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In the ‘halcyon days’ of Internet small business marketing – 2005 – (The)Facebook was still only an education networking site, YouTube was still in transition from a failed dating site to the video juggernaut it would  become, and we were telling our clients that you needed to create a profile of your ideal customer. Learn as much about them as you can, what they want and need, and use that information to leverage more incoming traffic by posting consistently on a content blog.

Of course, it was much harder back then to do the strategic work of gathering all of the available data on your targeted customer, considering the most popular site online was MySpace and Google’s AdWords was barely out of beta.

Today, however, it’s almost too easy to gather a huge wealth of information about almost everybody – as evidenced by the recent Congressional hearings. Then there’s the site that serves to warn average social media users that they probably share way too much.

While we value personal privacy and would never advocate illicit means of gathering data on your ideal customer, Facebook’s Audience Insights tool gives us an incredible birds-eye view of the people who are interested in a product or service – and it’s perfect for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Look Before You Leap

There are two main ways to utilize the data you’ll discover in Facebook Audience Insights. Its central purpose, and the reason it was designed, is to use the information people provide, along with third-party data (like buying and banking trends) to make it easier to target your Facebook Ads, making them more valuable. The secondary purpose many marketers have grasped is that they can use that data to create Buyer Personas within Facebook that can be utilized to locate your ideal customer.

Bear in mind that Facebook Audience Insights is NOT a replacement for good old fashioned strategic work. You still need to do your due diligence. Target your ideal customer. Know what questions they’re asking. Know how you can help them/heal their pain and build a profile of your perfect buyer.

Once you have that done, though, Facebook Audience Insights allows you to turbo-charge that work – like a rocket booster, or like adding NOS to your classic muscle car, if you’re more of a Vin Diesel type.

Also, to spare your needing to read a really long, repetitive article, I’m not going to explain how to get to or open Facebook Audience Insights. If you’re already familiar with the platform, you’ll get bored. If you aren’t yet, there are hundreds of places online that explain it fully and succinctly, including Facebook business tools itself. Do you need to go look? It’s okay, I’ll wait. No, seriously.

Okay, got it? Good. Now let’s talk about the strategies to use within Facebook Audience Insights.

Use Who You Know

There are three ways to construct an audience in Facebook Insights. You can start with Everyone on Facebook, People who have already Connected to your Page, or a Custom Audience.

While we can – and will – use your existing strategic work to build an audience from Everyone on Facebook, if you already have an existing mailing list and customer base, we’re going to start there.

So choose “A Custom Audience” in the first pop up you see. (Or click Create New at the top left side, if it doesn’t automatically pop). If you have not already uploaded your mailing list, etc. into the Assets, Facebook will prompt you to do so. Create 2 lists – customers who have bought, and your mailing list. You can add a third if you’d like of people already in your sales funnel, but presumably they got there by exchanging their email for a Lead Magnet, so they should already be in the email list. Don’t worry that your existing customers are also in your mailing list, we’re using this first step to learn about them, not try and post ads in their feed.

By the way, the Custom Audience can be built from email addresses, phone numbers, App ID’s, purchase events, visitors to your website – or even a specific page – and Facebook pixels. You can even download the data from your GoogleAdWords account and use it as a starting place.

As you might imagine, your existing client list is going to be the best indicator of what an actual buyer is. There will be outliers, of course, but that’s okay. What you want to see is a snapshot of the most relevant people to your business, and that’s the folks who have paid you money.

Custom Audiences will always outperform regular Facebook ad targeting, because the people you’re targeting have already shown an interest in what you have to offer.

Once you’ve inputted this list into Facebook Audience Insights, you’ll begin to see a wealth of, well, insights into what defines your customer. You’ll want to make sure you save this, because we’ll be going back to it, and the other lists you do.

You’ll want to create or generate the Custom Audience Insights for your mailing list as well. Then you can compare the two and see where the greatest synchronicity lies. This information can be used to hone and tighten the scope of your strategic work – further segmenting and targeting your ideal customer. Update that profile and keep it handy.

