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Best Audiences To Target With Facebook Ads (and when)

Best audiences to target with Facebook AdsI want to let you in on a secret…

Not all audiences are the same when it comes to Facebook Advertising.

If you want to achieve success with your Facebook Ads, then you need to know which are the best audiences to target with Facebook Ads and when to use each.

Which Are The Best Audiences To Target With Facebook Ads

Facebook allows you to target (and/or exclude) your ads to people based on various factors including:

  • Connections – Allowing you to target your ads based on whether or not people are connected with your Facebook Page, App or Event or a combination of any of these connections.
  • Saved Groups – Allowing you to target your ads to people based on demographics, location, languages, interests, behaviours and broad category groups, such as Pages they like, schools they have attended, education level, employers, job Titles, fields of study, etc.
  • Website Traffic – Allowing you to create a custom audience of people who have visited your website that you can re-target your ads to. This can be all traffic, specific pages or combinations of pages by including and/or excluding particular pages on your website. You need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website to be able to achieve this. Whilst you can create these custom audiences based on how recently they visited your website, you can only track your website visitors for a maximum of 180 days.
  • Customer File – Allowing you to upload your data (e.g. emails, phone number, Facebook User ID’s or mobile advertiser ID’s) and match that data against Facebook User data to create a custom audience to target your ads to.
  • Engagement on Facebook – Allowing you to create a custom audience of people based on the engagement people have taken with your content on Facebook (e.g. percentage of video viewed).
  • Lookalike Audiences – Allowing you to create lookalike audiences that has similar characteristics to any of your custom audiences, conversion tracking pixels or people who Like your Page.

To achieve the best results possible for your Facebook Ads, you need to make sure that your ads are relevant.

You need to get the right ads in front of the right people, in the right place at the right time.

The most important part of this equation is your audience targeting.

The ideal audience targeting is going to depend upon what your objective and offer is and where people are in your sales funnel.

So let's look at each of the audience targeting options available and when they might be most useful to use.

Connections

If someone has Liked your Page, App or Event, then they have indicated that they have some level of interest in your business, making them (in theory) a warm audience.

However, the effectiveness of your connections as an audience to target is going to depend upon a few things, such as:

  • How long ago they performed this action
  • How much they have engaged with your business since

And there is always the question of “how targeted where you when you built these audiences?” For example, if you purchased Page Likes from some dodgy 3rd party service or if you ran some poorly targeted Facebook Page Like Ads or a fan-gatted competition (back when you could do that) to win a random prize that had nothing to do with your business, then the effectiveness of this audience is going to be questionable.

If they Liked your Page a few years back and haven't engaged with your content for some time, then there is a good chance that your content is not showing up in their news feed anymore, making them a relatively cold audience to target.

However, assuming you built a targeted audience on your Page and that you have at least a fairly engaged (warm) audience, then your Page Like audience is going to be a good audience for boosting your content to, as we all know that Facebook's organic reach is not what it used to be. Boosting content to this audience is a great way to circumnavigate Facebook's algorithm and get your content seen by more of your Fans.

However, as there is no way to directly segment your connections further by way of how recently they connected with you (at least not at this point in time), then if the only relationship these people have with your business is that they Like your Page (i.e. they haven't visited your website or subscribed to you via email, etc), then this is probably not your best audience when it comes to promoting purchases.

Your App audience is only going to be effective if you generate a lot of traffic to your Facebook Apps, that's if you use them at all, and let's face it – most don't! So if that's the case, don't even bother using that audience.

And your Event audience is going to be a useful one if you have managed to get a lot of Event RSVP's on Facebook and you are looking to run a similar event again in the future.

Choosing to include or exclude connections can be a useful additional layer to your audience targeting. For example, “Friends of people who Like your Page” can be a good option to choose when the audience is too large and you need a way to reduce it significantly and you don't want to narrow your demographics, interests, behaviours or broad category groups further. This is particularly useful when running a Page Like campaign, as the people you are targeting will be able to see that they have friends that Like your Page, adding a layer of social proof to your ads.

Saved Groups

Targeting people based on demographics, interests, behaviours, broad categories and other data people have shared with Facebook is a great way to find your ideal customers when you are starting out in your business or online marketing activities and don't have many fans, subscribers or website traffic.

BUT (and it's a big but for a reason), the way Facebook determines whether or not someone fits into the categories you select in your targeting is extremely vague.

