Facebook ad targeting is one of the key campaign elements that help you get high ROI out of your ad campaigns.

A poorly targeted ad set will have a lower click-through rate, resulting in higher cost-pre-click and fewer results for your money.

So why let your money go to waste? 💸

What you want to achieve instead, is reaching the people who see your ad and think “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER I NEED IT NOW!”

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How seeing a well-targeted ad should feel – Image source

… While you’re just sitting back and waiting for the sales come in.

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Yass, got the targeting right again! – Image source

Luckily for marketers, Facebook and Google are collecting TONS of data about their users, including (arguably irrelevant, but useful for targeting) information such as:

  • All the messages (even data about the stickers) you’ve ever sent on Messenger
  • Information about what your friends are interested in (because hey, if they like something there’s a high chance you’ll like it too!)
  • Where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and…

Well, you get the point.

If this sounds creepy, that’s because it is. However, that is also what makes Facebook ad targeting so efficient.

Whisper “cat food” and the next time you open up Instagram, there will be a row of cat food ads greeting you.

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As you just looked at this GIF, you too will have cat food ads in your feed – Image source

So how can you improve your Facebook ad campaigns’ targeting?

It comes down to three main pillars:

  1. Knowing all the available targeting options
  2. Avoiding the most common Facebook targeting mistakes
  3. Targeting based on your specific business use case

This article’s divided into three main topics. If you’re already familiar with the basics of ad targeting, no worries! We guarantee you will learn something new today, be it a Facebook targeting mistake to avoid or a new hack to build a more efficient marketing funnel.

Ready to set your Facebook campaigns up for success and improve your results 50%-200%?

Let’s go! 🙌

PS use these links to navigate to the subject you’re most interested in or read through the entire guide top-down:

Part 1: The complete overview of Facebook ad targeting options in 2019
Part 2: TOP 5 Facebook ad targeting mistakes to avoid at all cost

Part 3: Facebook ad Targeting best practices for TOP 3 business types

Part 1: The complete overview of Facebook ad targeting options in 2019

According to the common belief among advertisers and media, the average person sees 5000+ ads per day.

If we noticed all of the 5k ads targeted at us daily, we’d need 100 extra hours a day to register all of them. So, to cope in this modern day ad jungle, our brains have developed what’s called ad blindness.

We are blind to 99% of the ads we see, only spotting what’s really relevant to us.

Like a Snickers ad suddenly showing up when you’re hungry…

snickers ad 1

What if it was there all the time but we just didn’t notice?! – Image source

The point is:

  1. People see too many ads
  2. They only notice the ads relevant to them

This makes your job as a digital marketer to deliver your ads to the people for whom your product is relevant. It’s a good thing then that Facebook has one of the most advanced targeting features in the industry.

On a high level, Facebook ad targeting options include:

  1. Saved Audiences
  2. Custom Audiences
  3. Lookalike Audiences
Facebook ad targeting options

Facebook ad targeting options

If you’re a newbie to Facebook advertising, start with testing a few different Saved Audiences. Once you feel that you’ve mastered the basics, jump on to Custom and Lookalike Audiences.

Facebook Saved Audiences – All you need to know

Saved Audiences let you target any Facebook user in the world, based on their location, demographics, interests, and much much more.

Here’s the full rundown of all Facebook Saved Audience targeting features:

  1. Location
  2. Age
  3. Gender
  4. Language
  5. Detailed targeting
  6. Connections
facebook ad targeting

You will soon know which of these targeting methods to use!


When setting up a campaign in Facebook Ads Manager, you can target people by location:

  • Countries (ex: type in France)
  • Regions or States
  • Cities (ex: type in New York)
  • Postal codes
  • Addresses
  • By city and country (ex: type in New York or France)
  • Worldwide (type Worldwide)
  • By country group or geographic region (ex: type in Europe)
  • By free trade area (ex: type in GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council)
  • By sub-regions within a country
  • By other features (ex: type in iTunes app store countries or Emerging markets)

In Ads Manager, you can also select Browse to open a drop-down menu of regions and countries.

Or if you have some specific address in mind, you can set a pin right on the map to target an area surrounding it.

facebook ad targeting locations

Drop pin to target specific areas

There’s a location that you specifically do not want to target? – Great, Facebook also allows you to exclude locations.

facebook ad targeting exclusions

Exclude specific locations from targeting

And to make matters even more complicated, you can select between people living in a location, having recently visited an area, or traveling in a location.

location based facebook ad targeting

When in doubt, just use the default option: “People who live in this location”

Age & Gender

This one’s quite straightforward – If you know the age range and gender of your target audience, use these features to fine-tune your Facebook ad targeting.

Age and gender facebook ad targeting

Target based on age and gender


The language targeting comes in handy if you’re advertising to a multi-language market such as many European countries.

In this case, you can create multiple ad campaigns with ads in different languages and make your ad sets target people speaking that particular language.

