Market research can be difficult to come by, so I wrote a post on the benefits of using social media to do market research last week. I’d like to follow up with a how-to guide on using LinkedIn specifically to create buyer personas. Because I am using the limited free version of LinkedIn, I won’t be able to do advanced research for this blog.

Why LinkedIn is Great for Market Research

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 140 million members following more 1.9 million companies worldwide. Additionally, more than half of all US citizens and more than 3/4 of US adults are online. Out of the big 3 social networking sites, LinkedIn is the best place to display your professional profile. Yes, Facebook allows you to provide your job title, but Facebook isn’t used as a networking tool nearly as much as LinkedIn. Twitter is great to follow people and organizations and learn about them; however, its profile section isn’t focused on professional titles and duties.

A Step-By-Step process: How to Use LinkedIn to Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are a great way to connect your content with the needs and wants of your buyers. In my previous blog, I illustrated the importance of buyer personas. In case you missed it, here is the template I used in the post to create buyer personas:

  • What are their demographics?
  • What is their education and work background?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are their interests?
  • What type of media do they consume?
  • What motivates them?
  • Who makes their decisions?
  • What is their preferred method of communication?
  • Summarize their strengths and weaknesses

Step 1: Locate the search bar (make sure it is set to search for people), and then click the advanced tab to search specific job titles. For this example, I’ve filled out “Chief Technology Officer” and focused on the computer and networking industry. For simplicity, I’ve also checked the English box to narrow down the language and country to the United States.

You can narrow down your search by geography or company if you wish. I recommend starting broad and narrowing in.

You will see a list of names with titles next to them. Click on a few that match your search title.

Step 2: For this portion, I am going to use a widely-promoted public figure so that I don’t offend anyone. These types of buyer persona analyses are meant to be internal documents that you only share within your organization. When developing the persona, it is important to write generalities and use fake names to identify the personality. It is not meant to be a specific profile of any one person.

LinkedIn Profile for Rand Fishkin, CEO and Founder of Internet Software Company 

Twitter – @randfish 

What are Rand’s demographics?

Caucasian male about 30-40 years old. Lives in the Greater Seattle area; claims he’s in the Internet industry

What is Rand’s education and work background?

Rand has held jobs within the industry and has a BA from the University of Washington. His expertise in SEO, web design, development and marketing, Internet marketing, startups, web apps, social media marketing, and small business leadership exhibit his expertise in the Internet industry.

What motivates Rand?

It’s tricky to infer Rand’s motivations just from his LinkedIn page; thankfully, his personal website link is located under his website’s profile.

Combining information from his LinkedIn page and personal autobiography, one could infer that Rand is motivated by solving problems and self-accomplishment.   Because many entrepreneurs and CEO’s have similar business demands, you can assume standard motivations such as:

  • Meeting deadlines
  • Payroll
  • Recruiting a great team
  • Evangelizing the company
  • Speaking
  • Etc..

But the essence of what motivates Rand is self-accomplishment. It becomes apparent when you read his many accomplishments and the way people speak about him.

What are Rand’s Needs?

On a basic level, Rand’s summary describes his role as CEO of SEOmoz and includes duties which involve recruiting and managing the executive team, leading the product/strategic vision, and evangelizing SEO and SEOmoz PRO around the world.

A deeper glance at his recommendations reveals that he also needs to be creative, has a great work ethic, and puts a premium on keeping in touch with clients, prospects and industry leaders. Typical of CEO’s, Rand is pressed for time and must meet deadlines. His company provides a service, so customer service and customer satisfaction are at the top of the list. He is an industry thought leader on SEO and must remain relevant and up-to-date on all things Internet-marketing related.

As a company CEO, he must be personable and likeable. He is in constant need of research and knowledge to provide his many followers. He must remain calm under pressure and be the guy that everyone looks to for advice fist. He also needs to run a tight ship and make sure his business is operating as efficiently as possible.

What are Rand’s interests?

Under the interests section, Rand has entered search technology, information retrieval, hiking, NFL, and wine.

You can also infer from his groups and associations that he is interested in startups, entrepreneurship, interactive marketing, and travel. You could check his twitter feed or Facebook Timeline to gather more information. His likes on Facebook may provide more in depth analysis into what his interests are. For example, his personal site reveals he likes the outdoors, scotch and friends as well.

What types of media does Rand consume?

Based on his industry and needs, you can assume Rand consumes all media related to search marketing, business, and entrepreneurship in order to keep up. He states on his personal website that he does not use Facebook often.

Who makes the decisions?

According to his personal autobiography Rand is happily married to his wife and I would suspect that she plays a large role in the decision-making process; especially around the house. This may not be very valuable information, but it could be a relate-able point in your content.

What is Rand’s preferred method of communication?

On his personal website, Rand blatantly states he doesn’t check his Facebook account often, he also proclaims himself as an “occasional tweeter.” His email address is at the bottom of his Linkedin for the public to see, and he has quite a presence on Linkedin. From all of this, we can infer that LinkedIn is his preferred method of online communication.

What are Rand’s strengths and weaknesses?

Rand is a humble CEO who is motivated by a sense of self-accomplishment. His brand image is very non-threatening and the TAGFEE philosophy is almost playful. His biggest weakness is that he has very little free time. Many people that Rand has worked with and worked for say that he is a wonderful guy and a great resource to look to. His biggest threat is that his software and service will become outdated with new technology.

By looking at Rand’s recommendations, you can see what “other” people think about him and not what he says about himself. It’s important to distinguish between the two.

You can quickly see that I’ve gone very specific with this particular CEO. I encourage you to use a broader approach, at least when first creating buyer personas. Think about your product or service, and who has purchased from you already-this is a great place to start. Find their job title on Linkedin, and start making inferences.

Image Courtesy of Smeester and Associates

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