The key to finding social success is truly understanding your audience. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, it can be difficult to create a strong social outreach strategy.
A good place to start is with your businesses’ marketing plan, which should give you a clearer concept of who your audience is. From there, you’ll want to really dig deep and gather as much data as you can about your audience. On larger and louder social platforms like Facebook, tailoring your message is critical if you want to rise above the noise.
Facebook Audience Insights can help you collect the actionable data you’ll need to reach current and potential customers on the social network. Here’s everything you need to know about one of Facebook’s most powerful tools.
Audience Insights: An Overview
Facebook Audience Insights is a free tool that provides behavioral and demographic data for a segmented audience of your choice. Unlike your traditional Page Insights, which only looks at interactions with your Page, Audience Insights sees trends across Facebook around three different groups of people:
- The general Facebook audience.
- People connected to your Page or event.
- People in Custom Audiences you’ve created.
By using this tool you can access a wealth of information about any of these groups, including:
- Demographics: Age and gender, lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role and household size.
- Page Likes: The top Pages people Like in different categories, such as women’s apparel, sports or entertainment.
- Location and Language: Where people live and what languages they speak.
- Facebook Usage: How frequently your target audience is logging onto Facebook, and from which devices.
- Purchase Activity: This looks at their past purchase behavior and payment methods.
Audience Insights: How Does It Work?
Although Audience Insights was designed with advertisers in mind, marketers can use it to learn more about their audience even if you don’t plan on using Facebook Ads. This data can aid in competitive research, and help you build stronger personas or create more compelling content.
The data available in Audience Insights comes from two main sources:
- Self-Reported Facebook Data. This is the information provided by Facebook members when they fill in their profile, including age, gender, relationship status, job title, location and so on.
- Third-Party Data Partners. Data around household income and purchasing behavior is available through third-party companies that match data to Facebook user IDs. We should note that this data is only available for US audiences.
How to Access Audience Insights
You can access Audience Insights in one of two ways. You can simply visit facebook.com/ads/audience_insights, or you can select Audience Insights from the Tools drop-down menu in Ads Manager.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll need to choose which audience you want to view. If you don’t have any Custom Audiences created, you won’t see that as a third option.
After you’ve made your choice, just use the filters on the left side of the page to define your audience or use the graphs to refine the one you’ve already selected. You don’t have to save your audience, but if you do, you’ll be able to access it later if or when you want to create an ad in Power Editor.
If you’re just using the audience for intelligence purposes, we still recommend saving it. You can re-open it at any time to edit or make refinements.
What Permissions Will You Need?
If you want to view insights for your Page, you must be at least a Page Advertiser. A Page Advertiser is one of the five different Page roles an admin can hold.
If you’d like to view insights for all of Facebook, you’ll need an ad account on Facebook. And if viewing insights for a Custom Audience is what you’re interested in, you’ll need to be the creator of the Custom Audience in order to access that data.
Using Custom Audiences With Audience Insights
If you choose to use a Custom Audience with Audience Insights, there are a couple of things you need to know first. For starters, in order to access a Custom Audience in Audience Insights, it must have at least 1,000 monthly active people in it. Additionally, it can take two to three days for your Custom Audience to appear.
If you don’t see your Custom Audience in Audience Insights, you might not have the required amount of people, or Facebook might not be able to match enough people between the data you’ve provided and the profile information it has available.
Building Your Audience
Now that you know how to access your Audience Insights, let’s take a closer look at some of the categories you’ll use to create your audience.
Right off the bat you’ll want to decide on location. This is an important category for marketers, especially if you’re a local business. But even if you’re not, you can ramp up your marketing efforts if you know that a majority of your customers are located in a specific region. You also could use that knowledge to tailor your messaging a bit.
By default, the location option is set to the home country you established when you created your Facebook account. If you don’t do anything, you’ll only see results for that country. You can either leave it blank to look at Facebook across the world or enter a specific country, region or city if you’re working within stricter parameters. You can enter as many as you’d like.
Age & Gender
Age and gender are two very important categories to consider because Facebook users span generations. If you’re looking to reach a specific group, such as millennials or baby boomers, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible around them. Use Audience Insights to make sure you’re on the right track.
A great way to define your ideal audience is by interests, hobbies and Pages they Like on Facebook. The social network identifies interests from:
- The information users have added to their Timeline.
- Keywords associated with the Pages they Like, apps they use or ads they click on.
In Audience Insights, you can either type in an interest or choose from the drop-down list. The list is a bit of a rabbit’s hole with categories and sub-categories, so it’s best to have an idea of what interests or hobbies appeal to your audience ahead of time.
In the event that you’re starting completely from scratch, this can still be a useful tool. You can pick and choose the interests that you think best relate to your business or product and see what audience, if any, match your selections.
You can also use this section to gleam information about a competitor’s audience. Since Facebook users can add Pages to their list of interests, you could type in the name of a business or brand into the box. You’ll see how many followers you share in common, which could ultimately influence how you market to that group of people.
While researching this tactic, we learned that there is no guarantee that a particular Facebook Page will appear as an interest. Some sources believe that it depends on the size of the Page. We didn’t run into any issues during testing, but it’s something to keep in mind as you build your audience.
Demographics like age, gender and location are important, but that data can be accessed in other parts of Facebook. Where Audience Insights truly shines is in its Advanced section. This is where your data gets really interesting.
This section offers a wide variety of categories to choose from, but we’re focusing on behaviors as it includes data that might be hard to come by otherwise. Behaviors lets you organize your audience based on someone’s Facebook activity and offline activity provided by data from Facebook’s third-party partners.
