Our ultimate guide to audience research using the Facebook Audience Insights tool.
Facebook Audience Insights is a part of the various tools Facebook offers to do audience research. The Facebook Audience Insights tool is built in to Facebook Ads Manager and is used by many advertisers to analyse demographics and likes of their audience.
If you're running Facebook ads you should use Facebook Audience Insights.
The only issue is that the functionality of Facebook Audience Insights is constantly changing, like the rest of the Facebook platform. Therefore most of the existing articles and guides on this topic are outdated. We've decided to write a practical reference that answers the most frequently asked questions about the tool.
We'll update this ultimate guide, so you'll be in the know when something changes.
So read it once in full and bookmark this URL for later reference.
By the end of this article, you'll be an expert when it comes to using the Facebook Audience Insights tool for better targeting and understanding your target audience.
Let's start at the beginning. What is the Facebook Audience Insights tool?
It's a research tool offered by Facebook to advertisers. When you have an ad account you can access the Facebook Audience Insights tool from within your Facebook Ad Manager by clicking on the menu icon and then 'Audience Insights'. It's listed in the 'Analyze and Report' section of the menu (see screenshot below).
The first choice that's presented to users is the type of audience they want to analyse. You can choose between 'Everyone on Facebook' or 'People connected to your Page'. If you have a decent number of followers / likes on your Facebook page it makes sense to analyse your audience of fans to learn more about them. Because they should be your ideal customer profiles. Otherwise you'll use the 'Everyone on Facebook' option to create an audience profile to analyse. This is how most people use it - I'll show you the variables used to define your audience.
On the left side of the screen (marked in red in my screenshot), you'll find all the filters you can use to define the audience you want to analyse. As an advertiser, it's crucial to learn as much as you can about the audience you're looking to target. Every little piece of information about them can improve both your targeting and messaging.
Based on the filters you select you'll see the data on the right side of the screen adjust. You can look at different tabs (Demographics, Page Likes, Location and Activity) to learn more about your target audience.
When you're just starting out, try to define your audience based on what you already know about them. What do they like? What are their interests? You can enter these in the 'Interests' field to see what the demographics of that audience are. Their age ranges, relationship status, education level, etc.
No, sadly that option was removed...
Like I mentioned in the previous part of this guide, currently you can choose to analyse 'Everyone on Facebook' or 'People connected to your Page'.
Before you could choose to analyse custom audiences to find common traits across the people in your custom audience. Meaning that you could import an email list of your customers email addresses into a custom audience, and then have Facebook match these to Facebook users - to share information like demographics and likes with you.
This was one of the best ways to learn more about your website visitors, your leads or your customers. But after the privacy scandals that happened in 2018, Facebook removed the option to analyse custom audiences in Facebook Audience Insights.
So far, I haven't been able to find a good alternative for this functionality. Simply because ONLY Facebook knows so much about the audience - other vendors might have audience analytics tools but their sources of data are at least limited.
Before I go further, I'd like to address a common issue in Facebook Audience Insights. That it's not working at all...
If you regularly use Facebook Audience Insights you know that it's buggy...
Sometimes it's completely down but most of the times when it's not working it shows error messages like: "data not available" or "too many redirects". This happens often.
I'm active in various Facebook groups and I would say that, based on the comments I read there, at least once per month Facebook Audience Insights is not loading.
Nothing you can do about it, except for waiting until it's fixed again.
But it's good to know that if you see "Facebook Audience Insights not working", it's not just you but it's down for everyone.
Just wanted to quickly mention that before we dive deeper into the screens & tabs.
Let's look at the first tab for Facebook Audience Insights demographics analysis
I think it makes most sense to use a consistent example across this entire guide. I've entered the interest 'Buddhist meditation' in the left side of the screen to create an audience that's interested in this topic. Let's say I own a webshop that sells products related to this type of meditation and I'm looking to learn more about the audience.
The demographic analysis tab first shows the age and gender of the audience. In this example 83% of the audience are Women and only 17% are Men. I can aso see the age range distribution of that audience. This information helps a lot when defining your audience for targeting in Facebook Ads Manager. I'm not saying you shouldn't target Men in his case, but I would definitely start with only Women.
Then you can also look at their relationship status, education level and job industries to learn more about our audience of people who are interested in Buddhist meditation.
By the way, you might see the error "Facebook Audience Insights demographic data is not available" - as I mentioned in the previous section. It's often has downtime issues.
Let's go to the tab next to Demographics which is Page Likes.
In my opinion, the page likes tab is the most interesting part of Facebook Audience Insights. It's very interesting to see which pages are likely relevant to them. Especially when these pages are associated with interests that you can target with ads (not all of them are targetable, that’s a separate issue I’ll address later in this guide…)
In the Facebook Audience Insights Page Likes tab, you’ll see two tables with clickable names of Facebook pages. In the table at the top, they’re sorted in different categories like ‘Magazines’ or ‘Public Figures’. These are all Facebook pages related to Buddhist meditation across different categories. So for example ‘The Mindfulness Bell’ at the top of the table is probably a magazine read by our Buddhist meditation audience.
If you’re in doubt, you can always click on the link to go to that specific Facebook page to learn more about it. Don’t forget to click ‘See All’ to get even more related results.
The bottom table shows Facebook pages sorted by relevance to your audience based on their Affinity score.
