Targeting: Understanding Facebook Ad Targeting And How It Works

Facebook ad targeting

Facebook ads targeting is very important when structuring ads because it can affect your ad campaign positively or negatively.

The major reason why you run ad campaigns is for people to buy your product or use your services.

But what happens when people are responding to your ad on Facebook?  

Your cost per results increases and you won’t get the desired result you want, even when you get your desired result, it will be at a higher cost.

This is due to wrong targeting, you’ve targeted people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

But when you target people who are interested in buying your products and services, your cost per result decreases thus, you will get people interested in what you offer at a lower cost.

This is because your ad resonates well with them; therefore they respond to it.

Facebook offers three (3) types of audience targeting options that you can use.

But before you can use these targeting tools you must understand how they work and define who your ideal customers are,  in order to structure an effective targeting that will drive sales.

So, in this article, i will be explaining the three (3) targeting tools on Facebook and how you can use it to structure an effective targeting for your advertising campaign.

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To learn how to define your ideal customers you can read this article What Is A Customer Avatar | How To Create A Customer Avatar

Facebook ad targeting tools

People are increasingly interacting with businesses online, and these interactions are taking place across a wider range of devices each year.

For example, if a person needs new shoes, they may visit the website of a company whose shoes they like and go through the website for more information.

They may even visit a physical store to see how certain items fit before making a purchase on the website or at the physical store.

These interaction generates an intent signal, which indicates where the buyer is in their purchasing process.

These signals are used by Facebook targeting tools to help you reach people in your audience at various phases and customize your adverts to them.

You’ll need data sources like the Facebook pixel, SDK, or Offline Conversions tool to use these products properly.

To advertise to large groups of people, you can use typical audience criteria like age, interest, behavior, or location.

However, it’s essential to understand the capabilities and limitations of Facebook ad targeting tools so that you can plan to take advantage of every opportunity.

Facebook ad targeting tool is a very powerful tool if used well and targeting occurs at the ad set level in ads manager, but if you are boosting a post directly from your page, you can define your audience on that page.

Types of Facebook ad targeting tool

The competition for attention has become more intense as the digital space becomes more crowded with advertising.

As a result, it has never been more critical for brands and businesses to interact with customers in a direct and personal manner.

Both businesses and individuals benefit from personalization.

Customers want content that is specifically tailored to their preferences, and brands want to connect with customers in a more meaningful way.

Therefore Facebook offers three (3) major ad targeting options with lots of features which you can use to define your target audience.

Core Audience (Saved Audience)

The core audience is the default targeting option on Facebook, it allows you to target or create an audience based on demographics, behaviors, interests, location, and connections.

You can reach people based on the information they share on Facebook.

This type of audience is suitable for businesses that just started advertising on Facebook or businesses that want to source for a new audience.


with this option, you can target people based on one or more countries, counties/regions/states, cities, postal codes, designated market areas etc.

You can also choose to include or exclude people you want to show your ads to.

You also have the option to choose people living in or recently in this location, people recent in this location, people living in this location, and people traveling in this location.

Age, Gender and Language

Age: You can select the age range of people you think will find your ad relevant.

Gender: You can choose to show your ad to either men or women or you can select all to show your ads to both men and women.

Language: Enter a language if you want to show your ads to people who use a language that isn’t common to your location; if not leave it blank.

Demographics based targeting

Demographics allows you to target and reach people based on particular traits such as education, Financial (income) employment (work), relationship status, and life events and you can determine if your target group is represented by parents of children of specific age

Each option offers features that you can use to define the demographics of your audience.

Interest-based targeting

This targeting option allows you to target people based on specific interests and hobbies such as activities, the pages they’ve liked, and closely related topics.

You can reach people based on business and industry, entertainment, Family and relationships, fitness and wellness, food and drinks, hobbies and activities, shopping and fashion, sport and outdoors, and technology.


Each option offers features that you can use to define your audience based.

Behavior-based targeting

This targeting option helps you reach people based on their purchase habits, device usage, and other activities.

You can reach people based on different behavior options such as anniversary, consumer classification, digital activities, Ex-pats, mobile device user, purchase behavior etc.

Each option offers features that you can use to define your target audience.


You can use this option to reach people who have a specific kind of connection to your page, app, or event.

You can also use this option to narrow the audience to include people with a specific connection you choose who also meet the other targeting options.


When using a core audience to structure your targeting; you can always type in your own suggestion to find the most suitable options to define your audience.

Custom audience

This targeting option helps you target people who have previously shown interest in your product or service, such as those people who looked at a product on your website but didn’t buy or target people based on the information you already have.

Custom audience, unlike core audience which only allows you to use information people share with Facebook, allow you to securely protect the information you share and combine it with similarly confidential information on Facebook.

Custom Audiences can help you use the information you already have about your customers to target them on Facebook and Instagram across various devices while maintaining audience privacy.

This method allows you to reach out to current clients on Facebook and Instagram while maintaining their privacy.

