Ultimate Guide To Facebook Ad Targeting
Is your target audience on Facebook?

Of course they are… There are tons (in fact billions) of people on Facebook.

That means not only is your ideal customer is on Facebook, but also all the WRONG people who are not your ideal customer are also on there.

The biggest mistake is to pay to have your ads shown to people who would most likely never be interested in your service or product.

Remember… Not everyone is your ideal customer!

Success with advertising, or any marketing, comes with putting your offer in front of the right people. The exact people who are most likely to take the action you are wanting them to take form your ad.

Luckily. with Facebook Ads this is possible like never before with any other advertising platform.

With Facebook Ads you can precisely target your ideal audience with incredible accuracy.

Want to target “women between the ages of 35-45, who live in Orlando FL, who like Yoga Journal Magazine, are married and have a household income over 150,000”? With Facebook Ads you can.

In this post, you are going to learn about all the ad targeting options so that you can precisely find and target your ideal audience on Facebook.

Facebook Ad Targeting Overview

Currently there are 8 different targeting categories to work with when creating an ad.

  • Custom Audiences – These are custom audiences you create based upon your customer emails, customer phone numbers, or recent website visitors.
  • Location – Target by zip code, city, county, state, or country.
  • Age – – Target by a specific age range.
  • Gender – Target by a specific gender.
  • Languages– Target by a specific language.
  • Demographics – Allows you to target by income, job title, employer name, language, relationship status, education, financial, home ownership, parental status, etc.
  • Detailed Targeting – Here you can target by either interests or behaviors.
    • Demographics – Target by education level, financial, home ownership, life events, politics, relationship, work, etc.)
    • Interests – Target fans of other Facebook pages, celebrities, brands, and most topics you can think of.
    • Behaviors – Target by charitable activities, online shopping habits, car shopping, financial spending, mobile devices, travel habits, etc.
  • Connections – Target (or exclude) people connected to your page, app, or event

Here’s how these different targeting options appear when creating an ad.

facebook ad targeting options

Alright, now that you have a general overview of the different options, let’s talk about how they work together and then go into more detail about each one.

How Targeting Blends Together

One thing to keep in mind when building your targeting is that each section is combined with “AND” conditions.

So for example, if you decided to target by the following:

  • Men
  • Between the ages of 35-55
  • Who live in Florida
  • Who like Golf

Then your ads would only be shown to those Facebook users who fit ALL conditions “Men between the ages of 35-55 who live in Florida and like golf”.

There is one exception when you can use OR criteria and this only pertains to the Detailed Targeting section. Here you can create OR conditions by using the “Exclude” option within the Detailed Targeting section.

So in the example below, since the interests of golf and yoga were entered in the exclude audience section then the ad will be shown to those users who like golf OR yoga. If you would have entered the same criteria in the “include” section then the ad would only be shown to those who like both golf AND yoga.

excluding interests
Facebook Custom Audiences

There’s a reason why Custom Audiences are the first available targeting option. That is because they are often the best and most powerful targeting to use.

If you are not already familiar with Custom Audiences, they give you the ability to target Facebook users who are also on your email list or user who recently visited your website. These are warm prospects for you who already know you and are much more likely to respond to your ads.

Different Type of Custom Audiences

Standard Custom Audience – Created by uploading a list of email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook User Id’s you want to target and Facebook will try to match these against their database. Usually Facebook will be able to match between 60-80% and create a custom audience from the matches.

Lookalike Custom Audience – After creating a Custom Audience, you can have Facebook create a Lookalike Audience. Facebook will create a much larger audience with similar characteristics (such as age, gender, or interests) as your custom audience. Here you are using Facebook’s enormous amount of data to find other people just like your ideal audience… very powerful!

Website Custom Audience – These are created by placing a small piece of tracking code on your website, Facebook will create an audience based on the people who visit that page or pages you have installed the tracking code on.

