Facebook audience targeting

November 25, 2020

Everything you need to know about reaching your target audience on Facebook

If you think your target audience isn’t on Facebook, you’re wrong. 

Facebook has billions of users worldwide. Of these, 2.7 billion are ‘active users’ – i.e. they regularly log into and engage with Facebook.

To put that in perspective, the total global population is 7.8 billion. So, around 30% of the entire human race uses Facebook on a regular basis – and even more use it on an irregular basis. 

When you remove infants and Facebook-free nations from the equation, the percentage of humans, worldwide, using Facebook on a regular basis rises to more like 50%.

So, it’s pretty big.

Now let’s zoom in on Europe and the UK. 

The total population of Europe is 741.4 million. Of these, 406 million are regularly active on Facebook. That’s over 75%. The UK is Facebook’s biggest European market, with 44.84 million active users out of a total population of around 66 million. 

To put it another way, the UK has more people who are regularly on Facebook than people who:

  • Own a car
  • Are married
  • Drink alcohol
  • Follow a football team

All in all, unless your audience is seriously niche, it’s a fairly safe bet that you can find them on Facebook.

But how?

Finding your target audience on Facebook

As a social network, Facebook is pretty good at finding and targeting your perfect audience. In a moment, we’ll teach you how to use Facebook’s audience targeting tools to identify and reach your perfect customers.

Before you start digging into Facebook’s targeting tools, however, you need to do some basic strategizing:

  1. Set campaign goals. Different goals involve different audiences. For example, if your goal is to get more subscribers, you need to target non-subscribers. There is no point in targeting people who are already on your list (they may even get frustrated and unsubscribe if you keep sending them irrelevant ads!). Work out which audiences your goals match up with.
  2. Identify your perfect customer. Who is most likely to respond to your campaign? Who do you want to respond to your campaign? How can you make the two match up? Delving into audience data will help you a lot here. Look at your customers, their interests, their demographics, the things they have in common and so on. If you are retargeting current customers, look at the kinds of campaigns they’ve liked in the past. If you’re targeting potential new customers, research them in detail. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to target them.
  3. Set a campaign budget. This may not sound very related to audience targeting, but Facebook charges by ‘delivery’ of ads. What this means in practical terms is that you need to know things like the size of your audience and so on before you can get past Facebook’s paywall. The size of your audience will probably be directly related to other elements, like their demographic, location, and so on.

Once you’ve got your strategy together, it’s time to dig into Facebook’s audience targeting capabilities:

Cold or Retargeted traffic?

Are you targeting current customers, or trying to bring in new customers? The former is known as ‘retargeting’, and the latter is known as ‘cold targeting’. Facebook uses these two traffic categories as broad umbrella terms, so it’s worth digging into them.

Cold traffic

Facebook considers everyone who has not interacted with your brand page (or a linked web platform) to be ‘cold traffic’. When targeting ‘cold traffic’, Facebook lets you get pretty granular. You can design a target ‘cold’ audience based on one or a combination of the following:

  • Interests and brands. For example, if you want to target people who like shoes, you can ask Facebook to target everyone with ‘shoes’ listed in their interests, and who follow shoe-relevant pages and brands.
  • Life events. Perhaps you’re targeting people who are recently married, or who’ve just had a baby. Facebook can pick out these people in quite fine detail, based both on life events that they’ve logged on their profiles, and on keywords etc in Facebook statuses.
  • Demographic points. It is not compulsory for people to log their age, gender etc on Facebook, but many people do. This makes it easy for Facebook to target audiences based on demographic points.
  • Location. GPS tech, the ability to ‘check-in’, and basic location information embedded within profiles lets Facebook target people within very finely defined radii. If you’re holding an event in a certain place at a certain time, for example, Facebook can serve your ad to cold audiences within travelling distance of your event.
  • Language. Facebook is available in 43 languages. If your ad is in Spanish, make sure it’s going to Spanish-speaking audiences who can understand it! 
  • Lookalike audiences. This is one of Facebook’s most nuanced audience targeting criteria. To target a ‘lookalike audience’, you first have to provide Facebook with a sample audience. Facebook will then identify and target audiences that resemble your sample. We’ll go into the ‘Create a lookalike audience’ feature shortly.

