How Does Facebook Ad Targeting Work?

For marketers running online ads, Facebook ad targeting is a topic that’s important to understand, It’s particularly interesting when considering the psychology of how marketing works. Note that when thinking about Facebook ads, Instagram and Audience Network are included because they’re also part of that network. There’s no other network, platform, or marketing form that has as robust of targeting options as Facebook. When it comes to targeting, there are two additional questions that need to be understood.

  1.     How is data collected by Facebook?
  2.     How is data applied to the ways to target?


The Benefits of Detailed Targeting

Never before in the history of marketing, nor with any other kind of marketing, have we had so many kinds of data sets available to work with. It’s extremely relevant compared to other kinds of marketing. The marketing is more targeted and thus more people engage. Marketers are able to get in front of exactly who you want to speak to. When your businesses Facebook ads are set up according to data and the detailed targeting available, ad performance will increase in several ways.

Facebook ads have higher relevance.
Advertising to highly targeted audiences lets you create custom ads that target specific ad groups.

Facebook ads have a higher CTR.
By showing highly relevant ads to highly targeted groups, audiences are more likely to be interested and click which leads to a higher CTR.

Facebook ads have higher engagement.
If people see a highly relevant ad, they’ll like and share it with their Facebook friends, giving the brand a free advertising boost

Facebook ads have a higher ROI.
By excluding people who aren’t really interested in your product and offers, you can reach the right audience at a lower cost


Facebook Data Tracking

Facebook is recording everything users do: likes, comments, as well as interactions with posts and ads. What’s really being recorded is data about user interests and behavior. The app is also tracking location data. Anyone who has the Facebook app on their phone has opted into it knowing where they’re at. Also, when the Facebook pixel code is placed on a website, it picks up your data when you visit other websites. They can associate individuals as a person and what their interests and behavior are – not at a level where they’re sharing with other companies who an individual is but rather as a statistic of interests and behavior. Also know that quizzes on third party apps are designed to collect more data from individuals who participate. Quiz responses equate to more information being recorded by that third party and that information is used later for targeting.


Successful Ad Targeting Audiences

There are lots of ways to target and layering techniques work best. For example, you can take an interest and layer that with an age group. It’s good to always be thinking about creative ways to layer audiences for more detailed ad targeting but also not layer so heavily that the audience is too small. It’s always a good idea to A/B test multiple audiences to see what the best ad messaging for different audiences may be. Go with the data and never with what you “think” when it comes to targeting. Once you have data and refined layered targeting, results will follow.

Facebook AdsHow to Target Cold Audiences

Always remember to think about your marketing funnel. Your cold audience is those who don’t know your brand and have not heard of you. There are many ways you can target cold audiences. Remember that there are thousands of ways to target people and how you set up your targeting data will affect results. Here is a brief breakdown of the ways you can target Facebook ads that should get your mind spinning about all the many data breakdowns.

Location-based targeting allows you to get very specific to different areas where your product of service could be sold. You can layer location options. You could target everyone in a location but take into consideration those who live in an area vs. those traveling who may have recently been to a location. Perhaps you want to send an ad to someone who just recently left a location or those who are traveling to a location. These are some of the many location targeting options that are possible.

Targeting by demographics allows ads to be shown to different age groups, gender, and even by languages they speak.

Interest-based targeting has many options including, for example, those interested in your competitors or those who like a certain blog, magazine, app, or liked page. There are so many interests to target by and it takes some research to find all of the interest-based options that may fit the audience you want to reach.

Behavior-based targeting builds on this and offers even more possibilities. Again, it takes research because there are so many ways to target based on user behavior.

Job title targeting is often overlooked with Facebook ads. LinkedIn is not necessarily the best place to target by job title. There are many more users and also many job titles recorded in Facebook. And also just consider that titles are constantly being added or changed.

Targeting education level is another option. This data lets you target those in high school, college, or grad school for example.

Targeting the household income levels by percentages can also be done. If you have a high or low based product or are selling more expensive services this might be a helpful option. Keep in mind that there are standards and protections in place for some targeting options. Certain industries cannot target by income level, like housing and financial services for example.

Multicultural affinity is another option for targeting Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans or those whose behavior suggests that they are interested in various multicultural content.

