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How to build powerful buyer personas with social media: The ultimate guide

Young woman using social media to research buyer personas

A buyer persona is a snapshot of your ideal customer. Picture it as a consolidation of your entire customer base into a single person. It’s also an essential element of your business plan. Without it, how will you know the who, where, why, when and how for your marketing?

There are hundreds of ways to discover more about your target market. Look at competitors, survey your own customers (if you have any yet), check your website traffic and learn as much about the industry as possible.

First and foremost, though, you want to build a detailed picture of your ideal customer. There’s plenty of consumer research tools to choose from. But did you know, social media is simultaneously one of the most effective and one of the least utilised? Social media platforms offer a unique opportunity to gain insights into your target market. Best of all, it’s also one of the easiest to use.

Which social media should you use?

That all depends on your business and the customer you want to target. Luckily, we’ve compiled a handy guide to tapping into the insights from all the major social media channels. Don’t say we don’t treat you!

Facebook

Smartphone using Facebook marketing for business

Facebook is a fantastic research tool for new businesses. As the most popular social media platform in the world, it offers a massive pool of information to build your buyer personas. But with all that data, finding the right audience info can be daunting. Thankfully, Facebook comes with numerous targeting features specifically for businesses.

To optimise audience research on Facebook, you will need a Facebook Business Account. Ideally, you’ll also have an up-to-date list of existing customers, but don’t worry if not.

Key research tools:

  • Custom Audiences: Facebook Custom Audiences allows you to develop custom lists from your existing list of contacts. That means you can break it down according to age, gender, basically any information you already have on your customers. Those without a list of existing customers, don’t fear. By adding a Facebook Pixel to your website (more on that later), you can create a Custom Audience from the visitors to your site.
  • Audience Insights: Use Facebook Audience Insights to learn about people who already follow your Page and other people on Facebook. With this information, you can develop Lookalike Audiences that mirror your current followers’ interests. These lookalike audiences offer invaluable insights into your prospective customer base.
  • Facebook Pixel: The Facebook Pixel is a piece of code you insert into your website. This code allows you to measure, optimise and build audiences for your marketing based on visitor behaviour on your website. Target warm customers with Facebook ads for products they browsed on your site. Measure cross-device conversions to understand the customer journey.
  • Groups: This one requires a little extra digging, but it’s worth it. Search Groups on Facebook to discover key interests of potential customers. Just type in the key search terms that describe your business and select Groups as a filter. Within these Groups you’ll find other potential customers (providing the Groups are open, or grant you access). Of course, to get the real details, you’ll have to dig into profiles. Just remember that while you can target ads specifically to audience types, you won’t be allowed to target specific customers.

Twitter

Smartphone using Twitter for marketing your business

Twitter might have the same reach as Facebook, and it certainly doesn’t allow you to go into as much detail. But there are still plenty of nifty tricks to burrow down into your audience and grow your buyer personas. 

Key research tools:

  • Twitter Advanced Search: Like Facebook, you can use Twitter’s basic search to find users talking about topics relevant to your brand. However, with Twitter’s Advanced Search option, you can explore the platform in much more detail. Find your audience by location, gender, interests and other followers. 
  • Twitter Lists: Twitter’s Lists feature is a mixed bag. Sure, you get added to an industry-specialised content feed, but you also get bombarded with irrelevant spam. That doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable insights to be gained however, particularly for B2B companies looking to better understand the industry. Join industry-relevant lists and create your own to grow your audience.
  • Twitter Audience Insights: Facebook isn’t the only one providing audience feedback to users. Insights are primarily used to optimise posts, but they also offer valuable background on prospective followers. Find out when the most popular time to post is, how different users engage with content. Most importantly, discover what content most appeals to your demographic.

Instagram

Using Instagram to research buyer personas

With 71% of Instagram’s monthly users under the age of 35, it’s safe to say Instagram is the social media platform of choice for Gen Z and Millennials. It’s also one of the most engaged; 63% of users use Instagram every day. On top of that, Instagram comes with several handy tools to help businesses discover more about their client-base.

Key research tools:

  • Instagram Native Insights: Like most other social media platforms, Instagram offers an analytics platform to learn more about your followers. Native Insights (NI) enables you to learn how followers engage with your content, how many people see your content and where they find it. Most importantly, NI allows you to discover the most fundamental stats of your audience; gender, location, and age.
  • Instagram Stories Analytics: Not only does Instagram offer insights into your user-base; it also offers data on viewers of your Instagram Stories. Stories Analytics allows businesses to view information on the users who viewed their Stories; invaluable information for anyone looking to get a clearer picture of their target audience. With 400 million daily users, Stories Analytics is a goldmine of info for businesses.
  • Instagram Polls: Audience participation is always a winning marketing trick in the age of social media. But encouraging interaction on your posts isn’t just a great technique to win over warm leads. It’s also a great way to find out more about your followers. It can be as simple as asking what colour your audience prefers. Not only do you (usually) get higher engagement, you also gain a first-hand impression of customer preferences.

LinkedIn

Using Linkedin to research audience buyer personas

LinkedIn is the social platform for business. It’s also one of the best social media platforms for developing your buyer personas. The detail users provide in building their profile is particularly relevant to B2Bs. But there is value here for B2C companies, providing you know where to look…

Key research tools:

  • LinkedIn Search: Yes, that’s right. Developing your buyer personas can be as simple as searching LinkedIn. But like any research, you need a plan before beginning. Discover common traits between customers by searching industries, geographic location, and job positions. Find out their interests by searching relevant keywords and checking follower lists of competitors.
  • Go Premium for maximum reach: LinkedIn offers a premium business account that allows you to engage with people outside your circle. It also gives you access to handy features to target specific demographics. That’s why many businesses use a Premium account for corporate research. For small businesses, however, a Premium account might not be worth the cost for the additional insights it provides.
  • Check out awards & endorsements: As a professional networking site, LinkedIn is all about showing off your skills and achievements. Users can list awards on their profile and have key skills endorsed by other connections. Study the profiles of your ideal buyer and check out their recommendations and endorsements. With this information, you can develop services and content that appeal to customers’ needs.
Using social media to research customer personas

The fact is, building buyer personas is an ongoing process. Social media certainly isn’t the only channel to conduct research through. As your business grows and your customer profile becomes clearer, you’ll find new ways to engage with prospects. But social media will always be a reliable source of information. 

The mutual nature of social media encourages customer feedback. That ensures you’ll always have access to a bottomless well of insights to shape your products, services and marketing. In business, that’s the first step to creating real relationships with the people who matter most; your customers.

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