An undervalued tool in this case is understanding the niche of your product or service determines the best 'tool' to identify your audience. FB Audience Insights is useful if FB is your primary means of social. If you are utilizing Twitter (and you should be), use bit.ly. Even the free version gives you significant breakdown and understand that when you do any social blast plays a role in the level of impressions/engagement it receives.
Facebook will only give you activity on their portal and will be limited to profiles that are semi-complete and may or may not contain correct data. It won't give you a full scope of what you want or need.
You don't want to use one tool but instead research several platforms to find specific information. Look at your customer avatar as a study where you are examining trends in the market as well as how someone responds to them. The study should include hard, factual information from research spaces as well as trends by groups of customers.
You will find that companies will offer specific information, such as median income ranges, types of careers, lifestyle preferences that you can add up to get a better idea about your avatar. It's best to break up all information you want to know about a specific segment, then use the research platforms to target the information and put your avatar together.
I can help you with your avatar and customer journey!
I've done research for a lot of different customer avatars, buyer personas, or whatever you want to call them.
If you already have your product or product idea, go to industry publications and look for any articles, comments or "sponsored posts" that talk about the particular problem you solve.
Look at the job titles for the people who are providing this content. That's a rough idea for you. Find where they work to get an idea of the demographics of the company.
If you're looking for customer insight in general about your topic, I'd turn to Quora. On Quora, you can find people who are already asking specific questions about the solution you provide. Again, most have a title and you can start to build a rough customer avatar.
The content of the questions and answers will help you refine.
While everyone hangs out on Facebook, if Facebook isn't the place you'll be selling it won't give you a complete picture. You'll be missing a lot of potential buyers and insight.
Plus, you need a large following on FB to actually get usable data. Hope this helps!
The best and only real tool for defining a customer avatar is speaking to actual customers in one on one interviews. There are so many ways to interpret data and misreading what it means that using any tool without speaking to customers can lead you in the wrong direction. Imagine that FB insights tells you that your audience is mostly single. Why are they single? Are they single and looking or are they happily single? This kind of information is not available in FB or any 3rd party platform.
Long before you create an avatar, you should have brainstormed all of the markets your potential solution or product might serve. You want to do this with the end users in mind. If you are targeting teachers, different segments would include primary school teachers, high school teachers, subject-specific teachers, special needs, you name it. To the extent they are likely to have different needs from a product or service, they are different markets. Most people focus on too broad of a market with too many types of end users.
Once you have a healthy list of possible markets, you want to narrow it down to the 6-12 that seem the most promising. From there, you want to conduct primary (first-hand) research by speaking to 3-5 end users from each market segment. Check out CustomerDevLabs.com for great info about how to conduct these interviews. Find out who seems to have the greatest need for a solution, can afford one, and is adjacent to other markets. You want to narrow your markets down to one beachhead that consists of only one type of end user. The market should be as narrow as possible but be sufficiently big that, if you captured 100% of the market share, you would surpass break even and have a full solution developed. This allows you to stay narrowly focused on a simple set of customers and get to the point that prevents startup death as easily as possible.
Once you know your beachhead market, you will interview several more customers and begin to compile the customer avatar. You will find out what they all have in common and what is different. You will find out where they congregate offline and online, how they speak about the problem, what their top priorities are when considering a solution, and much more. This kind of information would never be gathered by using FB Insights or something similar. You can only know it by talking to the end users.
Once you feel like you really understand the end users you will be serving in your beachhead market, you want to pick one actual customer who most exemplifies the end user. Literally, pick a customer who is the perfect customer for you, and then take the customer avatar one step further by finding out all of the details you can about this one person. Even things that seem irrelevant - what kind of car they drive, how to do they dress, where did they grow up? You want to know this customer like you know a good friend. As you think through product decisions, sometimes you will simply say, "Would Sam want this feature or find this value proposition compelling?" And, you'll often know the answer because you know Sam well. When you don't know the answer or there is internal debate, you will literally ask Sam for the answer. What they say is final.
This process is outlined in a book called Disciplined Entrepreneurship. I highly recommend reading it and doing this the right way. If you feel like chatting about it, let me know.