If your ads are in English and you’re targeting a non-English-speaking market, we recommend to leave the language targeting unspecified – Let Facebook’s algorithms to figure it out.

Language facebook ad targeting

Select the languages you want to target

Detailed targeting

Detailed targeting is where advertisers can have the most fun, targeting people based on additional demographic information, interests and behaviors:

  • Ads that people click on
  • Pages they engage with
  • Activities people engage in on Facebook related to things like their device usage, and travel preferences
  • Demographics like age, gender and location
  • The mobile device they use and the speed of their network connection
facebook ad targeting detailed

Detailed Targeting includes tons of options

Demographics help you reach people based on education, employment, household and lifestyle details. (Some data is available for the US only.)

📖 Education:

  • Education Level
  • Fields of Study
  • Schools
  • Undergrad Years

📅 Life Events:

  • Anniversary
  • Anniversary within 30 days
  • Anniversary within 31-60 Days
  • Away from family
  • Away from hometown
  • Long-distance relationship
  • New job
  • New relationship
  • Newly engaged (1 year)
  • Newly engaged (3 months)
  • Newly-engaged (6 months)
  • Newlywed (1 year)
  • Newlywed (3 months)
  • Newlywed (6 months)
  • Recently moved

🎂 Birthday:

  • Birthday Month
  • Upcoming birthday

👶 Parents:

  • Parents (All)
  • New parents (0-12 months)
  • Parents with adult children (18-26 years)
  • Parents with early school-age children (06-08 years)
  • Parents with preschoolers (03-05 years)
  • Parents with preteens (08-12 years)
  • Parents with teenagers (13-18 years)
  • Parents with toddlers (01-02 years)

💌 Relationship Status:

  • Complicated
  • Divorced
  • Domestic Partnership
  • Engaged
  • In a relationship
  • Married
  • Open Relationship
  • Separated
  • Single
  • Unspecified
  • Widowed

🏙 Work:

  • Employers
  • Industries
  • Job Title

⚽ Interests:

(All of the below categories come with specified options)

  • Business and industry
  • Entertainment
  • Family and relationships
  • Fitness and wellness
  • Food and drink
  • Hobbies and activities
  • Shopping and fashion
  • Sports and outdoors
  • Technology

🌎 Behaviors:

(All of the below categories come with specified options)

  • Anniversary
  • Consumer Classification
  • Digital activities
  • Expats
  • Mobile Device User
  • Mobile Device User/Device Use Time
  • More Categories
  • Multicultural Affinity
  • Politics (US)
  • Purchase behavior
  • Soccer
  • Travel


In this audience section, you can target people connected to your Pages, apps or events.

Facebook considers a person “connected” if they’ve engaged with a page, app or event or are a friend of someone who has.

facebook ad targeting connections

Use Connection-based targeting to reach your page fans

Here’s a breakdown of all targeting options based on Connections.

Facebook Pages:

  • People who like your Page
  • Friends of people who like your Page
  • Exclude people who like your Page


  • People who used your app
  • Friends of people who used your app
  • Exclude people who used your app


  • People who responded to your event
  • Exclude people who already responded to your event

New information overload – Image source

If all the above options make your head go round and want to make you quit Facebook ads for good, hold on!

Here’s the thing: You don’t actually need to go super specific in your ad targeting. These are just all the options available.

You can just as well set up a high-performance Facebook campaign by only tweaking the location targeting of your ads and adding a few interest-based targeting layers.

Which brings us to…

Best practices for advertising to Facebook Saved Audiences:

  1. Keep your audience broader than 10k people – this is the minimal recommended Saved Audience size for Facebook algorithms to hunt down your top customers
  2. If you don’t know who your audience is, go even broader – leave all the Detailed Targeting options unused, defining only the location and age/gender of your target audience (and, once again, let the algorithms do their magic)
  3. Take advantage of the AND + OR feature – when defining your audience based on their interests, use the AND option to further narrow the target group

Using the AND/OR features, you can reach people interested in A and B and C and D and…

For example, people who like both cookies AND milk.

That’s still the entire population tho… 🤔

use narrow targeting 1

+ = all the people in the world

Lastly, let your Facebook ad sets be live for at least 48h before making any conclusions on the results.

According to Facebook, “it takes the ad delivery system 24 hours to adjust the performance level for your ad. It can take longer when you edit your ad frequently. To fix it, let your ad run for at least 24 hours before you edit it again.“

Every time you tweak your Facebook ad targeting, the algorithms need to find your new target audience and buy ad placements in their feeds on the auction. This will take some time even for one of the world’s most advanced algorithmic system.

Facebook Custom Audiences – All you need to know

Most of the people you get to visit your website won’t convert on their first visit.

