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!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Long November 26, 2007 at 4:47 am

Thanks — great tip!


Mari Smith November 29, 2007 at 12:51 pm

This is awesome, Alec!! Thanks for sharing the step-by-step instructions, your ideas, and your experience so far with Facebook ads. I'm exciting to see where we all are this time next year!! :)


Nigel Legg November 29, 2007 at 11:44 pm

This is cool – you can really breakdown the demographics. The problem is, though, that people are not always in the city (or country) their network says they are in. For example, I know of a lot of people in the Zambia network who are at school in the US or working in London. So there are limits. And there is no real insight, beyond knowing market size – for that you have to pay facebook 50c. per answer at least.


Searchquant November 30, 2007 at 8:50 am

There's also the issue of the historical inaccuracy of estimators of this type. Anyone who's used Google's traffic estimator, for example, knows first-hand that the data is always wrong and that only real campaign data can be trusted.

I agree, though, that FB's targeting options are a great way to ballpark segments.


Graciela December 13, 2007 at 7:51 am

This is one of the most useful posts I've seen in a long time. Thank you so much!


Iron Mauro December 24, 2007 at 5:57 am

Thanks for this. I'm gonna track some profiles in my country, and see how much that Facebook population is growing.


Paul Ford January 30, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Thanks – interesting post in the guerilla sense of getting stuff done for less (or free). The keywords issue tracks back to the general issue of incomplete user-based tagging (online or offline). It's the missing link of the long tail.


Mark Madsen April 7, 2008 at 1:30 am

The question that leaps to mind upon reading this post is: are you violating the Facebook terms of service? I ask because they appear to prohibit data mining of exactly this kind.


Alec April 7, 2008 at 2:24 am

Good question Mark. My understanding of the TOS (and I haven't read them in some time) is that systematic mining and retention of individual users data is a violation, but not this type of use. Besides, why would they provide an end user accessible tool if their intent wasn't for it to be used?


Tom Anderson May 4, 2008 at 6:41 am

There will soon be more powerful tools for market research on Facebook and LI, see: http://www.tomhcanderson.com/2008/05/04/facebook-


Ducci September 7, 2008 at 3:07 am

Do you guys know exactly how many Zambian ctizens use Facebook?


harish April 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Very useful information.Thanks Alec.


Mark May 12, 2009 at 4:42 am

I would be very careful drawing broad conclusions from these queries. By definition you are already searching a previously defined demographic database – Facebook users. Unless your key demographic/target market is also Facebook users the data mined from these queries is questionable. Interesting yes, useful – maybe not so much.


jbrahms November 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm

wow thats a great resource, thank you very much!


Jonathan Allen May 5, 2010 at 2:43 am

I also promote some of my affiliate links on Facebook by making Facebook fan pages and also by advertising on Facebook..;:


affiliate marketing June 16, 2010 at 2:20 am

Nice posts will come here more often


Dilir September 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Thank you. Would like learn more on this or any other research techniques. Regards.


Ken Lombardi September 26, 2010 at 10:57 am

Alec this is fatastic, perfect for small business owners. Thnk you so much! Keep up the fantastic work!


uptraffic November 11, 2010 at 11:32 pm

hi alec,

I found your post very nice and my search is stop here because i get what i was searching.


Therese November 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Alec, this info is really helpful. I am a novice at this but want to mine some data as well as do a very simple survey and have some folks pick a name for a product for my new company. WOuld you be willing to speak with me about this. I could really use your help….see me website http://www.businessmodern.com



Warner Robins Homes January 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Love the data mining FB tips. Thanks a bunch!


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