One of the most common “ah-ha” moments clients have when we work on their Facebook ads are the many, many ways to target your Facebook ads when using Facebook’s Ads Manager. Without even digging into “next level” audience targeting using your Facebook pixel, email list, people who watched your videos, or engaged with your Business Page, there are so many effective ways to target a cold audience on Facebook. Let’s take a look.
Facebook Ad Targeting Options
There’s no reasonable way to make a complete list of every possible targeting option that’s included within Facebook ads. And honestly, no one would want to search through a list that long even if it was possible. So to help you start to plan ways to target a cold audience of your ideal customers on Facebook, let’s look at the main categories of targeting options available.
- Demographics Probably the most obvious ways to target Facebook users with your ads is through demographics. But beyond the basics like age, gender, location, and language are additional demographic points like education level, job title, employer, and industry. You can even target life events such as newly engaged or recently moved.
- Parents Within the Demographics section of Facebook’s ad targeting is also where you need to visit if locating parents is important for you. Finding parents on Facebook is a common targeting point for many of my clients, so I wanted to call it out on its own. There used to be targeting options like “stay at home mom”, “trendy mom”, “green mom”, etc., but those were removed. However, you can target parents, and even parents of kids of certain ages. For example, Parents of Infants, Parents of Toddlers (ages 1-2), Parents of Preschoolers (ages 3-5), all the way up to Parents of Adult Children (ages 18-26). If you are looking for moms specifically, choose your parent category(ies) and then narrow by gender.
- Topics and Pages After all your demographic options, the practically-endless list of other ways to target an audience for your Facebook ads basically shakes out to 2 main categories: Topics and Pages. These are two HUGE categories, and you’ll absolutely find plenty of choices within these 2 categories. To explain the difference between Topics and Pages, let’s use BBQ as an example. Topics you could target if you want to reach a BBQ audience would be: barbecue, grilling, barbecue grill, brisket, ribs, and smoked meat. If you wanted to target fans of BBQ-related Business Pages, you might choose the Business Pages of KC Masterpiece, Sweet Baby Ray’s, Traeger Grills, and Weber Grills. Another example would be the targeting of dog owners. If you want to reach dog owners on Facebook, some interests would be dogs, dog lovers, dog training, and specific dog breeds like Cocker Spaniel and German Shepherd. Whereas Business Pages that dog owners would be connected to could be Business Pages like American Kennel Club, Westminster Kennel Club, Purina, Pedigree, Iams, Petco, and Petsmart.
Questions to Ask when Researching Facebook Ad Targeting Options
To help get you thinking about possible ways to target your a cold audience on Facebook, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is the demographic breakdown of your main client type? Age, gender, location?
- Does education level matter?
- Does marital or parental status matter?
- What are the Pages of competitors to me? Make sure to think of regional and national businesses and not just local small businesses.
- What Pages and types of businesses are relevant and complementary to my business, meaning people who would be my ideal client would likely follow Pages like that? For example, if you are a veterinarian’s office, you might list brands that sell dog leashes, cat toys, and monthly pet medication like flea and tick preventative as those products would be relevant and complementary to your veterinarian business.
- What are lifestyle characteristics of my ideal client? For example, are my BBQ customers likely to also be hunters or watch Nascar? Would my luxury clients be likely to have an interest in country clubs, spas, and high-end car and clothing brands?
A Few Notes on Facebook Targeting Options
- When working to identify who to target on Facebook, please keep your core client type(s) in mind. I regularly hear comments like this from clients: I mainly have [gender] clients between the ages of XX and YY, but then I’ll also get clients that are [opposite gender] and outside of those age ranges. Every business has outliers in their customer base, but to make your ads the most effective and least costly for you, it’s important that you target your main client type(s) and not those one-off clients that don’t fit your majority mold.
- Facebook can make a change to available targeting options at any moment. We’ve already seen that when they eliminated most of the purchase behaviors and household income options that were all being pulled in from 3rd party sources, when they began to require use of Business Manager to upload customer email lists, and prohibited targeting by zip code.
- Not all Pages or possible Interests are available for targeting. And unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t have a definitive rule on how this works. Generally speaking, Pages with lots of Likes (in the tens of thousands on up) can be targeted. But I’ve been able to locate a Page to target that has 5,000 Likes and haven’t been able to target larger Pages that have 40,000 Likes. The best thing to do is walk through the ad build process and try typing in any of the Interests and Pages you’d hope to find, and see what pulls up in the Targeting section.
- Once you figure out what targeting options are available for you, test a few ads! You might find that dumping every possible targeting option into 1 audience yields just so-so ad results, but if you separate out your targeting options into smaller, like segments, that works better. For example, you might decide that career details plus newspapers or magazines are the best ways to target your ideal customer type. Instead of putting together job titles, industries, and employers with publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, place your job titles, industries and employers into 1 audience, and your publications into a different audience, and then run a split test campaign to see which audience works better for you. And of course, if you find the audiences work equally well, you can feel OK about combining them into one larger audience for future ads.
Special Ad Categories Targeting
Facebook implemented audience targeting restrictions on ads for housing, credit, and employment. The first step of the ad creation process asks you to check a box if the ad you are about to create falls into one of these categories. If it does, you’ll be limited in what Detailed Targeting options you can use (it’s a much smaller, pre-determined list) and you can’t adjust the default settings for age or gender. Additionally, ZIP code selection is unavailable, and any location you select must include all areas within a 15-mile radius of each location.
There is no shortage of ways to locate your ideal client through Facebook ads, but it’s going to be key to test the targeting options you do find in order to determine what targeting options perform best for you.