How Facebook Graph Search Allows Small Businesses to Laser-Target Users

Facebook provides an overwhelming amount of data and tools for free, most of which benefits small businesses in better understanding their audience.

We’re going to investigate the power of Facebook Graph Search and targeting the right audiences for your business.
Step 1: Discover what your / your competitor’s customers competitors love.

Let’s say you have a hot dog stand in Provo, Utah. Your biggest competition is J Dawgs:2014-08-07-00_25_20-How-Facebook-allows-small-businesses-to-laser-target-users_v3_080514-Microsoft

J Dawgs has a lot of fans for a small business located only in a few parts of Utah. Let’s look deeper:


You can view detailed information by adding “/Likes” to the URL of any Facebook page to find out how many people are actively talking about or liking that page.

Notice that the most popular age group is 25-34 years old.

Step 2: Refine your audience based on interests

You can find similar fans via the search box at the top of Facebook, which is called a Search Query. There are parameters on the right side of the results  to tighten your search.

Note that your results are personalized by your friends and activity, so not everyone gets the same results.

1.  Type in “people who like J Dawgs”:


Here are J Dawgs’ fans, but it’s not telling you much, other than just a bunch of names and faces.

What you really want to know is who these people really are and what makes them unique.

Start by taking a look at what they are interested in.

2.  Type: “Favorite interests of people who like J Dawgs” into the search bar:


Here, you can see that there are over 1,000 interests of people who like J Dawgs, so you will want to narrow the search a bit.

3.  Refine by age range by searching for “Favorite interests of people who are fans of J Dawgs and are over 24 years old and under 35 years old“:


Since you know your product and your age range from looking at your competition, you can narrow your search. Facebook’s age ranges are generic and Provo is a college town, so the majority of users will be between ages 18-24.

Your target audience should fit this demographic. You may want to change the age search and add a location– Targeting someone who visited Provo once but lives in Australia is pointless.

4.  Modify the query to target town residents within college age who like J Dawgs:

Change your query to “Interests liked by people who like J Dawgs and are older than 18 and younger than 30 and live in Provo, Utah”.

You’ll find what your own target audience’s interests are:


With a couple of narrowing parameters, we’re able to cut down the list from over 1,000 to around 100.

Step 3: Use what you discovered and build upon it.

We’ve discovered fans of J Dawgs are college age, but we need more information to micro-target them.

1.  Target what schools they attend:

Search for “Schools attended by people who are older than 17 and younger than 30 and live in Provo, Utah


Now, instead of just interests, you can also target schools by clicking “More Demographics” in the ads manager / Power Editor:


2.  Hit where they work:

Look for “Places people who are older than 17 and younger than 30 and like J Dawgs and live in Provo, Utah work at”

There are many ways that you can break down the list on the right-hand side:


Facebook’s graph search helps you narrow down your target market. Learn more about refining your audiences here.

How Does This Help Me?

If you have a message or product you want people to notice, you have to talk to the right people that will listen. There’s no use in selling a painting to a blind man—it doesn’t make sense. You need to know who will be most interested in your stuff so you can reach out to them.

With more pages fighting for a smaller piece of the pie, you can use Facebook’s tools to successfully market to the right people without spending a lot of money.

Facebook recently launched a helpful tool called the Audience Insights Tool for marketers to learn detailed insights about their own targeted audiences.


Here’s what it looks like when studying the fans connected to a specific page:


You can compare your page’s data (in blue) from the rest of Facebook (in grey). On the left you may set any number of combinations of search tests to learn about specifics on your fans.

On the different tabs, you’ll find aggregated information on demographics, geography, purchase behavior and more.

It’s not as scary as you think, Here’s why.

You can learn more about this powerful tool here.

Who are these individuals?

They have social lives and hobbies; they have friends who like the same kinds of things.

When searching for Friends of Fans, you can find these types of lookalike audiences that require little work to find. Graph Search does this for you.

Facebook can also take your custom audience and search its databases for people ‘similar’ to yours, based on many different factors.

When one friend does something, there are usually others just like them.


You can also target users using Custom Audiences (CAT) (opt-in only! abusing this will get you banned) :


This uses exported ‘.csv’ files of your email / phone number list to match up to Facebook.

You can even create tracking pixels on your site to re-target site abandoners with Website Custom Audiences (WCA), helpful for nurturing a sale and bringing back potential buyers.

Most importantly, find the top core audiences, and ignore the rest. These users are the best source for engagement as they are the ones who will actively use your product or visit your page.


So how’s your aim? Are you shooting the right content at the right targets?

About Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the CTO of Blitzmetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at, his blog, or on Facebook.

17 thoughts on “How Facebook Graph Search Allows Small Businesses to Laser-Target Users

  1. Thanks Mari Smith for linking to this post on Facebook. I just tried this out and it was actually quite fascinating. Will definitely use to refine my FB ad audiences. Thanks Alex.

  2. This is all great stuff, but when I tried to type queries into Facebook’s search box, it didn’t work like it did for you! It came up with ‘no search results’. What do you think could be wrong?

  3. You may need to change your language settings within Facebook to English (US) to have access to Graph Search. I hope this helps.

  4. My page is for Spanish users, so I hope that Facebook will soon make it available for other languages as well. It’s a fantastic method to attract followers.

    Fingers crossed!!

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