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Do you know who’s reading your blog? If your answer is simply “women” or “moms,” then your blog can benefit from a user persona. If your answer is “I don’t know” then you definitely need a user persona!

At Mom Blogger’s Club, we’re always researching the best tips and tricks to help you create better content in less time. This week’s article and Thursday’s live chat pull a trick from the cap of marketers to create a twist on user personas, so you can better understand and engage your target audience to give your readers more of the content they crave.

How Marketers Use Personas

Marketers invest a lot of time and money into understanding the habits of their buyers. If you’ve ever taken a survey from a company after purchasing a product, you’ve participated in that company’s market research. The company uses that data to improve their marketing efforts to you and others who are similar to you. It’s as simple as that: companies ask you what you want, you tell them what you want and then they give you what you asked for!

One way marketers do this is by creating a user, buyer or customer persona. A persona is a fictional character that comprises one part make-believe and one part data. By creating fictional characters based on real data, marketers are better able to streamline their marketing efforts to targeted audiences.

By now you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with blogging. Well, it has a lot to with blogging, because blogging is branding, and if you feel that your posts aren’t reaching as many people as you want, then a user persona can help save you time and drive your focus when creating content.

Creating a persona to drive your content should be one part research and one part creative. You want to stay away from stereotypes and let the data you collect drive your inferences. 

Persona Case Study: MailChimp

Most companies create and update their user personas to target their communication. The email marketing service provider MailChimp began the process of undertaking a massive redesign to its website and wanted to better understand how to create and design their website to best suit its users.

But then, they thought, who are our users? MailChimp created their personas to “reconcile who we think uses MailChimp with who really uses MailChimp.” This is the data MailChimp collected:

  • Who are the customers
  • What, why and how often they send emails
  • Issues they face
  • Places of employment
  • Personal attributes and demographics

Once the MailChimp team gathered and analyzed the data, they created compelling user personas using aggregated data they collected from interviews and surveys as well as compiling open-ended feedback, meaning they found trending words and phrases that were used often among their respondents. 

From their research, they developed these personas to drive their website redesign and enhancements:

Giving a face to its audience based on real data and using their customers’ own words helped MailChimp create a more functional site redesign to best meet the needs of its users. 

Creating a persona like MailChimp’s is a lot more work than you’ll need to do, but it’s a great example of where MailChimp’s information gaps existed and helped them to bridge those gaps with its customers.

For a blogger user persona, we’ll distill this in-depth, research-based approach into something smaller and more tangible, so you can create a quick persona to guide your content. To craft your personas, you’ll need to conduct research to get some basic information from your audience. Following are a few different ways that you can collect data on your readership that will give your data more of a face than your analytics. 

Quantitative Research

The big brands conduct quantitative research by surveying hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The researchers then synthesize the results of the data into empirical categories from which they create their personas. 

If your blog has hundreds or thousands of readers, that’s awesome! You can still benefit from creating a persona because the data you collect will be robust. If your readership is very small, you can still conduct a survey, even though your sample size will be somewhat limited. After all, some data is better than no data. If your blog only has two readers, understanding what content interests those two readers will help you to be more in tune with their likes and dislikes, and in turn they may share your content with their network.

SurveyMonkey is an easy-to-use survey program that lets you survey up to 100 people for free. You can embed the survey on your blog, send it out in an email, or even add it to your Facebook page and Twitter. After your survey is closed, SurveyMonkey gives you a full analytics report to help you make actionable content decisions.

It’s important that you keep your survey short and to the point or respondents won’t finish it, that’s why a goal for the research is important. If this is your first time creating a persona, then the primary goal of your research should be acquiring demographic information so you can understand exactly who is reading your blog. Later on, once you understand whom your primary audience is, you can begin to craft surveys that will give you more insightful research into your audience.

Click here to see an example of survey questions that you can use for your research. 

Once your survey is complete, you'll have a more complete picture of your audience so you can begin to focus your content on their interests.

Qualitative Research

In addition to quantitative research the big brands also utilize qualitative research, such as focus groups, in which a group of people are asked to give their opinions on a topic, product or idea. The goal of qualitative research is to see how the focus group participants describe (in their own words) the product or idea presented to them.

Instead of holding a focus group, you can conduct qualitative research on your readership by analyzing your social media and blog comments. On your blog’s social pages (or your personal pages if you don’t have separate accounts), make a list that details trends in how your fans and friends interact with your posts, each other and also what they share on their own pages. What kinds of words do they use to describe or react to posts? Do their comments provoke a dialogue? Investigating your readers’ interests will give you more insight into the kind of content that appeals to them.

Just Ask a Question!

Social media is a wonderful resource to connect with people about the issues that matter most. If you’re not sure what kind of content to post, ask your friends on Facebook or Twitter what they are interested in, and the results could lead you to your next great post!

Twitter’s best practices page has examples of how you can engage your followers on Twitter by asking simple questions with hashtag responses. The NFL, America’s Got Talent, American Idol and others use Twitter polls to get topics and results trending.

Sites like Zoomph provide polling widgets that you can attach to your social pages and your blog so you can collect, analyze and then visualize your persona based on the feedback from your followers and fans.

Scope out the Competition

Before you created your own blog, there was likely a popular blog that you admired and strived to replicate. Revisit that blog and ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you mimic the writing style?
  • Is the blog connected with social media widgets, such as buttons for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and others?
  • What is the social media presence like—does it have a lot of followers?
  • What is most consistent about the content?

Create a small wish list of what you would like to accomplish on your own blog and then make a separate list that details what you believe you are capable of replicating. Read more about online etiquette here.

 Creating your User Persona

Once you’ve collected your data, you should organize it into logical groups (age, sex, location, common words, etc.) and display it all on a board before you.

Do you notice any trends? Ask yourself these questions based on the data:

  • What is the average age of my reader?
  • What is the average income of my reader?
  • What is the family status of the majority of my readership?
  • What is the average education level of my readership?
  • What race or ethnicity is the majority of my readers?
  • What interests my readers most?

Do the answers to these questions reflect your content?

Investing your time in a little research can help you reconcile who your true readership is. In turn, your demographic information only serves to enhance your blog and keep your content on target.  Include the data you collect in your media kit to make it more robust, especially to sponsors and advertisers.

The end result of this simple project will guide your content by telling you who reads your blog, what their interests are and how their demographic information—such as age, income, education level, etc.—influence their behavior to tell you what drives them to read your blog. Uncovering what drives your audience will make your blog more essential to that audience, which results in more shares and networking!

If you have any tips or questions about using research to create a persona, post them in the comments below!

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