The hierarchy of results goes like this: Custom Audience, Connected to your Facebook Page, and then Everyone on Facebook. Our first priority is people who are just like your existing buyers, like aiming at the bullseye on a target. We’ll shoot for the outer rings after we’ve narrowed our aim considerably.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but narrowing your focus to the very smallest common denominator of the people who have purchased your product or service is going to lead to fewer, but much more qualified leads that will cost you less to develop and will much more efficiently travel down the sales funnel to purchase. Then you can start to widen your search and spend a little more per lead, because you’ve already primed the pump, so to speak, with your ideal potential customers.

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

Just like with your laser-targeted Lead Magnets, to best use Facebook Audience Insights you want to add layers of elimination – or in Facebook terminology, going granular – the more focused your target is, the cheaper your ad clicks are going to be, and you’ll have to deal with fewer unqualified leads.

The more layers you use, the smaller your audience gets, and that’s a good thing.

This not only saves you money, but time and effort – no more broadcasting hoping to bring in hundreds of leads to pan through looking for gold, just 99% interested buyers, even if they don’t quite know it yet.

That’s also why we don’t generally recommend wasting time and money on “LIKE” contests or click bait.

Use What You Know

Our next step is going to be creating an Audience based on People Connected to your page.

This time, you’ll scroll down the left side of the Audience Insights page and tweak the location, age and interests to match your ideal customer profile. Remember, not everyone who likes your page is a potential buyer – they might even be a competitor keeping their eyes on you. You want to take the people who have expressed enough of an interest or friendship to like your page. But you want to narrow it again to the people who are square in the cross-hairs.

Your fourth set of potential people will be drawn from All of Facebook.

First, you’ll have Facebook prepare a couple of Lookalike Audiences for you, based on your buyer list and your mailing list. Facebook will generate these based on the profile and insights gathered from the lists you’ve uploaded to it. You can target anywhere from 1% to 10% of the match rate of your current list – 1% of course being the most accurate. It takes 6-24 hours for Facebook to do the initial curation of the list.

Meanwhile, you’ll create your own similar list, starting with “All of Facebook.” Just like the your Page Likes list, you’ll whittle the field down to the customers who match exactly your ideal customer. You can always go broader when you’re developing the Facebook ads you pay for – or maybe you won’t want to.

Another group you might want to target?  Your competitors’ customers.

Open either your mailing list or one of the Lookalike Audiences.

Click on the second top tab: “Page Likes.” You’ll see a section titled “Top Categories.” You’ll likely see some company names you know – and some that you were never aware of. A lot of these could be direct competitors, or they could just like the content on that company’s page. Regardless, this is a snapshot of who is already interacting with your target client.

Click on the link in the dashboard to go directly to their Facebook page. If they do engage with your ideal customer as a competitor, you can get additional insight on which of their posts are the most engaged and how. From this, you can get ideas on what to post, advertise and use to raise your customer’s engagement, contingent on your own strategic work, of course.

You can also create an Audience Insights list based on popping your various competitors’ names into the “Interests” tab as you scroll down on the left. By narrowing Facebook’s population even further by someone’s affinity for a competitor’s page, you might garner a few more people to add to your Facebook Ad target list.

Can’t Make Bricks Without Clay

So just what kinds of data does Facebook Audience Insights provide? As I mentioned in the preamble, sometimes we share too much especially in our quest for connection that more than half the United States now seeks through Facebook associations.

And yes, you might have noticed all this when you looked at where to log in to Facebook Audience Insights, but in case you didn’t, here’s a summary of everything you can learn about someone with an email or a phone number – just through Facebook:

  • Age and Gender
  • Lifestyle
  • Relationship Status
  • Education Level
  • Job Title & Industry
  • Pages Liked
  • Languages
  • Devices Used to Access Facebook – Mobile or desktop, when and where.
  • Household Income
  • Home Ownership
  • Household Size
  • Home Market Value
  • Spending Methods
  • Purchase Behavior
  • Type of Car You Drive
  • Politics – both what you claim on your page and what the things you share and discuss imply
  • Location – where you are, where you’ve been and where you might be going
  • Some predictive information based on your activity on Facebook
  • How active and consistent are you on Facebook – and when?
  • Interests – TV shows, celebrities, books, causes, websites, products, and brands you like – even if you didn’t click “LIKE.”

