In the past week, I’ve spoken with two national organizations about to their social media strategies. The beauty of helping others is certainly two-fold. First of course, it’s awesome to see companies and people that you care about succeed, but also that you end up learning so much more about yourself in the process. This blog post was borne out of those two conversations.
We’ll take a look at how personas are currently defined in the online space. Then, we’ll look at a new and broader approach to defining the term.
Persona is a term given to describe the versions of self that all individuals possess.
Behaviors are selected according to the desired impression an individual wishes to create when interacting with other people. Therefore, personae presented to other people vary according to the social environment the person is engaged in, in particular the persona presented before others will differ from the persona an individual will present when he/she happens to be alone.
Let’s consider this definition of persona in the context of online social media. Both companies and humans can create multiple versions of their identity by posting profiles on various sites. For example, my Facebook profile is a place where I can communicate and interact informally with my friends and join silly groups just for fun. However, my LinkedIn profile is where I manage my networking relationships and collaborate with other Soccer and Social Media Marketing professionals. As an organization, Women’s Professional Soccer uses Facebook and Twitter to engage in conversation with our fans, share information about our league and provide a national platform for our teams to leverage, but we use Delicious to post links to external news sites and embed a live RSS onto the website. Those are just a couple examples of the ways we can use social media to create unique personas, by this definition.
It’s important to take a strategic look at which personas to develop as part of you or your company’s social media plan. There are about a zillion posts online about this topic, so instead of beating a dead horse, here are a few of my favorites:
- Audrey Carr – What goes into planning a social media strategy
- Todd Malicoat – Seven Reason your Social Media Marketing Failed
- Lisa Barone – Creating your Social Media Plan
As we enter the new age on information sharing (*cough* Web 3.0), I think we should really reconsider how we define the term persona.
We shouldn’t think of an individual or corporation’s various social media profiles as separate personas, but instead as one living, breathing, changing, engaging character. A persona, therefore, includes multiple social media personalities, and combines them with whatever other online presence that user has, to create the complete picture of who/what that individual or corporation is. Keep in mind that the term persona can describe either a person or a company. (Subsequent posts will build on this idea.)
For example, Amanda Vandervort is my persona. I have multiple personalities (haha, get it?!) online which include each of my social outlets including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Delicious, Fan Corner, YouTube, Digg and Flickr. I may act or communicate differently in each of these spaces, but they’re still all part of what makes me… well, “Amanda”. Women’s Professional Soccer has Fan Corner, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, and YouTube profiles, and WPS is essentially a confluence of them all. No two profiles or social personalities of one persona are mutually exclusive – instead they should all be considered part of a greater persona.
Personas extend beyond the social sphere to include any and all websites that are owned and operated by the person or company. A person or company’s online presence is often (read: should be) clearly defined by their site or blog, and the central place where all the moving parts converge. Hence, AmandaVandervort.com is the central hub of my Amanda Vandervort persona, womensprosoccer.com is the central hub of the WPS persona, and if you look closely at either of these sites, you’ll notice a tremendous amount of social integration at the root level.
A persona is more than your brand identity online. It’s more than your social media marketing campaign, and more than your website. It’s everything you are as a person or a company, honestly represented through multiple channels online. And remember, personas are not static, they change and grow just as you and your company do.