As marketers when we talk about Audience Personas we are trying to "paint a picture" of our customers as well as industry thought leaders and influencers that are important to us. We think about a whole list of questions we need to answer about these people such as:
What role do they play in the decision making/buying process? Are they an Initiator, an Influencer, a Decision-maker, a Buyer, a User or even a Gatekeeper?
What do we know about them? What are their responsibilities, frustrations, pressures, concerns, needs, likes, dislikes? What are the demographics - male, female, age and even location?
How do they access content and information? Do they subscribe to emails newsletters, do they read content on the web or mobile, what time of day do they read content, what days of the week, do they use social media, what content do they consume and why and how often do the consume content?
There are some great articles on creating and understanding audience personas. Here's a couple I like that provide some great insight and best practices: An In-Depth Look at How to Create and Use B2B Buyer Personas and Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit.
These are all fantastic questions to ask. And they do help you understand your audience better. There are also some crucial questions we have not been asking when it comes to our audiences and how they engage with our content. It's no surprise that sometimes the content we create does what we intend, meaning people read it and respond or engage with it in some way, and sometimes it does absolutely nothing even with all the brilliant information around the personas we create. It's frustrating and its a struggle.
After 24 months of research we have come a long way in understanding some of the other crucial pieces that help you understand your audiences that much better and will give you the ability to create content that will resonate with them. Audience Sophistication is one of them, which I will take you through below.
We have un-covered 4 different audience sophistication bands when it comes to reading and engaging with digital content. Here's an overview of each segment.
General - These people don't need any special or in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to read and enjoy the content. For example, I just read a great article about organic gardening because my nephew is heavily involved in it and I was curious. What's great about this article (A Beginner's Guide to Organic Gardening) is that I didn't need to know anything about it to stay engaged with the content.
So if you have a "general" audience, it means that you write to anyone who could read, understand and enjoy the article without possessing extensive knowledge of the topic.
Knowledgeable - These people have some level of understanding about the subject matter and need to have that knowledge to comprehend the content. A knowledgeable audience has some degree of skill or competence of the topic to engage and interact with the content. You could say that this group is at a level in between beginners and experts.
Specialist - These people have a much deeper level of understanding around a subject. They are well-informed and stay up-to-date on the topic. Take for example, a wine connoisseur. They have expert knowledge or training in fine wine. They have specialized knowledge and understands the details, technique, or principles of the topic at hand.
If you're writing towards a Specialist audience, your content could get away with jargon, industry terms and buzz words because your readers are well-versed on that subject.
Academic - These are people who know A LOT about a particular subject. To enjoy academic level content you need in-depth knowledge about that subject matter (i.e. doctors reading medical books and research).
So why does this matter? Even if you have built terrific personas for your audience, if the content is not written in a way that will appeal to the audience band or bands your customers prefer, you will not maximize your success. You are missing the opportunity to connect and build better relationships with your audience and customers.
We have now seen the data on thousands and thousands of pieces of content and the audience interaction around them. We know that understanding what sophistication band or bands your audiences prefer, and providing and publishing content that "matches" their preference makes a meaningful difference in web and social performance metrics.
Just another piece of insight to consider when building your personas. And one we think you need to add to the persona building "mix". Please reach out in the comment section below if you'd like to learn more.