You can target audiences on Facebook with a dozen different ad formats and thousands of possible ad targeting parameters.
Mastering your Facebook targeting strategy gets you in front of very specific and often motivated segments of your audience, on the network where Americans religiously spend an average of 40 minutes of their day. Here are a few ridiculously powerful Facebook ad targeting strategies you probably haven’t heard of.
Early on, Facebook was criticized by advertising analysts as a fun place to hang out, but a network with little commercial intent or potential for consumer insight. That changed early in 2013 when Facebook forged partnerships with data brokers including Epsilon, Acxiom, and Datalogix.
These companies have access to trillions of data transactions each year. Acxiom executives have stated that their database alone contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with an average of 1,500 data points per person.
Suddenly, Facebook knew a whole lot more than whether you spent more time in Farmville or Candy Crush Saga. Getting married soon? Taking medication for hypertension? Love reading murder mysteries? Facebook probably knows.
This gave advertisers the power to reach out beyond their own CRM databases and tap into insights gleaned from shopper loyalty programs of all kinds and matched to individual user profiles. Facebook advertisers use this data to target audience segments by thousands of different purchasing behaviors.
Here’s one that I use: People who buy Business Marketing Services (which is relevant to my company, as we sell business software and services).
Purchasing behavior subcategories include Buyer Profiles, Clothing, Food & Drink, Health & Beauty and a lot more. Within each broad subcategory, you can drill down into types of behavior; for example, choosing Buyer Profiles will then let you target DIYers, Fashionistas, Foodies, etc.
Facebook shows you how many user profiles you can target in each subcategory, based on their aggregated, multi-sourced offline transaction-based data (or in simpler terms, the number of Facebook users in that category they’ve matched to offline purchasing data).
The options here are limitless. Get in there and explore!
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Certain types of businesses or campaigns are based on selling to people experiencing certain major life events. Funeral homes, for example, obviously want to connect with people who are planning a funeral, terminally ill, or lost/losing a loved one. Moving services want to get in front of you if you’ve just purchased a new house or apartment. Wedding photographers target people who are engaged.
Facebook has pretty much every conceivable life event targeting option, since we tend to post these to our timelines. (And fun fact: weather based targeting is now available on Facebook, too!)
The Life Events parameter is unique in that you can choose to target people at specific intervals of time after the change. For example, a jewelry company would obviously be interested in getting in front of people celebrating their one-year anniversary, so they could target audience members who were newlyweds one year ago. The date ranges possible are 3 months, 6 months and one year.
Facebook Custom Audiences are an advanced feature that enable you to connect on Facebook with your existing contacts (beginners, check out our Facebook ads tutorial!). Getting in front of your existing customers and app users on their favorite social network reinforces your brand, but also gives you the opportunity to increase lifetime customer value, order frequency, and loyalty.
This works the other way, too – you can increase the efficacy of your campaigns and avoid wasted clicks by excluding your existing customer list. If you’re offering a free trial to new users, for example, there’s no reason to show it to your loyal customers.
Custom Audiences are created by uploading your customer phone list, or purchaser/subscriber email list in CSV or TXT format, to Facebook. You can also create a Custom Audience based on your site visitors (and specific pages visited on your site), or on specific actions taken within your game or app.
Then target or exclude the whole list, or just specific subsets of it using other targeting parameters to home in on your ideal Facebook audience.
This is crazy powerful! You could target your existing customers who work in a specific job function, make XX amount of money per year, and live in a certain ZIP code with a higher value product offer, if those insights told you these people are more apt to be your affluent customers.
Or, you could target people who visited your company’s blog with offers to demo your product. They already know your name and were interested enough to visit you, but not to convert. Facebook Ads targeting that Custom Audience can close the gap.
The number of different demographics points you can target and combine is staggering. Net worth, living arrangements, marital status, parental status, interests, location – it’s all in there, and more.
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Lookalike Audiences are a logical next step, once you have a good Custom Audiences strategy in place. Even if you don’t have your own email or phone list, you can mirror your Facebook fan base. Lookalikes allow you to expand beyond your reach but still target people with highly specific profiles, by creating audiences that look like your own targets.
If you have neither a list nor a big enough Facebook following, you can still create a Lookalike Audience using a tracking pixel to create a Website Custom Audience to mirror.
Once you’ve decided which audience you want to replicate and expand on, you can make the audience larger (more broad) or smaller (more specific and similar to your original audience). At the most similar level, Facebook is going to find you the top 1 percent of users with similar traits, in your target country. At the opposite level, optimizing for reach, Facebook will display your ads to the 10 percent of users in your target country who are most like your target audience.
The really powerful thing about Facebook ads is in your ability to layer targeting options on top of one another, gradually making your audience more and more specific. An extreme (and hilarious) example of the power of hypertargeting was featured in AdWeek last year, when a marketing pro targeted his roommate with ads so specific the poor guy thought he was being cyberstalked.
Yes, you can use combinations of behaviors, demographics, and geolocation data to reduce your audience to as little as one person. Far more useful for you, however, is the ability to match ad creative and offers to smaller audiences created using combinations of data.
For example, a moving company promoting a special discount for senior citizens could target people who purchased a house within the last month, layered with an age range of 60 years old or greater and their service area locations.
Or, a retailer selling baby products meant to soothe and calm a baby could target new parents who have purchased colic medication. Imagine the ability to speak directly to the parent experiencing those sleepless night with such targeted messaging! (As a new parent, I totally get this.) Your messaging can be tailored to speak directly to that problem and offer your solution.
If you can understand the intent, needs and likelihood to respond of any given audience segment, you can layer Facebook Ads targeting options to tap into it and get in front of them.
When figuring out your Facebook advertising targeting strategy, you don’t have to pick just one of the tips above; check each of them out and see how they might fit your various target market segments.
Create personas for your ideal customers – who are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work and what do they do after work? What traits and characteristics might they have, and how do those align with the many targeting parameters listed above?
Identifying just who it is you want to reach will guide you to the most effective Facebook ad targeting tools and options to get in front of them.
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