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Updated: Dec 23, 2019
The days when Facebook could be relied upon as a source for easy, organic traffic are now distant in the rearview as we drive upon this lonely highway called social media. If you’re a new business or brand or someone only just now realizing that you should have been doing a lot more on Facebook all along, don’t fret. Yes, it sucks that it used to be so much easier, but Facebook is still the best platform for most brands that want to connect with their customers. In order to save you some time and heartache, we’re going to share a few quick and easy methods to find the fans who will love you automatically.
Very few brands or businesses exist entirely in a world of their own. For the most part, we all exist in a shared context. It’s the essence of competition. If you’re a new business, it can be a real bummer to find that you have to spend a whole bunch of time and money to build up even a meager Facebook following. The truth is, your competition has already done a lot of the hard work for you. All you need is to know where to look and what to do with what you find.
We’ll start with Facebook’s own advertising tool to get an idea of who your competitors are. Let’s say that your business is a website that reports music news, posts record reviews and provides engaging content for music fans. We’ll use Pitchfork as an example, but you can fill in your own brand.
A quick side note: while this is a good method for discovering your competitors, some of these methods won’t work unless you have a certain number of Facebook page likes already. Facebook’s indexing process is finicky, so some pages will show up sooner than others. The easiest workaround for that is to plug in the information of your most successful competitor that you’re currently aware of. The information you gather will be equally useful.
First we’ll use the Audience Insights tool that’s offered with Facebook’s suite of advertising tools. You can access it here: Facebook Audience Insights
Here, you’ll see useful information about people who have liked Pitchfork on Facebook. You’ll find all kinds of details, from demographic and location data and beyond. What we’re interested in for the moment is the pages that Pitchfork’s fans also like. That will show us who your audience is and give us a jumping off point to form a growth strategy.
In the above image we see a table showing the favorite pages of people who have liked Pitchfork’s Facebook page. If you want to promote your social posts (to learn more about Facebook advertising, go here), we can target the audiences of those pages because you’ve already seen that there is a higher likelihood of affinity with your page.
For instance, If you own a ramen restaurant, you’re better off targeting people who like restaurants similar to yours, either in style or substance, rather than simply people who like restaurants, or who just happen to live in your area. But more than that, you can see in these categories that there are other less obvious commonalities among a given audience. You can find the groups of people most likely to like you. You don’t have to limit yourself to simply appealing to other restaurants, but instead to the wider pool of shared interests among that audience.
The above image gives us a deeper look into the specific pages that are likely to appeal to the competition. By targeting those audiences with our advertising efforts, you’re more likely to find people interested in what you’re offering.
Next we’ll use a tool called Fanpage Karma. Fanpage Karma provides useful dashboards for viewing all kinds of KPIs and other insights about your own page, but it also has some cool features for spying on your competition. Fanpage Karma is a paid tool which is worth considering, but they offer a 14-day trial which should give you sufficient time to start your competitive analysis.
If you have enough Facebook likes, you can base your research on your own page, but if you don’t, plugging in your competition’s name yields equally useful results as above.
We’re going to focus on a tool offered by Fanpage Karma which looks at how Facebook pages are connected to each other by shared active fans. It’s called the Fan Activity Graph.
In the above image you see a map of the fan universe of Pitchfork. We can see the pages that are directly connected to Pitchfork are the ones with the strongest degree of affinity. Fans of Pitchfork like The Needle Drops, Spin, Complex, The Fader, NME, Stereogum and Pigeons and Planes. That’s not too dissimilar from what we saw using Facebook’s own tool. What’s especially useful is in the layers just beyond those primary connections. You can find less obvious connections between your page and other pages.
BuzzSumo is another paid tool with a free trial that will be useful for your research. BuzzSumo allows you to look at the social performance of content from a given domain, among other capabilities. You can plug in your competitor’s domain to see how content on their site is being shared across the web. Whatever’s being shared the most can be used as a model for your own content.
In the above example, you can see the most shared URLs from Pitchfork across each social platform. Look at those articles and figure out what you can create that would be of interest to that audience.
By looking at Facebook’s audience insights and cross-referencing those with the connections you discover on Fanpage Karma, you’ll develop intelligently sorted audiences that are likely to be interested in your business. Combine those insights with the social URL data you discover with BuzzSumo, and you’ve got the basis of a content strategy.
Create high-quality content that will appeal to your competitors’ audiences and put a little bit of money behind it to promote it on Facebook. Target those spends toward the right audiences and you’ll be using the hard work of your competition to grow your own business.
It may be a while before you have the organic reach to publish your content and get the distribution you desire, but there’s no reason you can’t start reaching exactly the right people today.
Samantha Novick is a senior editor at Funding Circle, specializing in small business financing. She has a bachelor's degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Prior to Funding Circle, Samantha was a community manager at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Her work has been featured in a number of top small business resource sites and publications.