Facebook Ads Targeting: Best Options and How to Use Them
(This advanced blog summarizes real growth insights Demand Curve has acquired from running marketing for hundreds of companies.)
Facebook ads targeting
Using Facebook ads, you can get your product in front of over 2 billion social media users.
But not all of them care about what you're selling.
Facebook’s ad targeting allows you to filter the world down to an audience most likely to buy from you. So your advertising dollars are only spent on quality prospective buyers.
In this post, we'll explore Facebook's ad targeting options and how you can best use each to reach the right audience.
Facebook ad targeting options
Facebook advertising allows you to get granular with your targeting. You can exclusively show your ads to people with a particular job title, political affiliation, or even people who performed certain behaviors like “recently moved.”
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the key ad targeting options available to you:
Narrow your target audience to people who fall within an age range you define. Initially, keep age targeting broad. Then let the data guide which age groups to focus on.
That said, as a general rule of thumb, don’t target people over the age of 45 without a really good reason. They’re the least likely to convert online.
Many times, removing poorly performing age segments and just focusing on the ones that are working can drastically cut your cost to acquire a customer (CAC).
Not sure about a term we’re using? Learn about it in our glossary of digital marketing terms.
Selling beauty products? Only target women, and you’ll likely cut your CAC in half.
If you don’t have a specific reason to target by gender, leave “All” selected. Run ads without gender-based targeting and study their performance. The data will tell you whether to filter by gender or not.
Unless your business is trying to reach a particular language-speaking audience, don’t target based on languages. Not everyone has their languages accurately listed on their Facebook account, and you don’t want to overly-aggressively rule people out.
The exception? You’re trying to reach people who speak a certain language in a country that doesn’t typically speak that language. So if you’re trying to reach English speakers in France, make sure to specify English as a language.
You can home in on specific ZIP codes, cities, states, countries, or continents. This can be especially useful after you’ve first broadly targeted a country then analyzed the data to determine which states are the most profitable to advertise to. Use it to inform both your online and offline marketing strategies.
When targeting based on location, be sure to select the option for “People who live in this location.” Otherwise, you’ll waste money advertising to people who might just be visiting.
Facebook no longer allows you to target by income level and net worth. But you can show your ads to people who live in ZIP codes where the average household income falls within a specific percentage range (pictured).
This option is particularly useful if you sell luxury products or products that are considered splurges. You'll save money by not showing your ads to people who are unlikely to purchase from you.
Remember: you’re not targeting the top 5% of wealthy households, you’re targeting on the top 5% of ZIP codes when ordered by publicly available household income data. So you’re likely reaching wealthy families, just not all of them.
Starting college, getting engaged, and buying a home are all landmark events in a person's life. These big moments come with distinct buying behaviors for products that they otherwise wouldn't purchase.
Life events fall into “transitional audiences” — those that constantly change. For example, if you target “newlyweds,” your audience will change as new people get married, and others are no longer newlywed.
This allows you to run ads to an ever-changing audience rather than a mostly unchanging group of people based on something like political affiliation. Meaning, you can keep those ads running without tiring out the same group of people with the same ads. It keep your ads “evergreen.”
“’Friends of people who have an upcoming birthday’ has been a golden life events segment for my e-commerce clients. Your ads can essentially be like ‘buy this for your friend!’ when they need to see it the most!” - Tim Chard of Ascenial
Facebook has a treasure trove of data on what people are interested in. You can filter your ad targeting based on the specific interests of your ideal customer.
The options are nearly limitless. They can include business interests like entrepreneurship or real estate. Fitness interests like bodybuilding or dieting. Even interests like politics and current events.
Interest-based targeting works best when you specifically tailor your ads to the interest. Running broad, nonspecific ads to a particular interest will be unlikely to convert at a high rate.
One way to discover the interests of your ideal customer is by digging into your Facebook Audience Insights. Use Audience Insights to breakdown the most popular affiliated interests of the people who already like your Facebook Page. Then, run ads to people with similar interests.
