How to Use Facebook Audience Insights to Find New Customers to Target

How to Use Facebook Audience Insights to Find New Customers to Target

If you’re a brand new e-commerce business with little to no web traffic and few Facebook page likes, building Custom Audiences in Facebook (most marketers' favorite Facebook ads tactic) won't work for you because not enough people have interacted with your content. In order to do effective retargeting (marketing to people after they've already interacted with your business online), you have to have a decent volume of traffic and Facebook interactions already.

Or, as I like to say — you have to fill the top of your funnel. You have to have a constant stream of new people interacting with your business in order to grow the size of the Custom Audiences you’re targeting on Facebook. When you’re a small business, you don’t have a ton of time and certainly you don’t have a huge budget to reach those audiences so you have to get strategic. 

Facebook funnel whiteboard sketch

Who are those people that will fill the top of your funnel and how do you find them on a tiny budget?

By doing research!

Using the Facebook Audience Insights tool for research

Facebook Audience Insights helps you understand more about your target audience: their demographic information, behaviors and interests. Then you can use that information to inform the places you look for new traffic to your website. 

Facebook Audience Insights tool

When you first visit the page, Audience Insights will ask if you want to analyze and audience of:

  • Everyone on Facebook
  • People connected to your page
  • A Custom Audience (for example: an email list you upload)

Because you're audience is so small you might think that analyzing a Custom Audience or people connected to your Facebook page is out. But while YOU may not have a huge list of customers or Facebook fans yet, consider all sources of data you might have access to. 

Using Custom Audiences and Page Connections to analyze your target audience when you don't have a huge following yet

Think outside the box on audiences you can analyze that HAVE interacted with your business or a similar business you can borrow from.

  1. Your past Kickstarter or Indiegogo backers: You can import the email addresses of people who backed your crowdfunding project if you’ve ever run one. Remember, you’re only using these email addresses for data analysis and only if there’s enough of them (1,000+).
  2. Your past Etsy customers: If you sell or have sold on Etsy, you have access to the email addresses of anyone who ever ordered from your shop. Pop them into a spreadsheet and upload them. Again, you’re not marketing to these people directly, just using them for data analysis. If you have fewer than 1,000 you won’t be able to analyze them, but you can combine them with past marketing lists or your Kickstarter list if you have one.
  3. Audiences from Facebook pages you’ve administrated in the past. A lot of people are serial entrepreneurs and still have access to Facebook pages you used to admin. If you’re reaching a similar audience to that of your past business, consider using Audience Insights to examine fans of your old Facebook pages. All you have to do is connect them in Business Manager.
  4. Audience insights from Facebook pages or email lists you can borrow. This might seem a little crazy, but I've done it and it works. Do you have a friend who has a business that reaches a similar audience to yours? If that friend can make you admin of their Facebook page or let you borrow an email list, you can analyze that data to substitute for your own. Again — you’re just doing analysis, so none of this is unethical!

It's ideal to analyze an audience that has some relationship to your business or a really similar business rather than picking a comparison out of a hat, but those data sources are unavailable or too small, pick Everyone on Facebook to analyze.

Analyzing data from Everyone on Facebook

You won't literally be analyzing data from everyone on Facebook because that sample size is massive and therefore irrelevant to your business. Instead, pick a segment of the Facebook audience that represents people you think might be interested in your business. Isolate your audience to:

  • Fans of a competitor brand (or a brand that's like yours but waaaay bigger) 
  • Fans of a lifestyle publication you're certain your target audience reads

Let's say I ran a women's clothing company and I was interested in targeting the kind of women who like the brand Betabrand.

Using Facebook Audience Insights we can gather data about fans of Betabrand in the U.S.

Using Facebook Audience Insights we can gather data about fans of Betabrand in the U.S.

What data to look at

Once you've pulled in either a Custom Audience or have isolated a brand or publication you want to look at, you can start poking around at the data in Audience Insights. Remember, we're using this data to research what are audience is into so we can make decisions about where to reach them online and with that content.

The first place I look is the Page Likes category, to see what other things Betabrand fans are a fan of.


This means that if I were trying to target my clothing ads to fans of Betabrand, I'd also have success targeting ads to fans of thredUP, True&Co, ThirdLove, mahabis, Fabletics, etc.

It also tells me:

  • How to target Betabrand fans on Pinterest (they're interested in causes, furniture and health + wellness)
  • Blogs and websites I could pitch my products to, or advertise on (not shown in screenshot, but most Facebook page likes reports contain Media/Publishing)
  • What types of websites to target, based on category (home + garden, health + wellness) with display advertising in AdWords

At the very least this gives me a list of brands to follow for content inspiration, so when I'm at a loss for what to post to Facebook or Instagram and I can take a queue from, say, Joybird.

You also want to check out Demographics. This will tell you what age and gender to target with your advertising. Here we see that fans of Betabrand are mostly women aged 35-54.

Betabrand demographics. If you were trying to reach these kinds of people, you'd advertise to women aged 35-54.

Betabrand demographics. If you were trying to reach these kinds of people, you'd advertise to women aged 35-54.

You can also check out the Location tab to see where most of your target audience lives. (In Betabrand's case it's San Francisco, followed by Seattle.) This is where you're likely to make sales. 

The Activity > Frequency of Activity report will tell you how this audience is likely to engage with content you post. This will give you insight into what kinds of calls to action to use in your Facebook advertising.

Frequency of Activity report in Facebook Page Insights

If you're targeting fans of Betabrand it looks like you're better off running a Page Likes campaign than an Offer ad to this audience.

The Demographics > Lifestyle report will tell you what your audience is most like, and not like, based on some funny avatar titles that Acxiom Data Guru breaks all of humanity into. If you're trying to target Betabrand folks, it looks like you want to go for a mix of upper class single people in their 40s (City Mixers) and wealthy married homeowners in their 30s, 40s and 50s (Summit Estates).


While you may think you understand who the target audience is for your products, in my experience business owners underestimate things like a customer's ability to afford higher priced goods. We often assume that we ourselves are the target audience for the products we're selling and that's often not the case. By using real data, collected from Facebook, we can gain insight that goes beyond what our gut says about who we're selling to. It's still just a guess, but it's a better educated guess.

This data will help you build new audiences to target that mirror the type of people you want interacting with your business. 

always be testing

You might find that the Dot & Bo audience is eating your stuff up while the True&Co fans are not engaged with your content at all. You may find that running different messages to the single 30s and 40s people and the married 40s and 50s people results in more page likes from each demographic. Keep track of the Facebook campaigns you're running and who you're targeting.

It all starts with understanding your audience and their motivations. Remember: the goal of using this information is to fill the top of your funnel with new people to target with more relevant advertising once they've interacted with your content. You won't be marketing to these new audiences forever — you're just using them to build a bigger audience to retarget once someone from this audience interacts with your stuff.