Retargeted traffic

Retargeted audiences are audiences that have come into contact with your brand through one or more of these avenues:

  • Your Facebook page. People who ‘like’ your brand’s page are nearly always included in Facebook’s retargeting audiences, unless you specifically exclude them.
  • Your organic content. If someone’s clicked on, commented on, liked, or otherwise engaged with any of your organic posts, Facebook will place them in the ‘retarget’ category.
  • Your own custom list. For example, you can upload your newsletter subscriber list to Facebook if you want to retarget them with your Facebook ads.

How to create a custom audience on Facebook

If your target audience is simple (for example, everyone aged 20-40 in the Greater London area), you can target them in a couple of clicks when uploading your ad to Facebook.

However, if you want to get a bit more specific, it’s worth creating a custom audience.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Create a custom audience in Ads Manager, which you can return to and use again.
  2. Specify your audience as you create your ad.

For Method 1, follow these steps:

1 – Head into the ‘Audiences’ section of Ads Manager. 

2 – Click ‘Create Audience’.

3 – Facebook will show you three options: Custom Audience, Lookalike Audience, and Saved Audience. 

4 – If you want to create and save a new audience, click on ‘Saved Audience’ and Facebook will give you the option to ‘Create a new saved audience’. 

5 – Facebook will then take you through a number of variables and categories that you can use to select and target a custom audience. These include things like age, gender, location, and language.

6 – To fine-tune your new audience, click on ‘Detailed targeting’.

7 – Facebook will then allow you to define targeting options based on behaviour, interests, and more detailed demographics.

8 – Within each of these categories you will find subcategories. It’s worth digging down and seeing how granular you can get!

9 – You can get yet more detailed by clicking on the ‘Connections’ tab. This will enable you to target (or exclude), for example, friends of people who have used your app.

Method 2 is similar, but the route is a little different:

1 – Start creating your ad in Ads Manager.

2 – Define your ad objective. Depending on the type of business you’re running, Facebook will offer you a few basic objectives. Most commonly, these are ‘Conversion’, ‘Awareness’, and ‘Consideration’.

3 – Facebook uses these categories to decide which ad formats to offer you, and how to offer them. For example, Message-based ads are only available for Consideration ads. It’s a neat way for Facebook to narrow down both its and your options and streamline the ad creation process.

4 – After defining your objective, Facebook will take you through the steps of defining your budget, deciding whether or not to test your ads, and so on.

5 – Following this, Facebook will ask you where you want your ad to be placed – on Facebook’s main platform, on WhatsApp, on Messenger, on Instagram etc.

6 – Once you’ve set your ad placement and so on, Facebook will give you audience targeting options. This works similarly to the above method – the difference being that Facebook will use the parameters and criteria you’ve already set to suggest audiences for you. 

If you’re whipping up a quick promotion and haven’t time to do a deep dive into audience data, Method 2 can be a simple way to reach a reasonably well-targeted audience. However, Method 1 is a bit more comprehensive. Choose whichever method best suits you and your campaign.

Creating a lookalike audience for Facebook ads

Facebook defines a lookalike audience as ‘people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers’.

To create a lookalike audience, you first have to find a ‘source audience’. You create a ‘source audience’ in exactly the same way that you create and save a custom audience. The difference is in the way that you use them.

You can ask Facebook to create a lookalike audience based on any custom ‘source’ audience. For example, if you want to create a lookalike audience and use your page fans as a source audience, Facebook will create an audience that’s similar to your page fans…but doesn’t contain any fans of your page.

How does Facebook do this? It identifies things that your source audience has in common – for example, demographic, location, likes, interests, and so on). It then finds users which share these attributes, and groups them into a lookalike audience.

Lookalike audiences are most useful for cold targeting. It’s not unreasonable to expect that people similar to your current customers will also be interested in your products/services. By identifying and targeting lookalike audiences, you increase your probability of bringing in high-quality leads. 

As a general rule, the smaller your lookalike audience, the closer it will be to your source audience. Larger lookalike audiences may have a wider reach, but the similarity will dilute after a certain point. So, think carefully when setting your lookalike audience size.

Get conversions with perfect content

Marketing to your perfect Facebook audience is one thing – but to really boost your conversions you need to serve your audiences the kind of content they crave.

To not only put your ads in front of the right people, but to make sure that those people convert, you need to get your ad creative just right.

Datasine’s intelligent AI can predict with pinpoint accuracy which ads will perform best with your Facebook ad audiences.