Social TV Experiment Update – Starting Persona Work

In our last post about our Social TV Experiment, we briefly outlined our approach to the research that will define the target market and the optimal product features and functionality to meet the unique needs of that market. Today, we’ll spend a bit more time discussing our recommendation to begin the project with persona work. Please chime in as we go through this – our team would love to hear your reflections on creating or using personas.

Since our fictitious client, SportsGuy Media, Inc. (SGMI), needs to better define the market segmentation as well as the product concepts that would resonate within the segments, personas are the best place to start. SGMI traditionally uses demographic data to define their user groups as well as product features and functionality. Creating a product offering that is new and compelling requires the research to go beyond basic demographics and instead must begin to identify the crucial behaviors and motivations of the consumers in question.  Such behavioral information will help drive product concepts that are highly adoptable and easy to use. In addition, User Insight and SGMI may be able to identify  complimentary product offerings that can play off of the technology that they plan to build.

Research Approach – Personas

The User Insight team will conduct the first round of contextual interviews with 36 people exhibiting a broad spectrum of technology use, social media sharing and TV programming consumption.  We will conduct the interviews in the respondents’ homes to observe how they consume programming and use technology in context.  Our researchers will ask them a series of questions pertaining to their entertainment consumption and their online networking habits. (We’ll delve further into this protocol when we release the discussion guide next week – stay tuned and comment to get your questions included in the research).

See how we’re recruiting by checking out the screener – SoMeTVExperiment Screener.  Be sure to post any reflections or questions you have on it!

After conducting the 36 interviews, we will examine the data and identify 4-8 findings that we’ll validate further.  At that time, we will draft a shortened discussion guide that will most likely consist of 8-10 questions, honing in on the 4-8 items that we will look to validate.  Our team will take this discussion guide to people’s homes during Super Bowl weekend in order to interview Super Bowl party attendees and observe respondents’ interactions in real-time during the sporting event. The purpose of this exercise (aside from enjoying some Super Bowl fun) is to add larger numbers to validate our key findings.

This round of research will uncover the initial personas. It’s crucial that this first round be in-person, qualitative research. Personas, by definition, are all about the attitudes and motivations that drive behavior. It is impossible to understand the respondents’ motivations and behaviors without asking “Why?” over and over again, to change lines of questioning based on what a user says, and to observe what a user actually does, not just what they say they do. The only way to be able to ask those questions and observe behaviors is to employ qualitative research.  I’ve noticed that many companies tend to define personas strictly from quantitative data, mixed with some secondary segmentation data. While this practice is probably more helpful than demographics alone, this approach creates what I call marketing profiles” or glorified use cases.

Next, a second round of research will be conducted, recruiting 5-7 people from each persona group, to further flesh out the persona characteristics and gather feedback on competitive products and similar technologies currently available in the marketplace.

What are your thoughts about the use of personas to drive product development?


What is your stance on the method by which personas should be created? Qualitative, quantitative, secondary research?

Want more on personas? Click here!


  1. Allison Saunders

    I have found that using personas requires more than just the segmentation data that results in defining a specific group. Carefully choosing a name and representative images brings the persona to life for clients and helps them really embrace the concept.

    1. Rachel Walsh

      Allison, Great point! I totally agree – anything you can do to bring the persona to life is critical in communication with clients or stakeholders. We just posted a presentation on Personas last week; let us know if you have any additional techniques or feedback!