The Complete Guide to Facebook Ad Targeting Options

Facebook generated $9.16 Billion in ad revenue in Q2 2017. The duopoly of Google and Facebook accounts for over half of all digital ad spend worldwide. So, why do marketers spend so much money on Facebook?

Well, it has a pretty spectacular reach, with almost 1 in every 3 people worldwide on one of its platforms. But more importantly, it offers an incredible range of audience targeting options in order to reach these people. Any marketer who thinks Facebook can’t help them reach their customers is already a long way behind their competitors. However, it’s understandable if marketers or small business owners are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices available.

Facebook offers so many targeting options that you may not even be aware of the potential audiences at your disposal. Knowing the audience targeting options at your fingertips may be all you need to spark the idea for a new campaign.

In this blog we’ll be breaking down the key targeting options in each of Facebook’s audience categories, these fall into the broad areas of Demographics, Interests, Behaviors, Connections and Custom Audiences.

Review the options below to understand just what’s possible on Facebook. Bear in mind that you can create combinations of all the targeting options below to zero in on very specific customer groups.

Demographic Targeting

There are many demographic factors that can easily be targeted on Facebook. These include Location, Language, Age, Gender, Relationship, Work, Education, Financial, Home, Generation, Parents, Life Events and Politics.

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Location or multiple locations can be included or excluded in your targeting. You can select multiple continents, countries, regions, cities or postal/zip codes to target. You can even target based on distance surrounding specific coordinates, entered by dropping a pin on a map.

Language allows you to target people based on the language they have identified on their profile. This is useful if you are targeting an audience that uses a language that is not common to your chosen location or if you are running campaigns in multiple languages.

Age allows you to target people based within a specific age range. This can be from age 13 up to 65+. Some ad content however won’t be permitted to target certain age ranges based on laws in your local region.

Gender allows you to target ads towards Males, Females or both.

Relationship status and individual preferences can be selected, allowing you to target people who identify as single, in a relationship, engaged, married, separated, divorced and more.

Education allows you to target people based on the level of education they achieved, from high school through to postgraduate. You can also target people based on the university or school they attended.

Financial allows you to target people based on their estimated annual household income or net worth.

Work allows you to target people based on the industry they work in or their job title. In addition you can also target small business owners.**

Home allows you to target people based on their home ownership status — whether they are a first time buyer, home owner or renter. You can also target people based on the type of home they live in, such as apartment or condo, the estimated value of their home, and their household composition — whether it’s a family-based household, young adults, grandparents or more.*

Generation allows you to target people based on their generation, such as Baby Boomers, Millennials or Generation X.

Life Events targets people based on major personal events or the events of their friends. You can target based on people’s birthdays, new jobs, new relationships, anniversaries and more.

Parents can be targeted based on the age of their children, such as New Parents, Parents With Teens, Parents With Toddlers and more.

Politics can also be targeted in the United States. This allows you to target based on people’s political leanings, such as liberal, very liberal, moderate, conservative, very conservative and likely to engage in politics.

Interest Targeting

Facebook allows you to target people based on their interests. These interests are identified based on people’s activities on Facebook, such as content they engage with, events they attend and pages they like. It also takes into account websites people visit outside of Facebook. Subcategories within this section are Business and Industry, Entertainment, Family and Relationships, Fitness and Wellness, Food and Drinks, Hobbies and Activities, Shopping and Fashion, Sports and Technology.

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Business and Industry allows you to target people based on specific businesses sectors or industries they have shown interest in. These include industries such as Agriculture and Aviation through to Real Estate and Science. Many of these industries also have sub sectors you can target. Within the Design industry alone you can target people based on their interest in Fashion Design, Graphic Design or Interior Design.

Entertainment allows you to target people based on the kind of entertainment they are interested in. At a top level you can target people based on their interest in Games, Live Events, Movies, Music, Reading and TV. Within each of these categories there are more specific sub-categories you can target.

Family and Relationships allows you to target people based on their interests in things such as Dating, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Parenting, Weddings and more.

Fitness and Wellness allows you to target people based on their interests in things such as Dieting, Gyms, Nutrition, Bodybuilding, Running, Weight Training, Yoga and more.

Food and Drink allows you to target people based on a variety of categories that cover the food and drinks sector. At a top level you can target people based on their interest in Alcoholic Beverages, Beverages, Cooking, Cuisine, Food and Restaurants. Within each of these categories there are more specific sub-categories you can target.

Hobbies and Activities allows you to target people based on a wide range of interests such as Arts and Music, Travel, Social Issues, Current Events and more. Within each category you can target people based on more specific sub-categories.

Shopping and Fashion allows you to target people based on a variety of categories that cover the retail sector. At a top level you can target people based on their interest in Beauty, Clothing, Fashion, Shopping and Toys. Within each of these categories there are more specific sub-categories you can target.

