How to Find the Perfect Facebook Audience: Simple Steps to Better Ad Targeting

If your company isn’t already making the most of Facebook marketing, then now’s the time to start.

With around 2 billion users a month all sharing pictures of their cats, tagging their friends in memes, and offering feedback on their favorite brands, Facebook could be the ultimate way to get ahead of your competitors.

The key, of course, is making sure that you use your newly discovered social strategy as a way of connecting with the right customers, at the right times.

Let’s look at the statistics for a moment:

In other words, Facebook is the perfect platform for audience in engagement. But you can’t simply take a spray and pray approach to marketing here. After all, not all of those two billion Facebookers are going to be interested in what you have to say, and writing ads that appeal to all of them will end up wasting a lot of your budget.

Instead, you need to understand who your audience is, and what they’re interested in if you want to get the best results.

The question is, how do you get targeting if you’re new to the world of social media marketing?

Facebook Targeting 101: The Options are Endless

The first thing you need to know about Facebook marketing, is that your targeting options are practically limitless. On Facebook, you naturally get a host of demographics to look at whenever you start pinpointing a specific audience or customer, including age, location, gender, interests, career, and more.

Just some of the most popular options include:

  • Custom audiences: These are people who have visited your website in the past, bought your product, or are already on your email list. You know they’re more likely to buy from you because they’ve already shown some interest in your brand or company.
  • Lookalike audiences: These are people who have a lot in common with the individuals who have already purchased something from your store. For instance, they might have the same job, live in the same location, or share the same hobbies.
  • Life Event/ Interest Targeting: Interest targeting means looking for people in your network that have interests or life events that are related to your product or service. For instance, if you sell skiing equipment, it makes sense to target people who list skiing as one of their hobbies.
  • Purchasing Behavior: Facebook allows you to look at the recent purchasing behavior of its users. That means that you can specifically target audiences who have bought products that are similar to yours, or that would work well in conjunction with whatever you’re selling.
  • Layered Targeting: Layered targeting simply means looking at several different methods at once when trying to find the perfect custom audience. For instance, you might combine purchasing behavior and life events, or custom audiences and interest targeting.

The great thing about using Facebook to expand brand awareness, and boost sales, is that there are no “hard-and-fast” rules to follow. Instead, you can simply mix and match the options available until you find something that works for your company.

Today, we’re going to look at options that you can use to target a Facebook audience if you have a pre-existing customer list, as well as solutions for people who are just getting started, and opportunities for taking your targeting to the next level.

Let’s begin!

Ad Targeting When You Have a Customer List

If you already have a list of potential customers on your email client, or stored away in a logbook somewhere, then you’re in a great position to get started with your social media campaigns. After all, it’s much easier to reach out to people who have already purchased from your brand in the past and say “Hey, remember us, want to follow us on Facebook?”

However, before you start typing the names you find on last year’s invoices into the Facebook search bar, consider using a couple of simpler, and more focused methods instead: Custom, and lookalike audiences.

Nurturing Leads with Custom Audiences

If you’re new to Facebook marketing, don’t panic. “Custom audiences” aren’t as complicated as they might seem. In fact, they’re a lot easier to use than most companies realize.

“Custom audiences” are an advanced Facebook targeting technique that allow you to connect with your existing contacts, through your Facebook business profile. Not only does this help you to reinforce your brand by connecting with customers on their favorite social network, but it also gives you a chance to strengthen relationships for better lifetime customer value, loyalty, and order frequency.

So, how do you build a custom audience?

Well, the first thing you need to do is upload your purchaser/subscriber, or customer list into a text format on Facebook. You can also simply create a custom audience based on the site visitors you’ve already had, or on specific actions that customers have taken while using your app.

Once you’ve pulled your entire list onto the Facebook platform (this should only take a few minutes), you can start refining it. For instance, this might mean removing anyone that asked to be taken off your email subscriber list, or changing your targeting parameters so you can hone in on an audience that’s most likely to engage with you on Facebook.  

Facebook allows you to adjust your targeting settings according to incredibly precise factors, including the amount of money a person makes in a year, or where they might live within a specific ZIP code. That means that if you have a particularly high-value product to offer, you can choose to target audiences that are more likely to spend a little more cash.

You could even think about targeting the people who have already subscribed to your monthly newsletter and asking them to test out one of your new products for you. Not only will this give you some great testimonials to share on social media, but it could help you to start creating some high-value brand advocates for your business too.

