Research Tools to Identify Your Target Audience

If you’re going to market to an audience, you’ll need to know who’s in that audience. Recent Pew Research data indicates that millennials have wildly different lives and brand expectations than boomers. Younger generations adopt technology much more quickly than older ones, married couples with children have different material needs from single people, and more.

For different demographics, you’ll need distinctive marketing strategies. Luckily, the tools now exist for you to determine engaging with your brand online. This is called your target audience. We’ll break down the top tools to identify it below.

Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Audience Insights will be the most powerful tool you use to identify your target audience, because Facebook is likely to be your single largest point-of-contact for online customers. Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram, so Audience Insights will include data from those apps too.

You can use Facebook Audience Insights to identify customers:

1. Select the audience you want insights for

  • Open the FAI dashboard (Got multiple accounts? Dismiss the popup to choose a different one from the top right dropdown menu.)
  • Choose an audience. The dialog will show your options.

Easy so far, right?

Options for choosing an audience in the Facebook Audience Insights dashboard

Which option to choose?

  • Everyone on Facebook: Learn how to attract new people on Facebook
  • People connected to your Page: Learn more about your existing audience, to create better content just for them
  • Custom audience: Did you create a custom audience? If so, you’ll see that option in this dialog.

For this guide, let’s go with numero uno—Everyone on Facebook.

This will help you gain insights based on your Facebook advertising strategy.

2. Build your target audience demographics

Time now to gain insights for your targeted audience.

Note the Demographics tab highlighted. This is where you’ll be trying and applying various settings as you move down the left side of the page.

  • Select a demographic on the left
  • View the results in the charts on the right. Cool, huh?
Age and Gender demographic on Facebook Audience Insights dashboard

Let’s look at each demographic.


Got a physical location for your business? Say a comic book store in downtown Nashville? An interior design shop in Portland? A lawn mowing business in Charlotte? Choose your country, region or city.

Selling services online? Or building your brand across the web? Include countries worldwide.

Selling physical products? Stick with countries where you ship to. And maybe where shipping costs are reasonable.

Age and Gender

For age, got to be 18 years or older. That’s just how it is with Facebook.

Select an age range that matches with your research and audience personasSame for gender.

Not sure about these demographics? No problem, leave these blank for now. As you gain more insights, you might very well return to them.

Think of this insights exercise as a process, versus an event. Learn as you go and grow.


Ah… interests are where it gets interesting.

Lots of options with this demographic. Entertainment. Cooking. Sports. Tech. Relationships. Donuts. Tractors. Telepathy (try it, I did). Oohlala. Go wild.

Drill down using the drop downs. Or type in anything. Start broad, go narrow. Or visa versa. Play with this, and watch what happens with the graphs as you learn and refine and understand.

For example…

  • Start with U.S. and any age → See 56% women and 44% men across Facebook users
  • Add Food and Drink as an interest → 60% women, 40% men. Hmmmm.
  • Narrow it to Restaurants → 67% women, 33% men
  • Narrow it even more, to Coffeehouses → 70% women, 31% men.
Interests > restaurants demographic narrowing down even further to Coffeehouses

Are you in business brewing and selling coffee locally, say in Seattle? Add that to your location.

age and gender demographic for people that go to coffeehouses in Seattle, as seen on the Facebook Audience Insights dashboard

Rather than 70% nationally, women now show up at 62% in Seattle. You just learned who to speak to—including their ages.

That’s some quality time spent with your computer and Facebook Audience Insights.

Fun, ain’t it? Let’s keep going…


Let’s see… LocationAge & Gender, and Interests all specified—with useful insights revealed.

What next?

How about… LanguageRelationship StatusEducationJob Titles, and Market Segments?

Politics and Life Events are fair game, too (like people who started a new job or moved to a new city).

The “Advanced” section allows you to view even more precise details about your chosen demographic.

Back to your Seattle coffeehouse.

Select All Parents.

Wow, just went from 62% to 72% for women. Even more telling, notice the effect on Relationship Status, Education, and Age.

Demographics for people who attend coffeeshops in Seattle on the Facebook Audience Insights dashboard: Age and gender, relationship status, education level

So then… an ad promoting your business seems in order for these demographics:

  • Parents (men and women)…
  • From 25 – 54 years old…
  • College educated…
  • With kids

The more details you add, the smaller your audience becomes. And the more focused your ad can (and should) be. It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s better to resonate with the few than appear vague to the many.

It’s on you to create the right message. And now you know who to target.

3. Discover what your audience already likes

Pat on the back—you’ve identified your Facebook target audience. Now learn what they already like.

