Using Facebook to Find and Create Precise Target Audiences

How to find the people most likely to buy your products and services.

I wrote a column for the September 2013 issue of Screen Printing about the social media revolution we are experiencing. For a business owner, the real value of social media is its opportunity to have direct engagement with your customers. You can access the massive consumer and behavioral data and the associated analytics behind virtually every single click that has taken place on a given social-media platform. Used properly, social media allows you to really understand your target market, competitors, customers, and potential prospects.

Since that article ran, a great deal has happened and some fabulous tools have become available for our use. In this column, I want to discuss how to build Precise Target Audiences and Custom Audiences in Facebook, which are used in conjunction with paid Facebook advertisements. I’ll touch briefly on the ads, but my focus will be on how you can identify your exact customer profile and connect with a very high conversion with such users.

Over the last couple of years, Facebook’s search function has evolved from a keyword-based to a relationship-based structure. Instead of relying on keywords as the older search model did, the new one (Graph Search) relies largely on the relationships between the personal data of members and all of the things they have interacted with in Facebook. What makes Graph Search so powerful is the ability to draw conclusions from activity within the target search.

The software looks for relationships that have not been defined, allowing us to derive knowledge and insights that we had no idea existed. For example, if we ask it to find pages that were also liked by those who like a target page we specify, we will receive a list of pages based on complementary and collateral interests, giving us a much greater depth of information about the people we want to target.

The potential for small businesses is enormous. Graph Search allows you to not only find the likes and dislikes of your potential customer base, but also what groups and interests they’re connected to and what their friends and family like. The levels of targeting and customization Graph Search allows you to access present an amazing opportunity to not only connect with more prospects, but the right ones.

Since Graph Search is based on natural conversations, it’s a lot more responsive to extended queries from those searching for items, places, things, thoughts, and experiences. If you do shirts and promotional products for events, you can find people who attended a specific event as well as all of the other events those people like. The potential for rapidly identifying potential new event clients is obvious.

Spying on your competitors
So much public information is available on Facebook that it can be overwhelming, but the place to start is with your competition. Look them up and see if they have fan pages. If they don’t, that tells you a lot right there. If they do, take a close look at them.

Start by scrolling through all the posts on the page. Take the time to read each one and the comments (if any) below the posts. This will give you a feel of how strong their interaction or engagement is with their target customers. You will also see pictures and posts from various jobs, businesses, individuals, schools, or events they’ve had as clients. See what reactions those posts have generated.

Pay attention to how often the competitors are putting some kind of pitch or offer to the market in their posts. The biggest mistake businesses make with social media is treating it like traditional advertising. Facebook is about sharing and engagement, not constantly selling. The best posts are designed to educate and engage the audience. If your competitors are doing it right, you will feel like you’re part of their community.

Look at how many “Likes” they have and how many are “Talking About This." These are two excellent indicators of engagement. If a lot of people like the page but no one is talking about it, that means the page is dead. They may have done a campaign designed to get a lot of Likes without delivering any meaningful content with which their fans could engage. Generally, there isn’t much interest in a page unless others are talking about it. I’ve seen pages where the number of people talking about them exceeded the number of people who liked them. This means those pages went viral, which is what you strive to achieve.

Scoping out your competition will help you understand which Facebook pages work and which ones don’t. You’ll also get a very good idea of how easy or difficult it will be to out-position your competitors, as well as how to target their customers. Do a Graph Search for “people who liked (competitor’s) page.” This will give you the complete list of everyone who liked your competitor’s page. This could yield a few hundred to many thousands of Facebook users. Then you can expand that with another search for “friends of people who liked (competitor’s) page.” Or try “my friends who liked (competitor’s) page,” which will show you who in your audience is also aware of your competitor. You can go as far and as deep with your inquiry as you wish. It’s all about being creative with your search.

Targeting your ideal audience
Graph Search builds continuously on user-created information rather than what companies create. It allows users to search through data that stays within the Facebook ecosystem, at least for now. (Soon, the data connections will extend beyond Facebook, using Bing to pick up the slack where Graph Search has not yet indexed.) This information is constantly growing and ever-evolving.

This gives Facebook users great power to find accurate, relevant, and honest answers to questions like "Where can I get great T-shirts?" They can type "T-Shirt printers that my friends like" into Graph Search and receive results that are driven by the social activity of their own friends. This is a new model of search and it’s good news for businesses that have a strong Facebook (or Twitter, or LinkedIn) presence with positive reviews, recommendations, and a good amount of check-ins. The news isn’t so good for those who haven't completely filled out their pages or optimized their Bing search engine results. Essentially, Graph Search is a complicated and glamorous version of the tool that many printers have traditionally said is their best business generator—word of mouth.

As businesses, we simply turn the questions around and focus our searches on who might be using our product. You can search on any number of things that relate to your target markets. For a T-shirt printer, it might be geographic area, schools, contractors, local events, organizations, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and so on. The possibilities are endless, so much so that you might have trouble deciding where to start.

Data metrics and analytics

Everything that happens in social media—every post, comment, like, share, and tag—is tracked. Everything in every profile is tracked. Log-in and duration are tracked. Every search you make is tracked. Everything, related or nonrelated, is tracked.

Furthermore, the next-generation database software behind all of this works differently than what has been used in the past. The new software looks for patterns in the data, detecting and revealing correlations that would otherwise seem unrelated.

A restaurant chain, for example, could use one of these data engines to identify an increase in sales of certain menu items based on the time of day, weather, geographic location, or time of year. It may seem like a simplistic example, but it’s totally relevant. Every Facebook advertiser (including you) can access this wealth of data through your application programming interface (API).

In marketing, we call this kind of targeting granular, as in a grain of sand. The more granular you can get, the more precisely you can deliver your messages and the higher the conversion. It’s getting easier and easier to find exactly who your ideal customer or client is, and social media is the absolute best way of doing it. The potential is unlimited.

The techniques discussed in this column allow you to create multiple custom audiences, each one targeted precisely to Facebook users most likely to be in immediate need of your services. In a future column, I’ll go through the steps of how to advertise in Facebook and measure the results.

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