Facebook Targeting Options to Focus Your Spend

If you are looking for cost-effective ways to reach large audiences, Facebook is one of the primary advertising channels to consider.

As of 2016, there were over 4 million active advertisers using the platform and with good cause. According to a recent report, the average Facebook user spends 50 minutes of their day on the platform. To put that in perspective, it is almost as much time as we spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours) and nearly triple how much time we spend reading (19 minutes). Facebook reports that its ad reach and targeting is 89% accurate, in comparison to the average online reach of other digital ads at 38%.

Knowing the right targeting options to use for your ad campaigns is critical. Otherwise, you will be pouring funds into messages that are likely not reaching the people that you want to attract to your business.

It doesn’t matter how well-written, planned or designed your content and ad messages are if they aren’t reaching the right audiences. In order to see tangible results, in the form of leads, traffic or sales, you need to connect relevant ads to the people that are most likely to act.

At 10twelve, we’ve worked with a number of clients on targeting messages on Facebook in ways that increased the effectiveness of their campaigns and translated to increased sales, visitors and interest. To increase the reach and effectiveness of your Facebook campaigns, you need to know these targeting options. 

Facebook Audiences

There are two primary targeting settings that advertisers and businesses should know: choosing your audiences and choosing your audience characteristics. There are three audience options:

●      Core Audiences - You can build your audience manually based on characteristics like age, interests, location, gender and other key demographics. If you are trying to reach a new audience or haven’t built up a large customer base yet, you’ll likely start with this option.

●      Custom Audiences - This allows you to target your ads to specific people by uploading your contact list. Most often, your contact list will be of existing customers or subscribers, and messages may be to continue engagement or encourage repeat sales.

●      Lookalike Audiences - If you already have a defined customer base and want to build it, you may want to try lookalike audiences, a subset of customer audiences. This setting allows you to target people that are similar to your existing customers using their information.

Once you’ve set up your audiences, you can reuse them for each campaign be selecting “Saved Audiences” from the options. You can always create new audiences if your targeting parameters change.

Custom audiences have a huge targeting beyond just targeting the contacts that you have. In fact, you don’t necessarily need a contact list to use custom audiences. Have you ever noticed that Facebook somehow knows almost exactly what you have been browsing on the Internet? After looking up supplies for your Game of Thrones release party on ThinkGeek or for some new gym wear on Nike, have you noticed your Facebook feed is flooded with hyper-specific ads from the same places you visited minutes ago?

It isn’t social media sorcery. It is Facebook pixel, an option that links your website visits to Facebook ad targeting. The pixel is relatively easy to install on your site and it can be used to capture customer data and cross reference it to Facebook user information.

Customer Characteristics

If you want to target your messages effectively, you need to know your audience thoroughly. This is true no matter what channel you are using to connect with customers. On Facebook, it is critical because there are so many characteristics to choose from. There are four primary categories you should know:


The list of demographics you can choose from is extensive. The main ones to consider are:

● Age

● Gender

● Education

● Workplace

● Relationship status

● Profession or industry

● Job title

● Language

You’ll often use several demographic options to target your message, depending on your company and ad goals. If you are a company targeting Millennial aged women that work in mid-level finance, you’ll use age, gender, education and potentially job title and workplace to target.


Targeting your messages by location is one of the most important and effective tactics, especially if you are a local business. Restaurants, beauty salons, and other businesses that operate in a specific geographical area should always consider location in their targeting.

You can target people by country, state, city, or zipcode. If your business is global, you can set it to “worldwide” or to a specific region such as “North America” or “Europe”. You can also target based on people that live in the area or who have recently visited.


No one loves to view ads, but they are more open and likely to engage with messages and stories that are relevant, personalized and interesting to them. It is important to tailor your messages to your audience. You can choose interests based on Facebook users likes, other pages they follow, hobbies, and more.


Behavior targeting can be a highly effective way to reach specific groups. You can narrow your options to target by digital activities, mobile device usage and even the browser they use.

Another option is to target based on connections, people that have some relationship to your page. Those connections could be that they are friends with your customers. They could also be people that have commented, like or engaged with your page or event. 

Note that you can mix and match your targeting options, but as you do, your reach will become more narrow. Also, keep mobile in mind when you consider your ad options. Mobile advertising accounts for a large chunk of overall ad dollars, and over half (57%) on Facebook.

Advertisers and businesses of all sizes aren’t just attracted to Facebook because of its 1.86 billion active user base, the targeting options and ad capabilities are immense. There are so many possible options to target the audiences you’re looking for that it can be overwhelming.

You can narrow your targeting to be as specific as single women between the ages of 35 and 40 that live within 50 miles of your business, that have seen Hamilton and are fans of Harry Potter and belly dancing. However, just because you can finely target your audience to that degree, it doesn’t mean that you should. How many belly dancing, Quidditch loving women within 50 miles are there? There may be a few, but our guess is not many.

The more defined your targeting, the fewer people your messages will reach. However, when targeting is managed effectively, you can increase the ROI of your ads because they will reach the most relevant audience possible. The key is knowing the right balance. When you set targeting options, Facebook will estimate how many people your messages will reach. Make sure the number is one that aligns with your goals.

Facebook targeting can increase the reach and effectiveness of your campaigns, but as you may have noticed, it can be quickly overwhelming. With hundreds of options, it can be difficult to know which is right for your business. Need guidance on your next social media marketing campaign? Reach out to 10twelve