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Sabra Mwaura

Sabra Mwaura

The Role of User Research in Content Marketing

Over 4.4 million blog posts are published every day. People are bombarded with content (usually not personalized), and we’re not even counting social media posts!

The last thing you want to do is create unnecessary noise with your content marketing. It’s no way to beat the crowd. 👎 If you're going to stand out, then you need to create a persona-based content marketing strategy. 

The only way to do that is to get to know your persona(s). A persona is a fictional character that represents your ideal audience. You may find that you have more than one persona, and that’s okay (and actually quite common)! 

By doing your research, you can learn their pain points, their challenges, and how they consume content. This is valuable information for achieving a successful ROI.

Do The Research on Your Persona Before You Create

It’s essential to do your user research before kicking off a content marketing campaign. It can help prevent creating weak content, which is a waste of time and resources for both you and your audience.

It’s helpful to create an emotional connection with your persona, and it’s nearly impossible to do that without conducting user research first. Once you understand who your persona is, then you can start creating content that appeals to them.

For example, let’s pretend you own software that helps marketers create analytics reports. Your user research shows that your persona has several years of marketing experience. 

You don’t want to craft a blog post on “What is digital marketing” to an audience that has been in the digital marketing industry for several years. Instead, a blog post on how to diversify their digital marketing strategies may interest them more. 

User research can also help you determine:

  • Preferred content format
  • What content subjects they want to read
  • Preference for short or long content
  • What social media apps they use

Even if you feel like you know your ideal reader persona like the back of your hand, reevaluating what your persona needs is crucial to staying up to date and relevant (especially with the fast-paced nature of digital marketing!). 

Pro Tip: An easy and affordable way to conduct user research is by using social media to your advantage! Platforms like Instagram or Twitter have polling options where you can ask your audience what interests them, what types of content they prefer, and more! Check out an example of that from Eventbrite: 

user research on social media

Create a Tone That Appeals to Your Persona

So now that you know how your persona consumes content and what information they need to solve their problems, the next step is to create a copy that appeals to them. 

As part of your user research, you should also identify what words they use. For example, you wouldn’t want to use slang that only Gen Z is using if your audience is from an older generation. Avoid unnecessary jargon and using slang that your audience wouldn’t understand.

Write Content Meant For Your Audience (It’s Not All About You)

The biggest mistake companies make with their content marketing strategy is talking too much about themselves. 

Your audience is consuming your content because they are looking for valuable information they can apply to their lives either professionally or personally. If your blog post sounds like an advertisement, your reader is going to skip it and look somewhere else.

Remember, your audience cares about getting information that benefits them. If you provide that information consistently, they will come back to you again and again (hey, they might even bookmark you!). The process will help them get to know your brand better and eventually earn their trust.

When your audience trusts you, they are more likely to buy from you (or complete whatever action you want them to take). And that’s how you get the best ROI from content marketing!

Align Content to the Buyer’s Journey

Once you know what type of content interests your persona(s), you also need to align it with the buyer’s journey. Each piece of content should match one of the three stages of the buying cycle.

Let’s take a look at Jane, for example. Jane is a persona that you created based on your user research. Jane is in her 30s and looking for ways to help her team better manage their projects. Your business is a software company that offers a robust project management system.

Now, let’s see how you can create content for the buyer’s journey.

  • Awareness: Jane is aware of her problem and is looking for solutions. She finds your blog post addressing how to set-up project management systems. 
  • Consideration: At this stage, Jane clearly understands her problem and is looking for solutions. She decides to listen to your podcast since that’s her preferred method of learning more. 
  • Decision: Jane needs to decide if your business is capable of helping solve her issue. She sees on your website that you offer free trials of your software and decides to sign-up. 

In each stage, Jane needs different information to help understand what she is going through. 

If you’ve done your user research, then you will also know Jane’s preferred content types. In this case, she preferred podcasts and she listened to one in the consideration stage. If you know that she likes podcasts over videos, then you can dedicate the time to making podcasts, which ultimately helped lead her to make a decision.

That’s not to say that your company should only create podcasts; you should have a diversified content strategy. You can also repurpose your podcast into other formats to appeal to other personas that may not prefer podcasts! 

Wrapping It Up

User research is more than just knowing the gender, age, and other demographics of a persona. You need to dig deep and start understanding them. What motivates them? What are their struggles? Do they prefer video or blog content? These types of questions can help you succeed in your content marketing goals. 

Without user research, you would get lost on how to connect with your audience, so do yourself a favor and get personal with your customers 🤝

Sabra Mwaura is the Marketing Specialist at Disqus, the web’s favorite audience engagement platform. Besides planning her next trip, Sabra is passionate about the use of content marketing and digital publishing to build strong relationships with audiences at scale. Connect with her on LinkedIn 📩

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