The Emergence of the Social Business Persona

Updated: April 13, 2010

The ripple effect of this transformative time in the world of business and social communities is still causing rings of new discoveries as well as uncertainties. The need to develop (and design) Social Business Strategies as opposed to thinking only at the social media level is more paramount than ever. These new discoveries as well as degrees of uncertainties has created a third monumental evolution in the use of persona development to inform strategies on the design of products and services, customer conversation, marketing, and business models that foster engagement with customers. This third evolution is the emergence of the Social Business Persona.

I have been fortunate to be involved in the first two milestones of the persona development movement. The first is the originating concept of user personas for digital design by Alan Cooper in the late 90's. The second was that of launching in 2002 (as well as joining forces with the brillant thinker Angela Quail) the transformation of the user persona concept into the buyer persona concept we use today for gaining insight into primarily B2B buyers. Little did I know back then that the term and concept of buyer personas would catch on to the degree it has today.

Being in the unique position of being able to look back on over a dozen years of involvement with persona development strategy, I see the evolution of the Social Business Persona addressing what user personas and buyer personas cannot do on their own standing. The Social Business Persona addresses the need for forward thinking organizations to understand the converging mix of usage behaviors, buying behaviors, and social behaviors that lead to social business strategies and the design of social experiences. Organizations and marketers, both B2C and B2B, are being forced to think of their interaction and engagement with customers in terms of how their customers' behaviors, percepts, and goals formulate the mix of social business experiences.

What was clear cut a decade ago or even five years ago is no longer. The linear approach businesses exercised when categorizing who were users and who were buyers has begun to be inadequate in the social business context. Innovative organizations are constructing social business experiences around the network of customers who are and view themselves simultaneously as users, buyers, influencers, and social participants. While social media has its' roots in B2C environments, trending suggests that B2B is beginning to realize that social media now equals social business.

As noted by leading thinkers on this topic, such as David Armano and Jeffrey Dachis, social business is changing the very core of such functions as sales, marketing, IT, HR, and product design as it relates to customer engagement. It is transforming our way of designing business models and how we think in general about customer strategy. For many organizations, social business now means that their understanding of customers is no longer as clear as it may have been two years ago, one year ago, or even one month ago. It is changing that fast and the year 2010 may well be the Malcom Gladwell tipping point when businesses feel the shock wave that social business is producing.

Social Business Persona development can play an integral role in helping organizations understand how customers are adapting behaviorally and perceptually to the dynamics of social media technologies. By applying the rigor and precision qualitatively necessary for persona development, significant revelations and insights can be attained that will inform executives on how to shape and design social business strategies that engages their social communities. The current uncertainties and lack of deep insight is leading to hit or miss tactical shots that do not amount to a clear rewarding social business strategy for both themselves and their social communities.

A mission to evolve the Social Business Persona starts with the definition:

A Social Business Persona is a qualitative research derived archetype of real people and customers engaging in social business experiences to satisfy goals related to community participation and the acquisition of goods or services.

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