How To Use Broad Categories with Facebook Ads

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in Advertising, Social
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 by simply looking at the reach estimates provided for the “Away from Family” broad category. Maybe they relocated for a job, are away for college or even emigrated to the US in pursuit of the American Dream. Regardless of why they’re away, they’re apart from family and likely miss them. Why does this matter?

Having this level of insight about your audience allows you to create extremely relevant ads.

Facebook Broad Category Away From Home

As a marketer, having this level of insight about an audience is wonderful. For example. if I’m advertising a video chat platform, I could create some powerful ads that acknowledge the loneliness that comes from being away from family and highlight the joys of talking face-to-face over video chat with them. It’s an emotional roller coaster just thinking about it and if I were away from family, I’d click that ad!

So what makes this “Away from Family” targeting possible? Broad categories.

What Are Broad Categories?

Broad categories are predefined targeting categories provided by Facebook that group users according to their Likes and Interests, apps they use, Pages they like and other profile content they’ve provided. With broad categories, you can easily and comprehensively reach a desired audience on Facebook by selecting it from a list.


For example, you can now reach people who like conservative US politics with a single category selection rather than adding every conservative interest individually. It’s like a ready-to-go cluster of targeting settings!

Some Awesome Example Categories

Here are some of my favorite examples of broad categories. They highlight the unique targeting available for Facebook advertisers:

  • Currently Traveling
  • Owners of Old Computers
  • Small Business Owners
  • Technology Early Adopters
  • Frequent Casual Diner
  • Has Birthday in 1 week
  • New Job
  • New Serious Relationship
  • Recently Moved
  • Engaged (6 months)
  • Expecting Parents
  • Long Distance Relationship
  • Parents (child: 13-15yrs)
  • Politics (US Non-Partisans)
  • Blackberry Mobile Users
  • Bollywood Movies
  • Reggae Music
  • Luxury Goods

How to Get Started

To take advantage of these broad categories:

  1. Browse the categories available from the audience targeting section of Facebook’s ad creation.
  2. Note which ones match your personas.
  3. Brainstorm ways you can tailor an ad to promote your product or service to that audience.
  4. Consider the other targeting settings (like location) to further narrow your reach towards your ideal audience without wasting your money on people that are unlikely to be your customer.
    • If you select additional targeting setting like gender, it will act as an “and” clause. E.g., Users that are women and are in the category “Pets (Cats).”
    • If you select multiple broad categories, it will act as an “or” clause. E.g., Users in either “Away from Family” or “Long Distance Relationship.”
  5. Finally, create at least one relevant ad for each category.

For more on Facebook ad targeting, read How to Target Facebook Ads to Your Perfect Audience.

Sam Mazaheri

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.

View Sam Mazaheri's profile on LinkedIn

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: October 7, 2013()

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: October 7, 2013 | Smart Affiliate Secrets - Affiliate Marketing Strategies()

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: October 7, 2013 ,Vancouver Island, Canada()

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: October 7, 2013 |

  • Have you actually seen good performance from the broad categories? Precise interest targeting has always worked much better for me.

    • Sam Mazaheri

      Hey Fred,
      Precise interest targeting gives you much greater control and will result in better performance when you know which interests work best. But with broad categories, you can be up and running quickly with pre-selected groups of interests. They also give you access to some unique categories (like the Away from Home example in the post).
      Were you disappointed with your broad category performance when you tested them?

      • Yeah, I’ve never had good results with broad categories. Usually CPAs are WAY higher than with precise interests.

        In some cases, CTRs have been so low that I’ve had trouble getting volume. My guess is that Facebook makes the broad categories too broad.

        They would be more useful if you could layer in other targeting too, e.g. “Away from Home” AND “likes X.”

        • Sam Mazaheri

          Great point about them being too broad. Have you checked it out recently though? You can now layer on other targeting and it will act as an AND clause to further refine your audience. I know this wasn’t originally available but it’s in there now.

          • Nice. That’s new to me. Maybe they’ll work better now. Thanks.

  • Pingback: How To Use Broad Categories with Facebook Ads - Blog at AdStage - The new e-commerce()

  • larry

    Sam, I understand the concept of broad categories, but how do you (I) know the categories are accurate? example:

    In the interest category, there is one for “pizza”? How does a FB member get into that group? or NOT be included into that group?

    the idea is great, but I’m trying to learn more about how factual, accurate it is? Where or how does a member get into a group? Then how once someone is in a group, how do we know its true?


    • Sam Mazaheri

      Hi Larry,

      Users are grouped into broad categories according to their Likes and Interests, apps they use, Pages they like and other profile content they provide. So if like a number of snowboarding brands I could be grouped with a snowboarding interest category. Or if I mark on my profile that I became engaged on October 1st, I’d be entered into the engaged category.

      I don’t know much more about the intricacies, but the data it takes to become included in a new category seems pretty straightforward.

      There is no guarantee the data is 100% accurate, but it’s a great way to target these groups at scale. You should test it to see if the categories work for you.

  • Pingback: How To Use Broad Categories with Facebook Ads |...()

  • Pingback: Getting to Know Facebook Ads Interest Targeting()

  • It would appear that the Small Business Owners category has been removed. Any thoughts on how to do this now?

    • Hi Angel, there are two similar targeting types in the new Facebook targeting interface that you may find helpful:

      1. Interests > Business & Industry > Small Business: People who have expressed an interest in or like pages related to Small business
      2. More Demographics > Office Type > Small Office: People who work in a small office.

      Hope that helps!

      • I also found something much more relevant I think than interest.

        Under “Behaviors>>Digital Activities>>Small Business Owners”
        Also “Behaviors>>Purchase Behavior>>Business Purchases>>Business Marketing”

        I think those are working.

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: October 7, 2013 « TLC Niche Marketing()