Each month, more than 1.65 billion users log in to Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site. The size of this social platform, combined with demographic and behavioral data, makes Facebook a powerful tool for marketers looking to better understand their target audience through data-driven buyer personas.
Facebook As A Marketing Research Tool
Nowhere else are marketers able to get a front-row seat into the lives of the people they are trying to reach at quite this scale. And it is more than just demographic and behavioral information that is available through Facebook’s analytics platform; status updates and photo albums also provide a unique look into users’ lives, from posting birth announcements and sharing viral articles that interest them, to providing their own opinions on everything from weather to politics.
Research has shown that users are no different online than they are offline. In a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, researchers revealed a strong connection between actual personality and Facebook-related behavior. This information, combined with the sheer volume of users, means marketers have access to all demographic segments, even those that are considered underrepresented. Seniors, for example, are generally late to adopt technology and would thus be considered underrepresented in this area. Having said that, according to the Pew Research Center, 35% of Americans 65 and older are on Facebook and they continue to be the fastest growing segment.
Using Facebook To Research Buyer Personas
Facebook Ads To Estimate Audience Size
Facebook Ads are a great way to get your message out, and they can also be helpful in estimating audience size. In Power Editor, just enter the criteria of the audience you want to address and the counter on the right will give you an estimated audience size. Just make sure you don’t hit publish!
Facebook Audience Insights, Basic Filters
One of my first – and last (as will become clear) – research methods is Facebook’s Audience Insights. Accessed through Ads manager, Audience Insights is Facebook’s analytics dashboard. Once you have selected a target audience (whether that’s everyone on Facebook, people connected to your page, or a custom audience), you can filter your results by:
- Connections: This is a great place to start and gives you an overall view of the people connected to your page, event or app.
- Location: If you are targeting a specific region or country, you can use the location filter to narrow your audience to a specific area.
- Age and Gender: This filter will give you a better idea of the age range and gender of your persona.
Facebook Audience Insights, Advanced Filter
The Advanced filter is where you can start to get some really interesting insights into your audience, such as relationship status, education, job title, annual income, ethnic affinity, household composition, political affiliation, and even the age of their children.
This information is helpful when you start researching because it allows you to start creating a rough outline of your persona. It also helps to identify additional sources, for example, a page or group that is followed by a large percentage of your audience can become a research source in itself, with its external links and shared content giving you additional insights into this persona.
This information is also helpful towards the end of the persona discovery process. If your persona has holes (like where they live or publications they read), the aggregate of Facebook data may be able to fill in the missing pieces for you. Or, if your persona is complete, Facebook Audience Insights can be a great way to spot-check that what you have created is in line with our analytics.
Facebook Graph Search
Appearing in the top left corner of a user’s timeline, Facebook’s Graph Search is an incredibly powerful proprietary search tool for market research. But unlike traditional search engines that return webpage results, Facebook’s Graph Search returns results that are based on people, places and things.
Here are a few examples of queries that may help you when researching your buyer persona:
- Pages liked by people who like [brand name, interest or person]
- Pages liked by [gender]
- Pages liked by people over [age]
- Pages liked by people who live in [location]
- Favorite interests of people who like [brand, persona, thing or gender]
- Music liked by [persona, page or brand] who also like [brand, person, interest or location]
- Movies liked by [persona, page or brand] who also like [brand, person, interest or location]
- Games played by people who like [brand, person, interest or location]
- Fans of [brand, person, interest or location]
You can also identify influencers and potential audiences using the queries below:
- Groups of people who like [brand, person or interest]
- Groups liked by people who like [brand, person, interest, or location]
- Groups liked by people who live in [location]
- People who are not my friends and like [brand, person or interest]
- Groups of people who like [topic] and [brand, person, interest or location]
- Pages/interests liked by [specific influencer]
- Fans of [brand, person, interest or location]
- People who work at [company name]
- [Place of interest or venue] visited by [profession]
Take your research a step further by combining search terms. For example, use “Pages liked by women over the age of 35 who live in California and also like marketing.”
Be Aware of Bias
Data can be your biggest ally or your greatest downfall. When you are reviewing the data you have collected from Facebook, be careful of areas where a bias may influence your data or their interpretation.
Public vs. Private Profile Pages
A large percentage of Facebook users apply privacy settings to their profiles, thus limiting the information that we are able to see. From removing snippets to the entire profile from public view, the privacy setting makes it hard to study the platform holistically. But privacy functions don’t have to limit market research. What is most important is that you make sure that to gather enough sample data to identify patterns and similarities across your target group.
Users control the information they share, meaning they can present an image of themselves that they want the world to see. When collecting data from user profiles, keep in mind that you are only seeing what the user wants you to see – both in terms of what they share and in terms of their privacy settings.
Be Aware of Outliers
In persona research, it is often the case that the really interesting tidbits will catch our attention. This often manifests in the background section of your B2B persona, or as a frustration or aspiration in both B2B and B2C buyer personas. Be careful not to allow these outliers to influence your persona. Remember: we are creating a persona to represent a subset of our target audience. To do this effectively, we need to find and document the similarities – not highlight the anomalies simply because they interest us.
Facebook is a valuable tool for marketers that want to get a better understanding of their customers. The information available on Facebook gives us access to personal details that would either be unavailable or would require primary research that is too costly for most businesses. Thanks to this free social platform, however, we are able to analyze our audience – as well as the audience of our competitors – and identify insights that can refine and strengthen our buyer personas.
For more ideas on how to create data-driven personas, check out “9 Research Ideas For Creating Data-Driven Personas.”