Brian Aubert

Brian Aubert

Senior Assistant Vice President, Strategic Capabilities

Finding Your Audience with Facebook's Targeting

Brian Aubert

Nov 15, 2018

Much has been made of Facebook’s recent data security woes, and in response they have restricted their much-lauded targeting capabilities. So, what targeting capabilities are available today?

Custom Audiences

Facebook has been the most aggressive social platform in offering ways for advertisers to target people more narrowly, on a more one-to-one basis. If you have a list of people you want to reach (say, a list of emails), Facebook lets you upload that list of people with emails and phone numbers. Then, Facebook tries to see if it can find those people among its users. Typically, Facebook can identify 50-60% of those people (referred to as the match rate).

Custom Audiences is only for paid ads right now, but it extends across Facebook, Instagram and syndication partners. We’ve used Custom Audiences for paid ads at Ohio State a few times, from trying to recruit prospective students to asking for donations. It’s a great option for executing media and creative tests (test vs. control) — splitting a list is the same method used in email. Custom Audiences also presents the opportunity for integrated marketing efforts when you want to extend your targeted outreach (e.g., show Facebook ads to the same lists used in email and direct mail).

Organic Targeting

Facebook offers an “audience optimization” option when posting organically that helps “target your posts to specific segments of your page's audience based on their interests.” Note, this does not restrict others from seeing your post, but people who have these interests will be more likely to see your content. We are experimenting currently with organic targeting, but the functionality isn’t supported by Hootsuite (our publishing tool), so the setup is very manual. We don’t have conclusive learnings at this point.

  1. Clara Bloomfield, MD, and Leukemia Research:
    • Shared with: Public
    • News Feed Audience - Interests: Medical research, Clinical trial, Medical school, Doctorate or Public health
  2. Apply step by step:
  • Shared with: Public
  • News Feed Audience - Interests: College, High school, Higher education, Higher education in the United States, Student, Graduation or Scholarship

With organic posts, you also can apply limited restrictions (geography, gender and age) to an audience when posting. For example, we might use it with a financial wellness article personalized for prospective/current students vs. parents. 

More to read:

Other Targeting with Paid Ads

Hey, if you pony up a few dollars, Facebook will give you more capabilities for reaching the right people. We covered standard Custom Audiences, but here are additional types of custom audiences you can utilize:

  1. Website Custom Audiences
    If you place a Facebook Pixel on a website, you can then build an audience of website visitors and reach them on Facebook with ads. A website visitor can stay in your audience up to 180 days. Think web retargeting.
  2. App Activity Custom Audiences
    Like web retargeting, you can build audiences based on actions they take on your app.  
  3. Engagement Custom Audiences
    You can create audiences from people who interact with your ads or your profile page — the same thinking as web and app retargeting but with Facebook interactions. It’s an interesting opportunity for content marketing. If someone consistently interacts with you, could you ask them to take a different action, such as attending an event or giving to a cause.
  4. Lookalike Audiences
    If you’re using Custom Audiences and you want to reach even more people, you can build a “Lookalike Audience.” Facebook will mine self-reported data and on-platform behavior of your Custom Audience and then look for people who have similar traits or behaviors. These new people should “look like” your current audience.

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