Facebook Market Research Secrets

by alec on November 25, 2007

Over the last week I've published a number of different demographic slices of the Facebook Market.  Facebook makes it easy to do this.  You don't need to buy data from Comscore or Nielsen.  You can simply collect the segment data you need directly from Facebook.

Here's how to do this, using the Facebook Advertising Platform.

Step 1.  At the bottom of every Facebook page you will see a standard set of links.  Click on the link labeled Advertisers.


Step 2. Click the big green Get Started button to start creating advertisements.


Step 3. Pick something to advertise.  Anything will do, since we're not actually going to create an advertisement.  We're just going to mine the demographic data.  So put the name of a random web site or blog into the web page field and proceed to the next step.


Step 4. This is where we get to the gold.  Simply enter the demographic characteristics you are looking for, and Facebook will tell you how many people match those characteristics.  For example, maybe you'd like to know how many single US men use Facebook.  Choose United States for country, Male for sex, and Single for Relationship Status. Presto, Facebook's ad engine tells you that there are 4,074,700 people in that demographic.


Perhaps your interest is in reaching single men attending college in the Boston area.  Choose In College for education status.  A box will appear allowing you to enter the colleges of your choice.  Next visit Wikipedia and enter the query Boston Colleges.  Enter the resulting list into the Facebook form.  Et voila, there are 20,420 single male members of Facebook attending college in the Boston area. 


Segmenting data by country, relationship status, gender, workplace and education can yield very good results.  Keywords, unfortunately, are much less valuable. Because users self identify there isn't a consistent taxonomy one can use for mining keywords, which leads to very questionable results.  For instance, using the keyword "Heavy Metal", or "Led Zeppelin", or "Metallica" yields fewer than 20 US single males who list these keywords.  It's inconceivable that there are fewer than 20 fans out there, even on Facebook.

Getting raw data out of Facebook is dead simple.  The big tracking houses, like Comscore and Nielsen want to sell you this data.  But with a little legwork, you can easily collect the data you need yourself.  Moreover, if you're interested in tracking the evolution of a segment, with a little discipline you could simply run the same query on a monthly basis to see how your segment is evolving.

Happy data mining!

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