Last month we published our first article in this series, where we’re asking what makes a good Facebook ad. We started by looking at the anatomy of a Facebook ad and there was a heavy emphasis on the kind of visuals it takes to capture people’s attention.

If you missed our first article, you can go back to it and see what great Facebook ads look like. As for today, we’ll be looking at how to get your ads get seen by the right people – and that means talking about Facebook targeting.

How well do you know Facebook’s targeting options?

Facebook’s targeting options are pretty extensive. So much so, in fact, we recently published an article running through the network’s key targeting features. We’re not going to run through all of those again but you can go back to the original article if you want an overview of Facebook targeting.

Instead, we’re going to look at how you can put those options into action and get your ads in front of the people most likely to buy into your brand.

First, you need to know your target audiences

We won’t spend much time on this point, because it should go without saying, but you can’t master Facebook targeting until you know who you actually need to target. So it all comes down to audience research and the more you know about the people who buy your products or services, the better.

However you go about your research is up to you, but you’ll want to draft some buyer personas before you create your first Facebook ads. These will be the basis of your ad messages and everything you do with targeting.

In most cases, each of your buyer personas should include the following:

  • Audience needs: What problem does your product/service solve for this persona?
  • Audience demographics: Age, gender, location, etc.
  • Audience characteristics: The values, opinions, interests and lifestyle factors that affect each persona’s buying choices.
  • Buying habits: Where each persona shops, what they buy, how tech savvy they are and other buying habits.

That’s a very quick summary, but it gives you an idea of what you need to know about the people you’re targeting. And, to really get the most out of this, you don’t want to rely on assumptions. Reach out to people and confirm your findings; collect hard data to reveal that your buying personas are accurate and how they can be improved.

As with anything in advertising, this is a long-term process that you should work on over time.

Create specific messages to target each of your audiences

This is something we could have covered in our first article but we decided to save it for this one because it’s directly tied to your buyer personas and fundamental to targeting on Facebook.

Source: Case study from Zogby Analytics

It turns out people respond better to ads that are relevant to their interests (apologies for stating the obvious). So it could take a completely different message to connect with a mum of three compared to a young man about to get married. The thing is, mums of three, grooms-to-be and all kinds of other personas are the kind of prospects are both perfectly valid prospects for a wide range of businesses. Take travel firms, for example. They’ll want parents and honeymooners alike as customers but it’ll take a different kind of ad to get both.

By crafting the right message, specific to your buying personas’ interests, and then delivering relevant ads to each of them, you’re on the path to maximising your Facebook advertising return.

Set up retargeting as soon as possible

The final piece of prep work you want to do is to set up retargeting – and the sooner you do this, the sooner your list will start building. To set this up, you click the Audience tab inside Facebook’s Advert manager and under the Create new section, choose to Create a Custom Audience.

Next you’ll see the following panel where you select Website traffic and follow the instructions to create and install your pixel (ie: cookies) and create your audience.

You can target four different kinds of traffic with Facebook retargeting:

  • Anyone who visits your site
  • People who visit specific web pages
  • People who visit specific web pages but not others
  • People who haven’t visited in a certain amount of time

You’ll also need to set the duration period for retargeting, which is set to 30 days by default. Just remember you don’t’ want to annoy people by bombarding them with ads for too long.

Extra tip: Create a Custom Audience of people who have bought from you and exclude them from retargeting campaigns for that product or service – unless you’re promoting something that requires regular purchases.


Start with the targeting basics

Now we’re finally ready to put some of these targeting options into action and your basic options look like this:

So, let’s go back to our mum of three persona for a moment and run through these options with her as an example. Under Locations, you have four targeting options available:

  • Everyone in this location
  • People who live in this location
  • People recently in this location
  • People travelling in this location

Now, in most cases, when you’re targeting parents you’re going to want to specify People who live in this area. So you can target people living in the UK, living in specific counties or go for a whole combination of countries, if that suits you better.

Next up, you’ll want to set your Age targeting options and this is where you really need to know the relationship between your brand and this buying persona. Are you targeting younger mums, are your products designed for babies or is this something mums of all ages would be interested in?

These are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer and, if you don’t have this information confirmed yet, be careful not to make assumptions and set your age range too narrow.

Finally, you have Gender and Languages options – both of which should be pretty self-explanatory.

Getting into detailed targeting

With your basic targeting in place, this is where things start to get interesting (and sometimes a little bit creepy). By using Detailed targeting, you unleash Facebook’s demographic, interests and behaviours options – which are immense by the way.

Under demographics alone, you can target people by education, generation, the kind of household they live in, life events, their parental status, their relationship status and their careers.

So you can target parents with toddlers in no time or Millennials who are still living at home (family-based households). You can also target our groom-to be from earlier by using life events to connect with men who recently got engaged and you can even target them every years as their anniversary approaches.

If none of that’s creepy enough for you, then move on down to Interests where you can start targeting people with a penchant for organic food and volleyball or fashionistas with a passion for photography.

If you want to see the full list of targeting options you can use and combine, go back to our article on Facebook targeting options for more info.

Each time you select and combine any of your targeting options, Facebook will tell you how large an audience this leaves you to work with.

As you combine more targeting options, your total reach will decline but your audience will become more specific. It’s a question of finding the right balance between relevancy and the largest possible audience with a genuine reason to buy from you.

 Behaviour targeting takes things to the next level

We’ve already shown you how specific you can get with Facebook targeting but we’re not done yet. The network’s behaviour targeting allows you to become ultra-specific about who sees your ads, based on their online and offline behaviours.

Let’s start with something simple. If you want to target mobile users with your ad, behaviours is where you do it, by selecting All mobile devices under Mobile Device User. Of course, targeting mobile users isn’t exactly ground-breaking these days but Facebook allows you to go considerably further. You can target mobile users by the brand of their phone, its operating system, the network they’re on and various other options. So, if you only want to target iPhone users, that’s no problem. You can even target iPhone users who recently bought the device – ideal if you’re selling accessories, device insurance or other items people buy soon after getting a new phone.

Likewise, if you want to target desktop users only, you can go a step further and narrow them down by the operating system they use. So if you’re selling software that’s only available on Windows, you don’t need to waste any impressions on people using a Mac.

There’s a big influence on travel in Facebook’s behaviour targeting options, too. Under Travel you can target frequent travellers, business travellers, people currently travelling and those who recently returned from a trip – among other options. There’s even a separate Expats category where you can target all expats, expats living in specific countries or target their family members.

So, to kind of sum up everything we’ve covered in this article today, let’s say you’re a travel brand selling tour packages in other countries. You draw up your buyer personas and someone in the office suggests expat family members as one of your targets – after all, wouldn’t they rather go pay them a visit in their exotic new home than stare at their Facebook pictures of their new life overseas?

With the Expats targeting options you can pinpoint these family members and create an ad that really gets them missing their relatives and tempted by the prospect of a visit. Of course, this is a highly specific buying persona but it helps illustrate how you can really hit home with people’s interests by using Facebook targeting.


So that’s it for part two in our series looking at what makes a good Facebook ad. Next time we’ll be focusing on what happens after people see your ad – ie: how to get them taking the action your campaign is designed to inspire. So be sure to keep an eye out for our next post in this mini-series and, in the meantime, we’ll have plenty of more marketing news and tips for you.