User Personas: why, what and how?

When people come to me and ask why they’re not getting any engagement on their social media platforms, often one of the first things I see is that they’re not talking to their audience. What they’re doing is posting stuff that they themselves think is entertaining/educational/funny. What they’re not doing is looking at what their audience would like.  

I get it, it’s human nature to think that everyone else would like what we like. They like us, they like the same stuff as us right? Wrong!

This can happen on social media too. You write a blog or make a promotional film, post it up on your pages and it gets a few ‘views’, maybe an ‘applause’ or two and a ‘share’ from your favourite customer. It’s fairly disheartening isn’t it?

For people to read what you’re writing about or selling, they need to be interested in what you have to say or sell. It may hurt to say it but that is NOT everyone!

Before even writing that article or making that promotional film, you need to work out who you are targeting — who is your audience? If you work out who your target audience is, then you can save a ton of time by not trying to sell to people who are never going to want what you’re offering.

It sounds like common sense doesn’t it? But it’s very easy to drift off target. And when you start moving away from your original audience, it’s so easy to drift, and drift until you’re so far out to sea it’s going to take you ages to get back to dry land.

user personas

Photo by Johannes Rapprich from Pexels

But isn’t my target audience someone just like me?

Well, yes you probably are PART of your target audience — but there are lots of other people NOT like you who may want to hear your wise words or buy your product.

How do I really KNOW who would be interested in buying my product? How do I know what they like and do? How do I know what are their pain points?

You need to feel empathy with your audience in order to understand them. Harvard Business Review warns you, just putting yourself in the customer’s shoes isn’t enough. “The more empathetic managers are, the more they use their personal preferences to predict what customers want”.

So how do I begin to understand who my customers are?

You need to create some ‘user personas’.

What are User Personas?

According to www.careerfoundry.com: “User personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and incorporates the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of your target audience.”

User Personas are pretend people. They’re completely fictional because YOU make them up! You give them names, you can draw them, use photos/images from the web. They have partners, parents, homes, hobbies. They like certain drinks, they have a particular group of friends. Just like you and me. Creating personas will help you focus on the needs of your customers; they take you away from thinking about what you like. They will help you understand your users’ needs, experiences, goals and behaviours. They can help you recognise that different people have different needs, desires and budgets.

Sounds like a bit of a laugh, how many do I need?

That depends on you really — usually 3 or 4 is a good number.

So, how do I go about creating them?

First think about who you want to sell to / speak to. Then go through these steps for each persona you create:

1 Give your person a name Once you’ve done this, the rest follows more easily. Let’s call her Silvia.

2 Give her an age and demographics 26, lives in Manchester, alone, owns her own apartment in a trendy part of town.

3 What does she look like? Being able to put a face to the name will help you better understand your characters. Can you sketch your personas? If your drawing skills are as bad as mine, you could download an image to use.

4 Give her a Job title and profession: Silvia is Freelance Film Producer

5 Income Plenty of disposable income, single, no kids, good salary

6 What does she do in her free time? She doesn’t have much as she works long hours and travels a lot, all over the world, so she makes the most of it. ‘Works hard, plays hard’. Gym — mostly yoga classes, pubs, wine bars, eats out a lot (no time to cook, has lots of friends). Likes quiet time at home alone on a Sunday morning.

7 What are her Goals?: These can range from quite general goals (e.g one day to produce a film with Ridley Scott) to quite product-specific ones (e.g. having a local restaurant where she feels safe and confident eating alone OR having an amazing pair of headphones to enable her to properly relax. (Please note this is the first time we have even related her to your product!).

8 What are her Fears: Specific — spiders, General — that she doesn’t spend enough time with her ageing parents.

It’s easy enough to make up a persona like this — I just created Silvia in about 10 minutes.

Once you have created  your persona, don’t just look at her and think ‘she would like this product I’m selling’. No, you have to get into her head, live like her, shop like she would shop, use your product in the way she would use it or think about what she does in her spare time – when and why would she be interested in your offering?  Think what Silvia would like or dislike about your service or product. Once you do this, you will start to see your business from her point of view not your own.

You will see your product from a different angle, not with your eyes but with hers. You may think of things she would say about your product, for example:

‘They’re great but they don’t fit well’

or

‘This is a lovely pub – but the chairs aren’t that comfy so I won’t stay long’.

Ok, now you’ve learnt all about my user persona, have a go and create some of your own — it’s quite fun! Do ensure they’re all different so mix up ages and genders as much as you can although make sure you are creating user personas who are relevant to your brand.

Let me know how you get on and if you’re stuck, do get in touch as I may be able to help you — yes really — I would love to hear from you. Just complete the form below and I’ll get in touch.

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