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Facebook Audience Targeting Best Practices

Are you struggling to get your Facebook ads in front of the right people? You’re not alone. With over 3 billion monthly active users, reaching your ideal customer on the platform can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

But here’s the thing – Facebook’s ad targeting options are incredibly powerful. When used correctly, they can help you laser-focus your ads on the people most likely to convert. No more wasted ad spend on uninterested audiences.

The key is knowing how to leverage Facebook’s targeting tools to your advantage. And that’s exactly what this guide is all about.

By the end, you’ll have a crystal-clear understanding of Facebook’s audience targeting best practices. Plus, actionable tips to implement in your own campaigns today.

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facebook audience targeting best practices

1. Get crystal clear on your target audience

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many skip this crucial first step. Before you even think about creating an ad, you need to know exactly who you’re trying to reach.

Who is your ideal customer? What are their demographics, interests, behaviours, and pain points? Where do they hang out online?

The more specific you can get, the better. Creating a detailed buyer persona is a great place to start. Give them a name, age, occupation, hobbies, etc. 

For example, instead of targeting “women aged 25-45”, you might target “Sarah, a 32-year old working mum who enjoys yoga and shops online for organic baby products.”

Having a well-defined target audience will make every other targeting decision easier. It gives you a clear picture of who you’re talking to in your ads.

And don’t just guess – do your research. Survey your current customers. Look at your website and social media analytics. See who’s already engaging with your brand.

The better you understand your ideal customer, the more effectively you can reach them on Facebook.

2. Install the Facebook pixel

Targeting cold audiences is important. But do you know what’s even more valuable? Targeting people who have already engaged with your brand in some way. 

Enter the Facebook pixel – a small piece of code you install on your website. It tracks visitor activity, so you can target ads to people who have already shown interest in what you offer.

Installing the pixel should be one of your first steps, even before running any ads. The sooner you start collecting data, the better.

The pixel allows you to create custom audiences based on specific actions people take on your site. For example, you can target people who have:

– Visited a certain page or product 

– Added an item to their cart but didn’t purchase

– Submitted a lead form 

– Spent a certain amount of time on your site

– And much more

These people are more likely to convert since they’re already familiar with you. So targeting them with relevant ads tends to get better results vs. going in cold.

The pixel also powers Facebook’s conversion tracking and optimisation tools. Meaning you can track exactly which ads are driving purchases or leads. And Facebook can automatically adjust your targeting to reach more people likely to take that action.

Don’t run ads without the pixel in place – you’d be missing out on incredibly valuable targeting data. If you need help, Facebook has a step-by-step guide for pixel setup. 

3. Create lookalike audiences

Wish you could clone your best customers and find more people just like them? With lookalike audiences, you can (kind of).

A lookalike audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your current customers.

You start by creating a custom audience of people who have engaged with you. This could be based on pixel data (like website or app activity), your email list, or people who’ve engaged with your page or ads.

Facebook then analyses that audience to identify common qualities, like demographics and interests. It uses these insights to find other people on the platform who share similar characteristics.

The end result? An algorithmically-assembled group of users who closely match your existing customers or fans. Pretty cool, right?

You can choose the size of your lookalike audience, from 1-10% of the total population in your target country. 1% will be the closest match to your source audience, while 10% reaches a broader, less precise group.

For most advertisers, a 1-2% lookalike strikes a good balance between similarity and reach. But it’s worth testing different percentages to see what works best.

The key to effective lookalikes is having a high-quality source audience. The better the input, the better the output. Make sure to regularly refresh your lookalikes as you gain more customers and data.

Lookalikes are a great way to expand your targeting while still reaching relevant users likely to convert. Give them a try in your next prospecting campaign.

4. Layer targeting options for greater precision

With Facebook ads, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one targeting method. Combining different audience options lets you get even more granular. 

Think of it like a Venn diagram. You’re looking for the overlap between different audience characteristics, interests, and behaviours. The goal is to find that sweet spot of highly relevant users.

For example, let’s say you sell high-end kitchen gadgets. Instead of targeting a broad audience of “home cooks”, you might layer options like:

– Demographics: Females, aged 35-55, household income over £75K

– Interests: Gourmet cooking, Whole Foods, Martha Stewart 

– Behaviours: Frequent international travellers, “foodies”, online buyers of kitchenware

By layering these targeting options, you can hone in on your ideal customer persona with much greater precision. Facebook’s Audience Insights tool is a great way to research and build these highly focused targeting formulas.

But a word of warning – don’t get so granular that your audience becomes too small. Facebook needs a fairly large pool of users to optimise your ads effectively.

