Facebook Targeting 101: Your Crash Course on Winning Ad Campaigns

You’re sitting there watching your favorite show. A commercial comes on.

Ever notice how the product being featured happens to catches your attention? Or maybe how the promotion for a new show on a coincidentally similar network is one you find yourself DVRing for tomorrow night?

That’s ad targeting.

The network you’re watching collects data on the “average” viewer of that channel, then features commercials that appeal to that group of customers.

That’s why when a football game is on, you see a ton of beer, car and grilling commercials. Target audience: mostly male sports enthusiasts.

Or why daytime soaps are peppered with commercials for diapers, hair/skincare products and frozen meals. Target audience: mostly female stay-at-home parents.

Why do networks do this? Because commercials featuring products that most likely won’t appeal to the average viewer of that channel are a waste of advertising dollars.

When your ultimate goal is to sell, you want to direct your ad budget where you’ll receive the greatest ROI – on your target customer.

But commercials are expensive. And time consuming. 

So if you own a small business or you’re an entrepreneur, chances are commercials aren’t even on your radar from a marketing perspective.

No worries.

These days, people are glued to their smartphones and tablets. And constantly active on their social networks.

With over 2 billion users and built-in analytics, Facebook offers businesses with a social presence a smart and effective opportunity to deploy targeted ads.

What is Facebook targeting?

As we’ve covered before, Facebook is the king of paid social media traffic.

And Facebook targeting is essentially fine-tuning your Facebook ad to be viewed by a target audience of your choosing.

It’s the same concept of running a beer commercial during a football game – but on social media. You know who wants to buy what you’re selling, and you’re essentially pushing it right under their noses.

The beauty of creating a targeted ad on Facebook is that you have a wide variety of specific targeting options at your fingertips, offering you even greater control over who you want to reach with your campaign.

So, not only do you have a greater ability to fine-tune who sees your ad, but you can also make changes and test different markets in just a few clicks.

Cost-effective, nimble and more hands-on, Facebook targeting is the way to go in the days of smartphone dependence and the ever-growing popularity of social media.

Have you installed the Facebook tracking pixel yet?

Before we jump into how you can crush your Facebook ad campaigns, there’s one small step you need to be sure to take if you haven’t already.

And this is adding Facebook’s tracking pixel to your website.

In short, implementing this pixel will not only allow you to create audiences – but also to define conversions.

Because if you can’t track success, how will you know if it’s working?

You won’t.

So get that pixel installed ASAP and then move on to learning the different types of Facebook targeting.

Types of Facebook Targeting

Facebook categorizes its target audience options into three different genres, Core Audiences, Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.

Custom and Lookalike Audiences are built out of your lists of contacts or customers, while Core Audiences are based on overall Facebook data.

Let’s break them all down, one-by-one, so you can choose the one that best fits your needs.

Core Audiences: Target the customers you haven’t met yet.

The targeting options available through Facebook’s Core Audiences offer you the ability to target people on Facebook based on characteristics similar to your target customer.

Such options include:

Demographics. These are your general “about me” characteristics, self-identified by Facebook users. This list includes information such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnic affinity
  • Language spoken
  • Relationship status
  • “Interested in”

Location is also included within this “general demographics” list.

So, for example, if your company specializes in high-end engagement rings, you can target your ads to 20-40-something males living within 50 miles of Houston Texas that are currently in a relationship and not married (yet). Pretty cool, right?

It gets better.

Advanced Demographics. Curated from first- and third-party sources, this demographic data gets even more specific, covering information such as:

  • Education level
  • Job titles
  • Employers
  • Household income
  • Home type/ownership
  • Generation
  • Political affiliation
  • Parental status
  • Age of children

So now, if you’re that same company specializing in high-end engagement rings, you can fine-tune your ad targeting even further to reach those with an income to match your luxury product.

Interests. These essentially cover what people like and like to do. What are their hobbies? What topics are they interested in? This list of self-identified characteristics goes on and on:

  • Entertainment
  • Business & Industry
  • Food & Drink
  • Shopping & Fashion
  • Fitness & Wellness
  • Hobbies & Activities, etc.

