Of all of the major advertising channels, it’s fair to say that Facebook has the most advanced targeting options available. Almost 2.5 billion users worldwide provide the network with a wealth of data that you can use to pinpoint the most niche of target audiences – anyone from people travelling in your area right now, to newly-engaged users in the market for a wedding dress.
As an added bonus, Instagram has the exact same targeting options provided by parent company Facebook, which makes these two networks a powerful combo.
We’ve mentioned before that Facebook targeting options are one of the top reasons to use this network as an advertising platform. The only problem is there are a lot of settings to get your head around. This guide explains everything you need to know about Facebook targeting and the kind of audiences you can use it to reach.
You’ll find comprehensive information about Facebook targeting on the Facebook for Business website, but you have to navigate through a lot of pages to get specific targeting options and their use cases!
When you create a campaign in Facebook advertising, you define who will see your ads by creating an audience. You apply your targeting settings to each audience and you can save these for future use on other campaigns, ad sets and ads.
There are three different types of audiences that you can create. Each one comes with different targeting options:
Source: Facebook for
As you can see, each audience type is designed to help you
do very different things.
Core Audiences simply help you show your ads to relevant users, but they also give you a lot of control over how specific your target audiences are. So the bulk of this article will be looking at the different targeting options available within Core Audiences – simply because there are so many of them.
Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences are powerful tools
but they’re much easier to describe and understand.
Unfortunately, Ad Manager doesn’t structure targeting in the
way you might expect after reading the documentation on Facebook for Business.
You don’t select the type of audience you want to create and then apply the
relevant targeting options. All of these settings are bundled together into one
Audience section, which might cause
some confusion at first.
As you can see, there’s no mention of Core Audiences at all. These targeting options are simply listed in the section outlined above with most of your targeting options hiding in the Detailed targeting section. While Lookalike Audiences are also hidden within the Custom Audiences section.
At a glance, this implementation doesn’t make much sense but it does allow you to combine different audience types seamlessly. I would still argue this could be done in a way that makes the separate audience types more obvious by simply using the interface, but there you go.
The remainder of this guide will clearly separate these audience types but structure everything in a way that makes sense to using the Audience section in Ad Manager and applying targeting settings to them.
First, it’s probably a good idea to summarise what kind of targeting sections we’ll be looking at:
We looked at a similar image earlier but the one above reveals what you see when you click Browse on the Detailed targeting section and Show more options tab at the bottom of targeting dash. So, now you can see the kind of targeting options available here:
Age, gender and languages are self-explanatory so we don’t need to look at those. But we are going to explore the other targeting options in more detail.
Facebook Advertising offers advanced location targeting options that go way beyond targeting people currently in your selected areas. Facebook’s location data is able to determine the difference between where people live and the places they visit.
This allows you to target users based on the following
So you can specifically choose to target people who are
known to live in your selected locations, ruling out people who are simply
visiting or were recently there and their current location data hasn’t updated
to where they are now.
This is a feat in itself.
Even more impressive is the fact that travel brands, restaurants and any business that wants to attract tourists or other people temporarily in the local areas can do so by selecting People travelling in this location.
You simply don’t get this kind of advanced location
targeting on most advertising platforms.
Detailed targeting is where you can apply and combine highly-specific targeting options to define almost any audience you could think of. This is broken into three sections – Demographics, Interests and Behaviours.
Under Demographics, you’ll find the following sub-categories which each contain their own set of specific targeting settings:
you can target users based on their level of education, fields of study, where
they studied and specific years of undergraduate study. The Financial section allows you to select
audiences based on their household income being in the top 5%, top 10%, top
10-25% and the top 25-50%.
Now, Life events
are one of the most powerful targeting options in Facebook Advertising and this
requires an entire section of its own. So we’ll skip this one for now and cover
it in the detail it deserves in the next section.
In the meantime, you’ve got the Parenting targeting options, which allow you to select the
This means brands can target new parents with ads for
nappies and similar products, knowing that their ads will be seen by the right
audience. Likewise, a software company that develops apps to make online
browsing safer for young children can ensure parents with youngsters become
aware of its product.
You can also target Facebook users based on their relationship status, including civil partnership, complicated, divorced, domestic partnership, engaged, in a relationship, married, open relationship, separated, single, unspecified and widowed.
Aside from targeting couples with Valentine’s Day ads, you can use Facebook’s Relationship targeting options with great effect when you combine them with Life events, as we’ll explore in the next section.
Before that, let’s take a moment to look at options within Work targeting. First up, you can
pinpoint audiences based on who they work for by specifying Employers. You can also define Job titles to target people in certain
positions and also target the following industries:
And that does it for demographics targeting, except for the
not-so-small matter of Life events.
Life events allow Facebook users to share and celebrate key moments in their lives like getting married, moving home or getting a new job. They also allow advertisers to target users based on these Life events and deliver relevant messages – e.g. targeting brides-to-be with ads for wedding dresses.
These are emotional moments in people’s lives, which make them highly receptive to the right message.
You can target the following Life events in Facebook Advertising:
So you can use Life events to target users with friends that
are newly engaged, suggesting the perfect location for stag and hen dos, for
example. Or you can combine options to target newlyweds who have just moved in
together with ads for anything from home insurance to a new sofa.
This gives you an idea of how niche you can get with Life events, even before you combine them with other targeting options.
If you thought Demographics targeting had a lot of settings to cover, wait until you see what’s lurking under Interests targeting in Ad Manager. This is where you can pinpoint audiences based on the interests they demonstrate while using Facebook – the kind of content, pages and brands they engage with.
