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The global flows of your Facebook audience


By Daniel Gilbert, Head of Insight - Techlightenment

May 6, 2012 | 3 min read

Social media enables brands to increasingly understand the profile and behaviour of their customers. Listening to social conversations can provide insights into what people are saying, whilst connecting to customers through a Facebook application or social login on a website can provide new insights into their demographics, profiles and preferences. In the right context, brands can use this new source of data to create more relevant and personalised social experiences.

Figure 1

Social profiles offer new ways of understanding customers, for instance mapping what they ‘Like’ or who they follow to understand their affinities and interests. But social profiles also include more familiar data such as demographics and location information. Location data is a staple of web analytics, and often the only demographic data you know about website visitors, but social data can bring a fresh perspective to this too.

Most Facebook users choose to specify a ‘current location’ (at town / city level) in their Facebook profile, and mapping this can show where visitors to your website or application are today. Figure 1 shows an example for a Facebook application where most visitors are in the US and UK, but also spread around the globe. However, a Facebook user can also specify their ‘hometown’ – typically referring to the town and country they were born or grew up in, rather than where they live now. The maps in figure 2 and 3 combine these two types of location to trace the ties or migration ‘flows’ of your visitors who live outside their home countries. The arrows indicate the size and direction of flows from hometowns to current locations.

In our example this quickly reveals the variety of international flows that exist. Some of this will be noise – reflecting the global nature of Facebook, and idiosyncrasies in how people choose to complete their profiles. However, it also highlights prominent segments of an audience that are unlikely to have been obvious before, such as visitors whose hometowns are in China but are now living in the US or UK, and others moving between the US, UK and Australia.

Facebook’s own research has shown the global scale and relationships of Facebook users - many of you will have seen the visualisation that mapped friendship ties across Facebook, and more recently how these friendship patterns reflect historic and cultural factors for different countries. The nature of these relationships also vary from brand to brand, depending on their specific audience. In this example we have shown global patterns, but in other cases it may be more relevant to map regional flows within a country or between cities. Either way, if locations, relationships or geographic ties matter to your business, this data can be used to build more relevant content and improve your users' social experience.


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