Earlier, marketers complained that there was never any data to back up their targeting efforts. They either approached the process ad hoc or used surveys (market research) to collect data from the market in an effort to make the process as scientific as possible. In fact, today, in the age of big data, surveys are more common than before. What has eased the process is the abundance of data available to us, thanks to the internet and our mobile phones, and the advent of technology and data analytics tools to make sense of all that data.
From the 1950s, consumer behaviour — which is the study of why people buy things and how they choose what to buy — has become an essential driver of marketing thought. Theories in buyer behaviour have become prominent, leading to models on buyer decision-making processes. And, engaging the customer during his or her decision-making has become as important as reaching the final sale. This need to understand buyer decision-making has led many marketers to borrow their learning from qualitative consumer research.
Today, due to its personal nature, Social Media and social analytics tools have pushed aside qualitative consumer research. However, the need for buyer personas has grown to improve consumer targeting. In fact, it’s rather handy for social media marketing. Social Media offers instantly visible conversations between users, responses to surveys, and engagement in marketing campaigns from which insights can be garnered in real-time. These insights, when processed through sophisticated social analytics tools, provide marketers rich intelligence on social media users as consumers.
This research-based intelligence helps marketers create real-life-like buyer personas. These personas, in turn, help marketers gain a better understating of their consumers through the entire consumer-brand relationship journey. They also improve targeting during marketing campaigns, while saving time and money. However, considering the various social media platforms consumers use and engage with during a day or a month, the process can be complex.
Embedding personalized messages to reach consumers, engaging them and influencing them across their spectrum of social media platforms, require creating not one but multiple buyer personas. That’s because
(a) each social media platform has its own characteristics of design and use which encourage specific user behaviour, and ;
(b) consumers select and prioritize the use of their social media platforms according to their own experiences and persona.
In other words, although the term ‘Social Media’ is used in a hasty manner; consumers use, experiment with and experience various social media platforms distinctively. Their experiences of the brands marketed to them on each social media platform are different. For marketers, this entails creating personalized brand messages which attract the attention of their consumers, engage them meaningfully, move them forward in the buyer decision-making process towards a sale, and retain their loyalty through individual social media platforms.
For instance, social media users are likely to use Facebook and Instagram for social interaction and to stay connected with friends and family but YouTube and Pinterest for personal viewing, entertainment, and recreation. Twitter is likely to be appreciated for its instant broadcast to the world. Consumer responses to advertising messages also differ.
These are a few examples of how consumers may engage with specific social media platforms. Thereby prompting marketers to invest in research and seek out ways to reach out to consumers when they are most receptive to receiving brand messages. It means factoring in consumer social media behaviour in their buyer persona descriptions and narratives. It requires well-thought-out individual strategies customized to consumer experiences and preferences with individual social media platforms. Needless to say, it means much thought about designing buyer personas.