Users’ social activities such as conversations, “Likes” and comments (within the past 30 days) are also included within this category.

Not to be confused with interests (but are closely associated) are “affinities.” These include connections with particular brands, so if people are fans or friends of fans of a specific brand page, that data would be considered an affinity.

Behavioral. This is where a deeper dive into third-party data is made to gather information about users’:

  • Digital activities
  • Purchase behavior
  • Charitable donations
  • Travel behavior
  • Automotive preferences
  • Seasonal & event activity, etc.

Do you do business with international clients? Be aware – some of the behavioral data is only available for U.S. audiences.

Custom Audiences: Build Facebook connections out of your list of contacts.

You’ve already got a database of current and past customers…but are you connected to them on Facebook? Doing so can help you build your following and increase traffic not only to your social page, but also (and more importantly) your website.

Finding these people is a matter of digging a little deeper into your company’s data to identify the information needed for each type of Custom Audience:

  • Current/past/potential customers: contact information from past purchases or inclusion within an email campaign
  • Website visitors: information gathered via tracking cookies attached to visitors’ IP addresses when they visit your site
  • Mobile visitors: information gathered from those who have downloaded your mobile app

Makes sense, right? If someone’s already a customer, included in your email campaign, a visitor to your site or a user of your mobile app, they clearly have some desire to learn more about what you have to offer.

Or, best case scenario, they like your business and want what you’re selling.

So making a connection with these people on Facebook is a no-brainer.

Lookalike Audiences: Make connections with people just like your current customers.

A simple, yet ingenious concept, Facebook helps you build an audience of people who share key characteristics with your current customers. Because it goes without saying that the majority of your future customers are going to have a great deal in common with your current ones.

Lookalike Audiences are created by taking the information used to build your Custom Audiences and using it to identify a percentage range of highly similar Facebook users.

Marketing to these individuals gives you a brand new audience with a higher potential of becoming a future customer.

Ad types to use for targeting

So now that you’ve identified the people you want to reach on Facebook, what kind of ads should you show them? That depends on the main objective of your advertising campaign.

Here are 5 common Facebook Advertising goals and the best kind of ad formats to support them:

1. Drive traffic to your website.

When your main goal is to help people learn more about your product or company, you want to drive traffic to your webpage.

These ads will link to a specific landing page on your site with the goal of simply brand awareness and increased site traffic, or that the visitor will subscribe to your newsletter, enter a contest or even make a purchase.

The best Facebook ads to use in support of this goal include:

  • Domain Ads. Featured in the right column only, these ads feature a title, your page URL and a brief description. While not the highest performing ad option, domain ads are quite economical when compared to other options.
  • Page Post Links/Newsfeed Ads. These are the ads you see in your Home Feed all the time. They link back to your site, feature a headline, post copy and a text description, and should include an eye-catching image.

2. Generate sales leads.

When your main goal is to collect potential leads to include within an email marketing campaign or to share with your sales team, Facebook has an ad format specifically for you:

  • Lead Ads. Yes, I know, pretty obvious. But these ads are perfect for gathering contact information, as they feature forms that can be filled out and submitted within the ad – more convenient and effective than links that direct users to a website landing page to do so. And you can make this process a lot easier by using a tool like LeadsTunnel which will automatically transfer this contact info to your favorite autoresponder.

3. Feature your products and services.

With this goal driving your ad campaign, you’ll want to make sure you select an ad type that displays what you have to offer in the best possible way. Such ads include:

  • Dynamic Product Ads. These ads that feature current products and link to back your site keep working for you after only setting up your campaign one time. Much like re-marketing display ads, dynamic ads work off of users’ action history on your website or mobile app. All you need to do is set up your campaign and upload your product catalogue – Facebook does the rest.
  • Carousel Ads. Also known as multi-product ads, Carousel Ads allow you to feature images and links for up to five products in one ad, which rotate on a continuous loop – hence the carousel reference. This allows you to showcase more than one product to a single customer and creates more opportunities for a click-through.
  • Canvas. These quick-loading ads are only available on mobile and again feature a carousel of product images with links. Although this time, users are afforded more interactive capabilities, such as the ability to swipe through the images themselves or zoom-in/out for a better look at the featured products.

