about her order there instead of feeling she has to call during certain hours.
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