Using Custom Audiences

Once you have your own Custom Audiences created, you can use them in your ad targeting by simply starting to type the name of that audience in and selecting the audience from the available list that drops down.

selecting a custom audience

You can even exclude a Custom Audience by clicking the little down arrow and selecting the exclude option. There are times when you may want to exclude an audience. For example, you may want to exclude people who have already bought your products/service or people who are already on your email list.

excluding a custom audience

If you would like to learn more about Custom Audiences and how to create and use them, check out The Ultimate Guide To Facebook Custom Audiences.

Facebook Location Targeting

This option allows you to target your ads to people in a specific location. While this is fairly obvious, there are some options that allow you to further refine this based on when the person was in your chosen location.

You can target the following location types:

  • Countries
  • Counties/regions
  • Cities
  • ZIP/postal codes
  • Addresses
  • Designated Market Areas®

You can filter these further based upon time frame:

  • Everyone in this location (default option)
  • People who live in this location
  • People recently in this location
  • People travelling in this location (these are people who are visiting right now but normally live more than 100 miles away)

location targeting

Facebook Age, Gender, & Language Targeting

These are some of the simplest options allowing you to simply target by age range, gender and language.

  • Age – Target by an age range
  • Gender – Target females, males, or both
  • Language – Us this option only if you are targeting people who speak a language not common to the location you chose.

Facebook Detailed Targeting

Things start to get interesting here as this section allows you to target using demographics, specific interests, and behaviors.

If you are not targeting custom audiences then this section is key to refining your target audience.

Facebook Demographic Targeting

These option allow you to target people based on education, employment, household and lifestyle details. Some data is available for the US only.

demographic targeting

Using demographics, you can target by:

  • Education – Target by education level, field of study, schools, undergrad years.
  • Ethnic Affinity – Target by ethnic affinity.
  • Financial – Target by income, net worth.
  • Generation – Target Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials.
  • Home – Target by home ownership, home type, household composition.
  • Life Events – Target by certain life events such as (upcoming anniversary, new job, new relationship, newly engaged, recently moved, upcoming birthday, and many more…).
  • Parents – Target all parents or just moms.
  • Politics – Target by different political affiliations.
  • Relationship – Target based on what type of relationship people are in or who they are interested in
  • Work – Target based on employers, industry, job titles, office type.

Facebook Interests Targeting

Interest Targeting allows you to target your audience based on their profile information. This includes their likes and interests, apps they use, Pages they’ve Liked, and more. With interest targeting, you can even target your competitors’ fans!

Interest targeting is an excellent way to find and target people specifically interested in a subject related to your product or service. For example, if you sold yoga mats then you could target people interested in yoga subjects (i.e. yoga products, yoga magazines, famous authors of yoga books, etc.).

You can get started by selecting one of the available general interests or by typing in your own and selecting from the drop-down of choices.

Once you select an interest, Facebook will automatically suggest other related ones. Pay attention to these suggestions, Facebook is often very good at finding other good related interests (some you may have never thought of before).

interest targeting

How To Narrow Your Interests

While interest targeting is powerful, you want to be careful that you don’t get to general and are targeting only the people most likely to need your product/service.

For example, if you sell a golf product, you may be tempted to use Golf as one of your interests. However that is still to broad because there are many people who “like” golf but are not really dedicated golfers.

Instead you want to go a little deeper, try to think of and target interests that only a serious golfer would like…. things such things as:

  • Famous people who your target prospect would follow
  • Products/brands your target prospect would use
  • Organizations your target prospect would be affiliated with
  • Publications your target prospect would subscribe to

So for our golf example, these might be:

  • Famous golf book authors or golf instructors (i.e. Rick Smith, Butch Harmon, Dave Pelz, John Feinstein, etc.)
  • Golf Products/Brands (i.e. Titleist, Callaway)
  • Golf Organizations (i.e USGA)
  • Golf Publications (i.e. GolfWeek)

How To Find Interests To Use As Targets

So how do you go about finding these interests?

Here are four tips to help you find high quality interests to target that will ensure you are targeting high quality audiences.

1. Brainstorm

Get into the mind of your target customer, think about what other Facebook pages they would tend to follow. What are they really into or just crazy about?

2. Google It

That’s right when in doubt, google it. Go to Google and type in something like “top organizations for golfers” or “best golf magazines”. This should give you some ideas to get started with.