Custom Audiences allows you to leverage a variety of data sources which includes websites containing a pixel, customer lists, app activity (SDK), and offline activity are all examples of data sources (which includes engagement in-store and over the phone).

Facebook system can show your adverts to people who have demonstrated a specified level of interest or desire to buy your products or services using these sources.

Custom audience can help you achieve a wide range of business goals such as Customer acquisition, retention, and re-engagement.

For the best result use high-quality data sources that are relevant to your goal.

High-quality data can help you raise the total number of persons in your Custom Audience who are matched.

There are two types of source on Facebook that you can used to create custom audience and these source include:

Custom audience from your source

To develop Custom Audiences, you can leverage on your CRM database, POS data, or email lists.

Use your website to communicate with current customers and others who have expressed an interest in your company.

People’s engagements with your apps or games reflect how engaged they are with your mobile activities.

Find people who are interested in your company offline, such as in your store or over the phone.

With custom audience from you source you can complement e-mail campaigns and target ads to people who don’t check their inboxes on a regular basis.

It can also be used to boost and strengthen a CRM message across social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

To measure the strength of your customer intent, you can use the pixel and SDK to focus on demonstrated purchase intent, such as frequency, recency, or time spent. 

People can then be targeted with ads based on their specific actions.

For practical steps on how to create custom audience from your website through pixel or a custom audience from your customer list or offline activities register for our 90% digital marketing course

Custom audience from Facebook source

You can create a custom audience from Facebook source  such as video

Video: You can create an audience of people who watched one of your videos on Facebook on Instagram.

Lead Form: You can create an audience of people who have opened your instant experience on Facebook or Instagram

Instant Experience: You can create an audience of people who opened your instant experience on Facebook.

Shopping: You can create an audience of people who interacted with your products in a shopping experience on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram account: You can create a custom audience of people who visited or interacted with your Instagram profile, posts, or ads. You will need a professional account which can either be a business or creator account.

Events: You can create a custom audience of  people who have interacted with one of your events on Facebook.

Facebook page: You can create a custom audience of people who have interacted with one of your events on Facebook

Lookalike audience

You can use this targeting option to target new people who lookalike your present audience or customers with advertisements.

It helps you market your product and services to people who have similar traits to those who have expressed interest in your product and services.

You can only create lookalike audience from a custom audience.

For example; imagine you are the owner of a store that sells women clothing and accessories and you primarily operates online.

Recently, you created and use a custom audience to retarget people who expressed interest in your product and services or have made purchases in the past on your website.

Now you want to attract new customers who don’t know about your product and services but you don’t know how to go about it.

But with a lookalike audience you can target new audiences who have similar characteristics with your existing customers.

This is because lookalike audience can help you find people who share  demographics and behaviors with your current customers and deliver ads to them.

To do this, you will need a source audience

The source of the audience you select for you lookalike audience informs Facebook on which qualities to match.

Also, the audience size you choose in the creation process tells Facebook how closely the lookalike audience will match your source audience.

To do this, Facebook provides a scale from 1-10, which corresponds to the percentage you want Facebook to match with your seed audience.

Facebook usually recommend that you use a source audience between 1,000 and 50,000 people and the quality of the source audience is important.

A source audience is also know as a seed audience, this is where you derive your lookalike audience.


Targeting issues you should avoid

Effective targeting can increase your conversion while advertising on Facebook while lowering your cost per conversion.

But poor  targeting can lead to a lot of targeting issues, which can result to audience fatigue (show your ads multiple times to person).

Research your audience

Before you can decide which audience you want to show your ad to on Facebook, you must conduct thorough research to identify people who might be interested in purchasing your product or using your service.

Because if your ads are shown to the wrong people, there is no way they will be interested in your product or service, this will result in a higher cost.

People within your target audience will see your ad but they won’t take the desire action you want them to take.

Avoid audience overlap

This is the percentage of people who fall into both of the audiences you’ve targeted with your ads.

Overlap isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be if you use both audiences at the same time.

It can also be problematic if the percentage of overlap and the budgets of the overlapping ad sets are sufficiently large.

To prevent audience overlap,  you can use the Facebook overlap tools.

After creating your audience you can check if your audiences are overlapping with each other

Use of audience exclusion

Customers who don’t need to hear your message may be excluded from your audience.

With Custom Audiences created from a customer list, you can, for example, exclude current customers from your CRM database.

You can created a custom audience of people who have visited your website and interacted with your Facebook or Instagram page.

When you employ a Custom Audience from your website, Facebook source or mobile app you can base the exclusion on a certain activity, such as a purchase or any other activities people must have taken when they visited your website, Facebook page or mobile app.


Targeting is one of the most important part of creating an ad on Facebook.

 When your targeting is done right you start getting your desired results at a very lower cost because people you’ve target properly and people in your target audience are responding well to your ad.

For more detailed practical steps on how to use Facebook targeting tool effective register for our 90% digital marketing course and get strategies you can start implementing to grow a highly successful business online.

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