Data vs Personas for Content Planning, DistilledLive video discussion

The last DistilledLive video came from our London team and talked you through some positive ways to give feedback to your designers when it comes to producing content. In this edition, we’re moving on from the design of the content as we hear from Kyra Kuik and Alyssa Ennis from our Seattle Outreach team on why you need both big data and personas when you’re creating your content marketing strategy.

So which is better; the data or the personas and which one should you be using? In this video, we talk you through how using both can help you figure out who your audience is as well as what content you should be creating for them.

You can read the full transcript for this video, below.

What do you think is important when considering your demographic? How do you appeal to your consumers through your content? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

DistilledLive Seattle | Big data vs personas for content planning transcript:

Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Distilled Live. I’m Alyssa.

Kyra: And I’m Kyra.

Alyssa: We both work on the outreach team here at Distilled. Today we’re going to be talking about why you need both big data and personas when creating your content marketing strategy.

Before we go into both the big data and the personas, we need to talk about the why behind it. Basically the reason why it’s so important to use both of these together is because your brand can’t be everything to everyone. So figuring out who your audience is, what really motivates their purchasing behavior, the patterns that they use in purchasing is really going to help you to figure out who you should be targeting and also what you should be creating for that audience.

Kyra: Like Alyssa said, there’s been a lot of talk about big data versus personas and which one is better and which one you should use. But we think it’s really important to consider using both because big data, as we’ll talk about in a little bit, provides a ton of information on your audience and your consumers and their demographics, and their behavior, and their online purchase history and all of that good stuff.

Personas make that big data make sense. It’s more personable. It puts a human face to it. It’s a lot easier to start with that. We think it’s really important to consider using both in your content strategy.

I’m going to start by talking about some of the advantages of big data. We’ll start by defining what big data is. It’s actually kind of difficult to define because there’s not a clear definition. It pops up in everything from the science world to academics and all that good stuff.

Big data marketing is basically all the information consumers have online. It’s everything from their Facebook likes to their address and their travel history, their Internet usage, their purchase history. Tons of information. More than you could ever want or need on your consumers.

One of the great examples of a company using this to their advantage is Amazon. They’ve really pioneered using big data in a concrete way. A great example of them using it is in their customer service. I read an example the other day of a woman who called about a problem on her Kindle. She went to Amazon’s customer service page and typed in her cell phone number, and they gave her a call. The call lasted five minutes, and they got the problem fixed.

She was super happy about it because, when she called, Amazon had all of her data right there. They had her purchase history and her address and her phone number and all her information. They didn’t have to mess around with putting her on hold while they pull everything up. It’s very streamline. It’s a very efficient process. She ended up being a happy customer.

One of the areas you can use this in terms of marketing is personalization. Amazon, again, does a great job of this. If you’re online searching textbooks on social work, it’ll come up with other recommendations and different books you can read that are in the same category, things you might be interested in. I’m sure you’ve all seen that on Amazon. It’s fabulous marketing.

The other day I was looking for shoes, and it comes up with three more pairs I might like and sure enough, I’m probably going to buy them. It’s a great, great thing.

There’s also a lot of problems with big data as well, especially when people use just big data.

Alyssa: One of the big problems with big data is for a lot of people it’s really overwhelming to just have a bunch of numbers to look at. You have all these numbers. You have all this information, but how do you use that to really create content?

One of the problems with it is that even though it personalizes it, it still lacks that human component that explains why people are looking at this. What is motivating their purchase behavior? So that’s one of the problems with big data. It makes it easy, but it’s still lacking that humanness that makes it easy for us to create content.

Kyra: Right. It’s also a lot of times just, like Alyssa was saying, incredibly overwhelming. One thing that we’ve seen a lot is companies don’t know how to use their big data. They look at it and expect to find gold nuggets in this massive amount of information, but it doesn’t really work like that. You’re not just going to find valuable information if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You have to be able to ask the right questions to gain the right insights.

