5 Ridiculously Powerful Facebook Ad Targeting Strategies


You can target audiences on Facebook with a dozen different ad formats and thousands of possible ad targeting parameters.

Facebook ad targeting

Mastering your Facebook targeting strategy gets you in front of very specific and often motivated segments of your audience, on the network where Americans religiously spend an average of 40 minutes of their day. Here are a few ridiculously powerful Facebook ad targeting strategies you probably haven’t heard of.

NEW: How Much Does Facebook Advertising Cost?

1. Tap Into Recent Purchasing Behavior Among Facebook Users

Facebook ad targeting Family Guy memeEarly on, Facebook was criticized by advertising analysts as a fun place to hang out, but a network with little commercial intent or potential for consumer insight. That changed early in 2013 when Facebook forged partnerships with data brokers including Epsilon, Acxiom, and Datalogix.

These companies have access to trillions of data transactions each year. Acxiom executives have stated that their database alone contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with an average of 1,500 data points per person.

Suddenly, Facebook knew a whole lot more than whether you spent more time in Farmville or Candy Crush Saga. Getting married soon? Taking medication for hypertension? Love reading murder mysteries? Facebook probably knows.

This gave advertisers the power to reach out beyond their own CRM databases and tap into insights gleaned from shopper loyalty programs of all kinds and matched to individual user profiles. Facebook advertisers use this data to target audience segments by thousands of different purchasing behaviors.

Here’s one that I use: People who buy Business Marketing Services (which is relevant to my company, as we sell business software and services).

 Facebook ad targeting purchase behavior

Purchasing behavior subcategories include Buyer Profiles, Clothing, Food & Drink, Health & Beauty and a lot more. Within each broad subcategory, you can drill down into types of behavior; for example, choosing Buyer Profiles will then let you target DIYers, Fashionistas, Foodies, etc.

Facebook shows you how many user profiles you can target in each subcategory, based on their aggregated, multi-sourced offline transaction-based data (or in simpler terms, the number of Facebook users in that category they’ve matched to offline purchasing data).

The options here are limitless. Get in there and explore!

MORE: All About Facebook's New Ad Relevance Score

2. Get Creative With Life Events Targeting

Certain types of businesses or campaigns are based on selling to people experiencing certain major life events. Funeral homes, for example, obviously want to connect with people who are planning a funeral, terminally ill, or lost/losing a loved one. Moving services want to get in front of you if you’ve just purchased a new house or apartment. Wedding photographers target people who are engaged.

Facebook has pretty much every conceivable life event targeting option, since we tend to post these to our timelines.

 Facebook ad targeting life events targeting

The Life Events parameter is unique in that you can choose to target people at specific intervals of time after the change. For example, a jewelry company would obviously be interested in getting in front of people celebrating their one-year anniversary, so they could target audience members who were newlyweds one year ago. The date ranges possible are 3 months, 6 months and one year.

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3. Nurture Leads & Build Loyalty With Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom Audiences are an advanced feature that enable you to connect on Facebook with your existing contacts. Getting in front of your existing customers and app users on their favorite social network reinforces your brand, but also gives you the opportunity to increase lifetime customer value, order frequency, and loyalty.

 Facebook ad targeting icon

This works the other way, too – you can increase the efficacy of your campaigns and avoid wasted clicks by excluding your existing customer list. If you’re offering a free trial to new users, for example, there’s no reason to show it to your loyal customers.

Custom Audiences are created by uploading your customer phone list, or purchaser/subscriber email list in CSV or TXT format, to Facebook. You can also create a Custom Audience based on your site visitors (and specific pages visited on your site), or on specific actions taken within your game or app.

 Facebook ad targeting create custom audience

Then target or exclude the whole list, or just specific subsets of it using other targeting parameters to home in on your ideal Facebook audience.

This is crazy powerful! You could target your existing customers who work in a specific job function, make XX amount of money per year, and live in a certain ZIP code with a higher value product offer, if those insights told you these people are more apt to be your affluent customers.