A little scary, right?

Affinity Vs Relevance

While these terms may seem practically synonymous, Facebook has a very specific way of viewing each one.

Facebook defines “relevance” as Pages that are the most likely to be relevant to your audiences based on affinity, Page size, and the number of people in your audience who already like that Page.

Whereas “affinity” they define as the likelihood of your audience LIKEing any given page compared to everyone on Facebook.

The takeaway being that the more of your ideal customers you target, the better their affinity for your page, and therefore the higher relevance you gain on Facebook.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Through Facebook Audience Insights, you’ll be able to better track how your posts and Ads are doing on Facebook and if they’re hitting your target audience.

You can turn that around and do a Facebook remarketing ad toward your custom audience. Not only will you have a better chance of engaging the audience at a higher rate, but should also generate more sales conversions.

The more data you accumulate, the more tests you do, the more detail you can add to your perfect customer profile. Facebook Audience Insights also lets you do highly specific split tests, so you can see how to further narrow your focus, or divide and conquer two distinct audiences.

Yes, you’re doing a LOT of work up front, but trust me, it will pay huge dividends in the long run when you’ve got everything automated and running even when you’re not touching it every day.

How About Some Bonuses, Chuck?

I thought I’d throw in a few more tidbits to help you as you explore deeper into the Facebook infrastructure and use it to help build your small business:

Where Did You Come From?

If you’re a locally-focused business, you can add high level location targeting to your Facebook Ads.

Choose from:

  • Everyone in this location (the default targeting option):The most current location of the actual Facebook user.
  • People who live in this location:Based on what the user reported on their Facebook profile, confirmed by IP address.
  • People recently in this location:Tracked by mobile device usage.
  • People traveling to this location: Users who indicated they were had recently been in a location that’s at least 100 miles away from their home.

Leverage Facebook Audience Insights for Instagram

If you’re a small business owner that has done the math and determined that Instagram should be part of your social media marketing, Facebook Audience Insights can make finding businesses and influencers to partner with much easier.

This is a variation on finding your competitors’ engaged audience.

Set up a New Audience, made up of All of Facebook and this time, sort by local, by Instagram’s target demo (18-35) and by one or more related Interest(s).

Once again, we click to the Page Likes tab and right there are other businesses that connect with your ideal client. Ignore competitors and look for companies or fan pages that you could connect with to create a win-win situation, and reach out!

Divide and Conquer

I’d advise not to put all your eggs in one basket, but use all of the tools at your disposal to make all of your marketing better.

Facebook has incredible insights, but no search engine, so their ads tend to be more passive, while Google delivers your ads to people actively searching for the questions you can answer and help you can offer.

So take advantage of Google’s Adwords tools and add that data onto your Facebook Audience Insights. Similarly, use your enhanced strategic work from Facebook Audience Insights to better target your Google Pay Per Clicks.

You’ll see better results across the board.

In that same vein, because of the nature of Facebook ads, you’ll want to have multiple ads running, and filtered so that you’re not bombarding someone at a later decision point with an earlier offer – it makes you look amateurish and like you’re just trolling, instead of going for specific users.

Additionally, you’ll want to avoid two of the biggest Facebook Ad traps:

Facebook Ad Fatigue: Since the same people see the same ad over multiple days, their engagement with that ad is likely to drop.

Facebook Audience Decay: If you’re not careful when targeting, you hit the same people over and over. You’ve probably seen it yourself when every ad on a page is one retargeted ad that appears 5 or 6 times  on a page for something you searched for.  If they’re constantly seeing repeated ads, inevitably people’s interest will decline, no matter how excited they were at first.

Having multiple, targeted ad campaigns can take care of that. It might cost a little more up front, but the advantage of not annoying your prospective clients halfway through their sales funnel journey is worth it.

Honestly, we’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg for Facebook Audience Insights. I’m sure there are countless ways you can come up with to use the data that I haven’t even imagined. Even with the looming threat of running out of Facebook ad space, the insights and targeting are a must for any small business that wants to build its presence and sales online.