You can choose from sub-categories like:
- Charitable donations
- Digital activities
- Job role
- Purchase behavior
- Residential profiles
- seasonal and Events
As a business, you’ll want to pay close attention to digital activities. This category breaks down your audience even further based on operating system and Internet browser used, recent Facebook purchases, email domain, Facebook Page admins, and more.
Purchase behavior is another key category to watch. Here you can look at an audience’s purchase habits, such as above average spending, offline vs. online buyers, and purchase types like gifts, collectibles and so on.
The advanced categories you explore will depend heavily on the general audience concept you identified earlier and your business objectives. Based on that information, we encourage you to explore other categories like market segments—which lets you break down an audience by ethnic affinity and household composition—life events, relationship status and politics.
Interpreting the Data
Now that you’ve built your audience, there are six tabs available within the tool that let you explore the data associated with your selections. To help us better guide you through each tab, let’s assume that we’ve built an audience around the following parameters:
- Based in the US
- Between the ages 18 and 55
- Interested in Sprout Social
- Makes online purchases
- Uses Chrome as primary Internet browser
- Uses Gmail as primary email domain
This tab includes data on age, gender, lifestyle, relationship status, education and job title. Looking at our defined audience, we are looking at a monthly active audience of 150,000-200,000 people. We can also see 55% of this group is female and 46% is male. The most popular age group is between 25 and 34.
We can segment even further using the left-hand menu. For example, we can isolate males from females, or high school graduates from college graduates. This can be done for every category, so click around and explore your data.
If we continue to scroll down the page, we learn that a majority of our audience is married, attended college and works in the arts, entertainment, sports or media industries. It only took a few quick clicks and we’ve already narrowed down our audience quite a bit!
2. Page Likes
The first part of this section highlights the top categories of Pages that a selected audience likes, along with the top Pages within those categories. This data can help you learn more about your audience’s interests and lifestyle.
For example, our audience is interested in a lot of industry-related media outlets and influencers. This tells us they’re information seekers and likely stay current on industry news. Based on this, we could assume the type of content they’re engaging with is related to their career.
The second part of this section identifies the Pages this audience is more likely to Like than the average Facebook user. This data can help you better understand your audience and what type of content they’d be interested in.
The location tab is pretty self explanatory, so we’re not going to spend a lot of time here. The interactive graph for this section can be toggled between top cities, countries and languages. If your business is location-specific, use the data available in this section to help determine if your Page is reaching the right audience.
The activity tab helps you understand the behavior of the audience you’ve selected. It’s divided into two sections:
- Frequency of Activities: This data focuses on user activity in the last 30 days. It’s particularly important when trying to understand the level of engagement from your audience.
- Device Users: This section focuses on the devices used to access Facebook. It can be filtered by primary device and all devices used.
We can see the average user in our audience segment tends to have:
- Liked 31 Pages
- Commented 27 times in the past 30 days
- Liked 32 posts in the past 30 days
- Shared nine posts in the past 30 days
- Clicked on 40 ads in the past 30 days
By hovering over each column, we can see our audience’s data compared to that of an average Facebook user. The exhibited engagement for our segment is well above average. This shows why it’s beneficial to take advantage of Facebook targeting instead of broadcasting your message to the entire platform.
Scrolling down a bit to the devices chart, we see that 91% of our audience is mobile only. This information is critical when developing our content strategy. We have to make sure that anything that links off of Facebook is compatible with a mobile screen.
We should note that if you’ve specified a country other than the US, you won’t be able to access data in the next two tabs. If your location includes several different countries, you’ll still only see data for the US.
Depending on your objectives, the data provided in this section might not have a direct impact on your strategy. At the very least, it helps to paint a more detailed picture of your target audience.
Under the household tab, you’ll be able to access data around:
- Household income
- Household size
- Home ownership status
- Home market value
- Spending methods
The last one, spending methods, is interesting because it lets us know how our audience prefers to make their purchases. For local businesses, keep an eye how many people prefer cash over credit cards. If you’re a cash-only store, you might be reaching an audience of primarily credit users.
Want to increase sales? Then pay attention to the data within this tab. Here you’ll find data around:
- Retail spending
- Online purchases
- Purchase behavior
- And more
Looking at the purchase behavior chart, we see that our audience spends almost as much on subscription services as they do on clothing and food and drink. We can infer this segment takes pride in their appearance and participates in social events—whether it’s networking related or simply entertaining friends. Alone, none of this will have a major impact on our day to day, but when combined with all of the other data we’ve come across, we’ve created a powerful roadmap for our content strategy.
What Comes Next?
Like we said before, whether you intend to use Facebook Ads or not, it’s worth saving your audience. At the very least, it’ll be interesting to refer back to down the road. But should you decide that you’d like to use the audience you created in a future ad campaign, there are two ways you can move forward.
To create an ad set with an audience from Audience Insights, start by clicking Create Ad in the top right corner of the page. You’ll be able to choose whether you’d like to continue using ad creation or Power Editor.
If you select ad creation, your audience filters will automatically be selected in the Audiences section. From here, you’re able to continue refining your audience. If you went with Power Editor, simply create an ad and select your newly created audience in the Audience tab under Use Existing Targeting Group.
Become a Social Business
No matter how complex social media data appears at first, it’s always a smart idea to invest in the right Facebook Analytics tools that can measure even more information. Measuring your social media audience is critical to any business on Facebook, and through Sprout Social, you can make sense of your Page growth through content performance, impressions, clicks and by tracking user trends. Try Sprout Social for a free 30-day trial today!
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.