A solid digital strategy begins with establishing a company-based digital persona. Here we’ll explore what a digital persona is and how it can elevate your organization’s online marketing.

To create and sustain strong customer relationships, you need to know who you are as a company and how you want your customers to experience and interact with your business or product online. You may already have a brand or company persona, but a digital-specific persona allows you to define how you want to be represented across online communication channels.

What is a digital persona?

A digital persona represents your company, brand or product as though it were a person. It reflects your style, attitude and personality. It shapes what you want your customers to think, feel and believe about your business. It’s not your brand, product positioning or messaging; it’s not your logo, color palette or type treatment; and it’s definitely not your mission, vision or values. All of these may inform it but, put simply, your digital persona is a guidepost for your company’s online communications with your customers.

An important preliminary step is to use focus groups, customer insight surveys or other market research tools to understand how your online presence is currently perceived by your audience. These insights can help ensure that your digital persona accurately reflects your company and resonates with your customers. Here are the four steps necessary to create a digital persona for your company.

Step 1: Create an overview

Start with the image of a person, place or object that you believe accurately represents your company, brand or product personality at a glance. Now add a few words to help define that personality. For example, if you were to choose an image of Steve Jobs for your overview, your description might be:

Step 2: Define your values

To help further describe your digital persona, consider a few adjectives and statements that describe how you want to be perceived by customers. This includes both what your customers can and can’t expect. Some of these values may verge on aspirational but don’t stray too far from what you, and your customers, know to be true. For example:

Step 3: Define your voice

Your voice builds upon your brand values and conveys your digital persona through written words. It speaks for your company or product, and includes both what you say and how you say it. A consistent brand voice can be used as a starting point for your digital strategy, and can help shape content that is spread across multiple digital channels to feel like it’s coming from a single source.

Just as in real life, the tone of your voice will vary depending on whom you are talking to, the communication channel you’re using and where customers are in the purchasing cycle. For example, a 140-character tweet announcing an upcoming event calls for a slightly different writing style than a blog post that conveys in-depth knowledge. It can be helpful to think of tone as a sliding scale between two extremes: formal vs. informal, professional vs. amateur, stern vs. friendly, etc.

Step 4: Define your communication channels

Once you have created your digital persona, you are in a great position to plan, implement and manage your organization’s online presence. Should you launch a blog? Develop a mobile app? Connect through Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or LinkedIn? It all depends on what you want to achieve, how you want to connect with customers and what can be accomplished within each channel.

Representing your company, brand or product through a consistent digital-specific persona is essential to building trust with your customers as you interact online. Share your digital persona with everyone in the company to help ensure their online communications align with it.