If your hyper-specific audience has less than a few thousand people, try removing a layer or expanding your geographic radius. You can also use the “Narrow Audience” feature to exclude certain groups.

The sweet spot will vary for each business. So it’s important to test different combinations to see what targeting alchemy works best for your offer.

Just remember, with great targeting power comes great responsibility. Make sure your messaging matches the audience you’re reaching. Tailor your ad copy, images, and offers to resonate with each segment for maximum impact.

5. Leverage Facebook’s AI optimisation

As powerful as manual audience targeting can be, Facebook’s AI optimisation is the not-so-secret weapon for smarter ad delivery.

When you create a campaign, you’ll choose an optimisation event, like link clicks, lead form submissions, or purchases. Facebook’s machine learning algorithms will then analyse your ad’s performance in real-time.

It looks at who is completing your desired action and uses those insights to automatically refine your targeting. Showing your ads to more people within your audience who are likely to convert.

The key is feeding the algorithm enough data to learn and optimise. That’s why having the pixel installed and building robust retargeting audiences is so important.

The more conversion data it has, the better Facebook can optimise your campaign. But don’t expect it to work miracles overnight. The algorithm needs at least 50 of your optimisation event per week to exit the learning phase.

Once you’re out of the learning phase, resist the urge to make constant tweaks to your targeting or ads. Each significant edit will reset the learning phase, meaning Facebook has to start optimising from scratch again.

One way to test different audiences while maintaining optimisation is with Campaign Budget Optimisation (CBO). This allows Facebook to automatically allocate more of your budget to the best-performing ad sets.

Instead of setting individual budgets at the ad set level, you set a campaign budget and let Facebook divide it among your ad sets. That way you can test broader vs. narrower audiences and trust Facebook to prioritise the winners.

Just keep in mind that CBO is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. You still need to feed the algorithm good creative and monitor performance to avoid wasting spend.

But when used wisely, Facebook’s automated optimisation features can supercharge your audience targeting and maximise results over time. Embrace the machine.

6. Change up your targeting by funnel stage

Ever been served an ad that was completely irrelevant to your current relationship with the brand? Like being prompted to buy when you don’t even know who the company is?

This happens when advertisers use the same targeting across the entire marketing funnel. But the truth is, your targeting should change depending on where users are in their customer journey.

At the top of the funnel, you’re looking to build brand awareness with broad, prospecting audiences. These users likely don’t know you yet, so your goal is simply to get on their radar. 

Lookalike audiences, interest targeting, and demographic-based ads are great for this stage. The messaging should introduce your brand and unique selling point.

As people start to engage with your brand, you can move them into the middle of the funnel. Here, the goal is to educate, build trust, and nurture them toward a conversion.

Custom audiences based on page engagement, video views, or email subscribers can work well in the middle of the funnel. Your ads should focus on overcoming objections, social proof, and highlighting your value proposition.

Finally, the bottom of the funnel is for those hot prospects right on the cusp of buying. Maybe they visited a product page, started checkout, or submitted a lead form, but haven’t converted yet.

This is where the Facebook pixel really shines. Use custom event audiences to reach users who’ve shown high purchase intent but need that final push.

Your messaging should create urgency, overcome final barriers, and make a strong call-to-action. Limited time offers, customer reviews, and reminder ads work well here.

By segmenting your targeting by funnel stage, you can deliver the right message to the right person at just the right time. Which means a better ad experience for them and better results for you.

7. Monitor audience overlap

If you’re running ads across multiple campaigns or ad sets, there’s a good chance you have overlapping audiences. Meaning the same user could be seeing multiple ads from you at the same time.

A little overlap is okay, but too much can lead to ad fatigue, confusing messaging, and wasted spend. You’re essentially competing with yourself.

To check for overlap, go to the Audiences tab in Ads Manager and select up to 5 audiences to compare. Facebook will show you the percentage of overlap between each one.

As a general rule, aim to keep audience overlap below 20-30%. If you’re seeing much higher percentages, it may be time to rethink your targeting strategy.

One solution is to use the “Exclude” feature when building audiences. This lets you exclude people who are already in another ad set’s audience.

For example, if you have a retargeting ad set aimed at website visitors, you could exclude those website custom audiences from your lookalike or interest-based ad sets.

This tactic, called “audience exclusion”, helps ensure you’re not showing the same ads to the same people across multiple campaigns or ad sets.

Another option is using Facebook’s Reach and Frequency campaigns. These let you set a specific number of times someone will see your ads over a set time period. 

So instead of the same user seeing your ad 10 times in a week, you could cap it at 2-3 views. Enough to build brand awareness without annoying them.

The key is striking a balance. You want targeted ads that reach the right people. But not so targeted that you’re overwhelming the same small group with repetitive messaging.