We’re not going to cover every targeting option available in
Interests because there are simply too many of them. Instead, we’ll list the
broad categories and explain what kind of targeting options are available
There are hundreds of interest targeting options available and you can combine these to pinpoint even more specific audiences. For example, you can create an audience of people interested in yoga and non-fiction to promote a yoga book. And you can also use interest targeting to verify that your demographics targeting is pinpointing the right audience – e.g. small business owners who are actually engaging with content related to small business, software and marketing.
targeting, you can specify audiences based on a range of purchase actions or
interests that signify purchase intent. This includes previous purchases,
device usage and a range of other targeting options. This will make more sense
after we summarise the targeting options available here.
So here you might decide you want to target early technology adopters who have had their most recent phone for 19-24 months and are due for an upgrade. You could even target Android and iOS users separately with ads for the latest offerings or people using specific handsets (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S9) to tempt them into upgrading to the next model.
The final aspect of Core Audiences targeting we need to look at is Connections, which allows you to target users and their friends, based on how they interact with your online brand.
Here, you can choose from the following:
With these settings, you can target people who are already
engaged with your brand and expand your audience by reaching out to their
friends. Importantly, you can exclude people already engaged with your brand
for campaigns designed purely to reach new audiences.
Custom Audiences allow you to reach people who are already engaged with your brand – existing customers, Facebook followers, website visitors and more. You can create Custom Audiences from your own sources (website traffic, customer lists, app activity etc) or from Facebook sources, which target users based on how they engage with your brand on the network.
To create an audience of previous website visitors, you’ll
need to create and install a Facebook pixel on your website
to track users. Once this is done, you can create website Custom Audiences to
create Facebook remarketing campaigns for people who have already visited your
website. You can target audiences who have visited any page on your site,
specific URLs or by how much time they’ve spent on your website or specific
You can also target users based on how many times they
visited your website or specific pages and the device they use.
So you might target users who visited a product page but
didn’t complete the purchase or users who keep visiting the same page without
You can also create Custom Audiences using your existing customer lists to engage with people who have already bought from you or signed up to your email marketing campaigns. Rather than using the Facebook pixel, customer lists use the email addresses of your customers and tries to assign Facebook profiles to them.
Keep in mind that you can only target users through customer
lists who have given you permission to market to them, under GDPR regulations.
Also, you should know that users can see which brands have uploaded customer
lists with their personal information by going to Settings > Ads > Advertisers you’ve interacted with in the
Engagement Custom Audiences are a cluster of audience types that you can create based on Facebook data sources. These allow you to target users who interact with your brand and content on Facebook.
There are six Custom Audience types you can create to target
users who engage with:
You simply click on the type of audience you want to create, specify which page or piece of content users should have engaged with and how recently they should have engaged with it – e.g. within the past 30 days.
Once you’ve created a new Custom Audience, you can save it
for later use (you can have up to 500 Custom Audiences for any one account) and
combine different audiences to narrow your targeting settings.
You’ll also find one last audience type under Custom
Audiences that we need to talk about.
Lookalike Audiences allow you to reach new leads that show
similarities with your existing customers and audiences. In other words, these
are users who show similar interests and behaviours that indicate they’re also
interested in dealing with a brand like yours. Lookalike Audiences will connect
you with these audiences that you might never reach through your other
To create a Lookalike Audience, you’ll need to click the Create new tab in Custom Audiences and then select the Lookalike Audience option from the drop-down menu. This will take you to the following pop-up box where you can select an existing audience or create a new one to base your Lookalike Audience on. You can also specify the countries and regions from where you want Facebook to generate your Lookalike Audience.
You can also create multiple Lookalike Audiences from the same audience in the Select audience size section (the default is one). Finally, you need to choose how similar you want your Lookalike Audience to be compared to your source audience with a range of 1-10%. This chooses how much the combined population of your selected locations will be included in your Lookalike Audiences.
Once you’ve set this up, it may take between six and 24 hours for Facebook to create your Lookalike Audience.
Even by looking at the individual targeting options
available in Facebook, you can see how much control you have over who sees your
ads. Need to target newlyweds? No problem. Want to reach regular overseas
travellers? Done. However, the real power of Facebook targeting is the ability
to layer different targeting options so you can reach audiences based on their
household income, marital status, age of their children and the content they
engage with on Facebook.
There’s almost no limit to how specific you can be with
In fact, you have to be careful that you don’t layer too many targeting options and reduce
the size of your audience to such an extent that you won’t get the impressions
and clicks you need to achieve a worthwhile ROI.
It all comes down to what your goals are with a specific campaign. Are you targeting conversions where relevance matters most or simply looking to get your brand seen by a larger audience? It will take some time to find the right balance between relevance and audience size but this is all part of the fun of playing around with the Facebook targeting options.
As always, you can reach out to us on social media with any questions or call us on 023 9283 0281 to speak to our Facebook advertising team.
Callum is a PPC Specialist and joined Vertical Leap in early 2019. He believes the future of commerce and business will continue to innovate online and no other industry is as exciting or changes as much day by day.
Already in his career Callum has worked closely with many of the UKs top institutions, from a range of industries and successfully managed large projects from inception and nurtured throughout.
Callum holds a Biology Degree from the University of Exeter where he’s worked with many of the country’s leading ecology, developmental and marine biologists. Now he applies his analytical and scientific approach to the digital industry.
Callum is also Swindon born, obsessed with running, Tottenham Hotspur and the world of craft beer.
Categories: PPC, Social Media
If your digital campaigns are underperforming, our commitment-free health check will reveal powerful insights to help you improve performance.