A lot of times big data is actually really ineffective. Another way that it’s misused is companies don’t really have a designated person or they only have one designated person to sort through that data. It’s just bottlenecked at that one person, and it’s not shared effectively. It’s not really presented in a way that makes sense.

Alyssa: One way to actually present it in a way that does make sense is actually creating personas, which is the other side of the camp. Like you said, what questions should we be asking, and who should we be targeting? Like I said, personas are basically fictional characters that you create for your business. For example, let’s say that you have an outlet mall. A persona for that could be a mom in her mid 20s with two kids, not a lot of money to spend, so she wants to get the most bang for her buck as far as buying her kid’s clothing.

Another example of a persona for that business could be the young business woman who needs to look professional, but doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. Basically, these are both customers that you’re trying to target, but you are going to approach them in different ways. You’re using the personalization of it by creating these personas, by asking questions and figuring out who these people are, why they’re drawn to your company, what brings them in the door, what motivates them, what inspires them to purchase these things. 

By using that information, we can start to figure out, “Okay, this is the content we need that will speak to these people.” It really just adds that kind of personal human flavor to all the big numbers and just really gives us people that we can focus on.

Kyra: There are also problems to personas, just like there is with big data. One of the problems is that before big data, personas weren’t really backed up by numbers. They were just sort of imagined. Especially if you’re not interviewing customers face to face to get more information from them, if you’re just creating personas, it’s really sometimes hit or miss. You don’t really know if that information is accurate, if those behaviors really are driven by those motivators, and it can be unhelpful in that way.

Alyssa: It can be overwhelming too because you have to spend a lot more time developing the personas. Like I said, it’s about asking enough people and knowing what questions to ask to get the right kind of information that you’ll use to build the personas. I feel like a lot of people back away from it because they’re like, “Oh, we don’t have time for that.” But investing the time now to discovering and creating these personas is really just going to help your level of success in the future.

Kyra: Like we have talked about, both personas and big data have great advantages, but they also both have disadvantages. We think that personas are often, we’ve talked a little bit about they’re a great place to start. They’re a more human personalized space. If you’re starting with a content strategy, sometimes it’s good to start with personas because it’s a little bit easier to understand what a single mom with toddlers shopping at an outlet mall might want as opposed to when you’re looking at all that demographic information it’s a little overwhelming.

Alyssa: Just numbers.

Kyra:  Right. It’s really overwhelming. We think personas are a really great place to start. Again, you need big data to back up that behavior, to justify that persona. We think it’s a great thing to use both. It’s everything in moderation. It’s not great to use just big data, and it’s not great to use just personas. You really need both combined to come up with a content strategy that’s going to not only get at your consumer’s behavior and demographics, but also their wants, needs, desires, and motivators. So we use them both.

Alyssa: We definitely, like I said, leverage both to your advantage to create the most effective content marketing strategy for your business.

Kyra:               This is Distilled Live. Again, I’m Kyra.

Alyssa:            I’m Alyssa. Thanks for watching.

Cheri Percy

Cheri Percy

Cheri joined Distilled as a community intern and now heads up the Marketing department in the London office. She has co-ordinated and project managed some of Distilled's biggest content pieces to date and has doubled its social media growth.  When...   read more

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2 Comments

  1. It's my first time to encounter a video discussion in a blog, better than a plain text write up blog, learned on how to use Data vs Personas can help you figure out who your audience is as well as what content you should be creating for them. Thanks for sharing an interesting topic.

    reply >
  2. On a somewhat related albeit different and lower scale note, we use personas every day at Page One Power in our link building efforts. We take some basic research into the client and make an educated guess of the "typical" type of person you might find visiting their site, then build a persona around that person and have them write/outreach for the clients link building.

    Sometimes it's a bit sexist or generalizing (gardening clients will most likely have a mid 40s female persona, tech industry client might be mid to late 20s male), but making a believable character attached to the profiles helps to expedite the outreach process as well as helps our writers give the persona a voice.

    Great presentation ladies!

    reply >

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