For example, when you select an “Interest” with the exact Page name of a competitor, you may think that you are only targeting people who Like that page (which used to be how it worked). BUT what you are actually targeting is “People who have expressed an interest in or Like Pages related to (whatever words you typed in)”.

There could be some other random Page with the same name that you are targeting or it could be someone who tagged the Page you think you are targeting because they were posting a rant about how much they hate the industry that Page (and yours) operates in or they could Like that Page because of a product or service that your business doesn't offer or it could be something else altogether that has no relevance as to whether or not that person might be interested in your business.

Saved groups are cold audiences. They don't know who you are and as a result of that, they are less likely to respond to your Facebook Ads than some of the warmer audience options you have available to you.

Saved groups are great for starting out, but they are not the best option as you start to build your own audiences.

Having said that, they can always be useful as a way of narrowing your audiences, as you can exclude people based on demographics, interests, behaviours and broad categories to ensure that any audiences you develop don't contain those people that you know are not your ideal customers.

Website Traffic

People come to your website from a variety of sources. It may be Google, Facebook, other social media platforms, a link in an email you sent, a sign they saw promoting your website URL or any other number of ways.

Regardless, they usually came for a reason.

Usually it's because they had a problem that they felt you would be able to solve.

By installing the Facebook Pixel on your website, you are able to track those people who have visited your website in general, specific pages on your website or specific combinations of pages and then re-target your Facebook Ads to those people as appropriate.

You can also track people based on how recently they performed those actions.

This is really powerful stuff!

The more recently people visited your website, the longer they stayed on your website and the more pages they visited whilst there, then the warmer the audience they will be. Which pages they visited is also going to determine how hot they are, as relevant to what you are looking to promote in your Facebook Ads.

That's where the page combinations come into effect.

For example:

  • If you are sharing content on a particular topic, then you can target people who have read pages on your website with related content.
  • If you are promoting a product or service for sale, then you can target your Facebook Ads to people who have visited relevant pages on your website to that particular product or service within the past 1, 3, 7 days or any other duration (up to 180 days) you feel optimal for securing the sale.
  • If you want to help people make a purchasing decision, then you can re-target people who have landed on your sales page, but not the thank-you for purchasing page, and re-target Facebook Ads to them with a blog post that identifies and explains away the main objections people would have to purchasing your product or service. Just make sure that you include links within that post that would send them back to your sales page to convert.

Customer File

Most established businesses have (or at least should have) some sort of customer database.

That database may include both customers and prospect details, including emails and phone numbers, which you can upload to Facebook and use to create custom audiences to target your Facebook Ads to.

When doing so, you should be segmenting this data and uploading multiple lists to be used as appropriate for your different Ads.

As a bare minimum you will want a “customers” and “prospects” list, but segmenting even further into products purchased or interested in is even better. You may even wish to include some level of recency into your segmentation also.

You can then run your Facebook Ads to these segments or a combination of these segments as appropriate.

Assuming you are nurturing these lists via email, SMS marketing, direct mail or some other method, then these lists can be very warm audiences and you can use Facebook Ads to create another touch point for customers at each of the stages within the customer lifecycle.

I often have people asking “Why would I bother paying to advertise to my subscribers when I can email them for free?” That's a valid question, but then take a look at your email open and click through rates. How many of those people are really seeing and engaging with your content and offers?

Probably not the majority.

Regardless, it takes a whole lot more than one touch point for most people to purchase. Your Facebook Advertising should work hand-in-hand and compliment any other marketing you are undertaking in your business.

Facebook also allows you to target your customer lists based on Facebook User ID’s or mobile advertiser ID’s. If you have this data available for use in your business, then you will need to determine how warm these audiences are in order to determine what types of ads would be most appropriate to them.

Engagement on Facebook

The recent addition of being about to create custom audiences based on the engagement people have taken with your content on Facebook is gold!

For example, being able to target people based on the percentage of the video they watched allows you to create audiences around people who have taken actions that indicate that they are interested in your business and the content you are sharing.

Those people who are highly engaged with your content are obviously much warmer audiences than those that don't engage with your content at all. Expect to pay less to target the highly engaged!

That's not to say that you should only be targeting those people who have watched 100% of your videos. Perhaps 75% was enough for them to have some level of brand awareness, as well as gain value from what you have to offer. You are going to have to test to see what is the sweet spot in terms of engagement levels that generate results for your business.

