Facebook Audience Targeting: Why It’s Good, and What It’s Missing

programmatic buying 101

As of June 2017, Facebook has reported 2 billion monthly users worldwide. Social media has become an imperative industry tool for marketers, and Facebook is a non-negotiable piece of that strategy. Beyond its organic visibility capabilities, the platform also offers paid advertising features that not only place brands in front of large-scale audiences, but allow brands to target which audiences they advertise to. Facebook has been able to penetrate user behaviors reaching beyond the platform’s boundaries— from high-level demographic information (gender, language, education) to personal interests to activity patterns (via the ‘Life Events’ feature, for example).

However, Facebook may be an industry standard, but that doesn’t mean it is the industry ideal. We’ve taken a deep dive into Facebook’s audience targeting features to give you a better understanding of what’s good, and what’s missing from the platform. Read on for our insights.

Why We Like Facebook

While paid search allows you to more easily capture users who are ready to buy, advertising with Facebook’s audience targeting features can boost the lifetime value of a customer, because you’re banking on a big-picture understanding of how they buy. Facebook’s ad platform allows you to serve ads to users who have displayed longer-term, more established interests and behaviors— this allows you to capture their attention and continue to engage with them over an extended period of time, regardless of whether they’ve specifically searched for your product or service. Facebook also offers significant remarketing capabilities, so that you can serve ads that capture users who may have clicked through, but need an extra push to convert.

Facebook’s Audience Insights tool offers a lot in the way of granular targeting. As we mentioned before, you can leverage data from Insights to target Facebook users based on shopping behavior. Is the user into luxury fashion, or DIY homemaking? Are they a foodie? This type of behavior gives crucial clues about the likelihood of driving an actual sale with each user. You can also build and segment your audiences to target different demographics depending on the type of campaign you’re running. Perhaps you want to attract only new customers with a first-time discount code— you can use Facebook’s tools to create an audience that excludes existing customers in your database, but mirrors their interests and behaviors. This way, you can capture new leads, and not bombard your existing customers with ads that aren’t relevant to them.

If you want to take it a step further, you can layer Facebook’s more advanced targeting capabilities not only to exclude audiences, but to segment out a particular audience that meets a very specific set of criteria. You can target based on more than just location and age— you can layer job title, household income (and even composition— from empty nesters to first-time parents), to lifestyle choices like ‘active’ or ‘career-focused.’ So, you can serve ads specifically to users who are actually likely to engage with your brand, and even better— once you’ve captured their interest, you can use existing pixel data from past campaigns to then retarget those users and boost conversions.

What’s Missing

It’s hard to leverage your existing user data on Facebook without manually inputting it each time you build a campaign. There is no automatic bridge between your sales and your campaigns— you have to mine that data manually, over and over, and keep your campaigns updated as best you can. Further, you can’t get real-time insights on your campaigns until they’ve finished running. This means that you can’t find an audience and then develop an ad that corresponds to that audience until you’ve already paid to play.

What Facebook is also missing is a ‘recommended audiences’ feature. We’d like to see a platform that allows you to input a few key factors like client objectives, budget and business type, and then creates an outline for your most relevant audience demographics from there. This would provide advertisers with recommendations based on different targeting algorithms, allowing you to find audience members that you would not otherwise consider.

The Tool Marketers Need

Ultimately, we’re of the mind that that tool has yet to be created. What marketers need is a bridge between existing data and their ongoing campaigns. Facebook offers no solutions for making use of all the data and customer insights you receive until after the campaign has run— meaning that optimizing in real-time is only as good as the limited data you have on hand. For the time being, marketers will have to be content with the insights they glean from current campaigns to build their own custom audiences and targeting. Pay attention to the audiences that perform the best, and use that data to effectively create new campaigns and tweak current ones.