One of the key advantages of social ads over other forms of advertising is the ability to laser-target your audience.
Smart Facebook ad targeting can help you reach the people who are most likely to be interested in your brand. With advanced targeting options, you can go a step further and reach the people who are likely to be interested in specific products, and who have already shown they’re willing to shop.
All of this helps you achieve higher conversion rates with your existing ad budget. And show us a Facebook advertiser who doesn’t love a higher ROI!
9 Facebook ad targeting tips
Bonus: Get the Facebook advertising cheat sheet for 2022. The free resource includes key audience insights, recommended ad types, and tips for success.
Facebook ad targeting helps you define the audience that will see your ads. It can improve the effectiveness of your campaigns — but it will also affect the cost of your ads (in very simple terms, reaching a larger audience is more expensive than reaching a smaller one).
On Facebook, ad targeting is based on three different types of target audience:
- Core audiences, which you target based on demographics, behaviors, and location.
- Custom audiences, which allow you to reconnect with people who have already interacted with your business.
- Lookalike audiences, which allow you to target people similar to your best customers but who may not know about your business yet.
The Audience tab in Meta Business Suite Insights offers a ton of valuable information that can help you understand your Facebook followers. You can then use the data to learn how to target potential new followers and customers.
It’s such a treasure trove that we’ve got an entire article dedicated to using Audience Insights for better targeting.
But our favorite Audience Insights strategy is to use the information it provides to learn who you’re competing with on Facebook, then target your competitors’ existing fans.
Here’s a quick how-to:
- Open your Audience Insights dashboard in Meta Business Suite and select Potential audience.
- Click the Filter button on the top right of the page and use the basic targeting options like location, age, gender, and interests to start building a Facebook audience that matches your target audience persona.
- Don’t click Create audience just yet. Instead, scroll down to the Top pages section to see which pages your target users already connect with. Copy and paste this list into a spreadsheet or text file.
- Go back to the Filter selection tool. Clear your existing filters and type the name of one of your competitors’ Facebook Pages in the Interests box. Not all competitors will come up as an interest, but for those that do…
- Check out the presented demographics information to see if you can gain any additional audience insights that will help you target your ads more precisely.
- Create a new audience based on these new demographic insights, then test it against one of your existing audiences.
- Or, simply click Save and you’ve got an audience based on your competitors’ fans.
Of course, you can further target this audience to make sure you get the best fit for your specific business and campaign goals, but this is a great way to start finding relevant people on Facebook.
You can find more details in our Audience Insights how-to article.
Remarketing is a powerful Facebook targeting strategy to connect with potential customers who have already expressed interest in your products.
Using Facebook Custom Audiences targeting options, you can choose to show your ads to people who have recently viewed your website, people who have looked at sales pages, or even people who have looked at specific products. You can also choose to exclude people who have purchased recently, if you think they are unlikely to convert again soon.
Before you can use Facebook Custom Audiences based on website visits, you need to install the Facebook Pixel.
Once that’s done, here’s how to create your remarketing audience:
- Go to Audiences with your Ads Manager.
- From the Create Audience dropdown, choose Custom Audience.
- Under sources, click Website.
- Choose your pixel.
- Under Events, choose which types of visitors to target.
- Name your audience and click Create audience.
Another option is to create a custom audience based on data synced from your CRM. For this option, you’ll create your audience within Hootsuite Social Advertising.
- In Hootsuite Social Advertising, create a New Advanced Audience.
- Choose to target existing customers.
- Click Connect Add CRM account to connect your CRM data from Mailchimp, Hubspot, Salesforce, or whichever CRM solution you currently use.
- You can get quite specific about who you want to target with your audience based on whether they are existing customers or leads, and whether they have bought within a specific timeframe.
You can then use your advanced audience to create a Facebook ad campaign directly within Hootsuite Social ads.
An advantage here is that you’re not relying on Facebook pixel data, which may be less robust since the introduction of iOS 14.5.
