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Audience Intelligence: The Future of Data-Driven Personas

Friends Watching TV

I just read this excellent piece by MarketingProfs about data-driven marketing personas and audience intelligence so I thought I’d keep the conversation going and add my two cents.

First, a persona is more than just a Powerpoint template you download off of Hubspot. Yeah, the design looks great and it may impress the room, but the data behind the personas must be real.

Assumptions are “what you think you know” or in many cases, “hope to know.” And, we all know that hope is not a strategy. Too many times, we take shortcuts and not do the work because a deadline is fast approaching. But, building personas takes time, it’s not something you can do in a day. Audience intelligence means that you must define the audience, determine the data sources, collect the data, prioritize the data and then dig through the data with a microscope, mining for insights.

One way to build personas is by segmenting audiences, based on unique interests and characteristics. The basics like demographics, age, locations, etc., are still important so don’t take this out of context.

Below is an example of a fictitious audience of raving fans that obsess over The Walking Dead. I used to fall into this category but got bored with the same plot after the 6th season but I digress. ?

By breaking the audience up into smaller groups, you can get a more clear picture of their media consumption habits, sharing patterns, unique interests other than the show and what matters to them at various moments in time.

Intuitively, we know they are fans of the show, maybe dress up as Zombies on the weekends and a huge chunk are probably millennials. But what else is there to know?

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The above data shows that there is a fairly large segment of The Walking Dead fans that are tech enthusiasts. By digging into this segment, you may learn that they read Gizmodo and VentureBeat. This type of data can inform what media you pitch, paid sponsorships or even the language you use on your owned media channels.

You may also learn that many of the tech enthusiasts work in engineering. By extracting job titles, work interests, and their technology vernacular, you can use this data to build custom audiences on Facebook and Twitter and use paid media to promote a new trailer, as an example. Analyzing their conversations may also uncover insights that would inform headlines, blog content, social content or even bylines.

This data is great and insightful but it takes work, so let’s spend less time in PowerPoint building personas based on who we think our audiences are, and more time in Excel studying their behavior. This will help you go from “hoping to knowing”, which must be the future of all digital, marketing and communications programs. Here’s a resource of 10 social media platforms that you can use for audience intelligence.

The audience cluster above was created using social intelligence platform, Audiense