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Using Facebook Audience Insights for public relations planning

A free tool from Facebook is useful for helping to characterise audiences or publics.

The population of the UK is 64.5 million according to the Office for National Statistics. Facebook’s usage in the UK is around 37 million.

The social network is reaching saturation in the UK and many other Anglo-Saxon markets and it has become a useful proxy for exploring demographics and human behaviour.

I frequently use Facebook Audience Insights, the advertising tool available to any Facebook user, as a quick test of the size of an audience or public. It takes less than 60 seconds.

Facebook provides the tool to help marketing professionals plan advertising campaigns but it can also be applied to a public relations planner. It costs nothing and is a really useful free tool to use as part of your campaign workflow.

Gathering insights as part of a planning exercise means that you are better informed, can develop more effective creative, and make better media choices. It’s also useful for quick fact checks.

Facebook reactions and actions

Every action we take on Facebook such as a check-in, post or reaction leaves a data trail. It’s this aggregated data about behaviour, demographics and locations that we can use to inform campaigns.Using Audience Insights you can access information about:

  • Location – people that live in a location, were recently in a location, or who have travelled to a location
  • Gender – male or female
  • Age – you need to be 13 to set up a Facebook account and so the age scale runs from 13 to 65+
  • Language – the native language of the user
  • Demographics – this scrapes information from profile pages and immediate networks
  • Interests – this relates to the data that you leave around the platform in the form of likes and other reactions
  • Behaviours – arguable the most useful data point, this tracks actual behaviours such as travel via location check-ins or purchases

How to use Facebook Audience Insights for public relations

I recently demonstrated the tool to students in a class at Newcastle University. To use the tool you run through the process of building an ad campaign. Here’s how:

    1. Log onto Facebook via the web and select ads from the drop down menu bar.
    2. Select Clicks to Website as the purpose of your campaign and enter a URL (it doesn’t matter what you select as you’re not creating a live campaign).
    3. Tweak each of the variables above to match the audience or public that you’re seeking to engage with as part of your campaign.
    4. You’ll notice the audience definition dashboard shifts back and forth as you make different selections.

Example planning exercise: Newcastle, UK

Here’s some examples for different audiences that I characterised within 30 seconds.

  • Parents with teenagers living within 25 miles of Newcastle – 62,000
  • People under 18 that use Facebook and live within 15 miles of Newcastle – 52,000
  • People currently visiting within 10 miles of Newcastle – 1,600
  • Men living within 25 miles of Newcastle that are interested in Italian food – 22,000
  • Women living with 10 miles of Newcastle that are interested in bodybuilding – 36,000

Facebook Audience Planning is a powerful tool for quick and dirty checks on your audience or public.

If you get a large number you need a broad awareness campaign. Alternatively you need to work harder to segment your audience.

If you get a small number then a more selective approach would be best suited.

Who knows? You might even discover that the combination of a Facebook community or page and ad campaign might be the most cost effective solution to your campaign.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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