Understanding Netnography for Creating Buyer Personas

NickArnett |
 03/25/19 |
3 min read


Buyer personas aren’t a new thing in marketing – but you do need a new approach to get the most value from them in today’s markets. Netnography is essential to your success – but what even is that?

Netnography Defined

Coined in 1995 by marketing professor Robert Kozinets, netnography was originally developed to understand online conversations between Star Trek fans.

That’s kind of a perfect example for our purposes, because Star Trek is a fandom that has been famously mocked over the years for comprising an audience of pretty specific (and narrow) types – i.e., sci-fi geeks, loners, and losers living in their parents’ basements.

But that’s exactly why netnography is so critical. Making such narrowly-defined assumptions about any audience isn’t just insulting to those who fall within that description, it leaves out all the other fans you’re missing by limiting your definition with broad demographics.

We saw this when the Star Wars franchise failed to recognize their female audience with much of their Episode VII: The Force Awakens merchandise – even though the “undisputed protagonist” of that movie is a woman.

What the evolution of social media and social analytics should illustrate to brands is not just that they can use consumer data to understand wants and needs at a deeper level – but that they have to. Consumers expect it, and they will migrate to brands that deliver.

But we still see brands who aren’t getting it. What should they do?

Buyer Personas 2.1

The solution is a fairly simple mindset shift. The antiquated thinking was akin to “If you build it, they will come.” There’s value to that idea. Create a good product with an audience in mind, and help them find you.

But it takes more than that to stay alive in these demanding, competitive times. A better mantra is “If they’re there, you should build it.” Meaning, get to know all the audiences that align with your brand, and give them what they crave.

The term “buyer persona” is interchangeable with “audience segment” – and whatever you call it, you have to look beyond the surface. Relying on demographics without going further is like buying an empty frame and hanging it on the wall. Netnography, i.e., social listening, sentiment analysis, and audience segmentation creates the picture – and that’s what really matters.

So if an you’re an organic juice company, for example, whose target audience is demographically “young moms,” your more personalized buyer personas might include:

  • Stay-at-home moms of kids with food allergies
  • Stay-at-home dads who care about organic foods
  • Older moms trying to balance personal health with raising kids
  • Mompreneurs living a busy lifestyle

Working moms and dads who want simple, affordable nutrition options

– because the people interested in what your brand has to offer expand past that “young moms” definition to include dads, older moms, etc. And why would you limit your audience?

Competitive Advantages

The more you understand about your audience segments, the more you can offer exactly what they want and need. This includes what they’re missing from other brands. Because whatever your customers love you for is great – but why isn’t everyone in your target audience a customer?

Using netnography to identify unmet market needs allows you to fill those gaps and claim those consumers for your brand. The same goes for dissatisfied customers with issues left unresolved by your competitors. Be better – just by paying attention – and win. It’s really that simple.

New Tools for a New Attitude

Wait. If it’s so simple, why aren’t all brands doing it? Well, in addition to not understanding the degree of change in marketing approach over the past decade, many brands are using outdated tools that aren’t up to the task of analyzing current data volumes.

These brands are left with data that’s too slow to act on in time, or insights that are far from comprehensive or accurate. Imagine trying to surf YouTube on a dial-up connection… that’s what happens when you try to surface meaningful social data without best-in-class social analytics tools.

Right now best-in-class means AI Analytics tools – capable of highly accurate language, image, and sentiment analysis – that are transparent and easy to control as your needs demand. You have to know where insights originate, and be able to act quickly – and with confidence – before someone else does.

These tools uncover the most important values of your audience – so you know who they are, what means the most to them, and what you should focus on as a brand.

It’s never one thing, and it’s often not what you expect. That’s why netnography matters.

Want to see how our AI Analytics tools apply to netnography? Get in touch for a personalized demonstration!


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