What Facebook’s Audience Insights Really Gets At

May 29, 2014
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ImageFor the past three years, Facebook has made enormous strides in targeting specific groups of users across the Facebook ecosystem. Marketers from all industries have taken advantage of these new offerings so much so that other social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) often tout the richness of targeting available on their own platforms.

ImageFor the past three years, Facebook has made enormous strides in targeting specific groups of users across the Facebook ecosystem. Marketers from all industries have taken advantage of these new offerings so much so that other social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest) often tout the richness of targeting available on their own platforms. At F8, Facebook made another major change that will give certain types of marketers even more insight into their audiences — via Facebook Audience Insights.  

Facebook page owners already know how to access basic demographic, geographic and age range information about their audiences. They simply navigate to Page Insights. Now, page owners can use Facebook Audience Insights to uncover much more than those basic data points.

For the first time, Facebook will open up information about the people who have liked a marketer’s Facebook page or about the people who have opted in to giving their email addresses (promotion, contest, coupons, etc.). This information will include more than the basic information marketers have had access to. It will include the other pages people like, relative strength of those relationships, cities people live in, voting districts and even offline behaviors Facebook collects using third party data from Datalogix, Epsilon and Axciom. 

To Facebook’s credit, all of this information is anonymized and non-personally identifiable. The social network has struck a careful balance between giving marketers more data about their audiences and exposing too much user information. Through the new tool, a marketer will not be able to export a list of all users from their Facebook page or target any one of them specifically with an ad. The goal, instead, is to provide marketers with insights into their audience that allows the brand to seek out better sponsorships, craft content more relatable to the audience and so on. It’s about a customized online experience that doesn’t throw off that delicate balance between a user’s data rights and security and a user’s preferred, and what will soon be expected, online experience. 

The Benefits of Audience Insights

This data allows a marketer to take any number of actions, including content generation, co-branding campaigns and paid media campaigns. Paid Media seems to be a specific focus of Facebook’s Audience Insights. The data that the product surfaces maps very well to the native ad buying tools Facebook currently offers. These are the tools that focus on targeting specific demographics, geographics, interests and offline behaviors of Facebook users. With access to the new Audience Insights, any marketer can type in the information surfaced into Ads Manager or PowerEditor and launch a reasonably effective paid media campaign. 

In short, certain types of businesses will benefit immediately from Audience Insights. For example, a small business owner might learn that a percentage of women who have liked his brand’s Facebook page have affinities toward fast fashion retail brands even though the Facebook page caters more toward luxury. That page owner can now find more lookalike fans within the audiences of fast fashion Facebook pages. 

Even with a small Facebook following, a business owner may have a large list of email addresses collected in-store. The owner can upload that list of email addresses and gain Audience Insights from them — encouraging them to like a new page or learning of his or her customers’ brand affinities and more. This data can be used to further tailor emails or purchase more targeted ads. 

Both of these specific company uses and situations provide valuable insights into user segments against which a brand can market. 

Insights to Scale

While this new insight data can be used in a number of different ways, the most common practice is to use it for precise targeting on Facebook. Larger companies in media, entertainment and sports have deep insights into their users (courtesy of marketing teams, research divisions and, of course, Umbel), but smaller businesses lack the resources and time to gather these insights. Facebook’s Audience Insights is for them. 

Individuals who are targeting ads, whether they are part of a large or small organization, almost always run into the same problem — limited imagination. There are only so many luxury brands in the world. There are only so many car dealerships in a specific radius. The challenge has always been to find new ways to reach more qualified users. 

Broadening an ad campaign to only men or only women is too general. Increasing the geographic scope to an entire city or state suffers the same problem. The more challenging, but more measured, way is to use interest targeting to grow the reach of the campaign. This is Audience Insight’s greatest strength and it will go a considerable way in helping the long-tail of Facebook advertisers spending limited amounts of money on the platform. 

Audience Insights can tell a user to target Family Guy, for instance, a local radio station, and a luxury brand because all of these affinities over-index (i.e. people in a specific brand’s audience like these things more than everyone else on Facebook). The marketer can take this data and use it to grow the reach of a campaign. In other words, social media managers and marketers using Facebook to grow their audience or customer base can now easily find additional, relevant themes and topics to market against on the platform.

In general, Audience Insights is a great tool for the millions of Facebook Advertisers looking for immediate ways to grow their audiences. It will do a great job helping smaller companies understand their audiences, communicate more effectively with them and acquire similar users. All of this without breaching the privacy and data rights of Facebook’s user base. 

This will lead to a more vibrant Facebook ecosystem that allows for more relevant advertising and a more convenient platform for finding the services, shops and situations users truly care about.