4. Get people to “Like” or engage with your Facebook page.

Sometimes ad campaigns are all about growing your presence on social. For this goal, these ads are your best bet:

  • Page Like. Designed with the ultimate goal to get people to “Like” your page, these ads feature a place for a compelling image, thoughtful CTA and, most importantly, a “Like Page” button in the bottom right corner.
  • Photo Post. Exactly what you’re thinking – a post to your page with a carefully selected photo to earn the most “Likes” and comments possible. Although you’re leading with the image here, remember, fabulous images can’t save a post with poor copy. So make sure your included text is well-constructed and written with intent.
  • Video Post. This is the same concept, approach and layout as a photo post, only these ads feature a video instead. Why? In some cases, videos have been shown to receive higher engagement than photo- or copy-based posts. If you haven’t created a video ad before, give it a try and compare your results to your photo ads to determine where you can earn the greatest return on your time and ad budget.

5. Drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar store or event.

Hey man, sometimes people gotta get out a little.

So when you want to give your target customers a reason to make a stop at your physical store on the way home from work or come out and support an on-site event, Facebook has some specific ads to meet this need as well.

  • Offer Ads. Designed to get people to come out to your store, these ads feature a photo and copy describing a particular offer, with a built-in “Get Offer” button in the bottom right corner. When users click it, they’re sent an email with the offer details. One thing to note here is that in order to deploy these ads, you’ll need to have at least 50 page “Likes”.
  • Event Ads. You can encourage people to join a Facebook Event you’ve created in support of an on-site event with the use of event ads. These help generate more interest from Facebook users by featuring an image, copy encouraging them to join and a built-in “Join” button in the bottom right corner.

You’ve learned the basics, so how about some targeting tips?

Whew, that’s a lot of information to take in at once. Are you keeping up?

First, we talked about how to create a targeted audience for your Facebook ad campaign. Then we went over the best types of ads to use based on your advertising goals.

But here’s the big play, the tipping point, the catalyst of conversion…

You’ve got to know how to use everything in combination to get the best results out of your campaign.

There are more tips and best practices out there than there are Facebook users. So while you obviously don’t have time to read them all right now, here are a few thoughtful ideas to get you started:

  • Do your due diligence when it comes to researching and creating a persona for your target audience – you want to make sure you’ve got this right before you start pushing out a targeted campaign.
  • Start advertising to your Custom Audiences first – as contacts you’ve collected from your own databases, these people will be the ones most likely to find your message relevant.
  • Be sure to layer your targeting options – don’t stop at some demographic details and an interest or two. Refine and refine to make your audience more and more specific to more closely match your target customer, hence “layering” one trait on top of the other until you get it just right.
  • Don’t stop learning about your audiences and connections once you’ve created and earned them – dig deeper using Audience Insights. This can be found under the “tools” drop-down list in your Facebook Ads Manager.
  • Keep testing and tweaking – you might find that expanding an age range, including additional interests, etc. may have an impact on campaign effectiveness.

A few more tips worth mentioning…

Like most things in life, trial and error is the best way to start something new. Creating a winning targeted Facebook advertising campaign is no different.

Be easy on yourself. Be open to new strategies and new products. And have fun with it!

We’ve given you the basics, now it’s your turn to take the wheel.

And be sure to let us know in the comments below what tips you look forward to implementing the most to create a winning Facebook ad campaign.

Jimmy Kim

Jimmy Kim

Founder & CEO at Snaptactix
Jimmy is not only our founder and the CEO here at Snaptactix, but also the CEO of Sendlane and COO of KNYEW. Over the past 8+ years, Jimmy's influence as an Internet Marketing Consultant and Coach have helped over 30,000 students start their own online businesses in over 68 different countries.
Jimmy Kim


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