How A Mock Facebook Profile Can Transform Your Strategy

I once worked with a long-running TV show that needed to launch a digital content plan. The team tasked with this effort was excited, but as is so often the case, nobody knew quite where to start. The options seemed endless: Let’s make a newsletter! No, we could shoot a series of short videos! No, wait, how about building an app?

In order to sift through these choices and allocate resources efficiently, the team needed to understand their audience’s behaviors, motivations and needs. They also needed a sense of what their audience didn’t want or no longer cared about. The problem is, organizations rarely have a unified, specific vision of who their target customers are and what they value.

That’s why you get stuck in conversations like this:

“We’re dealing with people who love TV, so we should tap into that passion.”
“Really? I think they’re watching out of habit. We should figure out a way to re-invigorate them.”

In an ideal world, there’d be a comprehensive, up-to-date set of customer research data that could resolve these disputes in a flash. Here in the real world, we need other solutions. One exercise that helps is something I call the Mock Facebook Profile.

It’s pretty simple: by filling out details of a basic Facebook profile, you and your team can assemble what you know and believe about a customer segment and represent it via a single, fictional character. Obviously, this is no way to treat real customers directly (any time you make assumptions about individuals based on group traits, you run the risk of stereotyping), but it is useful when you need to make quick decisions and get a general sense of how your team sees things.

If you have quantitative data available, feel free to use it, but this exercise will work even if you just use your team’s experience and anecdotal data. The results may not be as robust — and may not stand up to detailed scrutiny — but the exercise itself is valuable, since it helps the team have a nuanced discussion about the assumptions attached to any given audience or group of customers.

Why create a faux Facebook page? Almost everyone is on Facebook, so you’re developing a general profile, not something tailored to a specific goal, like finding a job (LinkedIn) or getting some action (Tinder, Grindr). Also, Facebook profile pages are intentionally designed to allow users to represent important aspects of their personalities and habits to each other.

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Finally, filling out a mock Facebook profile is more fun than simply writing customer traits in a list. It also helps your team connect what they know (and think they know) about customers to the real people “out there.”

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Here’s a blank template to download and use in your next session. I recommend drawing it larger to allow your team to collaborate on a single persona. Otherwise, you’ll end up with multiple visions of the same customer segment persona — that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.

How to use this activity in a worksession or meeting:

  1. Draw the template larger (use big stickies, an easel or a whiteboard)
  2. Break into teams of 3–5 people
  3. Give each team a different customer segment, plus any applicable research on those segments, if you have it
  4. Give them 10–15 minutes to discuss and fill out the Facebook profile
  5. Regroup, share and discuss everyone’s profiles

Then, with your customer segments in focus, you can customize a strategy that’s based on clarity — not guessing.