While I strongly recommend well-thought-out social media strategies that predominantly include organic social media tactics, I also understand the necessity for paid social media advertising (though I wouldn’t advocate for Twitter promoted trends unless you have a luxurious marketing budget).
Paid social ads, particularly Facebook ads, are relatively cost efficient, have the ability to kickstart a campaign and, most of all, they provide one of the most highly targeted mediums available.
Gone are the days of the “cast a wide net” theory. Now it’s the online networks and publications with the ability to provide hyper-targeted niche audiences that are of most interest to advertisers. Facebook is one of the best when it comes to reaching these tightly woven target audiences.
For some reason, though, whether it be the hype associated with the Facebook IPO or the general misuse of Facebook ad campaigns by the average user, the amazing targeting options and high click-through rates of Facebook ad campaigns are often lost on marketers.
Some suspect that their target audience simply isn’t on Facebook or that Facebook users don’t click on ads. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In Q1 of 2013, Facebook reported that it had 1.11 BILLION users. A wide variety of reports confirm that these users also check Facebook daily, if not multiple times per day (especially on their mobile devices)…even while they’re working out. And if you’re using the correct combination of creative elements and have the correct strategy in place (e.g. lead generation), Facebook users WILL click on your ads.
Now that we’ve tackled that elephant in the room, let’s dive into what exactly the Facebook targeting options are:
- Demographics: You can target users by location (by zip code, city, state, country, within x miles of specific cities), age (any range up to age 65), sex, and relationship status (married, engaged, single with interests in males or females).
- Birthday: You can create ads that are targeted at people who have a birthday in the next week (or other specific timeframe).
- Precise Interests: Facebook considers information such as the Facebook pages the users “Like,” the apps they use, and any other information they have added to their Facebook timeline, to determine their precise interests. These can be drawn from their listed interests, activities, education, job titles, groups they belong to, and more.
- Facebook Broad Categories: If you need a little help developing your target audience and can’t quite come up with precise interests, Facebook also has broader categories. These are also based on users’ status updates or any actions they have taken on Facebook.
- Education: Target users by the year they graduated, whether they’ve graduated or are still in college, which university they attended, and even which subject area they majored in.
- Connections: In addition to this demographic data, you can also target people who have “Liked” your page, joined your group, RSVP’d to your event, or users who have used your app. You can even reach the friends of people who have taken any of these actions, which is a powerful way to gain new users/”Likes,” as friends tend to have similar interests.
- Partner Categories: Here’s where it gets even more robust. Facebook has partnered with Acxiom, Datalogix & Epsilon to provide over 500 unique groups (with more to come) of people to target via Facebook. These services allow Facebook to combine information from their partners (which is based on a user’s online browsing activity on websites other than Facebook) with the information gathered from the user’s activity on Facebook. Click here for more about targeting with Facebook’s Data Partners.
- Custom Audiences: Custom audiences allow advertisers to target their ads to a specific set of users based on a previously owned list of phone numbers or email addresses. Basically, Facebook matches these email addresses and/or phone numbers with Facebook user IDs and encrypted data to build an audience that’s completely your own.
- Lookalike Audiences: When you create a custom audience list, you can also create a “lookalike audience” that includes people who are similar to your custom audience list. This way you’re reaching people who have the same interests and demographic information as your custom audience, but that you have not established a connection with just yet.