Without its ad targeting options, Facebook would be the 21st-century version of a billboard. Businesses would create ads hoping to capture attention from a few of the 1.8 billion users driving by a post on user News Feeds.
But of course, that’s not the case. Facebook offers the most detailed targeting options of any advertising platform, which explains the company’s $40 billion revenue in 2015. Facebook can target users based not only on pages they “Like” but also by what they implicitly like as they browse the web, logged into their accounts.
When completing the “detailed targeting” section of a Facebook ad, you can type in ideas and see what pops up. Or you can choose “browse” to see dozens of preset audiences developed from Facebook’s sources of information, including third-party data.
Browse by demographics (income, household composition, political views), interests (business industries, athletic activities, favorite foods), or behaviors (travel habits, spending choices, charitable donations).
Here’s a look at eight Facebook targeting options with precision that extends far beyond basic demographics.
1. Where they are—literally
Choosing a major metropolitan area for a location doesn’t make your Facebook ad much different than a TV commercial: Type in “Phoenix, Arizona,” and your audience has been narrowed to 2.8 million people. Entering a zip code or an address makes your audience far more precise, especially for local businesses with physical locations.
By default, Facebook targets everyone in the location you choose. But you can also specify people who live in that location, people recently in the location, or people traveling in this location (reaching users whose home is more than 125 miles away).
For example, we can target 43,000 people within a 1-mile radius of the Keap office. A restaurant might choose “people recently in this location” for an ad enticing office workers to stop in for lunch. Meanwhile, a hotel could choose “people traveling in this location” to target its future guests.
2. What their house is like
Businesses in the home services industry can get even more specific about where their potential customers live. The Home section includes targets for homeownership (renters, first-time home buyers), home type (home size, home value), and household composition (family-based households, housemate-based households).
Meanwhile, Residential Profiles, another section listed under Behaviors, includes targets like length of residence, “likely to move,” and recent mortgage borrower.
Using these targeting options, a real estate agent can aim an ad about buying a bigger house to new parents living in a condo or appeal to empty-nesters with an ad about downsizing into a smaller place.
3. Where home (and the heart) is
Even if you don’t post a play-by-play of your life on Facebook, your profile probably includes basic information like your hometown and your current city. Put the two together, and you’ll get a Facebook targeting option: “away from hometown”—a group that a travel-oriented company could target with ads about heading home for the holidays, for example.
Most people also list their significant others and family members on Facebook, allowing advertisers to target users who are away from their families or in a long-distance relationship.
Facebook also knows who has recently moved, something that might be helpful for an interior designer offering home decor services or dentists advertising a new patient special.
4. Where they work
Yes, LinkedIn is the professional social networking site, but don’t forget that you probably told Facebook where you work, too. Facebook allows advertisers to target people in industries, in types of offices, even by their specific employers and job titles. In addition to a Work section under Demographics, Facebook also lists industries under Interests and B2B and job roles under Behaviors.
If you’re targeting customers in a certain industry or at a certain seniority level, you might advertise on Facebook instead of LinkedIn—chances are that your audience spends more time on Facebook, anyway.
5. What they’ve bought in the past
If you sell used home decor, wouldn’t it be nice not to target people shopping for expensive furniture? Actually, you can. “Low-end home decor” (and “high-end home decor”) are among the many targeting options under Purchase Types, which includes everything from shoes to software to “senior products.”
Other targeting options include Buyer Profiles (coupon users, DIYers, spa enthusiasts) and Purchase Habits (above-average spending, offline buyers, online buyers).
6. When the big day is
Facebook might remember the special occasions in your life before you do. Targeting users who have an upcoming birthday or an anniversary within 30 days, businesses can advertise ideas for gifts and special experiences. The same is true for others celebrating those occasions: Facebook also allows for targeting friends of people who are newly engaged or about to celebrate a birthday.
7. What kind of parent they are
Not only does Facebook identify parents by the ages of their children—from expectant parents to those with preschoolers to parents of adult children—it also offers a number of persona-based targeting options for moms. A company that makes eco-friendly baby goods can target “green moms,” while a fitness studio offering childcare services can advertise to “fit moms.”
8. What they do online
Above all, Facebook knows what you do on Facebook. Under Digital Activities, advertisers can target people who serve as a Facebook page administrator, use Facebook Payments, and create Facebook events—targets that might be useful if you’re a social media or marketing consultant, for example.
Other options in this category are as narrow as people who gamed yesterday and as wide as small business owners, technology early adopters, and Gmail users.
These are just eight of thousands of Facebook targeting options available to advertisers through both the preset targeting options and the suggestions Facebook presents when you begin typing an idea. In theory, you could select options so detailed that you target only...yourself.
But Facebook won’t allow ads to be shown to an audience of fewer than 1,000 people, so advertisers need to experiment to find targets that are just specific enough to reach their ideal customers.
To learn more about identifying your target audience on Facebook and running ads that help you grow sales, check out The Ultimate Guide to Capturing and Converting Facebook Leads.