personas_clarabridge_2015-492Brands big and small need to have a presence on social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the rising platform du jour have become too ingrained in daily life to ignore them as legitimate avenues for reaching–and being reached by–consumers.

The problem lies in that social media can also present an entirely new set of challenges for organizations, as they feel out the best way to convey their brand’s message and devise best practices for social interaction. An effective presence is no accident – although anyone can create an account, success on social media is not necessarily intuitive. Even habits and methods that brought success can fall by the wayside if those in charge of the accounts move on to other organizations or functions.

The key to social media is crafting a brand persona.

For the uninitiated, a brand persona is a codified idea of how to present your organization online. It provides guidelines for those in charge of the social presence, allows for a repeatable protocol and messaging style, and allows you to hone in on the most effective way to communicate with your audience. In short, the persona is who your brand is on social media.

If that sounds like a tall order…that’s because it is. Hundreds of millions of people use social media, and your brand persona will shape – and in many cases, represent the entirety of – how people form impressions of your company. In order to ensure that your brand makes the best possible impression on your following, follow these four steps:

Involve the Right People: No matter the size and scope of your organization, there are going to be multiple stakeholders who will want a say in how your brand is portrayed – and they are right to add their voice to the discussion. As with a human personality, your brand’s social persona should be well-rounded: it should be creative and clever (Marketing), informative (Product), compelling (Sales), and should represent the interests of leadership (C-Suite). Going too heavy in any one direction, or ignoring one entirely, will create an off-kilter and ineffective social media effort.

Define Your Goals: What are you trying to do on social media? With whom are you hoping to interact? These are essential questions to answer, and “Everything, and everyone” are not acceptable answers. It’s important to understand what each stakeholder hopes to gain from this foray into social media, and to take that into account when deciding who your brand “will be.” It’s impossible to arrive at the right place when you’re unsure of where you’d like to go, so have that discussion early in the process.

Ask the right questions: Remember, you’re crafting a nuanced personality essentially from scratch, and there are a lot of directions you can take this. Hone in on your persona by asking your assembled stakeholders who they think your brand is, how it would act in certain situations, what role it plays in the larger industry conversation, etc. Whether you have a free-flowing discussion or assemble and distribute a questionnaire, and whether your questions are silly (“What Friends character would our brand be?”) or straightforward, make sure that each question and the resulting answers account for a new piece of the persona pie.

Check your work: This last step is the simplest: Once you’ve compiled all of the suggestions and information about who your brand should become and synthesized it into one all-encompassing persona, present your findings to the group. Create a brief biography for your brand. Sketch it out – literally. See if your end result meets expectations, and whether or not you’ve developed a persona that adequately and effectively represents the combined interests of your entire organization. If not, figure out where you went wrong, how to tweak it, and adjust. Repeat the process until you’ve got a persona to be proud of – one that will engage your followers and advance your agenda online.

Click here to download our eBook Social Media Etiquette: Your Guide to Engaging as  a Person, Not a Logo to learn more!

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Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.

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