The affinity score is a score that indicates how likely your audience is to like a given Facebook page compared to everyone on Facebook. So a higher affinity score, means a higher relevance to your audience.
Our Buddhist meditation audience has an affinity score of 2462x with the Tara Brach Facebook page. This means our audience is 2462 times as likely to like that Facebook page compared to everyone on Facebook. Definitely a relevant page to target!
But can you target this as an interest in Facebook Ads Manager?
There is a difference between Facebook pages and Facebook interests. They’re not the same, although they can be associated. Sometimes a Facebook page has a matching interest that can be targeted with ads, sometimes it doesn’t. There is no real logic behind it, because there are Facebook pages with huge audiences that don’t have an interest you can target. While there are really small pages that do have one.
The biggest issue is…Facebook doesn’t show you which ones you can and can’t target. The only way to find out is to copy-paste these Facebook pages into Facebook Ads Manager (in the Detailed targeting field where you input interests). Just to see if a matching interest shows up.
If yes, you can target this audience.
If not, you can’t.
I do need to mention that even though a page might have a matching interest, it’s not necessarily the exact same audience. You can easily see this by looking at the size of the audiences. The Facebook page might have a following of 40.000 people while the interest with the same name only has a 20.000 people audience size.
The copy-pasting of interests is really time consuming and it’s frustrating to find relevant pages to then find out you can’t target them. Out of frustration we came up with the idea for a Chrome Extension that automatically takes all these Facebook pages and checks if they have a matching interest using Facebook’s Marketing API.
If yes, it highlights them with a target emoji 🎯
If not, it doesn’t.
This extension is not available separately, but comes as a bonus with InterestExplorer our software that reveals 1000’s of hidden interests that are not shown in Ads Manager.
Now that I’ve mentioned Facebook’s API…that’s a nice bridge.
Facebook is constantly making updates and improvements to their platform.
Also to the different API's that are accessible to developers. Until the end of 2017 they offered the Facebook Audience Insights API so developers could create value adding products and services on-top of Audience Insights data.
They shut down this service in december 2017 when they started merging the large number of API's - like the feature rich Facebook Marketing API .
When they deprecated the Facebook Audience Insights API, Facebook stated that they want their advertisers to use the Audience Insights interface - instead of interfaces developed by third-party developers.
OK, so no API. What about an app?
Nope, there is also no Facebook Audience Insights app.
Facebook offers different apps, next to the main Facebook mobile application. For example the app for page managers and group managers, or the app to manage Facebook ads. But Audience Insights doesn't have it's own mobile app and can only be used from your Facebook Ad Account on desktop devices.
And finally, a Chrome extension maybe?
The Facebook Audience Insights Plus Chrome extension basically showed you the interests that show up in Audience Insights in either blue or red. Blue meant that the like / interest can be targeted with, red meant it's not possible to target these with ads.
In short: Facebook Audience Insights Plus is a Chrome extension that saves you a lot of time when doing audience research. But it's no longer available for download.
We decided to build our own Chrome extension with the same functionality. The one I showed you earlier in the article - that highlights targetable interests with a target 🎯
It's not publicly available, because it comes as a bonus with InterestExplorer our software that reveals 1000's of hidden interests that are not shown in Ads Manager.
I think if you've read our guide until this point, you'll see Facebook Audience Insights is a very useful tool. Especially the section to find relevant Page Likes. But over time they've also removed valuable functionality like the feature to analyse custom audiences.
It also has a lot of downtime and some limitations.
Facebook owns a goldmine of data ⛏️
That's why it's close to impossible for other companies to provide insights like Facebook has. Our Facebook profiles contain demographic information, our web usage is tracked by Facebook pixels that are installed on almost any website and our (aggregated) conversations using Messenger & WhatsApp are interpreted and analysed.
So even if you would upload a list of email addresses to some other company that provides audience insights, they would never be able to match these email addresses to the number of data points that Facebook tracks from its users.
So... is there a good Facebook Audience Insights alternative? I don't think so.
However there are some alternative tools to serve one of the use-cases of Facebook Audience Insights: finding interests to target with your Facebook ads. I built one myself.
I noticed that Facebook Ads Manager shows you just 25 suggestions for interests you can target with ads and Facebook Audience Insights also shows a limited number of related interest (not even all of them can be targeted).
That's when I discovered that Facebook's Marketing API returns all the available interest to target related to any topic - so a lot more than just 25. I built my Facebook interests tool InterestExplorer around this. If you'd like to know a little more about the Facebook Marketing API and how you can use it as a non-developer, download my PDF below.
It shows you the simple steps to use Facebook's Marketing API to reveal interests that are not shown in Ads Manager. It's like the manual version of my software. For free.
A common misconception amongst Facebook advertisers is that Facebook and Instagram have different audiences. Sure, it's a completely different platform with it's own character - but purely from an advertising perspective Instagram is just one of the "placements" where your ads can be shown.
There is no version of Facebook Audience Insights specifically for Instagram.
But if you research your audience in Audience Insights and create a saved audience, you can build a campaign with placements on Instagram (feed or stories) targeting this audience. Part of that audience will be active on Instagram.
To save your audience, you should click on 'More' in the top menu and then 'Save As'. There you can give your audience a name and save it. At a later time you can 'Open' the audience again to further specify it and 'Save' it again as an updated version.
Now you have an audience you can target with ads.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Facebook Audience Insights guide. Good luck with your interest research!