Forget Buyer Personas, It's time for Blog Personas.
For all small business blogs, the primary objective is the same: to communicate with customers and to (hopefully) bring more traffic to the website. While that serves as a nice definition of what a business blog is, being a little more specific about the role your blog plays in your overall business model will help you deliver content that is more targeted and more entertaining to read. Who would your blog be if it were an employee? Who is your Blog Persona?
Who Is Your Blog Persona?
Think of your blog like an employee. If you tell an employee to “communicate with customers” and “drive more customers in” without any more direction than that, your results will be all over the board. Maybe he or she will put on a gorilla suit and grab a 10-foot arrow and start jumping around on the corner. That would be effective for a car wash or a take-out restaurant at lunchtime. Not so much for a dentist... Or imagine your outside sales rep in jeans and a t-shirt, covered in tattoos and piercings, forever carrying on about the latest in music. Perfect for any business that gains credibility for its contemporary cultural presence. Not so much for a corporate tax attorney.
Chances are also pretty good that if you don't spend enough time thinking about the job you're hiring for or about the person you're filling the position with by defining clear expectations and goals, you'll end up with someone who's late all the time, leaves early, and plays Candy Crush in meetings instead of paying attention. Loser.
So, who is it?
There are zillions of resources for defining Buyer Personas, and they're definitely an important part of the inbound marketing structure. But there's about zero emphasis on the persona of your blog. The result is an internet arena cluttered with thousands of blogs that all look the same, and really, are a bit of a snooze.
My Blog Persona is me. I'm one person and I create words. I like to think I have a bit of an edge to my words and maintain a conversational style while still keeping up my professional appearance. I'm very serious about what I do, but I try not to take myself too seriously. My Blog Persona is me because that's who I have to sell to you. I am the product, for better or worse.
If you want your blog to be something more than a running feed of marketing-prioritized material you're going to have to go a little further than defining the tone of your blog and which point-of-view to write from (first, second, or third person). If a Buyer Persona is an individual person that represents who your customers are, then your Blog Persona needs to be an individual person that represents an actual employee on your sales team. Before you hire someone to launch or post to your blog, you need to define the position.
Step One: The Job Title
Sales Associate? Eh. Director of Inbound Impressions? Sweet. Whatever you want the position to be called, give it an actual job title, just like all of your other employees would have. It will help you envision more clearly what your expectations are.
Step Two: The Job Description
Responsible for creating inbound traffic and funneling prospects towards our landing pages. *yawn* That's what they all say and their blogs are boring. How about “responsible for showcasing our creative solutions to the needs of our customers in an entertaining and engaging format.” That's better.
Step Three: The Objective
There is a lot of room to play around here, depending on what your business is. The objective of all blogs is to inform, to drive traffic, etc., so definitely include that here, but try to dig a little deeper to find a unique angle. Something that will set your blog apart from other blogs in your industry.
The objective of my Blog Persona is this:
To first and foremost engage with readers on a personal level. Once a personal connection is established, I want to bring readers a new perspective on web marketing. I want people to understand the importance of an outstanding web presence in an environment that is soaked with marketing and SEO hype. The goal is to convince readers that the words are just as important as the images. Lastly, I want to teach people that killer content can be obtained from an outside source, given an inside voice, and delivered at a reasonable cost.
Step Four: Job Duties
Be as specific as you can here without being overly limiting, just as you would for any job you're creating. What are some specific targets to reach? The Job Duties of my Blog Persona are:
Inform readers about all aspects of inbound marketing: blogs, landing pages, personas, SEO, main website pages, email marketing, social media integration, and more.
Inform readers about content marketing, including establishing what it is, how it works, and how to apply it to every business model.
Help readers develop strategies for maintaining a successful blog in long-term and short-term periods.
Explain why social media is relevant to all industries and devise strategies for taking advantage of free and paid social media platforms and tools.
Show why great web copywriting is imperative and that it should not be overlooked as part of an overall strategy.
Maintain a friendly tone in a business where pushy salespeople abound.
The Next Steps
Now that you have a specific job defined for your blog, think about who the ideal candidate is to fill the position. Who should be the perceived writer of the blog? You don't have to come up with names and pictures as many Buyer Persona strategies suggest, but imagine a generalized version of your blog's author. If this person is you, how are you presenting yourself to your customers? Corporate shark? Crunchy Organic Mama? Hipster Photographer? Dirty But Genuine Mechanic?
For me, I am a bit of a geek and a crunchy mama, and that will always influence my perspective on things. However, I'll probably not be presenting much of that version of me because she lives in yoga pants, often has kidscum on her shirt, and is easily distracted by songs written by four-year-olds. I'd rather present to you my Monday Morning me: sharp, attentive, churning out ideas, and focused on my clients' goals (and showered thankyouverymuch).
If my blog were focused on delivering my best recipes, rainy day games, anti-bicker strategies, and formulas for homemade household cleaners, the kidscum-clad me would probably be better. If you're a vicious prosecutor during the week, but the business we're promoting is the sports bar you're co-owner of, you're better off presenting the Weekend You in a Bears jersey and jeans.
Bringing It All Together
Blogging, as it turns out, is a lot of work. There are plans to be made, Personas to define, optimization to consider, and after all of that, there still needs to be a regular supply of posts! Blogging is a great communication tool that can be used to not only attract readers from around the web, but also to help focus your customers on who you are and what you want your company to be.
Putting up casual, come-as-you-will blog posts is fine for a personal blog with no real goals. A business blog must be more serious than that. Don't let your blog show up to work in sweatpants with wing sauce on its shirt; insist that it wear a suit. Don't let your blog hang out all day playing Candy Crush, or let it become misguided and dance on the corner with an arrow. Give it a specific job and demand results. And, if you're going to let your blog mess around on Facebook, make sure it's doing work in addition to the “market research” it's always insisting is happening.