Or, you could target people who visited your company’s blog with offers to demo your product. They already know your name and were interested enough to visit you, but not to convert. Facebook Ads targeting that Custom Audience can close the gap.

The number of different demographics points you can target and combine is staggering. Net worth, living arrangements, marital status, parental status, interests, location – it’s all in there, and more.

4. Expand To A Lookalike Audience

Lookalike Audiences are a logical next step, once you have a good Custom Audiences strategy in place. Even if you don’t have your own email or phone list, you can mirror your Facebook fan base. Lookalikes allow you to expand beyond your reach but still target people with highly specific profiles, by creating audiences that look like your own targets.

If you have neither a list nor a big enough Facebook following, you can still create a Lookalike Audience using a tracking pixel to create a Website Custom Audience to mirror.

 Facebook ad targeting create lookalike audience

Once you’ve decided which audience you want to replicate and expand on, you can make the audience larger (more broad) or smaller (more specific and similar to your original audience). At the most similar level, Facebook is going to find you the top 1 percent of users with similar traits, in your target country. At the opposite level, optimizing for reach, Facebook will display your ads to the 10 percent of users in your target country who are most like your target audience.

5. Get Super Granular With Layered Targeting Options

The really powerful thing about Facebook ads is in your ability to layer targeting options on top of one another, gradually making your audience more and more specific. An extreme (and hilarious) example of the power of hypertargeting was featured in AdWeek last year, when a marketing pro targeted his roommate with ads so specific the poor guy thought he was being cyberstalked.

Yes, you can use combinations of behaviors, demographics, and geolocation data to reduce your audience to as little as one person. Far more useful for you, however, is the ability to match ad creative and offers to smaller audiences created using combinations of data.

 Facebook ad targeting household composition

Facebook ad targeting net worth


For example, a moving company promoting a special discount for senior citizens could target people who purchased a house within the last month, layered with an age range of 60 years old or greater and their service area locations.

Or, a retailer selling baby products meant to soothe and calm a baby could target new parents who have purchased colic medication. Imagine the ability to speak directly to the parent experiencing those sleepless night with such targeted messaging! (As a new parent, I totally get this.) Your messaging can be tailored to speak directly to that problem and offer your solution.

If you can understand the intent, needs and likelihood to respond of any given audience segment, you can layer Facebook Ads targeting options to tap into it and get in front of them.

The Best Facebook Ad Targeting Strategy Is Diversified & Comprehensive

When figuring out your Facebook advertising targeting strategy, you don’t have to pick just one of the options above; check each of them out and see how they might fit your various target market segments.

Create personas for your ideal customers – who are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work and what do they do after work? What traits and characteristics might they have, and how do those align with the many targeting parameters listed above?

Identifying just who it is you want to reach will guide you to the most effective Facebook ad targeting tools and options to get in front of them.

Note: This post originally appeared on the Momentology blog.

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mike chrest
Jan 28, 2015

these are awesome , i am going to use these for sure

Otis Chua
Jan 30, 2015

This is great advice.. Really useful for those who just don't know where to start with Facebook ads and for those not getting the results they would like too!

Feb 28, 2015

Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

Lara Jones
Jan 31, 2015

I found the concept of layered targeting options new and I'm surely gonna give it a shot. Thanks for sharing this useful information!

Feb 03, 2015

Like the sentiment of this article, some incredibly useful insights into just how specific targeting on Facebook can get. But I really hope that no funeral homes advertiser would be bold enough to target someone who is terminally ill with an advert for their services...

Lorena Morales
Feb 03, 2015

I don't know how specific your target can be, since for paying Ads Facebook requires a minimum audience. Or at least that was the case in the last couple of months. Interesting though..

