How to find brand love on Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook may be going through a rough patch, but its Audience Insights is still a powerful audience analysis tool for brands of all sizes
Facebook Audience Insights is one of the most advanced marketing platforms available — the gateway to a huge amount of demographic and behavioral data about your audiences and competitors.
As a marketer, it empowers your double play of identifying relevant target audiences, and getting to know them, based on the first axiom of digital marketing: the better you understand the segment you’re marketing to, the more effective your marketing is.
By exploring different audiences — your brand’s, your competitors’, or the general Facebook population — you can use Facebook Audience Insights to expose granular segments and drill down into their data. Using that data to relate to your customers’ goals and challenges enables you to create the authentic content and messaging that come across as relatable — rather than spammy and annoying. This kind of authentic communication, tailored to carefully characterized audience segments, is what every marketer is after for one simple reason: it has been proven time and time again to produce higher ROI, to create stronger customer loyalty, and to reduce churn.
This is the promise inherent in Facebook’s Audience Insights tool. It helps you explore, build and target audiences according to parameters as diverse as age, gender, interests, behaviour, language, education, work, purchase history — the list goes on and on. This data is based on information autonomously shared by Facebook users, and for US audiences it’s enhanced with third-party data provided by external companies.
So whether you’ve had a brand page on Facebook for ages or are just getting started, and whether you’re actually advertising on the platform or just trying to figure out who your customers and prospects really are (as opposed to your imagined persona), Audience Insights is a great place to start.
The rudimentary process on Facebook Audience Insights allows you to initially define and explore your target audience.
You start out by choosing between Everyone on Facebook, or People connected to your page. After choosing your starting point (everyone on Facebook or your page’s audience), the platform allows you to define and select their basic attributes. This is where you segment your audience according to age, gender, interests, people connected to your page, and more advanced data such as behaviour, education, etc.
The next step after defining your audience group is to explore their data. The tool lets you do this along six angles: Demographics, Page likes, Location, Activity, Household & Purchase. When you’re done, you should have a 360° view of your audience: where they live, their ages and interests, the kind of content they engage with, the brands they follow, when and how active they are on the platform, and their lifestyle preferences.
If this all sounds a little vague, let’s walk through a concrete example.
Targeting a competitor’s audience
Take a cosmetics brand — let’s call it Feral — making its first steps in Canada. To find relevant customers in this virgin territory, Feral starts out by choosing “Everyone on Facebook” from “Canada” who’s interested in Feral’s major competitor, Lush. The age/gender split of this audience is as follows:
Top Categories supplies more insights, and so do the segment’s top Facebook page likes, showing this segment's cosmetics brands preferences:
After narrowing down the audience segment to women aged 25-44 in Canada, it's time to look at location data, which brings up the following results:
Finally, Feral defines females from Canada, ages 25-44, who live in Vancouver, British Columbia, and like Lush, as the target audience for its first Canada campaign. While it didn’t narrow down the segment using the Top Categories and page likes data, this data will be used to tailor its campaign messaging.
Feral’s nimble-fingered marketers spent only a couple of minutes on Facebook Audience Insights to narrow down the whole Canadian population into a couple of thousands of target audiences with a high propensity to find its offering relevant and appealing. It can now use the additional data insights gained by this research to tailor its messaging and design, and test this audience out with a targeted campaign that will not drain the brand’s marketing budget.
It’s not a bug — it’s a feature
While Facebook Audience Insights is a powerful tool, there are some inherent limitations to consider.
First of all, your data is drawn exclusively from the Facebook network, so you’re relying on your ideal audience to input all the information you need to know about them to this single source.
At the same time, this exact data is also available to everyone tapping into the tool, including all your competitors.
And — no one is making the task easier for you by curating the data, checking that it’s relevant to your marketing, or tailoring it to your objectives. It’s up to you to dig around through a vast web of potential filters to work out which are actually useful to you, and to tweak, adapt and retest endless combinations until you get the magic formula.
That’s hugely labor intensive — and hard to scale, particularly if you’re targeting many different audiences with overlapping campaigns. And — Facebook is notoriously prone to abrupt, unannounced changes, like removing language filters or average household income, which throw your whole strategy out of joint. The insights are hugely valuable — but they can be exhausting to tease out!
These are not design bugs, but rather features, built into the platform to serve Facebook. Facebook’s business model is built on advertising, of which 97% of its revenues are derived. It gives brands free use of its sophisticated technology but makes sure they will have endless audience segments to test and target, while knowing that their competitors are all doing the same.
So while Audience Insights is the place to explore, build and target audiences according to diverse parameters, be aware of its limitations. Although it’s a great starting point for audience research you’ll want to use it creatively, while always keeping an eye out for other platforms and tools.