This post was updated on December 15, 2016
Getting started with Facebook advertising is a pretty exciting experience. You’ll be impressed with the way Facebook lets you surgically target your ad’s audience with an impressive array of settings like demographics, attributes and interests.
More than any other network, Facebook knows its user’s gender, age, and likes which you can use to focus your ads on the best audience. In this post, we’ll review the different audience targeting options Facebook Ads provides.
Before we dive into the different targeting options, it’s important to point out that you’ll need to be mindful of how large your target audience is.
- Broad – Targeting too many people means you’ll end up showing your ads to people who aren’t likely to be your customers. This will limit how effective your ads are and it will take a big budget to reach your audience.
- Specific – Targeting too few people can also limit how effective your ads are. While the people who see your ads may be highly relevant, you could end up barraging a small audience with your ads, instead of distributing your budget to many potential customers.
- Clearly Defined – Your goal is to land somewhere in the middle with your targeting. So try to target somewhere between the extremes: 1,000 and 180,000,000 people.
Here you can target custom audiences you’ve previously created. Custom audiences allow you to upload a contact list to target or exclude with your Facebook ads. For example, you could upload a list of customers that placed an order on your website and add them as a custom audience. You can then advertise to this list to encourage repeat orders which may perform well since they already have a relationship with your company. Alternatively, if you sell a subscription product, you could exclude active subscribers to focus on acquiring new subscribers.
You can also create a similar audience list (known as lookalikes) based on your custom audience. This is great for advertising to an audience that’s similar to your best customers. For more, read our post on How To Create Custom & Lookalike Audiences.
First, you’ll need to choose at least one location to narrow down who should see your ads. You should set it to where your potential customers are. You can select countries, states or provinces, cities and zip codes. To make things even easier, you can target a radius. For example, if you’re advertising a bakery in Dallas, Texas, you can include cities within 10 miles of Dallas. This will include Facebook users that live in this location to your campaign’s audience.
Here you can target the age range of your audience. You can specify any age range between 13 and 64 or choose “no maximum” age. If your typical customers skew towards a certain age, you can select that range. For example, a life insurance provider may choose to target people between 35 and 55. This will include Facebook users within that age range to your campaign’s audience.
Here you can target the gender of your audience. If your typical customers skew towards a certain gender, you can select that gender here. For example, a nail salon may choose to target women only. This will include Facebook users of that gender to your campaign’s audience.
Here you can target the language your audience speaks. This is helpful when the language your audience speaks is uncommon in the targeted location. For example, a law firm that works with immigrants may want to target their audience by their native language.
Here you can select several more demographic categories to narrow down your target audience.
- Interested In – Here you can target your audience by the gender they’re interested in. For example, a dating site may target those interested in women so they can create an ad with an image of a woman along with ad copy about meeting women. One caveat with this targeting option is that Facebook officially describes this as “interested in a specific gender for friendship, gender, a relationship or networking.” That’s extremely inclusive– so your mileage may vary.
- Relationship Status – Here you can target your audience by their relationship status. For example, a dating site would (hopefully) target single people only and avoid wasting money on people in relationships.
- Education Level – Here you can target your audience by the level of education they’ve completed. For example, a business school may choose to target people that have graduated college with a major in Business.
- Fields of Study – Here you can target your audience by their college major. For example, a business school may choose to target graduates that majored in computer science for an MBA program.
- Schools – Here you can target your audience by school they studied at. For example, if you’re trying to reach Stanford graduates, you can enter “Stanford University.”
- Undergrad Years – Here you can target your audience by the year they graduated. For example, a business school may choose to target recent college graduates for a graduate degree program.
- Employers – Here you can target your audience by where they work. For example, a high-end restaurant in Mountain View may target employees of Google. This will add all users that have indicated they work there to your audience.
- Job Titles – Here you can target your audience by their job title. For example, a caterer may choose to target people with the job title “event planner.”
- Industries – Here you can target your audience by the industries they work in. For example, a regional sales conference may choose to target people working in Sales.