Yet as an eCommerce store owner pointed out in Shopify’s blog, remarketing to leads with an ongoing email campaign helped to eventually convert most of them to buyers:

  • The first email brought in 45% of those sales
  • The second accounted for 30%
  • The third garnered 15%
  • And the fourth led to the final 10% of revenue

Every email brought additional conversions – Image source

There’s a saying “to strike while the iron is hot” 🔥and that is exactly what you can do with Facebook Custom Audiences.

Using Custom Audience targeting is almost like getting a superpower. Imagine being able to target:

  • The most avid readers of your blog 🔥
  • The past purchasers of your online store 🔥🔥
  • People who filled in their shopping cart yet didn’t complete their purchase 🔥🔥🔥
  • People who have visited your website for 5 times in the past week, checking out the Shipping information page 🔥🔥🔥🔥

These audiences are so close to converting it would be a sin to let them go off the hook.

Facebook’s got your back here. And so do we!

Here’s a quick breakdown of all Custom Audience targeting options available in the Ads Manager:

  • Website traffic
  • Customer file
  • App activity
  • Offline activity
  • Facebook sources
facebook custom audience targeting 1

Plenty of options to reach your highest-value audience!

Creating Facebook Custom Audiences based on website traffic

Does your business have a website?

Of course it does!

This means that you can use Facebook Custom Audiences for retargeting your website visitors.

To be able to create Custom Audiences based on website traffic, you need to set up Facebook Pixel on your web page. Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Setting up the Facebook Pixel

Setting up the Facebook Pixel takes about 2 minutes – Image source

Once you have added the Pixel to your website, you’ll be able to target:

  • Everyone who has visited your website in the past X days (Facebook supports up to 180-day timeframe)
  • People who visited specific web pages in past X days
  • People who visited some web pages, but not others (use the “Exclude feature to exclude specific pages’ visitors)
target website visitors 1

Retarget your website visitors with the Facebook Pixel

If you set up Standard Pixel events such as “Add to cart” or “Lead,” you’ll also be able to target people who have completed a particular event.

target based on events 1

Set up Standard events to expand your targeting options

Here’s the Facebook guide to setting up website events.

And here are the most commonly used Standard events that let you track the key actions people may take while on your website:

facebook standard web events 1

Here’s a link to the full list of Facebook Standard events.

Unsure if installing the Pixel is worth the hassle?

It totally is!

And to prove it, we will show you some magical Facebook targeting formulas made possible by Custom Audiences.

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Here come the Facebook targeting formulas! – Image source

1. Target past purchasers who stopped placing orders

Remarketing to shopping cart abandoners is a no-brainer. So is setting up Dynamic remarketing ads to people who visited your product pages without making a purchase. (PS we’ll get to these best practices under the eCommerce targeting suggestions.)

However, what advertisers often forget is are the people who have already made a purchase.

A study by Adobe that looked at conversion rates of repeat customers found that:

  • A customer who has purchased with your store 2 times before is 9x more likely to convert than a first-time shopper.
  • In the US, 40% of revenue comes from returning or repeat purchasers, who represent only 8% of all visitors.
facebook ad targeting 2019

Repeat purchasers have the highest value – Image source

How to retarget past purchasers on Facebook?

  1. Create a Facebook Custom Audience of people who have completed a purchase in the past 180 days.
  2. Exclude users who have completed a purchase in the past 14 days to give them a break after a purchase before starting the remarketing campaign.

2. Retarget your Search ads audience

Google Search ads are highly efficient for bringing high purchase intent audience to your website.

However, Google Search ads’ CPC can be expensive, going up to $20 per click for the most competitive keywords. 💸💸💸

That’s why, when running Search ads, use the less-expensive Facebook ads to run remarketing ads to the people whose website visit you’ve already paid a lot of money for.

Larry Kim from Wordstream wrote in his article for the Moz blog that using remarketing on top of SEO and Search ads allowed them to increase our repeat visitors by 50%, boost conversion by 51%, and increase time on site by an insane 300%!

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Mastering all the remarketing hacks is an eye-opener – Image source

How to retarget Search ads audience with Facebook ads?

When setting up your Google Search Ads campaign, make sure to use UTM tags. It is very easy, just use Google’s UTM builder. 😉

set up utm code 1

UTM tags go on top of your website URL

Next up, set up a Facebook Custom audience of website visitors who visited links matching your Google campaign’s UTM code. Just using “google” in the UTM code is the most foolproof way to get your retargeting right.

target search ads audience 1

Set up remarketing to your Google Ads traffic

3. Target your Facebook/Instagram page followers

Your company’s Facebook page is an amazing channel for keeping in touch with your audience and sharing relevant content.

However, as there are thousands of brands competing for people’s attention, Facebook has severely limited the page posts’ organic reach.

SocialFlow analyzed more than 3,000 posts by publishers on Facebook and found that organic reach dropped 42% between January and May 2016.

SocialFlow FacebookOrganicReach 1

It has dropped even further since 2016 – Image source

So how to make your Facebook posts’ engagement ⬆ go while their organic reach is going ⬇?

By promoting your page posts to your page followers.

