(Harmless) Stalking for Fun and Profit

Knowing more about your customers can mean knowing the kind of content they’ll enjoy and find useful, the places you should be to connect with them online, and the kinds of offers they’ll find appealing. When you really know your clients, you’re less likely to fall prey to overgeneralizations (“Nobody watches TV any more”) or emotional decisions (“I know what I like”).

Here’s a quick and easy way to learn more about your customers. All you’ll need is a couple of hours and a team member with mad internet research skillz.

Begin with your customer personas. This is the imaginary person based on your target market: your typical customer or best customer. You know your customer’s gender, age, family circumstances, average income, and buying motivations. So find a person like that online. Check LinkedIn for people in your target area with the kind of job your customer persona has.

You could use an actual customer, of course, but choosing a stranger will keep you from feeling inhibited when you move on to the next step: stalking.

Google is your best friend here, but there are other places to look:

  • Intelius gives you lots of basic info that you can use to find more data.
  • http://pinterest.com/USER-NAME/following/ is the search to find who your target customer follows on Pinterest — providing great insights into what he or she finds visually appealing. Just paste that in your navigation bar, replacing USER-NAME with the Pinterest handle of your subject.
  • MyLife shares more information about the subject’s family.
  • 123People can hook you up with your subject’s online life, including articles
  • Know’em is a quick first check for social media profiles. However, your subject may choose something less obvious for a username, so it’s just a quick check.

Look at the ways they use social media so you can reach them where they are. See the kind of content they like to consume — only a very small percentage of people actually produce content online, so this is usually more accessible than what they themselves post. Use the information you find to flesh out your fictional persona.

Then use the LinkedIn “similar” button to find another subject. Study a few for each of your personas.

Make this easy on yourself — choose people with unusual names. Trying to stalk Josh Green or Kate Johnson will give you a very low signal-to-noise ratio. You’ll also find at LinkedIn that you can’t see much about people with whom you have no connection. Depending how uncomfortable it makes you to stalk acquaintances, you may be able to find more information about people with whom you are connected in the second degree. Who knows — you might make friends and influence people as a side effect of your research.

We’ve found specialized social sites we’d never heard of, IRL networking opportunities we hadn’t considered, and counterexamples to our expectations — all of which are very valuable.

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