Working with Personas

We recently talked about using personas to target ads. The idea was that by forming a vision of who your readers/customers are and how they live, you could begin to guess what sort of advertising would be effective with them to boost your ad revenue. But there’s actually so much more you can do with personas.

Personas: the How To

First, you need to know how to construct personas. If you have some demographic information, that’s a start. Let’s say your biggest audience share is women 35-50 living in households that earn over $100k with college educations, but you also have a lot of women 18-34, college educated but in households earning $35-50k. You’ll need two personas, one from each demographic group.

Basic sense tells us a couple of things immediately: there will likely be more married women and mothers in the older group. And the difference in income suggests one demographic will have more disposable income than the other. It’s time to start asking yourself some questions.

First, mothers make up a very important consumer group. They’re involved in something like 80% of all purchases in their households. You could poll your audience. You could also do research online to find out what percentage of educated, middle class women have started families by what age.

Let’s say your research shows you that most of the women coming to your site will be mothers, and there’s nothing in your site that’s incompatible with targeting mothers, so you want to start targeting that lucrative group.

What sort of ads do educated, middle-class mothers respond to? Don’t leap to conclusions. Your first thought may be “baby stuff!”, but not all mothers currently have babies. And sometimes the last thing an exhausted, burnt-out mother wants to see is baby stuff. You have to start guessing what type of mother is coming to your site. You’ve got to figure out her world view.

  • What type of vehicle do your personas drive?
  • What brands of clothing are they into?
  • How do they feel about drinking?
  • Do they lavish $4 lattes on themselves and brag about what they’ve spent, or proudly whip up their own version at home and brag about what they’ve saved?
  • Who do they shop for?
  • Do they like to feel like they’re making the world a better place, or do messages about stuff like that make them feel they’re being accused of selfishness?

See how specific we’re getting? Imagine this person vividly. You might even look for her among the people you know and quiz her on some of these topics.

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Scientific methods can tell you who’s coming to your site, but it takes some intuition to figure out what appeals to your visitors. It also takes some trial and error, so be prepared to alter your personas when things you find yourself surprised by the response to an article or ad campaign.

What can you do with personas?

There’s so much personas can help you with, especially if you take the time to really get to know them in your head. It’s weird – a little like an acting exercise. But it’s effective.

  • Write your posts to your persona. By keeping your persona in mind while you’re writing, you keep articles targeted toward their worldview.
  • Find forums and social networking sites where they hang out and follow them online. See how they communicate. See what inspires them. See what gets a response.
  • Market your site in places where people who match your persona hang out.
  • On your site, publish ads that will appeal to your persona, or at least not offend them.

There are times demographics and careful math and science just can’t tell you enough. Personas help you harness the power of your intuition in a way that’s… well, not scientific, exactly, but sensible. There’s a definite process.

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Last Updated:

November 3, 2021

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