Which Facebook Targeting Option Works Best For Your Campaign?

target audience Facebook Ads

We love Facebook’s targeting options, especially because there’s so many of them. It seems like any audience you want to target, you can. We can thank Facebook’s dedication to constantly improving their targeting system for that.

Having all these options are fantastic—you can target just about anyone you want. They can be confusing, however, especially when you’re trying to decide how to target users for new campaigns.

Do you target current customers from your e-mail list, or customers who visited your site? Should you target your current audience or one that you have yet to connect with?

In order to help users figure out which Facebook targeting option works best for each of their campaigns individually, we created this simple guide explaining what each of your targeting options are and when to use them.

Traditional Targeting Based on Demographics, Behaviors, Connections, and Interests

When you create an ad, both through Power Editor and the self-serve create-an-ad tool, this is the targeting option that takes up the most space and often appears first.

facebook targeting options

This is where you target an audience based on a variety of whatever criteria you choose, including age, gender, behaviors, demographics, occupation, relationship status, interests, location, education, income, and more. Just about any criteria you can think of can be found in Facebook’s incredible targeting system—and these aren’t even any of the special, customized features!

What this targeting option (and all its categories and subcategories) provides us with is the opportunity to target users based on what we think our target audience is. You have access to a large number of people, expanding your potential reach, and you can get as specific or generic as you want.

You can also choose whether to target your current fans on Facebook, or those who you are not connected with on Facebook. This is particularly helpful depending on what your campaign goals are. If you are looking to boost your posts and increase engagement, or promote a product you think your fans will like, you can choose to advertise to those already connected with you. If you are looking to expand your reach and connect with new clients, choosing to target those not connected with you is the way to go.

Facebook Targeting Options

You can either use the traditional targeting system alone, or in conjunction with other targeting features to help narrow down your target audience in their exact niche.

Custom Audiences

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Custom Audiences is a feature that has been beloved by the Facebook marketing community ever since it was first rolled out. This feature allows you to upload a list of your contacts (most likely people who you have already connected with in some form) up to Facebook. Often these contacts include those pulled from e-mail lists, reliable leads, past and/or current customers, or those who have subscribed to your blog. In most cases, these are people who are extremely likely to be interested or are already interested in your business. In a lot of these cases, some customers are either on the verge of purchasing or have purchased, and some sort of rapport has been built.

You can run ads and show them just to those exact, specific individuals, whether to connect with them on Facebook if you haven’t already, or to promote your page or products.

Because you are uploading a set list of people, this gives you the chance to deliver highly targeted messages to those who are likely most receptive to them.

These people are likely already interested in you, your business, or your product. This allows you to run an ad campaign to connect with them and remind them that you’re there waiting for them. Custom audiences is perfect when you are looking to connect with current customers on Facebook, increase engagement, and provide an extra push to connect with you off Facebook as well.

For an in-depth explanation of how to create custom audiences, click here.

Custom Audiences from a Website

Custom Audiences from a Website is a branch-off of Facebook’s Custom Audience feature. It’s also been called Website Custom Audiences or WCA.


This targeting option allows you to target users who have visited your website—even if they didn’t purchase anything or leave behind contact information. You can do this by creating and using a conversion tracking pixel (which you can do all through Facebook’s ad system), which tracks Facebook users that visit your site.

This feature is perfect for reaching out to those who are already familiar with you. You are reaching an audience that is incredibly relevant to what you do.

Facebook’s conversion pixel is fantastic. You can actually target users that even visited a certain page on your site, or users that almost purchased but didn’t (to remind them that there is still something in their shopping cart!). Again, this is all about highly targeted messages, and reaching out to connect with users on Facebook who are interested in your business.

To see how to create a custom audience from a website, you can click here. If you want to create custom audiences from multiple websites, you can see Jon Loomer’s article detailing how to do so here.

Lookalike Audiences

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Lookalike Audiences allows you to replicate certain types of already-created audiences to target new users. Among the list now of audiences you can replicate are Custom Audiences, audiences created from a conversion pixel, and your current audience of fans on Facebook.

Lookalike Audiences is one of my favorite targeting tools. Imagine targeting new users that meet all the same criteria as those engaging with your Page or making purchases from your site. You are targeting new members of an audience you know to be profitable. Using this feature is an easy way to reach your target audience.

Lookalike Audiences is the tool you want to use when you want to connect with new users that are similar (at least on paper) to those who are proven members of your target audience.

In Power Editor, you can even choose whether you want your lookalike audience to prioritize similarity or reach in the new audience.

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An added bonus to Lookalike Audiences? Because you likely know what types of ads, images, and copy convert highest with the original audience it was copied from, you most likely have a strong idea of how to create an ad that will have high conversion rates for its Lookalike Audience.

To view our walk through on how to create lookalike audiences, click here.

Facebook’s Partner Categories

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Facebook’s Partner Categories are described by Facebook as “targeting clusters created by our 3rd party data providers.”

Partner Categories breaks down users’ online and offline activities (allowing you to get a more accurate and also wider reach), giving Facebook advertisers anonymous insight for their targeting efforts. You can target users based off their past purchase history, occupation, political standpoint, household, hobbies, and more. You can set your ads to target very specific groups of people, giving you new criteria to target people instead of Facebook’s traditional targeting options (which, admittedly, are not few and far between as is).

facebook's partner categories

Partner Categories is a great way to target users if you’re looking for a very specific group of people based on their actions. Instead of targeting women of a certain age, hoping that they are mothers, you can actually target mothers based on the age of their children.

To see our guide on Facebook’s Partner Categories, you can view our post here.

You Can Use More than One of Facebook’s Targeting Options

While sometimes it’s best to leave it simple and focus on only one targeting option at a time, combining more than one targeting feature can lead to great results.

Facebook’s Partner Categories, for example, often works well in conjunction with other traditional targeting methods, allowing you to narrow down your audience to those you’re trying hardest to target.

While using every single targeting option available to you all at once isn’t smart (and in some cases, impossible—Lookalike Audiences, for example, can’t be edited much), using different audiences for different Ad campaigns is one way to see big ROIs and expand your reach the best.

Understanding where different groups of users are in the buying cycle can help increase conversions tenfold. New users you’ve never met might purchase, but focusing on a soft sell message is more likely the way to go when connecting with users who aren’t all that familiar with you (or who aren’t familiar with you at all).

Knowing which audience will be most receptive to which messages can be key to success with Facebook’s Ad system.

What do you think? Which targeting options do you find the most useful?