Expanding Leads with Lookalike Audiences

So, you’ve added everyone who was already in your customer network to your Facebook following. Now, the next logical step, is to expand that reach to contain people who are similar to your ideal customer.

Facebook “Lookalike” audiences give small and local businesses the chance to boost their available reach by connecting with people who mirror their existing fan base. It’s basically about considering who already likes your company, and then searching for people who share similar features, such as a specific interest, geographical location, and career.

The key is to be as specific as possible with your lookalike audiences if you want to get the best results. If you’re a company selling plumbing to people in the surrounding towns, you don’t want customers half way across the globe eating up the money you spend on ad revenue.

Once you’ve decided which audience you want to expand on or replicate, you can start to make the targeting options broader, or smaller, depending on your needs. Generally, Facebook will be looking to find you the top 1% of customers who share similar traits to your chosen audience member. However, if you optimize for reach, then Facebook will show your ad to about 10% of the people in your target city or country.

Ad Targeting When You’re Starting from Scratch

If you don’t have a pre-existing list of email addresses and phone numbers, then the chances are that you’re going to have a harder time finding the perfect audience. However, that doesn’t mean that targeting the right people on Facebook must be an impossible task.

The simple targeting algorithms available on Facebook allow businesses to create highly niche audiences for their ad campaigns, based on key demographics that they can adjust to suit their ideal buyer persona.

Two of the best ways to get started, is by looking at previous purchasing behavior, and customer interests.

Tapping into Previous Purchasing Behavior

Back when Facebook first launched, it wasn’t exactly a playground for growing companies.

In fact, the social media platform was regularly criticized by advertising analysts as being nothing more than a fun place for teenagers to hang out.

Of course, all of that started to change in 2013, when Facebook started to forge partnerships with data brokers like Datalogiz and Epsilon. Those companies gave the platform access to trillions of different data transactions every year.

Today, Facebook knows a lot more about your average customer than you might think – from what their relationship status is, to whether they’ve started to look for hypertension medication. Ethical worries aside, this huge amount of insight has given advertisers the power to reach out beyond their own databases, and get insights into shopper behavior when they’re trying to find the perfect audience.

When you’re browsing through purchasing behavior, you can even dip into sub categories like buyer profiles, and preferences regarding clothing, drink, food, health, and beauty. This means that you can start targeting the people who are most likely to be interested in your product within seconds.

The opportunities are limitless, because Facebook shows you exactly how many user profiles you can target within any given category.

Finding Audiences Based on Interest

Of course, spying on your customer’s previous purchases isn’t the only way to track the audience that’s right for you. An alternative option is to use the social side of Facebook to start exploring what your clients are interested in.

Facebook has pretty much every option you can think of when it comes to targeting interests and life events. That means that you can choose to track down customers based on whether they’re watching a particular television show, whether they’re thinking of getting married soon, or whether they’re fans of a certain band.

As you can see from the screen cap above, there are numerous ways to start narrowing down your audience based on their interests, their behaviors, and their life events. This is perfect for companies who are just getting started on social media, as it means that you don’t have to simply throw money into an ocean of potential followers and wait to see what happens.

The life events parameter is particularly unique, because it allows you to target people at specific times after a change has been made. For instance, you could target someone with an ad about a year after they’ve gotten married, so you can potentially sell them anniversary presents.

If You Need to Dive a Little Deeper

By this point, you should know the basics of targeting your Facebook audience, but there are options available if you want to continue digging deeper too.

One of the most powerful things to note about Facebook, is that it allows businesses to layer different targeting solutions one on top of the other, to gradually make your audience more specific, the more you learn about your ideal customer.

You can see a particularly extreme example of this in an AdWeek article, where a marketing expert targeted his roommate to such a spookily specific extent that he was convinced he was being stalked.

You don’t have to go quite so far with your layered targeting to get great results, but you can use a combination of different information about behaviors, interests, and demographics to match your audience down to a few thousand people, instead of several million.

This can be particularly useful when you’re launching a specific campaign that’s ideal for one type of audience. For instance, if you’re a local legal company that’s offering a deal where customers in your local area can come in for free divorce information, you can target people who have recently changed their status from married to single, and narrow your focus to your geographical area.

Choosing the Best Facebook Targeting Strategy

As we mentioned towards the beginning of this article, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to Facebook audience targeting. The more you learn about your ideal customers, the more you can narrow down your targeting efforts until you’re only showing your advertisements to the most qualified leads.

However, to help you get started, you can use the five options above to pinpoint customers who are more likely to follow, engage with, and respond to your brand on social media.