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Is Your Content Created for Machines or Humans?

Is Your Content Created for Machines or Humans

Is your content created for machines or humans?

Content marketing faces the constant tension between writing for search engines or crafting it for people. But there is also another challenge that comes from decades of formal marketing education and training.

Overcoming the blind spot that demographic data sometimes imposes on marketers that has been collated and sifted by computers.

Marketers and business for a long time have often distilled their typical customer down to a range of demographic data points.

If you really want to spell it out, according to Wikipedia  “Demographics is the quantifiable statistics of a given population“. This means cold hard metrics and data such as gender, age, home ownership, employment and geographical location. This is data that marketers have used for decades to create and craft content, advertising and marketing messages.

These quantifiable statistics are a good start to understanding your target audience as a business or organisation but they are missing something.

A human face.

Why personas?

Personas have emerged in the past few years as a means to put a human face to the soulless and faceless stats of the demographic data scientist. The problem is that just considering a demographic profile misses that human element. So personas were invented to help the new breed of marketer understand the human side of the data.

Personas have problems, challenges and aspirations both as an individual and as an employee of a company.

Newspapers have understood this at a primal layer for a long time in what news they published on the front page. Editors and journalists have known for a long time that “If it bleeds it leads“. Fear sells newspapers.

Personas have personalities, they have fears, wants and passions. Demographics have ages, an assigned gender and even a college degree.

So it doesn’t matter whether you are a blogger, a brand or social media marketer, You need to make your content human.

Example of a persona

Personas can be very prescriptive or they can provide an overview of the type of person who is buying your product or service. Here is an example of a buyer persona used by Warehouse 1 (they are material handling equipment provider which supplies pallet racks and industrial shelving.

Content marketing Persona example

Source: Hubspot

Fred the facility manager is not just a demographic but someone who has goals and challenges. This buyer persona is putting that human face to the demographic of male, 45 and married with two children

The persona doesn’t just describe age and gender but lists the possible aspirations (goals) and problems (challenges) that a Warehouse 1 customer would face everyday in his job.

To develop a persona requires asking some questions.

Questions you need to be asking

To develop a persona you need to be asking some questions about your typical buyer. Here are a few to get you started.

  • What are their biggest problems and challenges in their job?
  • Where do they get their information from? Blogs, trade magazines, books?
  • What would stop them changing to your product or service?
  • What conferences do they attend?
  • How do they convince their boss to make a buying decision? Do they print off an ebook and put it on his desk?
  • What media do they consume? YouTube videos, white papers, podcasts?

When you start to know the answers to some of these questions then your content creation will begin to be relevant and  appropriate.

Personas and content marketing

Creating a persona is both an art and a science. Contagious and engaging content that touches hearts and minds is your goal as a content marketer. The content not only needs to answer the questions but also be on the media preference of choice.

That maybe a video, a blog post and on Slideshare…. or maybe all three.

If you can put your content creators in the buyers shoes then you are well on your way to content marketing success.

What about you?

Who is your typical buyer? Have you given them a name, made them human and discovered their goals and challenges.

Look forward to your insights and feedback in the comments below.


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  • omojola

    Jeff, it would be nice if you add the audio to every blog post. We are too busy/lazy to read out here.

    • Hi I don’t do the audio it is done as a favour by a colleague so that is why you don’t see it every post. So maybe you are right i am little bit lazy. Bt Iwill take your message onboard as seeing it as important!

  • MadhuBora

    Please accept my “vote” for audio.
    Thanks for the great content as always!


    • Just letting you know Madhu that the podcast audio feature has just been added to this post!

      • MadhuBora

        Thanks Jeff. Appreciate it.

  • I found out that personas who have the jolly giddy up attitude appeals most om social media networks as long as they don’t get too aesthetic.The one who gives cheer and inspiration are more likely to be added in Google plus or get likes in Facebook. I just think that if netizens begin to see you as internet marketing sensation then eventually search engines will. 🙂

  • Thanks Contentable. Just happen to love creating and writing. Oh yes…and get up very early!

  • Excellent post Jeff 🙂
    I’m sure writing SEO’d contents, Keyword density,rewrite,unicode encoding LSI,etc,etc is not anymore! Just pure informative contents going to be survive forever!

  • I just read a different blog post today about personas, and I’m so glad I came across yours too, Jeff! This definitely gives me perspective with my responsibilities for my current role.

    Assessing what an individual’s fears, wants and passions would give me an insightful perspective on how to help them convince their boss to make a buying decision. Figuring out what would make them change their current workflow is most valuable in this situation, but definitely a challenge worth facing.

  • Best practices will emerge from the contents success and its social proof. It will vary between industries. I think we should use it as a guide but because we are dealing with the wonderful world of real people we shouldn’t make the personas too prescriptive!

  • Its much easier to think about communicating with a person than with a set of datapoints. And it makes our writing or videos or audios or slideshows much more memorable and real.

    You can tell lots of times too if someone has sat down and thought this aspect through or not by how their presentation goes. Maybe there aren’t a lot of words to describe the difference, but we sure can feel them in our guts.

    • Thanks Stephen for that insight. That emotion is easier to touch if you can discover your unique human voice when crafting your content!

      • Absolutely. It is that quality of being human that really touches our readers or listeners or viewers. We all know it when the communication isn’t genuine, and are glade when it is.

  • brina LT kaiser

    A little late to the party but didn’t want to miss my chance to concur. I was in a meeting room yesterday which had clearly just been used by our Devs, PMs, & Product Marketing teams; there were personas mapped up all over those whiteboard walls! This movement, enriched by the conversation around customer experience index, etc., resonates with our mid-size company as well as the true small businesses we serve. Great conversation – thanks, Jeff!