  • Click the Page Likes tab
  • Observe the Top Categories and Page Likes sections

Top Categories

See the general interests of your coffeehouse patrons.

Eats, charitymore eats, books, art, movies, magazines, live music, and organic groceries.

Looking at the top 10 categories, that’s what people sitting and sipping in your coffee venue care about.

Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.Get the free guide right now!

top 10 categories of interests for coffeehouse patrons in the Facebook Audience Insight's dashboard

Use this intel to inspire ideas to test out in your organic Facebook marketing strategy. Maybe run a contest where followers share their best coffee served at organic grocery stores.

I bet you’ll come up with better notions than that. But you get the idea. Having these audience insights lets you guess less and score more with your targeted crowd.

Of course, these are just suggestions by Facebook.

What if there was actual data for relevance and affinity?

Ah, but there is…

Page Likes

Want to know what Facebook pages are connecting with your audience? And how probable it is they will like those pages?

This is the place. Known as Relevance and Affinity.

Facebook defines “relevance” as:

“The Pages that are the most likely to be relevant to your audiences based on affinity, Page size, and the number of people in your audience who already like that Page.”

And they define “affinity” as:

“How likely your audience is to like a given page compared to everyone on Facebook.”

Time to behave like Sherlock Holmes once again.

Click through a load of pages, investigating and noting what these businesses are doing. Understand, swipe, and refine some of their ideas to use for your business.

Facebook Audience Insights by Page Likes

But wait, there’s more. Use these Page Likes to refine your audience:

  • Make a list of the pages above (or simply take a screenshot)
  • Click the Demographics tab
  • Type in a page name into the Interests field
  • View any changes in your Demographics chart

See what pages’ names have an impact. Not all of them will. Use this to further narrow your target audience.

Use the Save and Save As (under the More menu) options to mix and match your settings. So you can see different results for different (but related) audiences.

4. Discover location and language details

Learn where people live and what languages they speak for the stuff you sell.

  • Click the Locations tab
  • Click through each of the sub tabs

You’ll see details for Top CitesTop Countries, and Top Languages spoken for your target audience.

For your local store, this might not be so interesting. But for your online business, this can tell you where to sell. And what languages to focus on.

Got Batman action figures to make, sell, and ship? Wondering what other countries might be interested?

  • Open a new instance of the Facebook Audience Insights tool
  • Type “Batman action figures” into the Interests field
  • Click the Top Countries tab

You might have expected to see the U.S. at the top. But you might be surprised by the other countries in the list.

List of countries interested in Batman action figures

Explore the cities and languages, too, by clicking on those sub-tabs

5. Discover activities and device details

Learn how people behave on Facebook, and the devices they do this with.

  • Click the Activity tab
  • Observe Frequency of Activities pane to see how they interact with Facebook pages
  • Note the same for the devices they use in the Device Users panel

Now this is interesting. Notice the the primary devices your different audiences use.

For your Batman action figures audience, Android is the device of choice for accessing Facebook.

Device Users chart for people who are interested in Batman action figures on Facebook Audience Insights

…and for those local coffeehouse patrons, it’s the iPhone.

Device Users chart for people who are interested in Seattle coffeehouses on Facebook Audience Insights

Maybe you’re thinking of a second business to sell iPhone cases to your customers? Here ya go.

6. Create an ad for your target audience

That’s a bit of work you did to develop your Facebook audience insights custom audience. Nice job.

Got more than 1,000 people in this audience? If so, you’re all set to create and run an ad for them.

Facebook Ad Manager dashboard

Ad Manager will populate the targeting fields based on your Audience Insights. It will also track the performance for each ad campaign.

You might see overall conversions drop as you create more ads. Don’t worry. As you show your ad to a smaller audience, your ROI can still climb. Because again, your goal is to connect deeply with a few people rather than vaguely with many.

Test and track to find your sweet spot. Developing KPIs will certainly help you achieve your social media goals.

Source: Hootsuite

Using Audience Insights, you can precisely determine who’s interacting with your page. It’ll also give you real-time data when you test different marketing strategies.

Google Analytics

If Facebook Audience Insights is a microscope, Google Analytics is a big-picture view. Using a Google Analytics Business Account, you can:

See how your different social media accounts compare in terms of traffic

See which of your pages people purchase from the most

And, most importantly:

Track people around the web, to determine where they’re coming to your page from and where they’re going after

Facebook Audience Insights lets you figure out who your customers are. Google Analytics tells you what they’re doing. With these two pieces of information, you can successfully start to determine your target audience.

Google Analytics is also an excellent tool for determining conversion—or the percentage of users who take the action your page prompts them to (push a button, purchase an item, etc.)

Google Analytics dashboard showing social media referrals

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