Using Facebook Custom Audiences, you can target:

  • Anyone who engaged with your Page
  • Anyone who visited your Page
  • People who engaged with any post or ad
  • People who clicked any call-to-action button
  • People who sent a message to your Page
  • People who saved your Page or any post
target facebook page fans 1

Remarket to people who engaged with your posts and ads

We recommend boosting your Facebook page’s posts to people who have previously engaged with your posts and ads.

This audience is more likely to engage with your page posts again, and help to increase your Facebook posts’ reach.

Alright! Now that you know how to set up Facebook ad targeting with Saved and Custom audiences, it’s time to take a look at the third option: Lookalike Audiences.

Facebook Lookalike Audiences – All you need to know

We all have some amazing customers who buy frequently, leave positive reviews, and refer friends to check out the website.

Your TOP 20% customers contribute up to 80% of your revenue and keep your sales from dropping.

So what if you could find more people like your favourite clients?

Facebook Lookalike Audiences can do just that, helping you reach people with similar interests and activity patterns as your existing high-value customers.

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What if you could basically clone your best customers… – Image source

Here’s the logic behind Facebook Lookalike Audiences:

When you create a Lookalike Audience, you choose a source audience (a Custom Audience created with your pixel data, your mobile app data or fans of your Page) and Facebook identifies the common qualities of the people in it. Then, the algorithms will find more people similar to your source audience.

You can choose the size of your Lookalike Audience during the setup process. Smaller audiences (1%-3% Lookalike) match more closely your source audience. Creating a larger audience increases your potential reach, but reduces the level of similarity between the Lookalike Audience and source audience.

A good Lookalike Audience size is between 1 000 to 50 000 people.

facebook ad targeting

Lookalike Audiences are country-based – Image source

Facebook shares some additional suggestions:

  • It may take 6 to 24 hours for your Lookalike Audience to be created. After that, it’ll refresh every 3 to 7 days as long as you’re still actively targeting ads to it.
  • You don’t need to wait for your Lookalike Audience to update to use it for ad targeting.
  • You can see when your Lookalike Audience was updated by visiting your Audience Manager page and looking at the date under the Availability column.

Here are 5 ideas for creating Lookalike Audiences to get you started:

  • Create a Lookalike Audience of your 10% top-paying customers.
  • Set up a Lookalike Audience of repeat purchasers (people who have made at least 2 purchases over time).
  • Target people similar to your blog readers.
  • Test a Lookalike Audience of people who have engaged with your Facebook page.
  • Create a Custom Audience of your entire global customer base and use it as source audience for country-based lookalikes.


If you’ve read this far into the article, it means that you are now aware of all the available Facebook ad targeting options.

Now, let’s put your newly-learned skills into use by learning more hacks for creating the perfect Facebook audiences for your specific business type.

But before we get to part 3 of the article, let’s make sure you won’t fall into the common traps when it comes to Facebook audiences.

Part 2: TOP 5 Facebook ad targeting mistakes to avoid at all cost

The best way to master Facebook advertising is by creating campaigns, testing, and learning.

Making occasional mistakes is actually a good sign that you’re experimenting with different options and getting valuable insights out of it.

To speed up your learning curve, we listed the most common Facebook targeting mistakes, so that you can focus on making other mistakes.

Just kidding!

By avoiding these rookie mistakes, you will end up saving thousands of advertising dollars. 💰

Don’t get caught up in the wrong targeting trap! – Image source

Here’s a quick overview of the main targeting mistakes we’ve seen when auditing hundreds of ad accounts:

  • Over-optimizing your Facebook audience
  • Not using the most valuable audiences
  • Over-advertising to the same audience
  • Making conclusions too early
  • Forgetting to test new audiences

Let’s make sure to avoid this happening on your Facebook ads account.

Mistake #1: Over-optimizing your Facebook audience

Facebook offers unlimited ways to specify and narrow down your audience.

By using the and-or and exclusion features, you can go hyper granular when setting up an audience.

facebook audience refining 1

You can endlessly narrow down your audience

In fact, you can easily get so caught up with all the interesting targeting options that you will end up with only 1000 people in your audience.

Why is a 1000-person Facebook audience bad?

Unless it’s a Custom Audience of a very specific customer segment, having narrow audiences restricts Facebook algorithms from optimizing your ad delivery.

Especially if when using a Saved Audience (interest- and location-based targeting), you will get better results with broad audiences.

facebook ad targeting is alright

Use Broad audiences – Image source

Based on Facebook targeting options, we recommend the following audience sizes:

  • Saved Audience: 20 000 – 500 000 people
  • Custom Audience: 200 – 10 000 people
  • Lookalike Audience: 10 000 – 50 000 people

Mistake #2: Not using the most valuable audiences

We all get lazy sometimes, trying to find the easiest way out.

