Good Content Planning starts with understanding your target audience – and User Personas are a great tool for this. Personas are profiles of different segments of your target demographic and they’re especially useful for anyone who needs to understand your audience quickly (such as writers).

Taking the time to create proper User Personas before you dive into creating content means you’ll have a much better chance of getting a return on your investment.

What is a User Persona?

You might also hear User Personas called “Buyer Personas” or “Customer Personas” – basically they’re a way of giving a human face to your target audience segments.

User personas answer questions like: what information is this person looking for? Which devices are they most likely to use? And which social networks are they on? With this kind of information compiled you then give each segment a face and a name – so that rather than “user persona #4” you have “Wendy, working mum, mid-30s”, with a nice stock photo of someone we can all pretend is Wendy. Writers in particular tend to respond better to “writing for Wendy” than “writing for user persona #4”.  

So for example, let’s say you want entrepreneurs in Western Australia to visit your website. You might create “Nick”, who runs a small tech firm based in Perth. Nick isn’t a real person, he’s just there to represent an important part of your target demographic. By building out Nick’s profile with information about his habits, background, interests and desires you can help everyone involved with your content marketing strategy to better understand who it’s aimed at.

You’ll find User Personas a much more effective guide for your content creation than lists of rules.

Where do I get the information I need?

First of all, there is no set template for User Personas. The information you include will depend on your business and your needs. That said, here are four good places to look when building your own User Personas:

  1. Google Analytics: you can use Google Analytics to extract all sorts of valuable information about the people visiting your website. For example, if you enable demographics and interests data you can get anonymous data on the ages and online behaviours of your users;
  2. Social Media Audiences: popular social media sites provide some really useful insights into the people who follow you and interact with your content. Twitter Analytics, for example, will show you your audience’s consumer buying styles, gender and household income;
  3. Email Marketing Database: regular email is still one of the best ways to learn about your audience. Once you have someone in your database, how they interact with your emails and your website gives you great insights into who they are and what they want;
  4. Customer Surveys: there will always be a degree of educated guesswork when creating User Personas, but be careful that your natural bias as the marketing manager or business owner don’t undermine the whole exercise. Canvassing your customers is a good way to balance that out.

What questions should my User Personas answer?

Once you’ve got some raw information, you need to organise it into a useful format. A good way to do that is to identify some questions your want your User Personas to answer. Here are some suggestions:

  • What is this user’s job title, responsibilities and skillset?
  • What is their demographic profile?
  • Which devices (PC, mobile, tablet) do they prefer to use?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are the key challenges they face?
  • What questions do they have that you can answer?
  • Where do they get information to improve their professional knowledge?
  • How well do they understand your products or services?
  • What are they looking for when they come to your website?
  • What action do you want them to take when they come to your website?

What format should I use for my User Personas?

Your User Personas should be accessible and easy to understand. While you might start out with a lot of information you’ll need to distill it so that anyone working on your content marketing strategy can quickly get their heads around it. Here are some general pointers:

  • Use profile pictures: putting a face on your User Personas will make it easier for people to differentiate between them and remember the important details;
  • Keep it to one page: if that’s not possible at least make a summary page that people can use as a quick reference;
  • Use bullet points: again in the interests of creating an accessible resource avoid long paragraphs and keep your descriptions succinct
  • Use categories: break up your information into different sections (demographics, goals, questions etc) to help you decide what to include and make the final document easy to navigate.