Sports and Outdoors allows you to target people based on activities from Hiking and Fishing through to Biking and Surfing, as well as their interest in a variety of team and individual sports.

Technology allows you to target people based on their interests in Computers and Consumer Electronics.

In addition to targeting based on the Facebook’s own categories listed above, you can also target people based on more specific keywords. Within Facebook you can search to target someone who likes, for example, drinks, and you will be presented with a wealth of other more specific options related to drinks that you can target. Each will also provide you with an estimated reach of the number of people on Facebook who match this targeting option:

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Behavioral Targeting

Facebook allows you to target people based on various behaviors that are identified through their usage of Facebook and also connecting with external data sources. As some of these options are provided through external data partners, some are only available in certain regions due to data licensing agreements. More information on this can be found directly on Facebook.

Behavioral areas that can be targeting include Automotive, Business-to-Business, Charitable Donations, Consumer Classification, Digital Activities, Financial, Expats, Media, Purchase Behavior, Mobile Device Users and Travel.

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Automotive allows you to target people based on what type of vehicle they are in the market to buy or what vehicle they currently own. It also allows you to target people based on how they buy their vehicle, such as New, Used or Lease.*

Business-to-Business allows you to target people based on some of the key characteristics of their job. These include the seniority of their job role and the size of the company they work for.*

Charitable Donations allows you to target people based on the charitable donations they make. The categories of donation type include Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Cancer Causes, Children’s Causes, Environmental and Wildlife, Health, Political, Religious, Veterans and World Relief.*

Consumer Classification allows you to target people based on the type of consumer they are classified as. These include whether they are likely to purchase mid-to-high-value goods or high-value goods.*

Digital Activities tracks the online behavior of an individual and allows you to target based on these activities. Targeting options include a person’s Operation System, Gaming Habits, Facebook Payments, Facebook Page Admin, Internet Browser, Photo Uploaders and Email Domains. In addition you can also target people based on whether they are Technology Early Adopters.

Financial allows you to target people based on their financial behaviors (as opposed to their earnings and net worth, which you can do with demographic financial targeting). Behaviors which you can target include whether people invest, use cash or credit card, and other spending methods.*

Expats allows you to target expats living abroad. You can target all expats living in specific countries as well as targeting based on where an expat is from.

Media allows you to target people based on their usage of Radio and Television. This includes the genres of TV shows they watch and their viewership habits.*

Mobile Device Users allows you to target people based on the type of mobile device they use. This can include devices by brand, operating system, type of phone, network connection and more.

Purchase Behavior allows you to target people based on the types of purchases they make. There are a lot of categories you can target that include the types of goods they purchase, the technology they use to make purchases, whether they’re engaged shoppers, the types of stores they shop at and many more.*

Travel allows you to target people based on a variety of travel related data. The top level categories here are quite diverse and enable targeting Business Travelers, Leisure Travelers, Commuters, Frequent Flyers, Frequent International Travelers and more.*

There may also be more niche categories of targeting that are available to advertisers in specific regions that are provided by local data partners. It’s a good idea to have a real search through the Behavioral targeting options in your region. You might find some real gems that are relevant to your marketing campaign.

Connection Targeting

Connections targeting allows you to target people who already have a specific connection to your brand. This includes the option to target (or exclude) people who like your Facebook Page, have responded to one of your Facebook Events or have used one of your apps. You can also target the friends of people who like your Facebook Page or have used your app.

Custom Audience Targeting

Custom Audiences are targeting groups you create based on people’s actions and engagement on Facebook, your website or data you upload from an external list. This enables you to:

Target engaged users of your apps, canvas ads, events, videos and lead forms.

Retarget your website visitors by collecting their data using the Facebook Pixel.

Target your current customers or other lists of email addresses you have by uploading this data directly to Facebook.

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From each Custom Audience, you can also create a Lookalike Audience. This means Facebook will create an audience that is similar to one of your Customer Audiences—based on the key traits of the people in that audience—and allow you to target these “Lookalikes” with your ads.

Here’s some more detailed information on Custom and Lookalike Audiences.

Summary

Not only does Facebook enable you to reach a huge proportion of the world’s population, it also allows you to segment and target people with incredible precision. This means Facebook shouldn’t just be considered as a tool to get some engagement on your Facebook posts.

Combining demographic, interest, behavioral and custom audience targeting will empower you to reach customers from the beginning to end of your customer journey. By coupling the right audience targeting with the appropriate ad campaign types you will be able to drive real action that will benefit your business; from raising awareness, to generating engagement and driving conversions.

* This targeting is based on data provided by external data partners and therefore may not be available to advertisers in all regions.

** Some of these targeting options have been temporarily suspended by Facebook, as of September 2017.

Some images in this blog were taken from Facebook.