Targeting parents allows for showing ads to any parents, or those with a child that is 0-12 months in age or 18-26 in age. For example, a driver’s ed instructor who wants to target parents of 15-year-olds because they may be looking to get a permit would want to select the parents of 13-18 year-olds.

Targeting by political views is another data point that allows options that range from very conservative to very liberal, one or the other, or those with moderate views. Again, this data is all based on user interests and behavior.

Life event targeting is an option for showing ads based on data users express. Some examples include if someone is away from their family or home town, those in a long-distance relationship, or someone who recently moved. A good one is targeting by birthday because you could, for example, set an ad to constantly run that gives discounts when it’s close to a user’s birthday.

Connection targeting is where you can target people who are connected to a page or by friends of those who have liked a page.


How to Target Warm Audiences

Thinking back to the marketing funnel, warm audiences include those who have interacted with your brand before by various means. Warm audience targeting is when ads are shown to those who have been to your website before or essentially, remarketing. Really, anyone in your warm audience is your remarketing audience.

Time targeting allows an option for when users have been to a website. You can target those who have been to the website in the last day, week, month, all the way up to having visited 180 days ago. Or you can target those who visited certain pages which further segments their interests. An example of this would be websites that have residential vs commercial sections.

Targeting by Facebook Business page engagement is also in the warm audience category. Any interaction from a Facebook page or Instagram page. Targeting can be broken down by any interaction including those who visited, engaged with a post or ad, clicked an action button, sent a message, or those who have saved the page or any posts.

Targeting by business app data is another option for businesses that have their own app. You can break down targeting by app activity. App data allows for targeting to people who have opened the app, are most active, or have made a purchase. You can segment those users allowing a wealth of ways to target via business app data.

Targeting by existing email lists is another great warm audience option. If you have a current email list of users you’re sending to, it can be uploaded into Facebook. This allows you to target ads to just people on that list.

Video engagement targeting allows you to show ads to those who watched a portion of your video. If you have video engagement on your page, you can target those who watched 3 seconds, 10 seconds, 50%, 100% of that video and it ranges in time up to 365 days in the past.

Lead forms targeting is another type. When someone clicks an ad and gets to that lead form or fills it out there are more options. You can even segment by those who have opened the form.

Targeting by a Facebook event allows you to show ads to people who have engaged with an event in a variety of ways. Users could have responded going or interested, they could have visited the or engaged with the event page, gotten tickets, or even had the intent of buying tickets.

Instant Experience targeting is another way a user can engage with ads where data is tracked. These mini landing pages within Facebook are often used for businesses that have slower websites. Targeting can be set up for those who clicked through to that Instant Experience or filled out a form.

Targeting by offline activities mainly refers to phone calls. Software like CallRail can be integrated with Facebook. This allows you to build an audience of those who have made a call before.


The Power of the Pixel & Lookalike Audiences

If you’re not familiar with it, the Facebook pixel code placed on a website, allows marketers to go even deeper with audience targeting. Thanks to Facebook pixel tracking once someone has interacted with an ad or website, they become part of your warm audience where targeting can get even more specific. You’ve got traffic from ads but also organic traffic and you can retarget to those who have engaged with you before. If you know, because of the pixel on your website, that someone has already engaged, (made a purchase, filled out a form, or made a phone call) you can segment your social media profile to those who have interacted but haven’t made the purchase. There are innumerable ways to pull those people in with Facebook ad targeting.

For all of the warm audience targeting options, lookalike audiences can also be built. These mimic the attributes of those warm audiences to attract users who are similar to those who have been to your website before. Once the pixel is set up, it takes some time for the data to come in. Over time, however, this data becomes very useful for Facebook ad targeting. It can produce better results more quickly. Keep in mind that oftentimes those interests and behavior cold audience targeting options can be more expensive. Warm audiences are already closer to converting and they can all have lookalike audiences built for them. Lookalike audiences are golden and are what you really want to get to


Are you convinced yet?!

There are 6 billion active users and thousands of data points we can use to market to people. Combining this data with the layering techniques and remarketing options will produce positive results. There’s no other platform that can beat the Facebook ads targeting possibilities!

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