You are not your audience.

I really hate it when I join an interest group and then immediately get a message from one of the group asking me if I will sell their ‘all-natural cleaning products’. They know nothing about me, have no relationship with me, and are caught up in their own agenda. I’m tempted to delete the entire group from my connections.

It’s also annoying when I’m talking to a salesperson and they are telling me specifications about, say, a television that have no relevance in my life. No, I am not a ‘gamer’ and could not care less about the ‘awesome’ virtual headset. I’ll just buy my plain TV somewhere else.

The same types of things happen when people who write social media do not know who they are talking to. Their audience might feel talked down to, ignored, or get overwhelmed with details. They may unfollow for 30 days or forever, or, even worse, bad-mouth the page/product online to their world of connections.

It is easy to write from our own points of view, but that does not necessarily resonate with everyone! Knowing your audience is key to start building relationships and trust so you can find common ground to have a meaningful exchange.


I have found that a good way to know my audience, and stop trying to impose my own perspective all the time, is to create Personas. As Priit Kallas says in his article 5 Essential Social Media Writing Tips You Must Apply “… you need to understand to whom you are writing to. Create a persona of your audience. Understand their lifestyle, interests, and values. The more you know about them, the better your chances of engaging them.”

See a couple of examples of personas I created for an organization that provides services for military members who will be transitioning back to civilian life. I’ve also added my suggestions on how to reach them and I’d be interested to know what you think.

Meet Joseph

avatar of an older man representing a 40-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces

Joseph’s Avatar created by Debra Beauregard using Avatar Maker

  • Joseph is 60 and is married.
  • He was with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for 40 years and just about to retire.
  • Joseph’s e-literacy is non-existent.  He has about zero use for the internet, never mind social media.  His wife does have a Facebook page so she can keep in touch with her children and grandchildren.
  • He knows Veterans Affairs Canada and knows they will be involved in his retirement and has a generally positive opinion.  But, he has questions about some benefits and frustrated when he tries to call.
  • He already feels lonely without his military buddies.

Geez, no use for social media? Maybe it’ll be easier to just forget about Joseph! Kidding. We can reach Joseph through more traditional means like email and through influencers in his life. He still has a CAF email account and we can send him info and links through there. We have a good ally in his wife, Emilia. Our email messages can be written to entice him to find out more and pass it along to Emilia to look up. Anecdotally, we know this happens all the time, where it is the spouse that accesses online resources. After all, it is in their best interest as well!

We can make sure that when we create a resource web page called “About to retire from the forces?“, that we write to the age group and give clear direction on next steps.

Other audiences we can target who could be influences in Joseph’s life are his superiors, his children and grandchildren, and fellow military buddies. Key messaging could include “Know someone who is about to retire from the military? Here’s five things they should know.”

Meet Sophie

avatar of a young woman representing a new recruit of the Canadian Armed Forces

Sophie’s Avatar created by Debra Beauregard using Avatar Maker

  • Sophie is 22 and single.  She has a high school education. 
  • She joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) because she wants to be able to take care of her mom financially. 
  • She has never heard of Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • Sophie’s e-literacy is high and is on social media constantly.

So, even though Sophie is a new recruit, we know we need to reach her early to make a solid retirement plan. She has to be involved to successfully design her post-military world. Because of her age, chances are she will release from the CAF and have a whole other second career. We know that, but we have to hook Sophie in.

Stories that might draw Sophie in include women’s stories of post-military life and details about the excellent education and training benefits available after retiring. As she is engaged on social media, our posts about transitioning out of the forces will include key messages like: “It’s never too early to plan for a chill retirement!” (OK, I need to work on my Millennial lingo…).

We can check out social media groups that recruits are members of and see what worries them about their future. Then, we’ll pepper our own social media with solid info geared towards their concerns.

Do personas rock your world?

Are you using personas in your social media strategies? If yes, I’d love to hear how it’s working out and, if no, do you think you’ll give them a try?


The phrase and concept You are not your user is commonly used in the User Experience (UX) industry. The Nielsen Norman Group gives a good overview in their article: You Are Not the User: The False-Consensus Effect.

Facebook post

Your audience wants you to care about them! There’s lots of information out there on how to figure out who your audience is and how to reach them. You can start with my recent blog that discusses personas and how they can help build your brand.


Meet any good personas lately? Check out my new blog post on what personas are and why you should have them: #personas #branding

5 thoughts on “You are not your audience.

  1. Hi Debra, thanks for creating an insightful piece! I had never thought about creating personas for my audience (I will now). I try to utilize unique ways in my narrative to connect them, and this’ll help further that. You provided some excellent examples here on who they could be, and I loved your tidbits of humour in your writing.

  2. Debra, I love the humour you brought to this. You are so right tho. This can even pertain to these assignments. I find I will gravitate toward certain discussions and topics that interest me and then I will comment on them. It is easier if I like the style of writing more. You did an amazing job on this. So thorough.

  3. Hi Debra, I think this is a stellar piece and a really important thing that we should all be thinking about. I think that one of the most important things a brand, or anyone trying to communicate with an audience should do is create personas out of their potential customers. Doing that work at the outset of any campaign or product launch ensures that you’re able to more accurately market to that specific audience, instead of making potentially costly assumptions. Thanks for this!

  4. Thank you Debra! I really enjoyed reading your post. I hadn’t really thought about writing for social media in this way. I love the persona concept, I will be using this going forward in my strategy sessions.

  5. Nice article Debra, enjoyed the read with your writing style ! You are right , knowing the target audience is key and the persona concept is a great tactic !

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