Find more details in our blog post on how to use Facebook Custom Audiences.
Facebook Lookalike Audiences allow you to build targeted lists of potential customers who share characteristics with all the people who already buy from you.
Value-based lookalike audiences allow you to more specifically target people who share characteristics with your most valuable customers.
Before you can incorporate customer value into a lookalike audience, you need to create a customer value custom audience:
- Go to Audiences within your Ads Manager.
- From the Create Audience dropdown, choose Custom Audience, then choose Customer list as the source.
- Choose your customer list, then from the value column dropdown, choose which column to use for customer value and click Next.
- Click Upload and Create.
Now, you can use this list to create a value-based Lookalike audience to target your highest value potential customers:
- Go to Audiences within your Ads Manager.
- From the Create Audience dropdown choose Lookalike Audience.
- Choose the value-based custom audience you created above as your source.
- Select the regions to target.
- Select your audience size. Smaller numbers more precisely match your source audience characteristics.
- Click Create Audience.
Find more details in our guide to Facebook Lookalike Audiences.
Facebook helps you understand how relevant your ad is to your selected audience based on three ad relevance diagnostics:
- Quality ranking
- Engagement rate ranking
- Conversion rate ranking
All measures are based on your ad’s performance compared to other ads targeting the same audience.
As Facebook says, “People prefer to see ads that are relevant to them. And when businesses show their ads to relevant audiences, they see better business outcomes. That’s why we consider how relevant each ad is to a person before delivering an ad to that person.”
The whole point of Facebook ad targeting is to get your ad in front of the specific audience that’s most likely to take action based on that exact ad. This is the very definition of relevance.
Here are some simple ways to help improve your ranking scores for Facebook’s ad relevance diagnostics:
- Focus on quality, including great visuals and short copy.
- Choose the right ad format.
- Aim for low ad frequency.
- Time ads strategically.
- Optimize your ads with A/B testing.
- Keep an eye on your competitors’ ads.
If your ads aren’t performing as well as you like, you can use the ad relevance diagnostics to look for opportunities to improve targeting:
- Low-quality ranking: Try changing the target audience to one that’s more likely to appreciate the specific creative in the ad.
- Low engagement rate ranking: Refine your targeting to reach people who are more likely to engage. Audience Insights can be a great help here.
- Low conversion rate ranking: Target a higher-intent audience. This could be as simple as selecting “engaged shoppers” under purchase behavior (see Tip #5). But it could also mean targeting people who have an upcoming anniversary, or who have another behavior or life event that makes your product or service particularly relevant to them right at this moment.
Remember, relevance is all about matching the right ad to the right audience. No one ad will be relevant to everyone. Effective targeting is the only way to achieve a consistently high relevance ranking. Test regularly and aim for a regular Facebook targeting update to make sure you’re continuing to target the right people with the right content.
An oft-overlooked option within the detailed targeting options for Facebook ads is the ability to target people who have already expressed interest in making a purchase from Facebook ads.
Selecting the purchase behavior Engaged Shoppers limits your ad audience to people who have clicked the Shop Now button on a Facebook ad within the last week.
While some Facebook users might scroll past ads, this option ensures you reach people who have already (and very recently) shown that they are willing to shop from ad content.
To access the Engaged Shoppers targeting option:
- Create a new ad set, or open an existing ad set, and scroll down to the Audience section
- Under Detailed Targeting, type Engaged Shoppers in the search bar.
- Click Engaged Shoppers.
This tip is a little bit different. It’s about targeting your ad’s content, rather than choosing the right Facebook target audience.
This concept was coined by MobileMonkey CEO and Inc. columnist Larry Kim. He suggests that
only 2% of your content will perform well both on social and in search engine rankings, while also achieving high conversion rates. He argues that content marketing is a volume game, and you simply have to create lots of “donkey” content (you can guess what that means) to get to the unicorns.