For many, Engagement on Facebook Audiences will be quite small and perhaps even too small to use in isolation for targeting. But these audiences can be very useful as another layer to add into your targeting. For example, you may choose people who are on your email list, visited your website or watched at least 75% of any of your videos. This can be particularly useful in boosting your potential ad reach when each of these audiences aren't particularly big in isolation.

Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences are a great way to find more people who have similar demographics, interests, behaviours and broad categories to any of the audiences you have already developed, particularly if those audiences are smaller than the reach you would like to be able to achieve through your Facebook Advertising and you are looking to extend your reach beyond those you already have access to.

You can do this for any of the custom audiences you have created, by using your conversion tracking pixels as the audience to replicate or by creating a Lookalike audience of people who Like your Page.

If you have created a highly targeted email list, then creating a Lookalike audience from that list can sometimes be more effective than creating a Saved Group based on what you think the relevant demographics, interests, behaviours and broad categories of your ideal customers are.

Facebook knows what the common demographics, interests, behaviours and broad categories are of your audiences and can use that data to find other people just like them.

However, I don't usually leave it all up to Facebook to determine who the ideal Lookalikes are and I would recommend that after you create these audiences that you create additional audiences using these Lookalike audiences as the base and then narrowing that audience further based on the demographics, interests, behaviours and broad categories that you feel are most important for your business.

Better still, split test this. Use the Lookalike audience Facebook creates and then split-test that against the more targeted audience that you develop to see what works best for your business.

Regardless of what type of Lookalike audience it is that you create, like Saved Groups, they are still cold audiences, so as with all audiences, you need to make sure that the Ads you are running to them are appropriate to where they are in your sales funnel (which in this case, they aren't even in it yet). 🙂

Which Facebook Ad Objectives Are Best For Which Audiences?

I have mentioned cold, warm and hot audiences several time in relation to the above audiences.

These classifications are a great way to determine which types of ads objectives are most appropriate for each audience.

Using Facebook Advertising, you can create ads specific to your goals and the desired action you want your audience to take, choosing from any of the following objectives:

  • Boost your post
  • Promote your Page
  • Send people to your website
  • Increase conversions on your website
  • Get installs of your app
  • Increase engagement in your app
  • Reach people near your business
  • Raise attendance at your event
  • Get people to claim your offer
  • Get video views
  • Collect leads for your business
  • Increase brand awareness

So let's look at each of the Facebook Ad objectives and which audiences (based on their temperatures) would be best suited for each.

Boost Your Post

You can boost your posts to cold, warm or hot audiences. Boosting content is a great way to add value, increase brand awareness and increase affinity with your audiences.

The warmer they are, the more likely they are to engage with the content you boost. However, boosting content to highly targeted cold audiences, such as Saved Groups and Lookalike audiences can be a great way to get your content in front of new people and potentially grow your Page Likes, website custom audiences or customer lists (by way of subscribers) as secondary benefits of these Facebook Ads.

However, the Boost Post objective is optimised for reach rather than Page Likes, driving traffic to your website or conversions, so if your primary objective is one of them, then you should be using a different Ad objective.

Promote Your Page

You can run a Promote Your Page campaign as a way of gaining more Likes for your Facebook Page so that the content you share on a daily basis gains more organic reach.

These types of ads are usually used by new businesses or businesses that are new to Facebook so that they can start building an audience, as well as demonstrate some level of social proof on their Page.

The warmer the audience, the more likely they are to Like your Page, but if you craft your ad creative well, then you can still achieve great results when running your ads into cold audiences.

By default, Facebook adds in the layer of “not connected” to the Page you are promoting for audiences within these ad objectives, as there is no use in running Page Like Ads to people who already Like your Page.

Send People To Your Website

Like with boosting posts, you can drive cold, warm or hot audiences to your website.

However, it's going to depend on what type of content on your website that you are sending them to.

If it's a blog post that adds value to your ideal client, then cold audiences, such as Saved Groups or Lookalike audiences are fine and this can be a great way to grow your Website Traffic audiences and potentially other audiences, like Page Likes or subscribers as a secondary benefit.

You will achieve a better click through rate if the audience already has some sort of affinity with your Page, which would be the case with warmer audiences, like custom audiences or engagement audiences.