Facebook ad targeting allows you to target people based on behaviors. Here are some of those options:
Selling a gaming headset? Target console gamers. Or are you introducing a new technology to the market? Just show your ads to technology early adopters.
Only show your ads for iPhone cases to people who use iPhones. A dollar spent on Android users is a dollar wasted.
Target business travelers, people currently traveling, and even people who returned from a trip 2 weeks ago. This can be another transitional audience to target that stays fresh with new people coming in and out of it.
Facebook allows you to show your ads to people based on their previous purchasing behavior. Use this to put your ads in front of the buyer profiles most likely to respond to them. So you can market your cookbook to foodies. Or your fashion accessories to fashionistas.
Choose to include or exclude people from your targeting who have liked your Facebook Page, used your app, or attended an event you hosted. You can even target friends of the people who like your page, a segment that can work particularly well for e-commerce businesses.
If people have already liked your Facebook Page, don’t include them in your prospecting ad campaigns. They already know who you are. Spend your money to find the people who don’t.
Facebook custom audiences
These are people who already have a relationship with your business.
They could be current customers whose information you’ve uploaded into the Facebook Ads manager. Or, they could be visitors to your website or app users that were tagged by your Facebook pixel. You can even create a custom audience of people who have engaged with your content on Facebook.
Tip: Only upload customer lists of people who have given you permission to market to them. It isn’t worth getting your Ads account banned over harvested email lists.
Have you ever been on Facebook and come across an ad from a website that you've just visited? That's a retargeting ad.
Retargeting, or remarketing, lets you show ads to people who have already been to your website and performed a specific action. You can also retarget based on behaviors on Facebook, like engaging with your page or post, or watched 3 seconds or more of a video in the last 365 days.
It's much cheaper to advertise to someone with a retargeting ad than it is with a prospecting ad.
Make sure that your retargeting ads aren't the same as your ads for people who have never been to your website before. If someone visited the product page for your waterproof tote bag, show them a retargeting ad for 15% off that product. They're much more likely to purchase when you tailor ads to the specific page users have visited on your site.
If you’re an e-commerce business with more than 5 products, set up a dynamic retargeting campaign. This type of campaign “auto-tailors” the retargeting ad to be exactly the product a potential customer viewed. SaaS companies can take advantage of this too, by offering category-specific lead magnets based on the exact category of the blog post someone read.
Once you’ve created a custom audience, Facebook gives you the ability to create a Lookalike audience based on it. This becomes your seed audience, and Facebook analyzes it to determine what the people in it most have in common with one another.
Then, Facebook finds other people who most closely share those similarities and creates a Lookalike audience based on them. So you can tell Facebook, “Show my ad to the 1% of the US population that is most like my customer base.”
If possible, you’ll want to always opt for Lookalike seed audiences based on the Facebook pixel, like the purchase event. They’re much more accurate than an uploaded customer list. For even higher quality Lookalike audiences, create them based on a specific value, like people who have spent more than $100 on your website.
The better quality the seed audience is that the Lookalike is based on, the more likely your Lookalike audience will convert.
This will most likely be your highest converting and highest scale means of targeting.
However, Lookalikes aren’t silver bullets. Facebook first shows your ads to the people in your Lookalike audience that are most likely to convert. This means that after a certain level of spend, Facebook will start showing your ads to people that aren’t nearly as similar to your seed audience as the initial people it showed your ad to, and your cost per conversion will rise.
That’s why it’s crucial to note your frequency (on average how many times people see your ad) over time on your Lookalikes. It’s also why you should expect 2% Lookalikes and above to have higher costs than the 1%.
The trick? If this happens, keep your daily spend artificially low to only spend enough to advertise to the people most likely to buy from you. This will keep you from “blowing out your audience” and will allow you to acquire customers at the best possible CAC.
Check out Demand Curve’s Growth Training to learn advanced strategies for Facebook Ads targeting.