Targeting the Right Audience Through Facebook Ads


February 18, 2016 | By:

If you checked out our previous post on defining your Facebook advertising objectives, you got an idea of which methods will work best for your business goals. Now that you know what you want and who you want, it’s time to translate that into high-performing Facebook ad targeting. We’re breaking down how to define your Facebook advertising audience so you get the best results.


This is important to define whether you’re a local business or not, since your ad content should align with users of specific locations. Say you’re a national retailer, for example, and when September rolls around, you want to advertise your new line of jackets. This may work up north, but not down south where it’s still practically summer. You should also know if certain products you’re advertising are not successful in particular areas, even if it’s not as obvious as selling jackets to users in 80-degree weather.

Depending on your objective, you can typically specify how you want to target local users:
– Everyone in this location
– People who live in this location
– People recently in this location
– People traveling in this location

This is important to note, as your business may not benefit from someone just traveling in this location, for example. If you’re a tourist destination, however, this option would be ideal.

Depending on your selection here, you can then specify the location(s) by including or excluding a certain country, state, city, region, zip code or address, and/or the surrounding radius. If you’re selecting your location targeting by a specific address, you’ll be prompted to at least target the one-mile radius surrounding it as well. For cities, the minimum radius is at 10 miles and up to 50.


There are quite a few factors that go into demographics.

There are the basics:
– Age
– Gender
– Language

Any targeting beyond this can be used to either include (with an “and/or” option) or exclude users who fall under these categories. The “and/or” option essentially means you can include people who match any one of your specifications (or) or you can include people who match at least one specification AND another.

More detailed demographic targeting options:

Education: Fields of study, schools, undergrad years
• Ex: Users who claimed to have completed some college may be interested in continuing education    courses offered by local colleges or universities.

Ethnic Affinity
• Ex: A Spanish-speaking Hispanic living in the US would likely click on a Spanish ad promoting a new    local supermarket selling Hispanic food.

Financial: Income, net worth
• Ex: A company selling a more expensive product would want to make sure that who they are targeting    can afford it by eliminating those with low income.

• Ex: A retail store with success selling clothing to the over-50 crowd would look to target baby boomers    in their audience selection.

Home: Home ownership, home type, household composition
• Ex: A renter would benefit from seeing an ad featuring products that serve as temporary decor.

Life Events: Personal and friend anniversaries, engagements, birthdays, etc.
• Ex: Users who have an anniversary coming up would be more likely to click on an ad showing gifts for    significant others

Parents: Different types of moms, age of kids
• Ex: Target ads selling baby products to new parents.

Politics: US parties
• Ex: A conservative or liberal likely to engage in politics could be targeted for a sponsored post relating    to a politician of their party running for office.

Relationships: Orientation and status
• Ex: Someone who is in a relationship and interested in women would benefit from being served an ad    about Valentine’s Day gift ideas for women.

Work: Employers, industries, job titles, office type
• Ex: You’re a B2B company looking to target the decision makers in the sales industry, so you’d target    managers of companies similar to your existing customer base.


Interests are essentially determined by pages that Facebook users like. Now, the accuracy of this targeting all depends on how well-labeled a Facebook page is. This is, in part, why it’s important to filter out certain users by adding exclusions or making sure they land under two targeting factors (the “and” option). For example, you may want to target users who like pages related to weddings and are already engaged if your business caters to brides / grooms. This refined targeting assures more quality customers and less wasted impressions.

As you can imagine, there are interests of all types. So overall, you can get pretty granular in your Facebook interest targeting, even going as far as targeting users who like a specific page, like ESPN.

Here are the general categories you can select from.
– Business and Industry
– Entertainment
– Family and Relationships
– Fitness and Wellness
– Food and Drink
– Hobbies and Activities
– Shopping and Fashion
– Sports and Outdoors
– Technology

If you run a publication site, for example, that writes similar content to Buzzfeed, one way to attract engagement on your page’s posts would be to boost it and target users who already “like” Buzzfeed (and subsequently, the content they post).

As another example, if you’re selling high-end handbags and are running ads with the goal of driving purchases through your website, you may want to target those who “like” pages of existing designer handbag brands, like Michael Kors.


What Facebook defines as user behavior can range from third-party collected data to information acquired through the network itself. Therefore, there are plenty of possibilities when using this targeting method. Options can even change as Facebook collects new data from other sources, so don’t count on what you see now to be your only choices in the future.

Everything from products a user owns to their digital activity can be used to target them via Facebook advertising.

Here is how categories are broken down:
– Automotive
– B2B
– Charitable donations>
– Digital activities
– Expats
– Financial
– Job Role
– Media
– Mobile device user
– Purchase behavior
– Residential profiles
– Seasonal and events
– Travel

Targeting your ads based on user behavior can be a great tool for finding more actively engaged customers. This is because some information acquired from interest targeting could technically not reflect a user’s current preferences if, let’s say, they “liked” a page a while back but never “unliked” it when they lost interest.

Some examples of how you can use behavior-based targeting include: promoting your fundraising event to users who make charitable donations to your cause, advertising your iPhone 6 cases to iPhone 6 owners or even driving users to your real estate listings by targeting those likely to move.

Custom Audiences

So, we’ve discussed the traditional targeting options Facebook provides based on their data / data they acquire. But, what can get you even more precise targeting is using data you already have and using Facebook as a medium to reach certain users.

You can create three types of custom audiences on Facebook:
Customer list: Matches email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs to user accounts
Website traffic: Creates a list of people who have visited your website, or specific pages of your website
App activity: Creates a list of people who have taken a specific action on your app or game

If you have a strong email list and do a good job of categorizing your subscribers, you’re likely going to benefit from targeting your ads to them. Of course, this depends on the business and who those users are. If they’re users who just purchased a car from your dealership, you may not want to reach out to them for a while. However, if you acquired their email address because they wanted to learn more about your offerings, but never converted, advertising to them via Facebook could be a good way to keep your brand top of mind and eventually close the deal.

Note: Unlike other Facebook targeting methods, users won’t know why they’re seeing your custom audience ads.

Lookalike Audiences

Based on any of the custom audiences above, you can also create a lookalike audience that resembles those users. Now, given that your lowest possible reach with these ads is just short of 2 million users, you may not want to use this as your sole targeting method. But, it’s a good start in increasing exposure to new audiences.

Lookalike audiences aren’t just created from custom audiences. These are all the types of targeting methods you can create lookalike audiences for:
Custom audiences: Find users similar to those in your customer list, those who have visited your website or webpage on your site, or those who have taken a specific action on your app
Pages: Find users similar to those who already “like” your Facebook page (not available for pages you don’t manage)
Conversion pixels: Find users similar to those who have completed a conversion on your site (you must have a functioning conversion pixel installed and tracking already)

As you can see, you have a lot of different ways to find the audience that best fits your brand’s needs. Still need some help with Facebook ads or other ways to market your business? Get in touch with one of our marketing experts here.