However, your Facebook ads targeting is not the best place for cutting corners.

lazy facebook ad taregeting

Don’t get lazy with your Facebook targeting! – Image source

If you’re spending thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, here’s the rule of thumb: make sure to take advantage of all the available targeting methods.

This means setting up a Facebook Pixel and using a mix of all targeting methods: Saved, Custom, and Lookalike Audiences.

Start out by running a campaign using the Saved Audience to build up your remarketing list. Then, follow up with more complex Custom Audiences and high-value Lookalikes.

See Part 3 of this article for advanced targeting suggestions.

Mistake #3: Over-advertising to the same audience

Have you ever seen a brand’s Facebook ad so many times it becomes annoying?

That brand is probably having troubles with ad fatigue caused by high ad frequency.

Ad frequency 1

You can check your ad frequency in Facebook Ads Manager

There are two main reasons why your ad frequency gets high:

  • You target a very narrow audience, yet have a high campaign budget
  • You let an ad campaign run for a long time without tweaking its target audience

When the same people see the same ad all over again, their engagement with that ad is likely to drop, making your campaign a lot less efficient in terms of ROI.

AdEspresso analyzed how ad frequency affects the click-through rate, cost-per-click, and other performance KPIs of Facebook ads. Here’s what they found:

facebook ad frequency 1

High ad frequency = low results – Image source

When the audience saw the same ad twice, the click-through rate decreased by 8.91%. When shown repetitive ads for four times, the cost-per-click was already 68% (!!) higher.

Facebook ad frequency 2 1

Better to keep the ad frequency low – Image source

Here are a few handy tips for avoiding high ad frequency:

  • Keep your target audience larger than 10 000 people.
  • Change your ad creatives every two weeks.
  • If you have already advertised to an audience for a month, make a 2-week break, then resume the advertisements.
  • Exclude converters from ad campaigns, so that they won’t keep seeing the same sales ads after they’ve made a purchase.

To exclude past converters from your Facebook audience, create new Custom Audience of users who have visited specific web pages (e.g. the check-out page).

Next, use the Exclude feature to stop targeting those people.

exclude custom audiences 1

Exclude converted users from sales campaigns

Mistake #4: Making conclusions too early

Imagine that you set up a new Facebook ad campaign, then go to check its results after 5 hours, and see that it’s performing really poorly.

oh noes 1

Something must be wrong – Image source

In fact, seeing poor (or no) results during the first days of your Facebook campaign is completely normal.

Facebook’s algorithms need some time to start learning about your ads. This period is called the learning phase.

Here’s an explanation by Facebook:

“When we start delivering our ad set, whether at the start of a campaign or after you edit it, we don’t have all the data necessary to deliver it as stable as possible. In order to get that data, we have to show ads to different types of people to learn who is most likely to get you optimization events. This process is called the “learning phase.” Learn about editing during or after the learning phase.”

The following changes are considered significant edits, which reset the learning phase:

  • Any change to targeting
  • Any change to ad creative
  • Any change to optimization event
  • Pausing your ad set (or the campaign it’s in) for 7 days or longer (the learning phase will reset once you un-pause the ad set or campaign)
  • Adding a new ad to your ad set

Moreover, your ad set needs to get about 50 optimization events after starting to run or since the last significant edit to complete the learning phase.

Every time you make substantial changes to your campaigns, consider waiting for at least 24-48 hours before drawing any conclusions.

This also applies to the changes you’re making to the target audience.

Mistake #5: Forgetting to test new audiences

Once you have found a Facebook target audience that delivers good results, it is reasonable to keep using it until it stops performing.

However, make sure to regularly check on your target audience’s performance. If you leave an ad campaign unattended, you might be in for a bad surprise.

AdEspresso was open about making this mistake once in their own ad campaigns.

In five months, the average cost-per-conversion for their campaign increased over 1050% from $3.33 to $38.47.

facebook ads performance loss 1

The CPC was skyrocketing – Image source

Here’s a comment from AdEspresso’s CEO Massimo Chieruzzi:

“While, through split testing, we had found a great design and an audience that loved our product… it was a very small audience! Throwing a lot of money at this small audience, we soon saturated it after only two months, wasting a load of money in the process.”

At some point, every Facebook target audience stops performing.

The best way to be prepared for that moment is to have a list of new audience ideas ready to be used.

Keep testing new Facebook ad targeting ideas every month.

facebook ad targeting test

Keep testing to learn what works – Image source

In addition to looking for new broad audiences, play around with Custom and Lookalike Audiences to find more granular (yet high-value) target groups.

By avoiding all the above Facebook targeting mistakes and using all your newly-learned skills, you are all set to run your first high-performance ad campaigns.

To get you up to full speed in no time, we decided to share our secret sauce for creating the best Facebook audiences for three popular business types:

  • Small businesses
  • eCommerce brands
  • B2B companies

Read Part 3 of this guide to learn some pro hacks. 🙌

Part 3: Facebook ad Targeting best practices for TOP 3 business types

While this may be hard to believe, sometimes the most efficient targeting means a broad audience of people aged 18 – 65+ with no specific interest selection.

