How did marketers survive before Facebook? Seriously, the tools that Facebook makes available to people in our industry are so far beyond anything our predecessors had that it isn’t even funny. Never before has it been possible to understand your audience in such remarkable detail – and what a potential audience.

You’ll have heard that Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform, home to more than a billion users worldwide. But did you know that 936,000,000 of those users check their application multiple times, every single day?

On top of all that, Facebook users spend an average of 40 minutes per day on the platform. Significantly more time than any other major social network.

There are more people on Facebook than there are in China. There are more people on Facebook than there are on WeChat, Instagram and Twitter combined. There are more people on Facebook than collaborated with Pitbull on his new album. I know, I know. Hard to believe. But true.

However, even more important than the huge number of potential listeners is the powerful specificity with which you can target individuals to hear personalized messages.

Did you know that you can sort people out based on household income? The bands they like? The number of children they have? Facebook’s metrics are incredibly—even creepily—detailed, and for you as a marketer, that’s great news.

Remember, mass marketing is always a bad idea. Even if you could target all 1.7 billion users at the same time, you wouldn’t want to. The secret with Facebook ads is to be as specific as possible.

Your challenge is to deliver the perfect message to the perfect person at the perfect time, and Zuckerberg & Co. have made it easy with powerful audience segmentation tools like the Audience Dashboard, the Overlap Tool and, most importantly, Audience Insights.

Let’s go through each of these tools individually to see how each can help you confidently connect with a very specific audience.

1) The Audience Dashboard

Let’s say your business sells quirky stickers with quotes from the 1987 cult classic film, The Princess Bride. It’s a niche market, but hey, buyers are out there. You want to isolate a custom audience on Facebook to begin messaging and then hopefully create a funnel that directs leads to your e-commerce site.

Your first stop should be the audience dashboard. From the menu in the top right corner of your Facebook profile, select Manage Ads. From the resulting menu, hover over the Assets bar and select Audiences from the drop-down menu.

From here you have lots of options for creating your custom audience. Do you have any data on your current customers? (Let’s hope so). Upload it to instantly create a Facebook audience similar to your current buyers.

With Facebook Pixel, you can create a list based on people who have previously visited your website. That’s right. The arm of Facebook’s data-gathering extends all the way to your company website, wherever and whatever it is.

You can even create audiences based on people who have previously interacted with Facebook content you’ve posted, or people who’ve used your app.

What’s happening when you tell Facebook to create these custom audiences is that they start pulling data from three sources.

  • The information you provided about your customers
  • Facebook’s user information
  • Third-party information providers

Your Customer Information

This is pretty basic. You choose which elements to upload, whether it’s an email list or a list of people who have visited your website or whatever. This tips Facebook off to where to look and what defining characteristics your audience has. It allows the platform to access deeper data that unlocks more possibilities.

Facebook’s User Information

When people sign up to use Facebook, they enter information about themselves.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Interests

All of these are valuable, but the last one is an absolute treasure trove. All those people out there who love The Princess Bride are on Facebook, and odds are that they’ve declared their love for the film on that platform. And what about people who love stickers? You get the idea.

Even if people don’t explicitly click the “like” button for the “stickers” interest page, Facebook can tell when people slow their scroll and makes notes of what content seems to interest them most.

Third-Party Information

As if Facebook didn’t already have enough information, it also partners with other big data providers to dig deep and really pull up interesting insights.

  • Income
  • Net worth
  • Important life events
  • Consumer behaviors
  • Political Affiliation
  • Household composition

Need any more convincing? Creating a custom audience will allow you to reach exactly who you need to reach. It’s like having magical glasses that allow you to look at a crowd of people and pick out the ones who are likely to buy from you.

Even better, you can save the audience, create lookalikes to find even more potential customers and edit your audiences as your needs change.

2) The Overlap Tool

Once you’ve created an audience, you’ll probably want to create another. In fact, as I mentioned before, creating lookalike audiences can introduce you to whole new groups of customers that you didn’t know existed.

Unfortunately, this can cause audience overlap, where you’re targeting the same people multiple times for different campaigns. This is obviously a waste of time and money, because you’re basically paying for the same impression twice.

There’s also the problem of over-saturation. If people see your ads too often, it might actually have a negative effect on their relationship with your brand. We’re out here to befriend people, not irritate them.

Thankfully, Facebook accounts for this possibility with the Overlap Tool. To access it, go to your audiences and select two to compare. Then click Actions > Show Audience Overlap.

It’s worth noting that Facebook only encourages you to do this if the respective audiences have more than 10,000 members each. To be fair, overlap with audiences smaller than this shouldn’t be a problem anyway.

The overlap tool should give you new insights about your audiences. What messaging is being overused? What parts of your audiences are being over-targeted? Under-targeted? If you find a lot of overlap, just consolidate your two audiences.

3) Audience Insights

Is this the most important tool that Facebook provides to marketers? Probably. Is it the most complicated? Not even close. Audience insights are actually dead easy to use, and can teach you more about your customers in five minutes than you’d learn elsewhere in a lifetime.

Just select Audience Insights from the main Ads menu. You’ll be presented with three options. Do you want to see insights from Facebook as a whole, people who’ve liked your page, or a custom audience you already created?

All of these categories can be valuable to learn more about. If you’re looking to see general trends or insights about competitors’ services (the sticker business is infamously cutthroat), Facebook as a whole can provide great info.

If you’re looking to understand your own audience better, choose the second or third options. By going through the simple parameters dialogue, you can see insights from as broad or narrow an audience as you want.

Now that you’ve used these tools to study, segment and deeply understand your audience, it’s on you to create messaging that will impact them. I know it sounds like that’s the hard part, but once you’re locked in on a target group, all you really have to do is present your product in a positive light and attach a prominent “buy now” button.

These powerful tools from Facebook mean that the vast majority of people who see your ads will already have an interest in your products. You can take almost all the guesswork out of the process.

With Facebook, it’s easier than ever before to confidently connect with a very specific audience. What are you waiting for?

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