Sending people to an opt-in or sales page on your website are best targeted at warm and hot audiences respectively. It is also best to use the Increase Conversions On Your Website objective for these types of ads.

Increase Conversions On Your Website

Opt-in offers are best targeted to those warm audiences, who have already indicated that they would be interested in the offer you are providing in exchange for their email address.

You can determine this information by which pages (or combination of pages) they have visited on your website before (i.e. website traffic), what they have previously opted-in or purchased from you before (i.e. customer lists) or the type of content they have already engaged with on Facebook, such as the topic of a video they watched 100% of (i.e. Engagement On Facebook audiences).

You can run opt-in offers to highly targeted cold audiences, but you may have to pay more for these audiences. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do so, just that you may have to pay a higher cost per lead. If you can do so at a cost per lead that is still likely to return you a positive return on investment, and you have sufficient budget for this, then go for it – particularly if you only have cold audiences available to you at present.

Some of the cold audiences you may wish to target include a Lookalike audiences of customers who you know have converted on your website – that may be leads or sales. However, lookalikes of those people who have purchased are usually more targeted than those people who have only opted-in as a lead.

Usually you will achieve better results by targeting website conversion ads to warmer audiences, such as people who already have some relationship with your Page, such as people who Like your Page, have previously visited your website, are on one of your customer lists or have already engaged with your content.

How recently they have undertaken those actions can increase the warmth of them as a prospect for what you are offering in some cases.

Running ads for products or services to purchase are best targeted at hot audiences, who have already indicated they are interested in what you have to sell via their previous actions. For example, you may target the website traffic from pages on your website relevant to the product or service you are promoting. This could even be traffic to the actual sales page itself. Or you might target a customer list that has previously purchased a product 12 months ago that you now wish to renew or remind them that they are due for their annual service.

You may also wish to exclude some custom audiences from your targeting, particularly if they have already opted-in or purchased whatever it is that you are promoting.

Get Installs Of Your App

It's important that you run these types of ads to people who are most likely to install your app. Facebook provides the following targeting options to assist you in achieving this:

  1. Platform – Android, iOS or Amazon App Store
  2. OS versions – Jellybean 2.3, iOS 5.0, etc. or you can set a min or max OS version.
  3. Devices – Within Android and iOS, you can also select the specific device model you are interested in reaching. For example, you can choose to reach a Samsung Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s, Amazon Fire Tablets or an HTC One.
  4. WiFi-only – If you are interested in reaching devices that specifically have WiFi only connection.
  5. Connections – To target by app connection you need to integrate the Facebook SDK for Android or iOS into your app and then you can target based on:
    • Include people who used your app
    • Include friends of people who used your app
    • Exclude people who used your app

Layering in custom audiences on top of these requirements can increase the warmth of the audiences you are targeting. You can also add further targeting options to reach people in the demographic, interest, behaviour and broad category groups that are relevant to your app.

Increase Engagement In Your App

It should go without saying that these types of ads are best targeted to people who have already installed your app.

That's why targeting based on the “Include people who used your app” connection is best.

Like with all audience targeting, you can layer in additional demographic, interest, behaviour and broad category groups targeting on top of this, as well as app specific targeting, such as platform, OS versions, devices and wi-fi connection options.

Reach People Near Your Business

Local business ads allow you to find new customers by showing your ads to groups of people who are near your business. Your ad targeting options are restricted primarily by proximity, with the ability to further narrow only by age and gender.

These ads are only useful if your business is interested in reaching the most people around your business location, without the need to target based on additional demographics, interests, behaviours and broad category groups, as might be the case for cafe's and restaurants who are looking to attract passing trade.

This ad objective includes local context within the ad, including the option to select a Call Now, Get Directions, Learn More, Send Messag or Like Page button within the ads. These ads also have a map card embedded within the ad format that includes a map pin for your business location, distance to business, hours of operation and a direction link. These map cards allow you to share more locally relevant details about your business, helping to drive more potential customers to and sales for your business.

Whilst these ads have the potential to end up in front of audiences that have never visited your website or subscribed to your business, they may still be warm audiences, as they may walk past your business on a daily basis, but have never realised that you are there or that what you have to offer is exactly what they are after, such as great coffee. 🙂

Raise Attendance At Your Event

Getting people to indicate that they will be interested in attending your event is best targeted to people who have some relationship with your business already. Those people who have indicated that they would be attending previous similar events are the ideal audiences to target for these types of ads.

