Beginner’s Guide Chapter 3: Understanding Your Facebook Targeting Options

understanding your targeting options on Facebook

Targeting is a big deal. Correct targeting means that you’re putting your ad in front of the people who are likely to be highly receptive to your message, and thus likely to complete whatever action you’ve prioritized, like likes on a page or clicks to a website. Poor targeting means that you’ve spent a lot of money putting what could otherwise be a great campaign in front of those who have no interested in what you’re advertising, even if it is your business.

Targeting is where a lot of people go wrong, and with the sometimes (ahem, often) overwhelming number of targeting options available to us, it can be easy to understand why.

While Facebook has a lot of targeting options, that doesn’t mean you should use all of them at once, because you never should.

Yes, utilizing demographics combined with interests, for example, can help put you in front of your target audience while likely still providing a decent size reach, but combining age, gender, relationship status, Partner Categories, interests, and too many behaviors can start to get you away from the majority of your target audience, eliminating a lot of potential for a lot of interested users to see your ad.

The best targeting on Facebook happens when you’re able to strike a balancing act in narrowing down your target audience but still having enough reach.

understanding your Facebook targeting options

You don’t want your audience so broad that your ad is being shown to those who have no interest whatsoever in it—it needs to be more narrowed down to those likely to engage with your ad.

On the other hand, you don’t want your focus to be so narrow that you isolate a large portion of your target audience unintentionally just by making your search too limited.

Hence, the balancing act.

Targeting by Demographics

Facebook has a long list of different demographics that you can target by, and this makes up a large portion of the basic targeting criteria. Among the most basic demographic targeting available, you can narrow down your audience by:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Languages Spoken

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If you want to go further into targeting based on demographics, Facebook lets you get unbelievably specific.

  • Relationship (sexual orientation as well as relationship status)
  • Education (fields of study, school, education level, undergrad study)
  • Work (employers, job titles, industry, office type)
  • Financial (income and net worth)
  • Home (home type, ownership, home value, household composition)
  • Ethnic Affinity
  • Generation
  • Parents (all parents, moms)
  • Politics
  • Life events

You can use some of these crazy specific targeting features in unique ways.

A company that makes non-slip shoes, for example, can target users who work in the food industry, or perhaps those who work on roofing, as both industries and job positions require non-slip shoes as part of their regulations and safety-precautions.

beginner's guide, understanding Facebook targeting optionsA jewelry store may target men who are in a relationship to advertise their products, both engagement rings and beautiful pendants she may love for her birthday.

Someone who sells custom-made diploma frames could target those who had the life event of graduating from college, and a bridal boutique could target women with the life event of getting engaged (or by the relationship status of being engaged, either one!).

Targeting based on demographic is about understanding your audience. What connects them? Some businesses, like some restaurants, may not be able to narrow down their audience with a lot of demographics. They would narrow down their audience by location, and perhaps by behaviors or interests.

Targeting by Interests

Instead of targeting young women between 22 and 35 hoping they just might happen to have recently had a baby for your product line of baby’s clothing, you can target women who have expressed interest in mother-type Pages like Gerber baby food or Huggies diapers.

Facebook lets you target users based on their interests, giving you more accurate targeting if your Page or product is one that needs it.

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While some businesses, like ours, often have a varied array of interests and few interests in common (so targeting by interests normally isn’t too heavily involved in a lot of our campaigns), some businesses are targeting a specific set of people.

Gun shops can target those who like the NRA. An all-organic, vegan restaurant can target those who have expressed interest in other Pages focused on a vegan diet or lifestyle.

Targeting by Behaviors

Not only can you target people by their demographics and what they’re interested in, you can actually target people off their past behaviors.

understanding your Facebook targeting options

Have a nonprofit organization or a fundraiser and you’re looking for donations? You can target users based on past charitable donations—it’s a behavior Facebook has available for targeting. I recently used this as part of a targeting strategy when running a campaign for a nonprofit animal rescue to increase their donations; the results were fantastic, and they ended up adopting out a few dogs thanks to the exposure.

You can target users based off financial investments, activities online, internet browsers used, and perhaps my favorite, purchase behavior. You can target users who purchased pet products, or children’s products, and products similar to yours.

Targeting by behaviors allows you to connect with users perhaps the most likely to take the action that you want, thanks to knowing they have a history of those behaviors in the past.

Targeting by Location

Self-explanatory right? Facebook offers some really great opportunities to target users based on their location. They even take it past your basic “target those in United States” or “target those in Florida.”

You can target users based on their zip code, and you can expand on that by targeting based on a radius around a certain city. You can establish how far you want this radius to be (like ten miles), and—the best part—you can choose whether you want to target people within that radius or outside of it.

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If you’re a local store, especially a brick-and-mortar one, this can make a huge difference with your advertising. You can target those within a set distance of your location, perhaps by utilizing an ad based around an Offer to help bring them in.

If you’re looking to expand past your current local customers, you can exclude those in your immediate surrounding area to try to connect with customers just a little further away from you but still within driving distance. Understanding this feature can be essential to bringing you new clients and helping your local business expand when you’re ready for it.

Targeting by Connections

What Pages have they liked? Do they already like yours?

You can actually exclude Facebook users from your audience based on whether or not they are already connected to you.

You can also exclude Facebook users based on whether or not they are already connected with another Page, including those belonging to your competition.

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When looking to promote a post or product you think is important that your current audience sees, you can make sure to target those currently connected with you; this type of ad often has very good results considering you know your current audience well.

If you’re looking to get new likes on your Page or to connect with new users, it would be wise to target those not connected to your Page.

Targeting by Pre-made audiences

In addition to finding users with the above targeting criteria, Facebook also has several options that allow you to create audiences, some of which target specific people. You can target users through custom audiences, or use lookalike audiences to connect with new users like the ones you’re already connected to.

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To see more about custom audiences and lookalike audiences, you can read our past blog posts and stay tuned for our advanced guide to Facebook Ads, where we discuss them more thoroughly.

Tips for Understanding your Facebook Targeting Options

As we said before, you don’t want to make a search so broad that you won’t be able to get in front of your target audience, but you also don’t want to narrow down your audience by slapping so many different targeting features on that you’re reach is 100 people and you have to pay significantly higher for them to see your ad.

If you want to test out different targeting features you think would be good, some can overlap, but you can also run split test campaigns with different targeting. This can help you find what targeting features work best. It’s a balance of narrowing down a large audience without isolating too many users.

To help you gauge this, Facebook has its Audience Definition speedometer on the right hand side of the create-an-ad tool.

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While you’re creating your targeting criteria, you can watch while it shifts from broad to specific, and when the needle is pointing towards the sweet spot in between. This is so important; it’s crucial to understand your Facebook targeting options in order to find that balance.

With how complex targeting is, we feature an entire module on it in our FB Ads Formula. To see more about successfully targeting your audience using our proven formula, click here.

FB Ads Formula
Our FB Ads Formula has helped businesses and entrepreneurs go so far as to quadruple their ROIs.

Targeting is going to be extremely influential when it comes to how much you’re going to pay for your campaign as well, but we’ll talk about that more in Chapter 5 when we discuss pricing and budgeting.

But we’re not getting to chapter 5 just yet.

Next, we’re moving on to Chapter 4, where we discuss choosing your Ad’s placement. To go to Chapter 4, click here.