Apr 25, 2015

I created a Facebook ad for a page about Heavy Metal and Rock Music, so in the interests field, I entered keywords and interests like "Heavy Metal Music", or famous HM and rock bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth etc. So I intended to target fans of that particular genre of music. But people who saw and liked the page were totally different type of audience who are into different genres of music, and not interested in rock music at all. I can't reach my intended audience. What can I do to fix this problem?

kyle kaizan
Sep 06, 2017

your targeting may be too broad. try to narrow it down to fans of heavy metal in a certain location then work your way out to a whole city, state,country. this way you know where your ads are working and where they are not delivering as well. heres an interesting article i read on targeting the right audience: http://www.hustletothetop.com/facebook-ads-targeting-how-to-target-the-right-targeted-audience-in-facebook-ads/

Jun 23, 2015

This is fantastic. So when you upload a custom audience and then target a location, would it target "People in the custom list who are in that location" or "People in the custom list OR people who are in the location?"

Aug 18, 2015

Thank you for sharing this strategy. Its really worth reading for. This will really save time and money moat specially to beginners.

Oct 15, 2015

Unfortunately most of these targeting options are not available in my Power Editor interface here in Europe :( Life events targeting & Purchase behavior are not available...

Andrew Caviglia
Oct 20, 2015

HI, Mathieu i am European like you, for to have the "live event targeting", , when you set the campaign , check under the botton "More demographics" , You will appear a list, the last written, is "Live events" click on , and after can u edit the live events,u can find all events , for example "Upcoming birthday" etc etc.
i hope that u have found it,
sorry for my english Kind regards
have a nice day

Oct 26, 2015


Please can you let me know if I can target my Facebook ads to show on a particular Facebook page? So if someone goes onto a Facebook page they can see my ad?

Muaz Faris
Jan 15, 2016

awesome! i like this post, it help me in my facebook ads marketing campaign.

i like the ways how we target more precisly

Vishwanath Bhat
Mar 02, 2016

Great article and very useful!

Apr 14, 2016

Very good post. Did you discover if Facebook increased the post's reach if target details were provided? That is, with the drastic reduction of reach for organic posts, i wonder if providing targeting information would help increase exposure.

Jun 08, 2016

I guess Facebook changed all this.
It's outdated info.

Now the only thing you can control about your audience
is the age range, the location, and interests.

No behaviors, no connections, no "upcoming birthdays," no "upcoming wedding."

Elisa Gabbert
Jun 08, 2016

Hi Jon, Facebook still offers these targeting options, they just changed their interface recently.

Previously there were 3 boxes: Demographics, Interests and Behaviors. It was hard to use because you had to know which targeting option was in which box. For example, upcoming birthday is a “demographic”. Now it’s all merged into one box called “detailed targeting” where you can type in stuff, such as upcoming birthday.

Hope that helps!

Bizza Viet
Jun 08, 2016

How to target for kid only?

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016


Daniel Sisto
Jun 09, 2016

You stated that "Funeral homes, for example, obviously want to connect with people who are planning a funeral, terminally ill, or lost/losing a loved one". I just wanted to check where this information can be targeted from the life events? There is no targeting information in regards to any of these categories under life events in the power editor!

Any information would we be amazing.


Jun 13, 2016

I have tried target marketing a couple of times on Facebook and it has yet to bring in clients.

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

well it's slightly more indirect marketing vs. search ads. the path to conversion takes time and is indirect.

Jul 25, 2016

Thanks I actually read this article and found it very insightful and informative.

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

thanks! you made my day.

Rosie Tesmenitskaya
Jul 26, 2016

Thank you so much for these tips! I'm about to go into a meeting with my boss and I think he will be very impressed with all these new tips I have to show him! :)

Aug 10, 2016

How would you target audience by their profession such as Teachers/Professors?

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

job titles of "teacher" or "professor".
or you could go after employers and list the name of the university.

Aladdin Happy
Aug 14, 2016

There is no such an option to target my ads on "Purchasing Behavior".

Do you have it?

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

only in usa/canada/ UK. sorry.

Aug 22, 2016

hey bro.
i am really interested with this article.

i am now currently selling my products with facebook ads for the first time. i have try using youtube and googling but find no clear answer to targetting the audience.

choosing the best interest is something complicated, a bit hard though. and unfortunately, im affraid to fail engaging the audiences to buy my product.

any ideas?