You can do this via the “Connections” targeting option, choosing those people who have responded to a past event. You can also target friends of those people who have already responded to the event you are promoting, as a good way to layer in social proof into the event promotion, as people are more likely to attend events if they know other people that are going.

Whilst warmer audiences are better for event RSVP's, you can still achieve success by targeting colder audiences, provided you have targeted those audiences specifically to the event you are promoting.

Get People To Claim Your Offer

I am not a fan of this ad objective at all, as I feel if you are going to promote an offer, then you are best to do so via some sort of opt-in offer on your website where you are the one capturing the details of the people claiming the offer, so you can follow up with them directly regarding how they can redeem your offer.

These kinds of offers quite often on attract bargain hunters, so if you are not the kind of business that likes to compete on price, then offer ads might not be best for your business.

But if you are to use this ad objective then it should be your choice as to where abouts in the sales funnel that you wish to target these kinds of ads. You might target these ads to cold audiences as a way of attracting in new people to your business or to warm audiences as a quick way to make sales to assist with immediate cash flow into the business (at the expense of larger profit margins).

Get Video Views

Targeting your video ads by the objective of getting more video views means that Facebook is going to show your ads to people who like to watch videos rather than just aiming for reach, as would be the case if you chose the Boost Your Post ad objective for promoting a video you had posted to your Facebook Page.

The cost per video view is generally quite low on Facebook, regardless of how warm your audience is. That is because videos auto-play in the news feed and a video view is counted after someone has viewed your video for at least 3 seconds.

However, just because someone has watched your video for 3 seconds, does not indicate that they are at all interested in the content of that video or your business. Therefore, whilst targeting cold audiences may seem like a cheap option, you should be checking your “video engagement” metrics within your ads reporting to see how well your ads are actually performing within each of the audiences you are targeting and then adjusting your targeting as appropriate based on results.

The metrics you should be keeping an eye on are:

  • Cost per video view (3 seconds)
  • Cost per 10 second video view (and how much that jumps up in relation to the cost per 3 second video views)
  • Average percentage of video viewed.
  • Video views to 25%
  • Video views to 50%
  • Video views to 75%
  • Video views to 95%
  • Video views to 100%

Collect Leads For Your Business

Lead ads allow you to run lead generation campaigns on Facebook, getting people to indicate their interest in an opt-in offer, product or service by filling out a form in the ad with their details, providing your business with the opportunity to follow up with them.

The best targeting for these types of ads would be the same as for the “Increase Conversions On Your Website” ad objective.

Increase Brand Awareness

Brand awareness ads are by default delivered to people who are most likely to pay attention to them. These ads are designed to build lasting awareness and tell your brand's story with engaging video, photo and link adverts.

Therefore, these ads are usually best targeted to cold or warm audiences that are early on in your sales funnel.

You can run these types of ads to warmer audiences, but they are not the best type of ads to run to these types of audiences if you are after a relatively immediate return on your investment.

Don't Run Facebook Ads In Isolation

You should be starting to get the picture by now that you shouldn't be running random acts of Facebook Advertising in isolation. Instead you should be using Facebook Ads as part of your sales funnel, moving people closer to the eventual point of purchase and targeting different types of ads to different audiences, based on where they are within their customer lifecycle journey within your business.

This means that you won't pay once to target your ideal customers on their way from awareness, through nurture to purchase. You will need to allocate a Facebook Ads budget throughout the entire customer journey. That means that you will have to be aware of what your potential return on investment is likely to be and what profit margins you have available to you that you can re-invest in Facebook Advertising alongside the other forms of promotion you are undertaking in your business.

The good news is that by having an understanding of the best audiences to target in your Facebook Advertising and when to use each, you will be able to achieve greater results and pay less for your Facebook Ads in the process. 🙂

About Loren Bartley

Loren Bartley is as a social media strategist, educator, coach, public speaker, blogger, early adopter, self-confessed lover of all things geek-eske, and mother of three.

As the founder of Impactiv8, Loren helps businesses grow using the power of social media and lifecycle marketing automation.

Loren has created three online training programs: Social Media Success, FB Business Success and Linked Business Success and she also offers bespoke social media presentations, workshops, one-on-one coaching and social media implementation services.

Loren is also the producer and co-host of the highly successful #BusinessAddicts The Podcast, which she hosts in conjunction with Fiona Redding from The Happiness Hunter.

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