Keep an eye on your audience overlap. And don’t be afraid to experiment with excluding or limiting ad frequency to avoid fatiguing your hard-earned customers.

8. Put it all together with audience segmentation

We’ve covered a lot of different targeting tactics. But how do you put it all together into a cohesive strategy? Two words: audience segmentation.

Audience segmentation is the process of dividing your target market into smaller groups based on specific criteria, like demographics, interests, behaviors, or customer journey stage.

The goal is to create unique audiences that you can tailor your messaging and offers to. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you’re delivering relevant ads to each segment.

To get started, analyse your existing customer data and identify patterns or common characteristics. Use Facebook Audience Insights to fill in demographic and psychographic details.

Then, create a separate saved audience or ad set for each key segment. For example, you might have ad sets for:

– Lookalike audiences based on past purchasers

– Website visitors who viewed a specific product

– Email subscribers who haven’t bought yet

– Fans of your Facebook page

– Users who engaged with your posts or ads

– People with specific interests or life events related to your product

For each segment, tailor your ad copy, images, and offer to speak directly to that group’s needs and preferences. The more relevant your ads, the better the performance.

You can also sequence your segments, moving users from one to the next as they take specific actions. For example, if someone watches 50% of your video ad, you could retarget them with a product carousel.

This allows you to tell a progressive story and guide users through the customer journey with targeted messaging. It’s a more personalised experience that can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.

Just remember to keep an eye on audience overlap and frequency as you build out your segments. You don’t want to overwhelm users with too many different ads.

Start with a few key segments and build from there as you learn what works. Over time, you can create a sophisticated web of audiences that work together to drive results at every stage of the funnel.

9. Test, measure, and refine your targeting

No matter how much research you do upfront, your targeting strategy will always be a bit of an educated guess. The only way to know for sure what works is to test it in the wild. 

That’s why ongoing testing and optimisation is so crucial to Facebook ad success. You need to constantly measure your results and refine your targeting based on real data.

Start by setting clear, measurable goals for each campaign or ad set. What specific action do you want users to take? How many conversions do you need to break even or hit your desired ROI?

Then, create multiple ad sets testing different targeting options – lookalikes vs. interests, broad vs. narrow audiences, different layered targeting formulas, etc.

Let each ad set run for at least 2-3 days to gather initial data. Then check your Ads Manager reports to see which audiences are delivering the best results.

Look at metrics like click-through rate, cost per result, and conversion rate. If one audience is way outperforming the others, consider allocating more budget there.

But don’t just look at vanity metrics like engagement or clicks. Make sure the audiences you’re targeting are actually converting into real business results, like leads or sales.

Over time, you can start to identify trends and patterns in what targeting works best for your brand. Maybe lookalike audiences convert better than interest-based ones. Or maybe narrower, layered targeting beats broad audiences.

Use these insights to continually refine and optimise your targeting. Pause or adjust underperforming ad sets, and scale the winners.

Just remember that Facebook’s advertising ecosystem is always changing. What works today may not work next month. New features and best practices are constantly emerging.

That’s why it’s so important to approach targeting with a continuous improvement mindset. Never stop testing, measuring, and adapting to the data.

The most successful Facebook advertisers are the ones who are always experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with audience targeting.

So don’t settle for “good enough” – keep striving for that targeting sweet spot that delivers the best possible results for your unique business.


Phew, that was a lot of information to take in! If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry – targeting mastery doesn’t happen overnight. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time, testing, and patience to get right.

But if you implement the strategies and best practices covered in this guide, you’ll already be ahead of 90% of advertisers. You’ll be able to reach your ideal customers with laser precision and craft campaigns that truly resonate.

Just remember – there’s no magic bullet targeting formula that works for everyone. What delivers killer results for one brand may fall flat for another.

And even if you find a targeting strategy that works today, it won’t stay that way forever. You need to adapt and evolve with the platform, your audience, and the competitive landscape.

So approach your targeting with an always-be-testing mindset. Stay open and curious about new approaches. Analyse your data relentlessly, and use those insights to continually optimise.

But most importantly – never lose sight of the real, living, breathing human being on the other end of your ad. 

All the targeting tech in the world won’t help you if you’re not delivering genuine value. So focus on understanding your customers’ real needs, and craft campaigns that truly make their lives better.

Do that, and you won’t just be crushing your Facebook ad goals – you’ll be building a tribe of loyal, passionate brand advocates. And that’s what it’s all about.

For more content like this, check out our digital marketing blog at www.yourwebsite.com. And if you found this guide helpful, consider joining our weekly newsletter for the latest Facebook ad tips and tricks.


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