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Communities Over Personas: The New Social Media Marketing Trend

“Communities” will replace the old model of marketing personas, according to a recent report.

For decades, many companies have used “personas,” a description of their target audiences for marketing. For example, a brand publishing marketing content on its website may instruct the writer to aim content at one of its audiences such as “goal-setting millennials,” ‘Baby Boomers nearing retirement” or “tech-savvy Gen Xers” by providing personas of character traits within that audience group.

However, relying on “communities” instead of personas is a new marketing trend, especially when applied to your brand’s social media platforms, according to “Social Media Trends 2023,” a report from software provider Khoros.

“The pandemic and its aftermath left behind a very different breed of consumer — one [that’s] rapidly adapting, with a new range of interests and drivers,” according to the Khoros report. “Persona marketing will no longer work, as consumers are now too changeable to pin down.”

In 2023, brands will back further away from personas, targeting their broader brand communities, says Khoros.

“They will focus on gaining a deeper knowledge of their consumer ecosystems, with a need to understand exactly who is driving and sharing brand-focused conversations. Influencers of all sizes, employee advocates, and even average consumers will be engaged within brand communities to generate authentic connections and consumer-led content.”

All generations, including nearly half (48%) of millennials frequently try to solve problems on their own by searching online communities and FAQs, according to customer service software provider Zendesk.

What experts are saying in the Khoros report

Ben Jeffries,CEO of advertising agency Influencer

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen the advertising industry as a whole move from talking at their consumers to talking with them. Creators and creator marketing have played a huge role in this move, and the way advertisers navigate their relationship with their consumer base.

“As of 2023, consumers have thus been reimagined as communities — groups who should be understood and advertised to, based on a more human, modern frame, and it will be advertisers who take this approach [that] win in the coming year.”

Soh Wan Wei, CEO and founder of IKIGUIDE metaverse collective

“To win over consumers in the metaverse, global brands will have to create better fan experiences by telling stories together. This means co-creating heartfelt experiences with their consumers, and sharing the ownership of the brand in a meaningful manner.”

The most basic definition of the rapidly expanding metaverse is that it includes online technologies that offer virtual reality with virtual “worlds” that stay alive even when you’re not playing, augmented realities that blend features of digital and physical worlds and more, according to WIRED.

In the metaverse, users are free to participate in more than one community, says Wei. “This makes it imperative for brands to play the long game by inspiring community members and enabling authentic connections.”

Parry Hedrick, communications manager, Crackle PR

“Brands are strengthening their communities to build better connections and edge further away from the ‘hard sell.’ Influencers, content creators, even employees, are being tapped into to create rawer, more genuine interactions, with more localized and audience-personalized content and experiences.”

How to build communities for your brand

Influencers who may already have a following on social media platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are also joining private communities on community-oriented platforms such as Discord to form closer connections to their audience, says the Khoros report.

The Khoros report recommends assessing your current community, including stakeholders and those you may not already consider to be contributors to your brand, observing the different  ways these communities are showing up. Then identify the most engaged types and pay attention to conversation themes.

“As your community starts taking shape, remember the most successful community partnerships are rooted in creating equitable space for communities to share their ideas,” says the report. “Brands who not only recognize the ingenuity of communities but who also find ways to reward them for their contributions will stand above the rest.”