3. Facebook Graph Search

You can use Facebook’s Graph Search to help find other pages your ideal audience may follow. Simply type and adjust the following phrase into the search box in Facebook “pages liked by people who like [other facebook page]”.

graph search to find relevant pages to target

Facebook will return a list of related pages, simply click the See More link to see even more.

graph search results

Facebook Audience Insights

Use Facebooks’s Audience Insights tool to gain even more insight into your target audience and learn what other Facebook pages they tend to like.

Not only will it provide you with useful suggestions on similar pages and interests, it’ll also tell you age, gender, geographic distribution of a specific audience to better fine-tune your targeting.

To get started using this tool go to https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience_insights/. Next in the left column you can define the audience you want to analyze. You can chose countries, age ranges, interests and even select your custom audience. If the resulting audience is big enough to be analyzed the Audience Insights tool will return detailed information about it.

You are going to want to click on the “Page Likes” Tab on the top menu. Here you’ll be able to see the most common interests and page likes of the specified audience criteria you entered on the left.

audience insights - selecting an audience

audience insights page likes


Note: Not all Facebook Pages are available for targeting as an interests in Facebook Ads. Some of your picks won’t be available in the Ads Manager. As a general rule any page with less than 50,000 likes is not available.

Facebook Behaviors Targeting

Behaviors targeting allows you to target people by purchase history, intent, and more. Facebook gets most of this data from third-parties. You will need to experiment with these, sometimes they work great and sometimes they don’t.

There are many options available when it comes to targeting by behaviors. I suggest you take a minute and explore them yourself to see which ones fit with your targeting goals.

behavior targeting options

Some of the different behaviors you can target by are…

  • Automotive – Target by new car shoppers, used car shoppers, car owners, purchase type, etc.
  • B2B – Target by company size, industry, seniority.
  • Charitable donations – Target by type of charitable donations.
  • Consumer Classification – Target by consumer classification (i.e.Affinity for Mid-High Value Goods – India).
  • Digital activities – Target by operating system used, Facebook page admins, primary email domain, small business owners, etc.
  • Expats – Target expats of various countries.
  • Financial – Target by banking, investing or spending behaviors.
  • Job role – Target by different job roles.
  • Media – Target by radio or television.
  • Mobile Device User – Target by mobile device used, brands, smart phone owners, etc.
  • Purchase behavior – Target by different purchase behaviors (i.e.pet products, home and garden, etc.).
  • Residential profiles – Target by people looking to move, home owners, recent home buyer, length of residence, etc.
  • Seasonal and Events – Target by different seasonal events.
  • Travel – Target by various travel behaviors (i.e. frequent travelers, business travelers, used a travel app, etc.

With behavior targeting you can do such things as target people currently in the market for a new home … priceless if you’re a realtor or new home builder.

behavior targeting example

Facebook “More Categories” Targeting

This targeting options gives you some additional partner categories you could potentially use. The data for these partner categories allows you to target people based on certain specific attributes. Check them out to see what categories are available for you.

facebook more categories

Facebook Connections Targeting

This may be the most overlooked targeting options, but can be extremely powerful for you, especially if your business has a strong Facebook following already.

With connection targeting, you can target people who are fans, friends of fans, or not fans of your Page, app, or event.

connection targeting

Here are some ways you can take advantage of this targeting method:

  • Get new Page Likes by excluding your current fans and targeting only new potential fans
  • Improve the reach of your Facebook posts by targeting your fans and their friends.
  • Provide social proof for consumer products by targeting the friends of you your fans.

Targeting Audience Sizes

As you refine your targeting, Facebook will give you a gauge for your potential audience size. A high level suggestion is to try to stay in the green and in the thousands to 1.5 million of potential reach.

audience definition

Your ideal audience size will vary greatly based on your specifics. For example, if you are a local business owner targeting a specific city then your audience size will be much smaller than someone who can sell all across a country.

As a general rule, stay away from targeting audiences with millions of people unless you have a huge budget.

Your Turn

So what do you think? Which of these targeting options is new to you? Which ones are you going to start using? Any questions? Comment below and let me know.