You’ve identified your niche market, you’ve identified your customers, and you’re ready to create the kind of content that will make the crowds go wild. However, just knowing who your target audience is isn’t enough. The bare-bones numbers won’t tell you their specific interests, habits, emotional triggers, or any other intricate details that can help you fine-tune your campaign. Developing a fully-fleshed buyer persona means delving into the nitty-gritty of who your audience really is. Targeting a niche market is more than trying to reach married women between 21 and 35 who work part-time; it’s based on actually knowing those people, and reacting to their real-life interests.

But where can you discover this kind of information? I mean, nobody’s going to volunteer their personal details willingly in a public arena for anyone to see, right?

What a shiny metaphor, huh?

What a shiny metaphor, huh?

Pan for Profile Gold

While they may not always jive exactly with the buyer persona you’ve created, your followers are the ones who want your products and services. When you consider the thought and effort that goes along with “following” and “liking” in this world of overloaded news feeds and click-bait, it’s actually quite a complement. Sift through the bios of your fans and followers. How do they describe themselves? What are their cover and profile photos? What other pages do they follow? By examining those who clamor for your online correspondence, you’re fleshing out the picture of who your audience really is, and you can begin to build your inbound marketing campaigns around this.

Of course, this can seem daunting when you have thousands of followers or likes. Just taking a few representative random samples can provide as much insight as looking at the whole, however. Every so often, choose ten random profiles to examine. Keep a spreadsheet of their interests, and look for common factors – even beyond age range, income, and profession, you can begin to compile information on whether they like soccer, Game of Thrones, or gourmet cooking. It may seem a bit random, but when it becomes clear that a good portion of your followers had strong reactions to the World Cup, the Red Wedding, or the Top Chef: Duels finale, you’ll be able to affect more detailed and ultimately lucrative marketing efforts.

Buckle On Your Digital Toolbelt

You don’t have to do it all on your own. There are endless social media analysis tools out there to divvy up the information in a visually clear and compelling manner. Some tools will organize your followers (and those of your competitors) into locations, times active, number of tweets, and more. Others will track your Facebook engagement and fan demographics. However, keep in mind that most of this will be numbers and general statistics – it won’t show you how excited your audience was that Germany won the 2014 World Cup, or give you specific insights into their thought processes and real-life interests.

Make Friends and Gain Influence

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that your loyal following is more than just a number – each one is a person, with their own thoughts, experiences, and opinions that dictate everything they do online. One of the most important things you can do to learn about your real buyer personas is to simply interact with them.

Asking questions with open-ended answers is a great way to both drive engagement and gain valuable information. Instead of an inquiry that will result in a simple “yes” or “no,” be sure to ask questions that will provoke thoughtfulness and unique responses. For instance, “Do you think Jaime Lannister is misunderstood?” is an interesting question to ask for the audience that loves Game of Thrones, but you’re mostly going to get a resounding amount of “no”s and very little valuable information. A different question – “Which GoT characters do you think are misunderstood?” – elicits a certain amount of thoughtfulness, while simultaneously appealing to their emotional triggers (I mean, c’mon, Sandor Clegane really got the short end of the stick, poor guy).

On that note, remember that you’re communicating with living, breathing humans; very few people want to interact with a boring, robotic question (“How do you like the new updates to our program?”) unless they have strong positive or negative opinions on the matter – and you’ll notice that the negative ones almost always win out. Instead, appeal to the unique interests that you’ve discovered in your research. Intersperse your updates with interesting facts and articles, find ways to relate your topic to their interests (“Our lead project manager Amanda pulled a hat-trick on our blog this week!”), and you’re bound to receive the kinds of real responses that will help narrow down the interpretation of your buyer persona.

While you can put away the binoculars and the black beanies, a bit of good, old-fashioned profile snooping will do wonders for your inbound marketing campaigns. Get to know your audience, target their specific niche interests, and interact with them in an authentic manner to earn authentic responses. Paint a more intricate picture of your buyer persona, and your strategies will become more efficient for your niche.