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Audience research – getting to know your Facebook Fans

We all know that the better we know and understand our audiences, the more likely our communications with them will be successful. If we’re already talking to people on Facebook, what do we know about who’s listening? Facebook Insights tells us the age and gender of our fans, and where they are, but nothing about what interests them. We can look at what content we put out and see what is the most engaging, but how would we know what we’re missing? Also, how do we know how different our fans are to the average Facebook user?

Using Facebook Marketplace ad planner for audience research

Facebook saves the best of its data for those spending money – those running ads. But – anyone can access this data without actually placing an ad. Using free tools for things they’re not built for is something I often do, so I looked at the data you get when you’re planning a Facebook ad and considered what this could tell us.

Looking at RSPCA fans I was able to discover that they were twice as likely to be parents (vs. the average Facebook user in the UK), they’re particularly interested in musicals, health, shopping for electronic goods and fashion, playing social online games and sport. The following graph shows RSPCA Facebook fan categories as an index compared with the average UK Facebook user, i.e. how much more likely they are to fall into each category. The Facebook UK index has been normalised to 100 for comparison.

How unusual / unique are RSPCA Facebook fans when compared to average UK Facebook users?

A graph showing how much more likely RSPCA Facebook fans are to fall into a set category

The above data is based on what people say on their profiles as well as what they’re talking about. So, we have to be careful about how Facebook interprets people’s conversations, and then how we analyse this data. It would seem that RSPCA fans have a particular interest in cars. However, when this research was carried out, there was an animal welfare story in the news about some dogs dying in a hot car, so we can assume that these conversations were miscategorised. Overall though, we can rely on the data, reassured by a reflection of what we know to be true (e.g. that RSPCA fans are more than eleven times more likely to be interested in pets).

How exactly did I get this data? In Facebook marketplace ad planner, you are given the number of people your ad is likely to reach, based on the targeting you specify. Facebook recently upgraded its targeting from manually entered keywords to automatically provided categories. This makes it much easier than trying to think up dozens of alternative phrases and words to describe the same topic in order to target a specific group. Here’s the steps I went through:

  1. I set the ad to target only existing fans of the RSPCA Facebook Page, in the UK and noted the total number.
  2. Then I went through every preset category and selected them one at a time, and noted the number of people the ad would target each time. This provided me with the number of UK RSPCA fans in each category.
  3. I could then calculate UK RSPCA fans in each category, as a percentage of all UK RSPCA fans.
  4. I repeated the process without RSPCA fans selected, to get a figure for all UK Facebook users in each category.
  5. I then calculated UK Facebook users in each category as percentages of total UK Facebook users.
  6. Next, I compared the likelihood of an RSPCA fan to fall into any category with the likelihood of all UK Facebook users to fall into that category.
  7. Graphing this produced a chart of how different RSPCA fans are to the general public.

*For the sake of simplicity, I have only graphed those categories which constitute at least a third of RSPCA fans, however, had I graphed all categories, we would also see which ones RSPCA fans are much LESS likely than average to fall into.

Analysing this data allows us to make campaign recommendations which are more likely to be engaging to our audiences, because we now know what interests them.

Doing all this was quite a long, manual job. It would be fantastic if Facebook integrated the ad planner data into its Insights tool for Page owners, which could easily automate the above process. One of the things Facebook has just announced is an addition to Insights to tell Page owners how many friends their fans have (in total) – this is one metric which has actually been accessible via Facebook marketplace ad planner for a long time.

Knowing WHO your Facebook audience is, is of course only one part of the picture. An audience research study such as this can be complimented by content analysis, broader audience research across different platforms and the wider web through listening (buzz monitoring) projects, and website analytics. And any recommendations for acting on data insight all needs to be informed by the organisation’s overall objectives.

What other methods and tools have you used to get to know your Facebook audience? And if you’ve got any recommendations on how to improve the process I’ve described, I’d welcome your comments!

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One Comment

  1. Great data sets. We also look at daily likes / unsubscribes to determine what content resonates which people and what makes them turn away.

    Posted 7th October 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

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