Targeting Methods in Facebook Ads and When to Use Them

Using Facebook Ads to increase brand reach can be a powerful approach and a great use of ad spend. But with all the targeting methods in Facebook ads to choose from it can become overwhelming pretty quickly.

How do we know when to use which targeting method? How can we best use different targeting methods so they work together? Is there a difference in pricing between the various targeting models?

If you’ve ever wondered some of these things, then this article should help generate some clarity in your Facebook endeavors.

Facebook has some ultra-powerful segmenting and targeting engines that are supported with tons and tons of data. I mean, think about all the data one person generates by engaging with pages, events, and apps. Now, consider how much data is generated from all Facebook users, it’s almost incomprehensible.

Alright, here are 5 targeting methods you could be using. You’re probably familiar with some of these but might not know how to use them together strategically.

So for this article, I’m going to use an example to illustrate how different targeting methods will work together.

Some Details of the Company Running Facebook Ads

We’re running Facebook ad campaigns for a non-profit coffee shop that donates their profits to local causes.

They set goals for donations, hold events to increase foot traffic, and roast their own coffee. With all this in mind, they have a lot of information to share.

To keep their customers in the loop they have a mobile app with calendars, places to rate roasts, request roasts and track the status of their goals.

Target Based on Basic Demographics and Location

Targeting based on basic demographics is probably the most straightforward targeting and consists of four main components.

Targeting by Age

This is represented by an age range, and as you might assume segments your audience by identifying people between age X and Y.

For our example, we’re looking for people between the ages of 18 and 35 because this is our target demographic.

Targeting by Gender

Similarly to age, this component of targeting is pretty self-explanatory. Either target males, females, or both.

For our example, we’re going to be targeting both genders.

Targeting by Language

Here’s another pretty basic targeting method. From here it can get pretty complex, so enjoy the basic targeting methods while you can.

For our example, we’re going to target the English language.

Targeting by Location

This kind of targeting can be people who live in the location or have visited this area.

When we get into interests we’ll see an opportunity to use this kind of targeting in conjunction with targeting based on events strategically. We might hold an event in an area, and target that area to show ads with content relevant to the discussions of the event held there.

For our example, we’re going to target Detroit because that’s where our company is.

Targeting Based on Interests

This is where targeting gets interesting.

We can target by explicit data like employers that they’ve identified.

Alternatively, we can target by information that’s semi-explicit with hints of implicit data. This can be interesting they have based on page likes. Now, these interests aren’t limited to the exact pages they like. They can also include pages that are similar to pages they like.

For example, someone might like Starbucks or some other coffee shops and be included in this audience if the interest targeted is “coffee”.

One of the most complex interest targeting methods in Facebook Ads could be behaviors. These segment profiles based on attributes they are likely to exhibit. This can be very detailed segmenting made available by data from Oracle Data Cloud.

For example, you could group an audience together based on consumers who are likely to buy Frozen Entrees based on data.

For our example, we’re going to segment people who are interested in coffee and non-profits.

Targeting Based on Connections

On the surface this includes the following attributes:

  • Include/exclude page likes
  • Friends of people who like certain pages (these have to be pages that you’re an admin of in your Facebook Business Manager)
  • Exclude people who like page likes (like above, these have to be pages that you’re an admin of in your Facebook Business Manager)
  • People who use certain mobile apps (like with pages, these have to be apps that you’ve added to your Facebook Business Manager)
  • Events Attendance or Engagement (like with apps, these have to be events that you hosted)

The true power of this targeting method comes alive when we leverage the advanced combinations functions.

We can include friends of people who have liked our page while excluding the people who like the page to show our ads to a whole new audience. Also, maybe we want to show ads to people who use our app who haven’t liked our page.

For our example, we’ll target people who didn’t respond to an informative event at our brick and mortar location, haven’t downloaded our app, who are friends of a person who likes our page but doesn’t like our page themselves.

See what I mean? Nice, detailed targeting. Also, this audience is probably going to be the least expensive to target.

Alright, Let’s Hold Up for a Minute

Up until this point, we’ve used demographic targeting only. All of this segmentation would be used in pretty basic pay-per-click advertising.

Due to the nature of our targeting, we might want to share valuable information that was discussed at the event the person didn’t attend. The information was about non-profit success and had several live speakers who are pretty well known in the area.

From what we know about the audience we can ascertain that they may have heard of us once or twice, they appreciate non-profits, and like coffee.

For the kind of targeting we can achieve with the custom audience tools in Facebook we should share “top of funnel” offers. Like, free resources that I might not even gate.

In the ad, I’m going to use a trackable link to a page with a video from the event, maybe a transcript of someone’s talk if possible, and links to download the app and attend an upcoming event.

Important strategy alert!

I’m going to place a remarketing pixel on this page and use it to generate an audience of people who have visited this page.

Targeting Remarketing Audiences

Now we’re starting to get super specific in our targeting and reinforcing with what I like to call significant and known intelligence.

Up until this point, we’ve used more implicit data or general demographics. For the first time, we know without a shadow of a doubt that the people in this audience know our coffee shop. Similarly, we know that they’ve seen a page that has links to download our app and attend other events.

Now it’s time to start guiding them further down the funnel.

For our example, we’re going to split our remarketing audience into two audiences by excluding people who have our app for one and excluding people who responded to an event in a couple weeks for the other.

This opens the opportunity for us to show very relevant information to each audience.

For those who don’t have the app yet, we might advertise it to them by identifying the value proposition of it.

For those who haven’t responded to our upcoming event, we might advertise who’s going to be there and what will be discussed while highlighting the benefit of attending.

These audiences will likely be more expensive than our custom pay-per-click audience.

Targeting Lookalike Audiences

The last targeting method we’ll discuss is used to amplify our message to Facebook profiles we haven’t found yet.

By using Facebook’s proprietary “Lookalike Audiences” we can analyze our remarketing audience (or any audience for that matter) and identify similarities between them. These will usually be similar and unsuspecting properties that we would have no way of knowing about in the early phases of our ad campaigns.

For example, it might become evident that of the 9,000 people in our remarketing audience we see that a lot of them share common behaviors around food storage and food storage practices among about half a dozen other attributes.

We can use this combination of interests to build another audience of people who may not be familiar with our coffee shop but share characteristics with other people who have expressed an interest.

For our example, we’re going to display broad and top of funnel information about our coffee shop. Remember, these people might not know who we are, so we want to put an informative and helpful foot forward.

Advertisements to this audience are likely going to be the most expensive.

Hopefully, that helps clear up the basic uses of each targeting method in Facebook Ads and how they interact with each other.

Happy Advertising!