On the other hand, there are also use cases where using Lookalike and Custom Audiences or narrowing down your targeting to a specific mobile OS works best.

It all comes down to the product you’re advertising, the budget you’re working with, and the events you’re optimizing for.

We’re about to share with you the targeting hacks for TOP 3 business use cases. See how to win in the targeting game no matter what product you are advertising.

Learn to get it 100% right each time – Image source

1. Facebook ad targeting for small businesses

If you’re running a small business, Facebook is probably the most efficient channel for promoting your product or service.

However, most small business owners encounter similar challenges:

  • You don’t have a lot of money to spend on ads
  • You have a low number of sales, making campaign optimization difficult
  • You have a highly specific user base that you want to reach

We’ve have seen 90% of companies getting a positive ROI out of Facebook ads. All it takes is a strong initial setup and some tweaking of targeting and creatives to learn what works best for your product and brand.

Tip: Your small business is selling a specific service, e.g. you’re running bike repairs hop? In this case, you will also benefit from setting up Google Search ads so that people will find your business when googling for a service like yours.

facebook vs google 1

You can benefit from both channels – Image source

Start with (quick and easy) user research

Before you start setting up an online ad campaign, stop and figure out the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who are the people who would buy my product? – What’s their age, social background, interests, location (urban vs rural), how tech savvy they are, etc.
  2. When are people buying my product? – Is your product commonly bought after some consideration period (e.g. furniture, technology costing $100+) or as an impulse buy (e.g. fashion, food, tech gadgets)
  3. Where are people buying my product? – Are most purchases made online or in your brick and mortar store?

Depending on your answers, you can start building your Facebook ad targeting strategy.

Setting up the perfect Facebook audience for your small business

A good Facebook ad campaign’s audience size for a campaign with $500-$2000 budget is between 10k-50k people.

This is narrow enough to only include a highly selective group of users while leaving Facebook’s algorithms some room for automatic optimization.

You probably have some knowledge about what type of people buy your product. Try to figure out what’s their age and interests.

TIP: If you already have a Facebook page, check out the Facebook Audience Insights tool.

Select “People connected to your page” to learn more about your social media audience and use it to narrow down your campaign’s targeting.

It is specifically useful to learn where your audience is located (so that you can target based on their city or country) and their gender + age range.

facebook audience insights 1

Learn about your audience with Facebook Audience Insights tool

If you’re doing a Facebook campaign for your small business, edit the following targeting options:

Age range

age range targeting 1

Specify your target group’s age

Best practices to keep in mind:

  • Don’t narrow down the age range by too much – a 10y minimum age range is recommended.
  • If your product has potential customers across all age ranges, target a broad audience of 18-65+ years and later check your campaign results to see if some age group outperformed the rest, then target those people in your next campaigns.


This targeting method is a good option to target your ads only on 50% of the potential audience, making sure you reach the highest-potential buyers.

As reported by CNBC, more women shop online compared to men – you are more likely to drive sales for your online store by targeting women with your Facebook ads. (Of course, if you’re selling a product made specifically for a male audience, that’s whom you should target.)

women shop online more 1

Women are more active online shoppers – Image source


There are a few reasons why you should target your small business’ ads based on specific locations:

  • Your small business’ sales happen in a brick and mortar store rather than online – in this case, you can target people living or located close to your store.
  • Your shipping options are limited – make sure your ads reach people in countries and cities where you’re able to provide shipping.
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Target based on location

Tip: If you want to reach people who live in a location or who have recently visited some area in a city, you can use additional targeting options to specify this.

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Specify whom you want to reach


Have some big brands whose target audience matched with yours? Great – you can reach the people interested in the bigger company.

Also, you can define your audience by specific interests such as “fashion” or “cooking.”

Tip: Make use of the AND + OR features in Facebook’s interest-based targeting, using it to narrow down your audience. E.g. you can target people who are interested in fashion AND music AND Beyonce.

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Simply use the “Narrow Further” button

Tip: Unsure what works best? You can A/B test targeting various age groups or interests by setting up multiple campaigns that have the same ads but different ad set-level targeting specs.

If you have run your first campaigns and want to move forward with more advanced targeting options, scroll down to the remarketing and Lookalike Audience’s sections.

Facebook ad targeting for eCommerce

Efficient Facebook campaigns for eCommerce are a mix of smart targeting and the work done by Facebook’s algorithms.

This holds true for lifestyle brands especially, as Facebook has plenty of relevant Instagram data on the users’ interests and profiles they follow.

When creating a Facebook ad strategy for your eCommerce business, run 1-2 high budget campaigns rather than 10 smaller ones.

Why? – Because Facebook optimizes ad delivery on ad set-level and if you spread the purchase events too thin between many campaigns, the algorithms’ magic will vanish.

