by Oliver Brainerd
There comes a moment in every business owner’s career when they cross the line from an individual nursing the vague sense of how odd it is that Facebook always knows what to advertise to you…to making those creepily precisely targeted Facebook ads. You realize pretty fast that there’s a lot less voodoo magic or crystal ball gazing than you’d think.
Facebook Targeting Options
I’m going to be describing a few Facebook targeting options, but first a brief disclaimer: These are some best practices that apply as of this writing. As far as possible, I will talk about Facebook ad targeting strategies with as much long-term usefulness as I can. There are targeting strategies that have worked since the invention of the ad agency in 1786 (yeah, we’re nerds–shut up–you’re a nerd). The underpinnings of targeted advertising don’t change too much, because they’re based on human nature, and that doesn’t change.
However, the tools of advertising do change. The options available to marketing teams and business owners also change.
Facebook’s audience targeting tools evolve frequently. I will go over some of them, but their tools change periodically.
Facebook Audience Insights
Among the most useful tools for developing a long-term advertising strategy is feedback. You can’t always get audience feedback in an active way prior to launching a campaign unless you already have an engaged audience. Fortunately, Facebook gathers a lot of data from accounts interacting with each other.
Audience insights in any app refers to interaction data. Facebook audience insights are particularly useful. The people over at Meta are constantly tweaking and improving their audience analysis tools. As of this writing, the basic categories of user data you can review through the insights of your business page include:
- Location (straightforward)
- Behavior (what do they buy and where do they shop for it)
- Demographics (age, gender, income, etc.)
- Connections (who they know, what pages they follow, the groups they belong to)
- Interests (what they like)
Within these targeting categories, Facebook audience insights creates ever-increasing degrees of granularity.
The Good News and the Bad News
The good news is that the targeting tools available through Facebook advertising are so targeted, that it’s possible to create advertisements so specific it might make your head spin. If you want to talk to only single, female, 32-34-year-olds, interested in newspapers and birdwatching, living in the Spokane region, it’s possible to create an ad campaign that’s precisely targeted.
The bad news is actually similar. Because if it is possible to target your ads that precisely, then how do you know if you need to target your ads that precisely?
The answer to the question has two answers driven by two schools of thought. Both are good answers, and both come with their own problems and strategy.
The old-school way of thinking about demographic targeting creates abstract rules for a kind of audience. It talks a lot about income levels–age–education level–marital status. Determining audience demographics this way isn’t so bad. The most basic technique to do it is to analyze your product or service, decide who buys it, and then use Facebook targeting options and audience targeting tools to define an audience with the demographic details.
It’s a fine way of determining audience demographics, and it’s a fine way of determining ad spend priorities.
But it’s not what all the cool kids are doing.
Facebook Targeting Changes
The cool kids say that if it is possible to use Facebook audience targeting tools to create an audience of all the single, female, 32-34-year-olds interested in newspapers and birdwatching, living in the Spokane area, then that is the audience you should define for your ad spend.
I mean, not THAT audience, unless you’re doing business producing field glasses and reporting in Washington state, mainly for forty-somethings, and you’d like to expand into a younger demographic. In that specific case, I’ve given you a specific audience that would work great for your Facebook targeting options.
Because of the Facebook targeting changes that have evolved over the years, audience targeting has grown into a far more precise craft. Demographic information in an audience definition still matters. However, evolved audience targeting tools create evolved options in targeting.
When defining the audience for advertising, the cool kids talk about avatars. Or buyer personas, or marketing personas, or customer profiles. It’s a new technique. You’ll see lots of names for it. The terms all refer to the same thing: an ideal customer. Facebook targeting changes have created precise enough audience targeting tools to create ad campaigns directed at individual people, more or less.
So That’s What the Cool Kids are Doing
Marketing teams come up with customer avatars to define Facebook targeting options. It’s an exercise in fiction writing. You come up with a character in the form of your ideal customer, define them as much as you can–background, interests, hangouts, friends, etc.–and design ad campaigns to appear in that fictional person’s Facebook feed. Usually, you need more than one. How many depends on your industry, but usually testing three avatars is enough.
Sometimes people base their buyer personas on real people. That’s not a bad strategy. If you already have a few superstar customers, then you already know of a few customer profiles who love what you’re doing. Defining Facebook targeting options to talk to them could work pretty well, since there are probably plenty of people like them around who don’t know about you yet.
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