How to Use Facebook Audience Insights for Smarter Advertising Targeting

Choosing targeting for Facebook ads can sometimes feel like stabbing in the dark. The tendency for beginners is to choose interest based targeting that seems appropriate, like, "if people like my brand, they probably also like brand X."  The more insights you have about your own Facebook audience, the more successful you will be in creating and delivering impactful messaging to potential new followers. 

Thankfully, Facebook has a powerful tool called Audience Insights which provides a wealth of demographic and behavioral data about your followers and those of your competitors. Available within the Facebook Ads Manager, Audience Insights is one of the most powerful analytic tools available to Facebook marketers to learn about their target audiences in order to have a more full understanding of demographic information including geography, purchase behavior, similar interests, and more.

So when would you want to use Audience Insights? Let’s say you are trying to help a friend who just started an online store selling golf putters he makes in his garage. In addition to creating initial brand awareness, you ultimately want to help drive sales for his brand new business. In order to use Facebook to reach those goals you would want to know the amount of people who have golf-related interests, in addition to their past purchase behavior and how they tend to shop (online versus in-store.) Using Audience Insights you can gather this information as well as:

  • Location (DMA, zip code, city, county, state, or country)
  • Age & Gender
  • Demographics (income, job title, employer name, language, relationship status, education, financial, home ownership, parental status, etc.)
  • Interests (everything from brand pages to celebrities and most topics you can think of)
  • Behaviors (charitable activities, online shopping habits, car shopping, financial spending, mobile devices, travel habits, etc.)
  • More Categories (expats of specific countries and their friend/family)
  • Connections (people connected to your page, app, or event)

For a complete list of all the particular options for targeting, check out our helpful targeting guide here.

But before we dig in, it is helpful to understand where this data comes from:

  • Self-reported Facebook data: This is the information given by users when they fill in their profile information, including age, gender, relationship status, job title, location, Page Likes, etc.
  • Third-party data partners: Information such as household income, purchasing behavior, and home value is also available through external companies that match that data to Facebook user IDs. It is worth noting this information is only available for U.S. audiences.

So let’s see how this works in practice!

When you first visit you will be asked to choose an audience to start with. 



  • Everyone on Facebook: This lets you start with all of the Facebook users in the U.S. and allows you then filter it down to a target audience. This is to be used if you want to understand broad interests or your competitors. In our example, your friend thinks that Taylormade putters are really slipping and there is an opportunity to market to people who liked their putters. 
  • People Connected to Your Page: This requires you to select a Facebook page which you manage. This is to be used if you want to better understand your existing audience including similarities they might have in order to create new target audiences. In our example, your friend has a Facebook page with 1,000 followers already! By examining the commonalities of those 1,000 fans we can start to target non-fans who have those same commonalities.
  • A Custom Audience: This requires you to have an existing Facebook Custom Audience. In short, Custom Audiences are created when you upload a list of emails to Facebook which then matches those emails to existing Facebook accounts. This is powerful to reach website visitors and previous customers who are not yet connected to your page as well as understand their demographics and behaviors. In our example, your friend has already made 1,000 sales via his website and uploaded their emails to Facebook to create a Custom Audience. Like before, we can examine the commonalities of those 1,000 Facebook users to start to target non-fans who have those same commonalities.

For this example, we are going to use Everyone On Facebook for our starting audience, but the steps we will take are similar whether you select People Connected To Your Page or A Custom Audience.

First, Facebook will prompt you to refine the location of the audience you want to research. Facebook defaults to the U.S. which you can change, or further refine by selecting a state or city. Next you will be asked to refine via gender and age. 


Our friend for now is focused on building an audience in the Florida golf community so you would add Florida as a additional geographic filter. Also, your friend is targeting males over 30 from previous market research.

The next step is to define what interests you initially want to filter your audience with. For our example, we are going to put in our competitor Taylormade-Adidas into the interest field.


This interest field is the same used in Ads Manager when creating campaigns and can be filled with general interest or specific pages. It is important to note that not all specific pages are listed, so you have to be a little flexible when doing competitive research and have several options for competitors.

Once you have filled these fields out, you can start to see the real power of Audience Insights. 

First you can get a great view of the demographics. Using this chart, our friend is relieved to know that his initial market research of targeting people over the age of 30 was correct!


You can also view location information. Since we already filtered to just Florida, we can see the top cities of his target audience. We can now use this to create more targeted advertising as well as data for potential store locations and opportunities for pop-up events or sponsorship of events.


For your friend’s online retail operation the Household and Purchase data provided will immensely help his targeting. 


The area I sometimes am most interested in is the Page Likes category. Within this module you can see the top page likes in various categories as well as a list top pages overall! No longer will you be creating campaign targeting based on a hunch.


So not only can we see that these users also like Callaway Golf, the Golf Channel, we also know who their favorite athletes are (Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, and Tim Tebow) but also that their favorite sport team is the Tampa Bucaneers and their favorite restaurant is Buffalo Wild Wings. 

Next you will want to continue filtering the audience via the panel on the left side of the screen using insights gained from this research. Once you have your perfect target audience whittled down, just click Save on the top of the page and this audience will be available to use within Ads Manager for your Facebook advertising campaigns.


Looking at all the available data hopefully you can start to see the power of this tool. By using Audience Insights to understand competitors, your own Facebook page followers, or an email list you own, you can start to find demographic, behavioral and interest commonalities amongst those Facebook users. Then by continuing to filter the audience using the insights gathered, you can create your perfect target audience. This information can even aid targeting on other platforms like YouTube Ads, Google Ad Words, and Twitter Advertising.

Now all there is to do is sit back and watch as your friends golf business takes off!


Paul GuestComment