Many big eCommerce stores have developed a complex Facebook ad targeting strategy, delivering varied offers to the buyers in all stages of the sales funnel, promoting discounts, next purchase ideas, and running remarketing campaigns via automated product feeds.

No matter what’s the size of your e-store, you can do that as well!

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Include all marketing funnel stages in your ad campaigns – Image source

Here’s an overview of Facebook audience targeting features that you can (and should) use for your eCommerce business:

  1. Broad targeting – to build brand awareness and drive some sales
  2. Custom Audiences for remarketing – to drive most of your e-store’s first-time and repeat purchases
  3. Lookalike Audiences of frequent buyers – to reach more high-value buyers

Start with broad targeting campaigns

Facebook algorithms are crazy good in finding the most relevant target audience for your product.

To benefit from the full scope of Facebook’s user data, follow these suggestions:

  1. Select the “Conversions” campaign objective.
  2. Optimize your ad set delivery on your online store’s “Purchase” events (you can set up the tracking with Facebook Ads Pixel).
  3. Target a broad audience of 100k or more people.

Why target such a broad audience? – To reach the highest-potential buyers with the help of Facebook’s targeting, build brand awareness, lead people to your online store, build a retargeting audience and score your first sales.

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Start broad to build brand awareness – Image source

Right after you’ve set up the broad targeting Conversions campaigns, follow up with retargeting ads to turn more leads into customers.

Set up remarketing ads with Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom Audiences allow you to target your ads on people who have:

  • Given you their email address before
  • Visited your website
  • Are using your app
  • Engaged with your Facebook posts or ads
Facebook custom audiences 1

Set up remarketing ads with Custom Audiences

For eCommerce businesses, the most efficient type of remarketing ads is Dynamic Product Ads.

Dynamic remarketing ads track which product pages on your website a person has visited, and compile a personalized remarketing ad for them.

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Set up Dynamic Product Ads – Image source

Sounds efficient, doesn’t it?

According to Facebook, retargeting is a real goldmine for online stores:

Kristi Argylian, Senior Vice President at Target, remarked that Dynamic Product Ads ads resulted in a 20% increase in conversions compared to other types of Facebook campaigns the company was running.

To set up Facebook ad targeting with Dynamic Product Ads, follow these steps:

  1. Set up your catalog for Dynamic Ads for Products – Facebook’s guide
  2. Add the Facebook Pixel and/or Facebook SDK for Dynamic Ads for Products – Facebook’s guide
  3. Step 3: Create an ad template for Dynamic Ads for Products – Facebook’s guide

Once you’ve got the retargeting campaign up and running, your audience will see Facebook ads featuring products that they previously have viewed – like the two examples below. 👇

thekooples 1

Both of these ads are based on Dynamic Product Ads template

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Both of these ads are based on Dynamic Product Ads template

Reach more high-value purchasers with Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences enable you to reach new audiences similar to your existing customers or website visitors.

One of the leading newspapers in France was able to increase their digital subscriptions in 2018 by 20%, using a combination of Facebook Custom and Lookalike Audiences.

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You’re welcome, pal! – Image source

Here’s how the Lookalike Audiences’ logic works:

  • You’ve got a set of customers who made a purchase in your online store
  • You want to find more people who resemble your high-profit buyers
  • So… You will tell Facebook: “Hey, here’s the set of people who made a purchase in my store, find me an audience similar to them.
  • Facebook’s algorithms get to work, identifying the common traits among your purchasers and targeting your ad on more people like them

That’s actually pretty straightforward, huh?

We’ll be touching upon the Lookalike Audiences in greater detail in another chapter of this article. Click here to navigate to the chapter.

As a quick heads-up, know that in order to target a Lookalike Audience, you first need to set up a Custom Audience, then use it as a “seed” audience for creating your Lookalike Audience.

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Set up Lookalike Audiences in 2 steps

In the eCommerce industry, your workflow for Facebook Lookalike targeting could look like this:

  1. Create a Custom Audience of people who purchased something from your online store in the past 60 days’
  2. Create a Lookalike Audience of the above audience to reach more high-potential buyers in the same demographic and social range

Tip: When setting up Lookalike audiences, you can create 1 audience per country. However, it’s ok to include all your buyers across the globe in the Lookalike audience’s “seed audience” – you will have more data for algorithms to learn from, leading to better results.

The best time to set up Lookalike targeting campaigns for your eCommerce business is after you’ve already reached 500+ sales.

Look at the Lookalike Audiences as a Super Mario superpower that you only unlock after defeating a number of levels.

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New targeting methods open up as you get more results – Image source

Quick recap of Facebook ad targeting for eCommerce businesses:

If you haven’t worked on advanced Facebook prospecting before, the above information can contain a lot of new stuff to take in.

