Personas Are Dead: The Future Is Social Intelligence

Forget personas; they don’t cut it anymore. Let’s start marketing to people and not demographics.

Personas Are Dead: The Future Is Social Intelligence

Every once in a while a new technology comes along that changes the way marketers approach their jobs.

Previously, social media was that technology. While brands and agencies now see the value of social media as an advertising channel, the failure to connect the data from this channel across different departments remains a huge issue. The biggest challenge marketers now face is not the lack of information available, but the integration of this information for a holistic view of their audience segments.

As the adoption of social networks increases, so does the richness of information available about the consumer. Previously marketing professionals operated on making fill-in-the-gaps assumptions for persona profiling. Carrying on in today’s world with such a narrow-minded approach not only acts as a disadvantage to the business by way of offering up market share to competitors (who understand the target audience), it also passes up the opportunity to improve on personalization and strengthen customer relationships.

Social intelligence is changing the way we conduct market research, offering hundreds more potential data points to build audience profiles. With the integration of social intel and customer data, traditional methods of conducting market research are becoming obsolete. Gone are the days of expensive, labor-intensive focus groups and surveys. Now marketers can use social data to understand what motivates an audience and consolidate the intel with other information (i.e., customer data) for richer insights. The data is available; it’s just a matter of tapping into the right sources.

As an audience’s opinions, interests, affinities, and media consumption habits evolve—and at a rate exponentially faster than before—we can no longer think of our audience as a static persona. Forget personas; they don’t cut it anymore. Let’s start talking about a target audience as just that: a group of individuals with different tastes and values.

Beyond demographic data, an individual is made up of multiple attributes, and while personas head in the direction of uncovering these layers, they stop short. As marketing professionals we need to start adding signals: What drives response? What publications are they interested in? What TV shows do they watch? What crossovers are there with other brands? It’s the integration of these answers that opens up a window of insight into what makes that individual tick.

Combine the hundreds of data points available for a collection of individuals, and you’ll start to identify common themes and trends for a deeper understanding of the evolving tastes of different audience segments.

As society evolves, we must evolve with it. Gone are generalized views and stereotypical judgments. Let’s start marketing to people and not demographics.