- Office Type – Here you can target your audience by the type of office they work in. (US Only) For example, an office supply store may choose to target people working from a home office.
- Income – Here you can target your audience by their annual income. (US Only) For example, a luxury car dealership may choose to target people with an annual income over $125,000.
- Net Worth – Here you can target your audience by their net worth. (US Only) For example, a financial advisor may choose to target people with a net worth over $2,000,000.
- Home Type – Here you can target your audience by their home type. (US Only) For example, a landscaper may choose to target people living in single-family homes.
- Home Ownership – Here you can target your audience by whether they’re homeowners or renters. (US Only) For example, an insurance company may choose to target renters in order to promote renter’s insurance policies.
- Home Value – Here you can target your audience by the value of their home. (US Only) For example, a real estate agent may choose to target homeowners with a home value between $600,000 and $1,000,000.
- Household Composition – Here you can target your audience by their household composition. (US Only) For example, a travel agent may choose to target Empty Nesters who are more free to travel.
- Ethnic Affinity – Here you can target your audience by the ethnicity they have an affinity towards or interest in. (US Only) For example, a Spanish-speaking church may choose to target Hispanic people that speak Spanish as their primary language.
- Generation – Here you can target your audience by the generation they identify with. (US Only) For example, a financial advisor may choose to target Baby Boomers since retirement will be on their mind.
- All Parents – Here you can target parents by the age of their children. For example, a babysitting service may choose to target parents of children 4-12 years old.
- Moms – Here you can target mothers by their specific interests or lifestyle. (US Only) For example, a car dealership may choose to target Green Moms with an ad for a 7-passenger hybrid.
- Politics – Here you can target your audience by their political affiliations. (US Only) For example, a Democratic candidate for Mayor may choose to target registered Democrats in his city.
- Life Events – Here you can target your audience by life events they’ve had. For example, a wedding planner may choose to target people that are newly engaged.
This is a powerful targeting method because Facebook’s “Like” feature makes user interests incredibly accurate. Here you can target topics your audience is interested in. For example, if you’re advertising power tools, you can select the “Home improvement” interest, or the more precise “craftsman” interest. This will include all Facebook users that have indicated the interest to your campaign’s audience.
Here you can select behaviors you’d like to target. You can choose from purchase behaviors, device usage and more. For example, an e-commerce website may choose to target “Online buyers” since they should be more comfortable making purchases online. I’m sure you’ll find the various categories Facebook Ads provides both impressive and helpful.
Here you can find Facebook & Partner Categories you’ve requested access to. Don’t be disappointed if the options in this field are sparse.
Here you can target your audience by their connection to your pages, apps or events. You can specify people that are connected, aren’t yet connected or whose friends are connected to your page, app or event. For example, if you’re trying to get more likes on your page, you can exclude those that are already connected to your page and target your campaign to people whose friends are connected to your page. This will generate new likes for your Facebook page from users whose friends already like your page.
Test Your Targeting
Once you’ve selected the audience to target with your first ad, be sure to experiment with other audiences as well. There is an endless number of combinations to test and you’re bound to find a better audience than the one your created on your first attempt.
Sam is the Director of Online Marketing at InVision and former Director of Marketing at AdStage. Prior to AdStage, he was part of the AdWords product team at Google, serving as the in-house AdWords expert and advisor to product management, engineering, and UX. Prior to that, he personally managed and grew in-house digital marketing programs with over $300,000 in monthly ad spend.
- Quick Guide to LinkedIn Ads for Beginners This post was updated on August 14, 2015 With LinkedIn Ads, advertisers can finally promote their business to a targeted...
- The AdStage Guide to Facebook Ads Editors Note: This post was updated on November 29, 2017 Facebook Ads give you the opportunity to reach potential customers...
- How To Use Broad Categories with Facebook Ads According to Facebook, 137,663,700 of their users are away from family. This isn’t data from a recent report… I pulled it...
- Quick Guide to Analyzing Facebook Ads Performance My first foray into Facebook ads was back in 2008. Even then, Facebook offered an extremely easy way to start...