Sunday, May 15, 2016

Social Media Marketing 101: What Steampunkers Can Teach Social Media Marketers

Last weekend, we walked the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham, MA. (Yes, as in Waltham brand watches.) In full costume:

(Photo credit Santo Wiryaman) to promote our two Steampunk-themed print-on-demand collections (here and here).

During our lunch break, we attended a lecture on "Steampunk 101." One of the presenters -- let's call her Alice -- wore a theme-appropriate dress made of fabric featuring an interesting oversized pocket watch pattern. But what fascinated me even more was when she said that she couldn't purchase steampunk costumes with her 21st century mindset. Instead, when she went shopping for such outfits, she focused what "Elizabeth", her steampunk character, might like and wear.

Does this tactic sound at all familiar? It might if you use personae to help you plan and execute your social marketing plans. Fundamentally, a persona is an archetype of your target audience. Personae are tools to help software developers and marketers see things from the perspective of the customer and end user. Personae are useful, because many people are predisposed to think that the most intelligent, reasonable people in the world are those who are most like themselves. Personae help designers and marketers "get out of themselves" and see the world from a different and broader perspective.

Here, Alice understood that she and "Elizabeth" had different needs and desires, that they lived in different worlds. She didn't let her own preferences dictate what was best for "Elizabeth." While Alice may not have selected the "pocket watch dress" for herself, it was entirely appropriate for "Elizabeth."

As marketers, we sometimes talk to our audiences the way we want to be spoken to ourselves. But that's not always what our prospective customers want or need. For example, if the target audience for one of my products is of a different gender, generation, and socio-economic background than me, I'm not going to try and engage him the same way I would someone my own age, gender, and background. So I create a persona for "Connor" (or adopt a persona used earlier by the original designer/developer) and add enough details that I feel I know him. Among other things, I include his job, the neighborhood he lives in, the types of activities he enjoys, his family and friends, his spending habits, and his use of technology /social media. I find a photograph of someone who I think "Connor" would look like. As I draft my marketing plan, I think about whether this is something that would resonate with "Connor" and any other personae for the product. I think about how to attract his attention and get him to take action on what I write. Moreover, I try to figure out not only how to make him a customer, but also get him to like my product so much that he taps into his circle of influence and evangelizes on my behalf.

While the use of personae is not a guarantee of marketing success, it is a useful addition to the savvy social media marketer's toolbox. And while we were ultimately more successful at the Steampunk Festival at being photographed than selling our products, Alice's comments helped remind me what I should be "watching" out for as I promote my products.

Lynne Guimond Sabean is co-founder of Janusian Gallery. She first began using personae in the early 2000s, while working for an Irish software company. E-mail her at

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