Part 1: The heart of your content
I went to high school with identical twins, and I was always puzzled when other people couldn’t appear to tell them apart. To me, it was perfectly obvious who was who. You might think it was because I had a massive crush on one of them that lasted years, but that wasn’t it.
Each girl, to my eye, walked differently, sat differently, spoke different and acted differently. Yet, both came from the same fertilised egg. Their father liked the beach, so they were both tanned, and both were sporty – good swimmers and hockey players.
Back then classes were still defined by ‘intelligence’ and they were both in the top class together.
Despite all these identical demographic details, I saw them very differently.
Identical twins, to those that know them, are not identical.
If even identical twins are different, why are personas so broad?
Science agrees. Geneticist Carl Bruder of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, compared the genomes of 19 sets of adult identical twins and found a lot genetic variance.
“The reason may be that genetic variation is a natural occurrence that accumulates with age in everyone,” he says. It’s a surprising conclusion, considering that twins grow up in the same house, with the same parents and the same values, attend the same school and eat the same food.
Which, begs the question. If not even twins are the same, why do we continue to base our content marketing strategy – and messaging – on personas who are defined by broad demographics? Remember the twins? Demographically identical, yet not the same two people.
Today they live in different countries, have different family structures, different qualifications, different careers and different interests. These outcomes are manifestations of their differences when on the face of it everything was the same.
Take, for example, a ‘young woman’ persona – let’s call her Tyler – that is commonly used in the marketing I come across:
- Aged between 18 and 29;
- Focussed on fun, travel and relationships;
- University educated;
- Establishing a career.
Creating strategy and content for Tyler as the broad persona above is about as effective for creating standout content as a blunt butter knife is for cutting a tough steak reinforced with muscle fibres.
Don’t get me wrong. These persona ‘traits’ were perfectly workable in the age of mass media advertising when marketers could reach millions in under 30 seconds.
In the age of the ‘individual’ consumer, when technology, culture and social trends have empowered people to be more individual, unique, and particular than ever before, this broad brush stroke simply won’t cut it.
Certainly not in a time when 1.8 billion pieces of content get created every single day, and each person has the power to select what messages they want to consume, when and how.
To create content that is not precisely laser targeted with the accuracy of smart bomb is to be irrelevant.
Individual personas are at the heart of good content marketing strategy
The single most important element of a good content marketing strategy is to begin and end with a uniquely define persona.
What makes your personas different and individual – standout – can do the same for your content.
So how do you create a persona unique enough to sharpen the cut-through of your content marketing?
How to create unique personas
We must respect our audience as individuals.
Start with Tyler, as she appears above, and then pare her down or flesh her out. For example, create different categories for Tyler. Career could be one category:
- Tyler the Entrepreneur (fun comes second to building her business, and she does not have a university qualification – perhaps she dropped out);
- Tyler the Artist (uses her natural talent to earn a living and participates in the gig economy);
- Tyler the Corporate (this Tyler is ambitious and is motivated to learn how to impress her boss and successfully negotiate office politics).
If you look at the three different examples of the original Tyler, you’ll be able to see how your content strategy can take a new, fresh and unique direction.
Narrowly defining your personas inspires your content, giving you options that range from business advice for female entrepreneurs under 30 to navigating the gig economy and corporate career planning.
To create an effective content marketing strategy and content that is relevant and differentiated, we must respect the customer as an individual.