Using Personas: A ‘How-To Guide’

by Jose Villa, and originally published at MediaPost

During the last three months, I’ve been writing a great deal about personas and how they can serve as a new planning tool for Hispanic marketing in the digital age. In my last post, I made a case for why I felt personas were an effective behavioral model to guide not just social media efforts in the Hispanic market, but Hispanic marketing programs across the entire digital (and arguably the traditional) paid, owned and earned media spectrum.

Moreover, my colleagues and I have published a primary research effort we’re calling the “Hispanic Persona Project” — aimed at creating personas representing the entire U.S. Hispanic Internet population. I encourage you to download the free report here.

However, in this last installment of a three-part discussion on Hispanics, social media and personas, I want to take the final results and apply them in the real world of online Hispanics. A “how-to” guide to using Hispanic personas specifically and personas more generally.

Establishing a Primary Persona

The first step in using personas is to identify your primary persona. We developed four personas as part of Hispanic Persona Project, and generally speaking, organizations create two to four personas. But personas are not meant to be weighted equally — they are most effective when a primary persona is identified that will take preference and priority over the others. There are different ways to identify a primary persona, but a good rule of thumb is to select the persona whose needs most overlap with the other personas.

Now the fun part — using personas to plan marketing programs. Let’s apply Hispanic Personas across three dimensions: 1) Paid Media, 2) Planning interaction and 3) Planning experiences.

Planning Paid Media

HPP_NostalgicNewbiePaid media planning is a good place to start using personas. Starting with targeting, we can utilize context. For an example, let’s look at the Carlos, the “Nostalgic Newbie.” We know from his persona that connecting with his home country is a key element of his behavior. U.S. geo-targeted digital media buys on Latin American Websites and ad networks will be highly effective. However digital media offers even more advanced targeting capabilities, such as behavioral targeting, that can help us plan paid media programs. Using Ivan, the “Tech-fluential” as an example, it would be very difficult to “target” him based on his media consumption in a scalable way simply by buying the handful of Websites he visits that are different from his general market counterparts. However, behavioral-based media buys, where you target him on mainstream sites based on his “long-tail” behavior visiting smaller Hispanic sites and blogs can be powerful. Finally, recent research from Yahoo shows that factoring in mindsets can have a big impact on the effectiveness of paid advertising — advertising has to be contextually relevant when people are engaging in online passions, while users connecting with friends or consuming entertainment will be much more amenable to “unexpected” offers and ads.

Planning Experiences (Owned Media)

HPP_SocialTechiePersonas also provide useful texture to identify and optimize owned digital experiences, such as Websites, mobile pages, and social media platforms (Facebook pages, YouTube channels and Twitter skins, etc.). Looking at Sandra the “Social Techie,” it’s clear that we need to establish consistent, yet customized experiences available across multiple devices – such as browser-based Websites, mobile Websites, and potentially destinations accessible via new devices such as tablets. We can also use personas to prioritize features and functionality. Whereas an electronics company might provide Ivan the “Tech-fluential” with links to online retailers where he can buy their product, they would emphasize price comparison information and product specifications with Armando the “Utilitarian Explorer.”

Planning Interaction (Earned Media)

HPP_UtilitarianExplorerPersonas arguably provide the most value (vis-à-vis other planning tools) when we begin to plan digital interaction that generates the type of earned media that is the holy grail of social media marketing programs. How do we get someone to “like” a brand page on Facebook? How do we motivate a small percentage of Hispanics to share content with their online network? What motivates someone to create content that is favorable to your product or service? Looking at the four Hispanic personas we created, it’s clear that two of the personas represent the majority of the opportunity — the “Tech-fluential” and the “Social Techie.” In this sense, if your campaign is emphasizing social interaction, you will probably want to prioritize and focus on one of these personas. Digging deeper, you can establish your social media campaign objectives based on their behavioral profiles. If your target is Sandra the “Social Technie”, then you can realistically expect sharing of content and establish KPIs around that kind of interaction. However, if Armando is your target, you should manage expectations to focus on impressions and “time spent” metrics.

HPP_Tech-influentialWhere the rubber really meets the road with personas is in their ability to help organization understand what motivates users. In social media this is critical, as motivation will drive online behavior and interaction. With Ivan, the “Tech-influential,” that motivation is influence — this persona places a high value on being “in the know,” so offering him social functionality, like the ability to retweet content or influencing the opinion of a prominent blogger he follows will be highly valuable. With Sandra, the Social Techie, the motivation is popularity, staying in touch, and being heard. She will be highly influenced by the behavior of her peers and giving her the ability to easily share portable content will pay big dividends.

Takeaways

While this article was a hypothetical application of broad personas, the value they provide only amplifies when you create your own personas (Hispanic or not) and focus your application on a specific industry, product category or segment. Moreover, personas are dynamic planning tools that are meant to be “enhanced’ with additional data points. After going to market, you should regularly optimize your personas with Web analytics data, digital media tracking results, and social media monitoring outputs from past campaigns.