Let’s break it down once more, to summarise the three main steps you should follow for better Facebook ad results:

  1. Start broad, as Facebook’s algorithms are just in the learning phase about your product and target audience. Make sure your first ad sets reach 20 000 or more people.
  2. Right away, set up remarketing campaigns, using the Custom Audiences and Dynamic Product Ads feature.
  3. Once you’ve reached the level of 500+ purchases, give a try to Lookalike Audiences that help you reach more people similar to your TOP buyers.

In fact, make a deal with yourself right here and now to experiment with this 3-step Facebook targeting strategy to boost your online store’s sales figures.

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Pinkie promise! – Image source

Facebook ad targeting for B2B products

Facebook can seem like an unlikely marketing channel to work for B2B businesses.

There’s LinkedIn, Google Display ads, review sites… A wide selection of ad channels with seemingly higher relevance for business audiences.

Yet if you’re reading this blog, there’s a 99% chance you’re a potential buyer to some B2B products.

Consider your own daily social media habits during daily coffee breaks at work…

You might check out LinkedIn and your inbox, but you’re also likely to check out what’s happening on Facebook.

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Facebook ads reach everyone – Image source

The point we’re trying to make is that Facebook can be a highly efficient marketing channel for B2B businesses.

And B2B marketers agree.

A survey of 342 B2B marketers concluded that 58% of managers see Facebook and LinkedIn as the social media platforms with the highest marketing ROI.

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B2B marketers believe in Facebook ads – Image source

In 2018, nine out of 10 B2B marketers were already including Facebook ads in their online marketing strategy.

However, you can’t just apply the same Facebook targeting strategy with your B2B business as the consumer brands around you are doing.

Selling chocolate bars and project management software is not same-same.

You need a game plan specifically developed for a B2B product.

Start by defining your B2B marketing funnel

B2B marketing is a game of seduction – you first need to get the prospect interested in your product, then convince them to sign up for a trial period, and finally, convert them to a long-time paying customer.

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You need to turn your cold leads into paying customers – Image source

Naturally, you can’t target people with the exact same ad messaging, touting a single slogan throughout the 5-step marketing funnel.

Instead, what you should do is build a smart B2B marketing strategy containing both traditional and digital sales channels.

When combined with traditional sales methods like pitches over a conference call and other online channels like Google Search ads, Facebook ads will help to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time.

facebook ad targeting ftw

To create awareness around your B2B product, we suggest focussing on content marketing (blogging) and Google Search ads. For closing the deals, B2B companies generally rely on sales meetings.

Facebook ads work best for people in the Interest and Customer funnel stages.

Consider the social network as the soft-selling channel in your B2B marketing strategy.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can target both of these audience groups on Facebook (and what type of ads to show them).

Targeting B2B audiences in the Interest stage

The Interest stage is a step in your B2B marketing funnel where a person has already heard about your product but is not yet thinking about trying and buying it.

That’s a perfect opportunity to show them some Facebook ads, making sure that the lukewarm leads warm up instead of cooling down.

Take this Facebook ad by Asana as an example:

  • Seeing the ad reminds people of Asana’s product
  • The ad creates additional trust, mentioning the number of teams using it
  • There is a clear call to action to start a free trial period
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Example of a B2B ad by Asana

Alright, so you get the point what a B2B Facebook ad should look like…

Who is the audience you should target?

Here are the three usual suspects for B2B Facebook ads targeting in the Interest stage:

  1. Custom Audiences of specific landing page visitors – reach people who have checked out your product landing pages, indicating a high interest in your product.
  2. Custom Audiences of blog readers – retarget your past 30 days’ blog readers every time a new article comes out in your blog to turn them into returning readers.
  3. Custom Audiences of e-book/whitepaper downloaders – offer gated content on your website, collect people’s contact details, and use these to create a retargeting audience on Facebook.
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Set up a Facebook audience of blog readers

When targeting B2B audiences in the Interest stage, promote soft-sell offers like educational content, a free trial period or a product demo. (Using Facebook ads for closing the B2B sales deal generally doesn’t work.)

For example, Dropbox is sharing a blog article about one of its products – Dropbox Paper. It serves both the function of informing people about the product (Interest stage) as well as providing useful tips for becoming a power users (Customer stage).

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Dropbox is going for a soft sell

The main challenge for B2B advertising on Facebook is to reach the right audience at the right time.

Set up multiple ad campaigns targeting people in various stages of your sales funnel, moving them closer to purchase with each ad they’ll see.

🏆 Alright. Way to go! Congrats!

You have reached the finish line of this Facebook ad targeting guide.

What we recommend you to do next, is to go to the Facebook Ads Manager, navigate to the Audiences section, and set up a few new audiences right away to put the theory into practice.

If you want to learn more about online advertising, check out our other guides:

Karola Karlson

Content Writer

Karola is all about random cool ideas, growth marketing, and taking new marketing approaches on a test drive. And boy does she love conversion copywriting or any writing for that matter (ask anyone who’s worked with her). Want to collaborate with Karola? Send her some delicious black chai, and then we’re talking!

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