Back in the day, if you wanted to really understand your customers, you’d need to pay dearly for the information.

Market Research firms around the world still command a pretty penny for conducting statistically valid research projects for the big corporations who can afford to foot the bill.

Guess what? As a solopreneur or very small biz owner, you can get some really great data all by yourself. For Free.

Yup. You just need to spend a little time gathering the info and putting it together.

One of the best first places to start? Facebook! There are nearly 900 million Facebook users who have agreed (to one degree or another) to share their intentions with this social media giant. And — by extension — with you.

Here’s how to leverage all that wonderful information for your small business:

First Things First

Before you can do any research, you’ve got to define your target. Who do you want to learn more about? Outline as much as you know about them as possible. In marketing, we usually call this the Ideal Customer profile or persona.

And if you need help defining your Ideal Customer, there are some great tips here. Will you know everything about this person? No. Not yet. (That’s why we’re going to do the Facebook sleuthing.) Just capture as much as you can, for now.

Next, Flesh Out the Details

Your Ideal Customer Profile needs to be rife with details. Demographics are a great start, but the psychographics are just as important — sometimes, more so.

You’ll want to know things like: what television shows, movies, music and/or books do they enjoy? What causes do they support? How much do they participate in politics? Does their life revolve around family? And so on.

These details might not seem important to you and your business at first blush. But the truth is, all of this info gives you a peek into the key bit you need to know: Their biggest motivations.

When you know their motivations (why they get out of bed in the morning, why they persevere, and what their ultimate goals are), then you’ll understand how and why they’ll make a buying decision about your thing. Ready to get started?

7 Fabulous Ways to use Facebook for Market Research

1. Explore the individual profiles and pages that belong to your fans. Dive as deep as their privacy settings will allow and look at things like:

  • Their demographics (where do they live? Are they married? With children?)
  • Their likes (movies, books, music, etc.)
  • Their status updates — these will give you clues into what they’re truly passionate about AND what problems they’re currently dealing with
  • Links to their other social media profiles and/or business website

Make sure you keep a running list on all of these bits so you can see what patterns emerge. (See Clare Price’s post on tracking this stuff across all social media channels.)

2. Look at the Insights for your fan page. This will give you more data like:
  • The group demographics of those who follow you
  • Which of your posts they find most interesting (and are engaging with)

3. Use the Facebook ad builder to find out how big your market is (as you define it).

4. Use the Facebook search tool to find:
  • Entire groups of people that fit your target market and listen to them. When you’re ready, jump into the conversation and network!
  • Questions being asked that pertain to your industry, product or services category (use the Public Posts filter)

5. Use the Facebook Polls option to ask your fans and/or friends questions about how they find, purchase and use products like yours.

6. Create a highly targeted ad that invites your right people to take a survey elsewhere online (use Survey Monkey or Pop Survey as great free options).

7. Watch your mini news-feed (on the right hand side of your Facebook window) to see what smaller actions your connections are taking. Now – what do you DO with all of that amazing research? It depends. Sometimes just listening is enough to spark an idea for a new product or service that you’ve seen people raise their hands for.

(When Facebook started getting popular with the small biz crowd, I heard a lot of questions about how to set up a fan page — that sparked a Facebook for Small Biz Owners class that I taught probably a dozen times over an entire year. Yes, you CAN make money from your time on social media.)

And sometimes listening gives you invaluable information about the WHYs behind your target customers’ needs and desires. Whatever it is you sell, you need to know the underlying WHY behind a potential customer’s decision to purchase.

Do they want to spend more time with their family? Are they frustrated with the rampant changes in technology? What are they saying? You need to really listen.

Check out to understand the ROI on your facebook marketing efforts.


Use the data you’ve found to help you:

  • Write better copy for your website (copy that will relate directly back to specifics you’ve seen pop up from multiple users)
  • Understand where to spend your time networking (which groups of people resonate more with what you have to offer? and which are just spamming links to each other?)
  • Get to the bottom of the “so what?” questions your prospects are asking about the features and benefits of your thing
  • See why people don’t buy from your competitors (is their stuff too boring? too weird? too hard to understand? Good – now you know what you need to do to make your stuff better)



What do you think? Have you used any of these methods to research your market? Did I miss something? Share a tip or question with us in a comment below.