How To Do Facebook Ads Competitor Analysis In 5 Ways

by | Jun 13, 2019

Ever wonder what your competition is doing with their Facebook ads?

We’re all pretty good at scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed these days, so why not do some Facebook competitor research analysis at the same time.

Not only can you identify how your competitors are using Facebook ads today, you can gain insight into how Facebook’s competitor analysis tools really work – all without spending a cent!

Before we dive into the how-tos, let’s recap on why this is important

The more you research and know about your competitors’ cusomters and to some extent, strategy, you spend less time and money iterating and optimising your Facebook ads. By spying on your competitors, you’ll get a rough idea on what works and what doesn’t. Essentially, they’ve made the mistakes for you so use this as part of your strategy to hopefully, fast-track results. By doing competitor analysis, you’ll get some understanding of your competitors’ customers – who they’re targeting, what they’re interested in and more.


Facebook’s “Why am I seeing this?” Tool

To begin, scroll through your newsfeed until you see a post with the small grey “Sponsored” text under the poster’s profile pic. Once found, click on the three grey dots in the top right-hand corner of the post.

Hit the info icon with a “Why am I seeing this?” description in the drop-down menu.

And voila! Facebook will provide you with a snippet as to why your competitor has wanted you to see their ad.

This is a clear example of Skyscanner testing out its target layering based on my Facebook profile, interests, and internet history.

With this simple tool, just a quick glance at one Facebook ad can reveal your competitors’ Facebook social media marketing based on information like age, location, gender, lifestyle, education, interests and more. But there are other strategies to gain Facebook competitor insights.

Optimising Facebook Competitor Analysis Tools

The following 5 Facebook competitor analysis tactics are easy to discern as each one’s information can be revealed through Facebook’s advantageous “Why am I seeing this ad?” description.

1. Targeting Layers

As you just discovered, Facebook will often tell you more than one way of how an ad is targeted.

Over recent years, Facebook’s Privacy Settings have allowed users to choose how much information is shared with their friends, audience and the public. Luckily for businesses, most user profiles still allow basic demographic information to be shared with the platform.

This basic profile information often includes age, gender, location, family, education, profession and interests.

Book of Mormon - Why Am I Seeing This Ad - Competitor Research Analysis

With a click of that info button Facebook reveals that The Book of Mormon – Australia is using at least 3 layers to narrow down their audience:

  1. They know the age range of their target customer.
  2. They know a precise interest to target.
  3. They know the precise location to target.

Here age, interest and location are targeted, which tells us how Facebook uses the information from my profile and how, or where, I connected to the social media platform.

2. Lookalike Audiences

Some of the best Facebook competitor insights you can find involves their target audience.

Based on a company’s Custom Audience, Facebook will identify the common qualities of people within it to find more potential buyers and users who are similar to their ideal consumers.  

If Facebook deems you as a Lookalike Audience member, you’ll find a description like this on your competitor’s ad.

Promo - Why Am I Seeing This Ad - Competitor Research Analysis

This Promo ad also informs me that they are adding targeting layers to their Lookalike Audience based on my profile information and where I’ve connected to the internet.

3. Your Friends of Friends

The Friends of Friends targeting option is fantastic for industries with widespread and general appeal, such as ecommerce clothing stores and public events.

The way Facebook views this concept is that if most of your friends live in the same area, follow the same interest pages, and tag themselves in the same places, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll do the same too.

If you want to delve deeper into your free Facebook competitor analysis, keep an eye on your newsfeed for the common pages your friends like, what they post about, and from what location.

4. Custom Audiences

If you didn’t know already know, Facebook Custom Audiences are one of the most essential tools for successful Facebook ad campaigns.

When you find competitors’ Facebook ads, these authorised lists are often based on their customers, lookalike audiences, website custom audiences, engagement audiences and app activity audiences.

As you can see in this Deaf Lottery Australia ad, I’ve been placed in a Custom Audience list as I’ve visited their website or used one of their apps in the past.

The Deaf Lottery AUS - Why Am I Seeing This Ad - Competitor Research Analysis

Since the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, these lists should be authorised unless your competitors are willing to face a hefty penalty. This means that the Facebook competitor ads you’re spying on based on Custom Audiences offer a massive amount of accurate information!

5. Remarketing Ad Campaigns

The most powerful tool in any digital marketing today is remarketing, and it’s everywhere on Facebook today.

You know exactly what I mean. You had a spare 5 minutes so you checked Google for bed frames on sale, and the next time you logged onto Facebook you found 5 furniture store ads tempting you with every frame you put on your wishlist.

Facebook’s a little bit more elusive with their reasons for remarketing campaigns now. So you’ll see something like below for this ad strategy.

Unicef Australia - Competitor Research Analysis Blog

Remarketing ads can help you spy on competitors’ Facebook ads to gauge what goals they may have involving their audience. Do they want them to finalise a purchase, sign up to their email list, share their posts or use their latest sister app?

To find out your competitor’s CTA, all you have to do is jump on their Facebook page, and click on “Info and ads” near the bottom of the left hand tab list. This provides you information with what marketing strategies, CTAs and ads they are posting around the world.

And thanks to the increasing demand of transparency by Facebook users, companies and brands are following suit and becoming more open with their consumers about their marketing efforts and CTA goals more than ever. Making your free Facebook competitor analysis all the more worthwhile!

Whilst you may only get the tip of the iceberg of information about your competitors’ social media marketing efforts and target markets. These free social media competitor audits will not only save you time but lower your competitor analysis research costs.

If you want even more of a leg up on your competition, check out these:

5 popular free social media competitor analysis tools

  1.    BuzzSumo automatically finds the content of your competitors shared on social media, the number of shares and engagement of the content per platform.
  2.    Hootsuite allows you to schedule, post, track & grow all your social media channels easily in one place and benchmark your numbers against three of your competitors.
  3.    Sprout Social has award-winning services thanks to its focus on how you can deepen your relationships with your social media followers through its software and solutions.
  4.    SEMRush is ideal for those SEO and analytics lovers. Even though it’s primarily an SEO tool, the social media component of the software contains detailed insights on social media campaigns, allows for tracking important metrics and analysis data.
  5.    Social Blade will help you understand and discern user growth and trends on YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and Instagram through user statistics.


So put on your spy glasses and get ready to discover more about your competitors’ Facebook social media marketing tactics and target audiences.

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