Who? Where? Why? Using Integral Personas for Social Media Marketing

There are a number of challenges in adopting social media as a marketing channel. Companies embarking on social media efforts need to seriously consider questions like:

  • Who is our audience?
  • Which social channels make the most sense for our business?
  • Are we confusing our perspectives with the perspectives of our audience?
  • What kind of language resonates with our audience?
  • Are we behaving in ways that are acceptable for our audience?

In this post, Id like to introduce the idea of Integral personas, which can greatly enhance marketing efforts.  At Philly Marketing Labs, we apply personas to help develop social media strategies using a framework derived from Integral Theory.  We find that persona development supports rapid discovery with the client and organizes useful insights for action.

The approach described here builds on the work by philosopher Ken Wilber.  Wilber’s Integral Theory model (aka AQAL) is a five-part road-map to human experience. We use a component referred to as the Quadrants in AQAL.  The quadrants recognize that everything in nature, including us, are actually both an individual and a member of a collective.  We are both human and humanity.  Furthermore, each person has both an interiority that every one of us comes to in private way.  We can describe it, but only our individual self can experience it directly. We also have a set of exteriors that can be measured and defined. Think of these as our credentials, our demographics, our activities and personal statistics.

Similarly, each collective has an interior and exterior. The collective interior is the world of culture and meaning-making. It is used to answer questions about what a group considers good, cool and bad. The collective exterior defines social structures like organizations, associations, corporations and social media.

The template below demonstrates how a marketing team might parse discovery items into the four quadrants.

So what?  We build these nice little quadrants.  How can a marketing initiative take advantage of the personas?

1) Organizing.  It helps us to organize our thinking.  In working with clients, we usually find two to five core personas that we should be thinking about.  By segmenting the results, we can gain clearer insights and avoid mixing strategies and messages.

2) Messaging. Beyond helping with organization, persona quadrants lay out the foundations for messaging. Motivation, values, and core imagery are often readily apparent from a newly created quadrant.  With these in hand, we can improve website copy, advertisements, newsletters and our social interactions.

3 )Discovery.  The persona quadrants allow the discovery of key social media platforms for meeting and integrating with our audience. Through a thoughtful conversation around a persona, we can fill out the lower-right quadrant with the social media platforms most likely to yield connections to that audience.

Consider this simple sample persona for an audience of stay-at-home moms with toddlers:

Once you spent some time critically thinking about this persona, I am sure you could find ways to extend and improve it.  However, you can also see how it could inform campaigns and launch initiatives, advertising efforts, and messaging.

Organizing, messaging and discovery are just the beginning of the journey.  But they make a strong foundation for composing campaigns, developing analytics and creating results.

If you’ve used some helpful models to understand your audience, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section. Please let me know what you think of the ideas presented here as well.