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

yoooo bro!

try using facebook insights and google analytics to get a better understanding of the demographics and interests of people who visit your site. then target those demographics on facebook. http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/06/27/facebook-ad-targeting-options-infographic

Sep 07, 2016

You mentioned in this blog that you can narrow down Facebook targeting to reach as little as 1 person. Is this still the case?

Because I am currently trying to run a test Facebook ad (and because it's a test I don't want it to be a large group) and Facebook keep rejecting my audience saying that it's too small, even though I've expanded it to about 30+ emails (these are all emails used for Facebook login too).

Seeing this article got my hopes up but I don't know if the information is still accurate or if it's outdated.

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

the smallest custom audiences i use are around 1000 names. it may be possible to specify smaller audiences but in reality you end up with delivery issues (low impressions / high CPCs associated with needing to win the auction for such a tiny audience). I've found that audiences in the range of 1-100k work the best. (neither too big nor too small).

Sep 08, 2016

Great article guys!
I have one little problem)
I don't have behavior options.
There are "languages", then "detailed targeting", then "connections".
In "1. Tap Into Recent Purchasing Behavior Among Facebook Users" you showed it on your screenshot.

Larry Kim
Sep 08, 2016

HI, unfortunately purchasing behavior is not available world-wide. only USA, Canada and UK i believe.

Muhammad Qamar Shafiq
Sep 08, 2016

Better and so informative content but I have some questions. First while targeting sometimes I assess the broader audience gives better results than specified one and sometimes this proves totally wrong and need to be more specified targeting. What is this and how I can overcome on this?
Secondly how we can target the perfect audience like behaviour, interests?
Is the way of tracking via facebook pixels is accurate? How much if yes? I tried to use but got it's just like an estimation nothing else or might be I'm wrong somewhere while tracking.
And presently I'm experimenting either placing an ad on multiple platforms like Instagram, mobile news feed, the desktop news feed is better or placing in different places with different versions of the same ad.
Thanks in advance.

Sep 16, 2016

Targeted advertising can significantly narrow the range of possible users to potentially real, so you get more conversions and save your money

Sep 26, 2016

i'm sorry mr kim, but how we can target specific consumer online purchasing behavior in fb ads targeting, it's kind of confusing, examples : i want to target stanford univ student ( where's i can find the correct targeting words )..

Nov 03, 2016

Hi, I'm not Mr. Kim, but looking through Facebook's business site yielded the following: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/227971680551772

Hope it helps!

Oct 25, 2016

i have a website offers web development and mobile app development. i want to do Facebook marketing of my website. How i get to know about how is our right audience. How i comes to know that this person is beneficial for my website. How??

Evan Dunn
Nov 03, 2016

To validate the purchase behavior targeting:

We're working with a device startup in retail, and using the Purchase Behaviors is yielding ABSURDLY high CTRs and extremely low CPCs (and yes, we turned off Facebook Audience Network, so we wouldn't be fooled by the cheap (in all meanings of the word) traffic).

5-8% CTRs. $0.10-$0.20 CPC. ~$2,000 spent, over 16,000 clicks.

We tested it against interest targeting parameters of a similar and find the purchase behavior 2-3x as powerful (from a rates perspective).

Christo Fouche
Dec 18, 2016

Thanks for the great article. I just love Facebook advertising. I have started implementing Competitions and surveys on Facebook since they have changed their policies on this. It works great. Do you use them as well?

Dec 29, 2016

Nice!, Great article and very useful!

Micheal A
Jan 03, 2017

Having adequate knowledge of facebook targeting is one of the most important critaria for a successful marketing. Thanks for this helpful post

Jan 27, 2017

how can I target people who have recently inherited real estate?

Danielle Hawkins
Feb 06, 2017

I have just recently purchased ads for recruiting Sales guys for a solar company and I have not been getting very many hits. I was wondering if I was able to target specific to "Occupation"?

John Conway
May 03, 2017

Is the behavior example only available in the US?

I can't use it in the UK ads.

May 05, 2017

Hi Larry kim
Nice tips i definitely gonna be use this to boost my ads on facebook. Thanks for sharing

May 17, 2017

this is really a nice guide for facebook marketing. i specially like the section of creating custom audience. this is awesome


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