If you look up the definition of Persona, Wikipedia provides you the following definition:
‘In marketing and user-centered design, personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way. Marketers may use personas together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personas are constructed to be representative of specific segments.’
Traditional marketing dogma suggests that marketing teams should seek to create 2-5 hypothetical personas that will then drive the creative and marketing strategies.
This thinking seems pretty Old School these days. Today we have so much information about our target consumers’ online behaviors and specifically their actual dialogue via social, that it would be unthinkable not to segment further than 2-5 personas. The social networks have become a place where more and more of our lives are transacted and as a result are public focus group in the magnitude of hundreds of millions of comments and conversations.
Because of all of this data (some refer to it as Big Data) we can use a more modern approach to determining, rather than hypothesizing, the exact personas that make up the overall target of our brands. It’s not necessarily easier but arguably more comprehensive.
When we think of the target health consumer of Disease X for example, that individual shares many characteristics, connections and dependencies as many others. This is the most important part of identifying the wider personas that we can leverage across the communities. And it’s not just a demographic and/or geographic macro segmentation e.g. women over 55 living in the southeast. No, the persona we construct today must be built from the many layers of information we have available.
When constructing the new persona model for the health care consumer, we must take into account how consumers actually discuss their disease and how common that dialogue is across the overall disease community. By gaining a deeper and wider perspective of all the people who are researching, discussing, sharing or asking, we build a foundation for what content must be constructed that will ultimately influence their action or outcome.
So let me finish with another definition for you. Homophily, first defined in 1954 and now explained in Wikipedia as:
‘Homophily (i.e., “love of the same”) is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. The presence of homophily has been discovered in a vast array of network studies. These include age, gender, class, and organizational role.’
Birds of a feather flock together.
Using evidence based, data driven approaches to defining real profiles, not hypothetical ones, is the new school method of developing personas. Leveraging these personas and understanding how homophily works, unlocks great potential in content marketing across social media for healthcare.