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

COM0014 – Blog #6 – Do People Know your Story?

I was asked the other day to give an answer to the question “What is your favorite customer story?”. This was easy, I knew the answer immediately.  Working in the Research and Innovation field, I have had the pleasure to work with a few really great innovation customers (clients).  But one in particular has, and always will stand out for me.  He will remain nameless for this blog, but if he or someone close to him were to read it they would instantly know just who I was talking about.

John Doe tagI met ‘John Doe’ during the first year with my organization.  During our first meeting I could tell he was kind, smart and terribly shy.  It had become clear that John was onto something really innovative.  John rarely met our eyes. At first I thought he was hiding something, as he continued to look down during the entire time.  His idea had real merit, so much so that he was an instant candidate for our investor panel (think Dragon’s Den).  The problem was John was going to have to ‘sell’ his idea to our panel of investors in order to go beyond his prototype stage. Remember, you can have a great idea, but if you don’t show that you believe in it, the idea falls flat.  The investors need their new potential partner to show confidence in their own product intelligence.

We had three meetings in three days directly after that initial meeting; we worked towards his investment knowledge, investor pitch and overall presentation.  It was a struggle….John knew his numbers, loved his innovation, but he was terrified. So much so, after the third meeting he decided he wanted to let his idea, along with all of his hard work go.  John explained that he had struggled often with social situations and simply could not stand up in front of anyone, anywhere, to ‘pitch’ anything. I didn’t know how to react – he was visibly shaking. I immediately called in two team members; we sat down, closed the door and we talked – I will remember that conversation for the rest of my life. It isn’t so much the talk that was so remarkable (although my team members truly impressed me with their heartfelt insights) it was more how that young man reached out for help and clearly wanted to make a difference in his life. It was the honesty in which he spoke, the way he shared his story and fears. He left later that afternoon and returned the next morning. He looked (directly into our eyes) at the team and said he would to do it. He was genuinely moved that we cared enough to sit with him that afternoon and he wanted to do this for himself. It wasn’t about the product, it was about John.  It wasn’t about the money, it was about John’s commitment to himself.

That evening John attended his first Toastmasters meeting, and pledged to work with my team member once a week on his investor presentation.  He was terrified to go to his first TM meeting, but after the second meeting he said he began to feel safe.  I am still in awe of the changes that started to happen right before our eyes. The transformation I witnessed over that month was unbelievable. I swear he walked differently, he talked differently and he had an air of confidence that few hold.  To this day I still reflect on him and I am amazed by what a person can overcome if they simply make a decision.

successTwo months later John made his pitch, with confidence and enthusiasm to six investors. He was brilliant. The investors were impressed – so much so – that John received three separate investor opportunities.  John’s business today is a success. But more importantly according to John he feels like success.  He still stays in contact and we still talk about that meeting, and reflect on the way his life has unfolded.  It is really remarkable to witness what compassion can do for the human spirit.  John has not just turned his life over, but mine and my fellow team members.  When we are struggling and looking at things that seem insurmountable we speak of John and remember his courage.  Incidentally you wouldn’t be surprised to know that John has went on to mentor a few other struggling entrepreneurs.  We have witnessed many accomplished stories of innovators over the years who have gone on to commercialize their product to market success, but to me there is no greater story of real success than John.