So what’s your unicorn content? It’s that blog post that absolutely blows up on your social channels, climbs to the top of the Google rankings, and drives a ton of traffic to your landing pages.
You can’t predict what will “go unicorn” based on factors traditionally used to define great content (like great writing, keywords, and readability). Instead, you’ve got to keep a close eye on your social media analytics and performance.
When you spot overachieving content, repurpose it as a Facebook ad. Make it into an infographic and a video. Test this content in various formats for your key audiences to make it work even harder.
Most importantly, use the rest of our Facebook ad targeting tips to make sure you match your unicorn content to the audience that’s most likely to engage with it.
Facebook offers tons of targeting options. On the surface, the options are divided into three main categories: demographics, interests, and behaviors. But within each of these categories, things get pretty granular.
For example, under demographics, you can choose to target parents. Or, more specifically, you could target parents with toddlers.
Then, you can click Narrow Audience to add additional layers of targeting. For example, under demographics, you can choose to limit your Facebook target audience based on relationship status and job industry.
Think about how these layers of targeting combine to create a hyper-focused audience. You could choose to target divorced parents of toddlers who work in management. And that’s just looking at demographics.
Under Interests>Travel, you could then limit your target audience to people who are interested in beach vacations. Then, under behaviors, you can even further narrow your audience to target frequent international travelers.
Do you see where this is going? If you run a high-end beach resort that offers a childcare program and no single supplement, you could create a promotion that specifically targets single parents in management-level jobs who love beach vacations and travel frequently.
If you market products or services tied to life events, even tangentially, you can target people who have recently moved, started a new job, gotten engaged or married. You can target people in their birthday month, or leading up to their anniversary. You can even target people whose friends have an upcoming birthday.
As you build your audience, you’ll see on the right side of the page how small your audience has become, as well as your potential reach. If you get too specific, Facebook will let you know.
This strategy works best for specific promotions designed to target a precise audience, rather than ads to promote your business in general. Combine this layered Facebook ad targeting with a landing page that speaks directly to the exact audience for best results.
Note: Each time you want to add another level of targeting, be sure to click Narrow Audience or Narrow Further. Each item should say Must also match about the selected criteria.
Of course, not every product or promotion is naturally suited to the kind of precise Facebook targeting explained in the tip above.
Maybe you don’t know exactly which demographic or behavior categories you want to target with a specific ad. You only have a broad sense of a category you’d like to target. So, what do you do if that Facebook target audience is just too large?
Try combining it with a second audience, even if that second audience seems completely unrelated.
For example, let’s think about creating an ad audience for this GoPro video featuring LEGO boats:
To start, we could build an audience of people who are interested in GoPro, videography, or video cameras. Even limiting the audience to people aged 22 to 55 in the United States, that creates a potential audience of 31.5 million people.
Now, in this case, the video features LEGO boats. So, what’s the obvious audience to add in here?
Yep, LEGO fans.
That cuts the potential audience size down to 6.2 million. And it would likely result in a much higher engagement rate, since people would be specifically interested in the video content, not just the product featured in the video.
In this case, we worked backwards from an existing video. But you could also decide on two unrelated audiences to combine, then create a targeted piece of content to speak directly to that group.
What if you’re just getting started and you don’t know yet who your target audience is? We’ve got a whole blog post on how you can start to figure this out through audience research.
But you can also learn a lot by starting with a broad Facebook ad targeting strategy. This works best for brand awareness campaigns rather than conversion-oriented ads, but the information you learn can help refine your conversion targeting strategy over time.
Create a new brand awareness campaign with some very basic targeting, such as a broad age range within a large geographic area. Facebook will then use its algorithms to determine the best people to show your ads to.
Once your ad has been running for a little while, you can check Audience Insights or Ads Manager to see which kinds of people Facebook chose for your ads, and how they responded. This can help you understand how to create your own target audiences for future campaigns.