Social Media Marketing
4 min

Audiences 101: Targeting Your Ads On Facebook & Instagram

Sierra Hillinger

Have you ever seen an ad on Facebook that was completely irrelevant to you? Let me set the stage: you’re innocently scrolling through your feed, and suddenly you land on an ad for luxury cat grooming when you do not own a cat, have never owned a cat, and have never lived with anyone who owns a cat. That is: you’ve been the victim of poor audience targeting.

By the end of this post, you’ll have the full run-down of the powerful audience targeting capabilities of the Facebook platform so you can best reach people in your target market and avoid wasted ad spend.

Getting Started With Audience Targeting On Facebook & Instagram

The general demographics are typically the starting point for all audiences on Facebook and Instagram. When creating an audience, start with defining desired location, age range, gender, and language of the audience.

The location targeting capabilities within Facebook allow you to be as general or granular as you’d like. Options range from targeting an entire country or state to a specific zip code or even a mile radius around a physical address. Another option is to specify targeting everyone in the location, people who live in the location, people recently in the location, or people traveling to the location.

Facebook dashboard ad targeting options

Define Audiences Further With Detailed Targeting

This is where things start to get fun. With detailed targeting you can include or exclude people from your audience based on deeper demographic data, their interests, or their behaviors.

facebook targeting demographics education financial etc

With these targeting options you can create a complete persona and truly hone in on the people you want in your audience. There are thousands of options for all three categories. I’ve outlined a few below:

  • Demographics: Income, homeowners or renters, relationship status, parental status, or education.
  • Interests: Can be anything a person has shown interest in from physical fitness to women’s fashion to the Toyota RAV4.
  • Behaviors: Buying behavior, online activity, travel behavior, charitable donations, or financial behavior.

With detailed targeting you can create an audience of people who are married, expectant parents, own a home, make over $100,000 per year, and buy health and wellness products.

Location, age, gender, language, and detailed targeting are based on data that Facebook provides. As the advertiser, you don’t need to input anything into Facebook; you can simply pick and choose from the options provided. But wait, there’s even more options for audience targeting!

Custom Audiences

The advantage of custom audiences is in the ability to reach people who already have a relationship with your brand. They are audiences created from information you provide Facebook and information generated by Facebook’s products such as the Facebook Pixel. Options for custom audiences include customer files, website traffic, app activity, and engagement on Facebook.

facebook ad dashboard custom audience options

  • Customer file: Audience comprised of email subscribers, past purchasers, top spenders, or loyalty program members.
  • Website traffic: Audience based on data collected from the Facebook Pixel, such as all website visitors, specific content viewed on the site, specific URLs visited, people who added an item to their cart, or time spent on site, just to name a few.
  • App activity: Create a list of people who launched your app or took specific actions within the app.
  • Engagement on Facebook: Users who watched a video, engaged with a lead ad, opened a canvas, or engaged with your Facebook Page in various ways.

What Exactly Is A Lookalike Audience?

In the same family as a custom audience is the lookalike audience. Lookalike audiences are created from a custom audience and contain people that are most similar to the people in your custom audience. That’s right, you guessed it: they look like those original people. For example, you can create a lookalike of your email subscribers, a lookalike of your past purchasers, or a lookalike of website visitors.

Phew. That’s a lot of targeting capabilities. But that’s what makes Facebook and Instagram such a powerful set of advertising platforms. They grant you the ability to target and reach the exact person or type of person you want to reach.

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