The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Targeting

The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Targeting

March 27, 2014

Remember that time you were super excited to take advantage of Facebook’s uber precise ad targeting options, then quickly realized that, for better or for worse, there were more targeting options than you had friends on Facebook? Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but for those just getting started, Facebook’s targeting arsenal can seem a bit overwhelming.

Thankfully, Facebook has recently simplified its targeting options down from eight distinct targeting types to four “Core Audiences”. These are:

  • Demographics
  • Locations
  • Interests
  • Behaviors

You’re probably thinking, “no broad categories or precise interests?” And “where are Partner Categories?” Don’t worry – all the ones you need are still there, just with slightly different monikers.

We’ll walk through each of the four freshly organized categories (trust us, the new organization is definitely easier to navigate), highlighting what capabilities fall under each category, how they differ from the previous structure, and how and when they are best used for various campaign objectives.


You’ve created your ad and chosen your campaign objective, now it’s time to find the audience that will be most receptive to your add. Start by targeting your ads to a broad group of people by filtering by Age, Gender, and Language then narrowing this number down as you learn over time which audience responds best to your ads.

Age targeting lets advertisers deliver ads to any user over 13 years of age – Facebook’s minimum for sign up. Ads can be targeted to people by exact age, or age range. Note that you’ll need to set up multiple campaigns if you wish to target an ad to more than one age range.

Advertisers can also reach people who have birthdays in the coming week. To utilize this option: go to More Categories, Events, and select Has birthday in 1 week.

Gender is classified as men, women, or all. Targeting “all” is a good catch-all, but for best results, we recommend tailoring a campaign to men or women.

Language designation on Facebook provides advertisers with about 100 language options.  The highest used languages are:  English, Spanish, Turkish, French, Indonesian, Italian, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Arabic. For smaller brands, targeting by language will not be a consideration, however, for larger companies, this is standard practice.  An advertiser can also target fan posts by language. For bilingual advertisers, targeting these individual posts to different language communities will extend your audience.

More demographics includes targeting by Relationship Status, Education Level, Major, School, Undergrad Years, Workplaces, Politics, Job Titles, Markets, and the ever important Life Events option.

Combining one or more of these targets like “home owner” AND “college educated” with a pertinent life event like “recently moved” will yield fruitful target options if a business – like an upscale home furnishings store – is looking to advertise to people in the market for new furniture. Education and workplace options are best used by recruiters or businesses frequented by college students or recent college graduates in a specific area.


Advertisers can narrow audiences by country, city, state and zip codes using Location targeting.

With Core Audiences, Facebook has updated their location logic to target one location OR another instead of one location AND another. Currently, an advertiser must select a country then exclude all areas that they do not want to target. For example, to target people in CA, one would target all of the US then specify they do not want to target people in the other 49 states. The switch to OR logic eliminates this tedious task and enables advertisers to select the exact area they wish to reach, such as Philadelphia OR Wyoming OR 90210.

Businesses that find their customers respond to ads differently based on their demographic area, or businesses running city-specific promotions will find value in targeting by location. This is especially true for small businesses whose user-base is generally secluded to a specific region. Keep in mind that the price to reach an audience goes up with each level of location specificity. In other words, it is more expensive to serve an ad to 100 people in San Francisco than 100 people in the US.


Interests targeting lets advertisers target individuals based on their Facebook activity. Topic, keyword and broad categories now all fall under this option.

Interests are deduced from the content an individual has included in their Timeline, liked pages, apps downloaded, and other information included in the Interests, Activities, Favorite Music, Movies and TV Shows sections of their profile. Choosing topics that are narrow in scope will reach a smaller, more targeted audience that may resonate more with your brand or campaign. Facebook will also suggest interests or topics similar to those you’ve searched for or selected to help you further narrow your audience. It also features a more intuitive “AND” style of targeting that puts interests together instead of targeting them separately.

For instance, under the old system if you selected the interests: “Moms” “Yoga” “Pilates” “Yoga Mats,” the audience constructed would be people who are: Moms OR Interested in Yoga OR Interested in Pilates OR Interested in Yoga Mats. There would also be overlap between interests and keywords and topics – each with their own set of targeting rules.

The new Interests section combines all these same keywords and topics – “Moms” “Yoga” “Pilates” and “Yoga Mats” – to deliver an audience of: “Moms who are interested in Yoga AND Pilates AND Yoga Mats,” making it easier than ever to target exactly who you want.


Behaviors is a brand new targeting option created by designating certain segments in the Interests and Broad Categories sections as a better metric for measuring behavior or propensity to do something. Topics include travel behavior (business/pleasure), mobile device use (Android/iOS), and Partner Categories based on people’s third-party data, like shopping habits and recent purchases or gaming habits.

This should get you started as you venture into the world of creating targeted ads on Facebook. Facebook’s targeting options extend beyond demographics, locations, interests, and behaviors to enable even more precise targeting with Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences – but that’s for another post.

Have any questions about what we discussed above? Tweet us your questions @ampush and be sure to subscribe to the blog for weekly updates on the latest Facebook news and best practices.