A Guide To Facebook Targeting Options

By Tinuiti Team

Retargeting is great as it allows advertisers to focus their attention on users who have previously shown interest in or engaged with their business at some point. But what about cold traffic or new markets that are unfamiliar with or unaware of your business?

Building an audience from scratch can be a challenging feat. And while they may not know anything about you quite yet, thanks to Facebook targeting options, you still know something about them.

With an estimated 1.71 billion monthly active users, Facebook has a lot of people on the platform. More importantly, Facebook knows a lot about those people.

Things like what movies and television shows they like. What music, sports teams, and restaurants users are interested in. They know the professions, education levels, and even significant life events – such as getting engaged – of their users.

The 2016 Guide to Facebook Retargeting

The “Like” button isn’t just some gimmick. It’s a big reason why Facebook is able to assemble some of the most refined and in-depth interest-based data available.

The best part? You don’t need to be Facebook to make use of these details. Retailers advertising on the platform have the ability to utilize these Facebook targeting options when developing their strategies.

Facebook Targeting and the Available Options

In the creation of an ad, you’re presented with a handful of categories you can tailor facebook targeting audience definitionto your campaign’s objective. Each category acts as a layer, further defining your audience.

The more layers you add, the more specific your audience definition (which is displayed alongside creating the ad) will be.

Understanding the possibilities that lie beneath each of these categories is pivotal in determining which ones will have the biggest impact on a campaign.

Of the categories available, advertisers will be able to customize and fine-tune the following:

These 6 options are going to be the bulk of what determines who your ad is shown to. Let’s break down each to see how they can be best utilized.

Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences are a major component of Facebook targeting options; although, they may provide more value as a retargeting approach. They look to put advertisers in a position that helps businesses sell and market to customers they already know, and not explicitly tied to new markets.

Whether it’s retargeting existing customers or putting together a cohort of prospective buyers, Custom Audiences simplify the process of marketing to specific groups with scalable ads.

Custom Audiences are created by uploading information from your current customer database, which Facebook will match to user profiles to create audience lists. List details are generally based off of:

Additionally, Lookalike Audiences are available within the same section. They allow advertisers to target consumers who mirror or look similar to former or already existing customers they may have. This audience option is incredibly valuable, as it allows advertisers to reach an entirely new group of prospective customers, identical to previously converted customers, they may not have found otherwise.


Locations is simple, but important. This basically determines what areas, geographically, your ads will display in. Location specifications can be tailored via the following:

You have the ability to include or exclude certain areas as you further define your locations. When deciding where to run your ads, be aware of factors that can play a role in performance.

Consider only running ads in areas you actually service. The last thing you need to do is waste spend displaying ads in locations your business doesn’t ship to.

Alternatively, utilize the ability to limit the range of your targeting. For physical retailers, consider decreasing the size of your radius to improve local awareness ads.

Age, Gender, and Language

We’ve gone ahead and lumped the three of these together, as they are fairly straightforward. That does not, however, imply that they are any less important – particularly age and gender.

The language option allows you to select the languages you wish to have your ad presented in. Simple enough. Age and gender, as you probably guessed, allow you to define an age range and whether or not your ad will be displayed to men or women. Again, simple enough.

facebook targetingAs effortless as these Facebook targeting options are right off the bat, don’t underestimate their ability to hurt your campaigns.

Buyer personas are a big component of every business. And while they often do a good job in helping define your expected audience, they aren’t always 100% accurate.

Whenever setting up a campaign in a new market, it could be beneficial to leave your age range and gender specifications fairly open. They might come back with unexpected results (such as an older age group being interested in your product, etc). From there, you can refine and further specify your targeting options moving forward.

Of course, there are circumstances in which age and gender are pivotal (you’re not going to run an ad selling diapers to college students). But in instances they are not, consider letting the data speak for itself.facebook targeting options

“When you’re working with large audiences, Facebook does a good job and typically gets you cheaper clicks or
engagements. You’re able to optimize and find people within those audiences more easily and often at a lower cost.” said Sarah Rogers, Senior Social Strategist at CPC Strategy.

“There are a number of ways you can go about testing things. You can break it down very granularly, creating ad sets for females 18-24, 25-34, and so on. Or, you can leave it wide open and see what the data says.”

“In reporting, you’re able to see the demographics that are responding to your ad and use those results moving forward.”

Detailed Targeting

Of the Facebook targeting options we’ve sifted through so far, Detailed Targeting packs the biggest punch. Here, the options are practically limitless.

The Detailed Targeting option is comprised of four different Facebook targeting types:

While the premise of each may seem a little obvious at first, don’t underestimate how comprehensive they can be when reaching out to a new market. After all, it’s called Detailed Targeting for a reason.

“This is where you can get really creative” Rogers went on to say.

“The cool thing about detailed targeting is that you can layer on a lot of different things. You can include demographic information, interests, behavioral aspects, all within the same module.”


The demographics option allows you to reach people based on, well, just about anything. The number of choices you have to choose from can be a bit overwhelming. And for advertisers, that’s a good problem to have.

This is the beauty of Facebook targeting options. You can target based on:

As an aside: these are only 6 of the 10 demographic targeting options available, and certain options are only available within the U.S. Be sure to fully explore what categories, and subcategories, are available and applicable to you when defining your Facebook targeting options.


The next Facebook targeting option is Interests. This includes the types of posts users share on their timelines, apps they use, and pages they like.

The interests section has a nearly limitless number of options to choose from. You can search relevant topics or choose from a list of categories, each containing an abundance of subcategories.

The image below depicts only a handful of the categories you can choose from. Exploring each one, and the subcategories that come along with them, is going to take some time on your part.

facebook targeting interests


Behaviors are constructed based on someone’s activity on Facebook, as well as offline activity provided provided by trusted third-party Facebook partners.

Similar to interests, this Facebook targeting option has an astounding number of categories and subcategories. You have the ability to reach people based on purchase behaviors or intents, device usage and more.

Assume you’re a retailer selling kitchenware. In the Behavior targeting options, you have the ability to focus on consumers that have interest in related content.

Behaviors>Media>Television>Cooking shows

facebook targeting behaviors

This is just one of the many overlays that can be applied in the behavior targeting options. Depending on what options are incorporated, and how they’re incorporated, it can boost the thoroughness of an ad’s audience definition.

More Categories

The More Categories option is comprised of what’s called Facebook and Partner Categories. The data derived here looks similar to previous options, initially. Things like income, certain shopping behaviors, and many more can be added as an overlay in More Categories.

The big differentiator is that this information is not immediately available for use and needs to be requested. The data pulled is provided from trusted third-party data partners Facebook has established relationships with.

So with something like income, which could also be found under the Demographics targeting option, the data comes from one of these partners instead of being self-reported by users or aggregated from other sources.

“It’s an ‘and or’ statement with detailed targeting. You can target someone who makes $75k or someone who likes interior design. But this is where you can start to get really granular.”

“You can add on additional layers that are an ‘and’ statement. Someone who matches something here and someone who matches something here, as well. So you have someone who makes $75K and they’re an interior designer.”

If there’s one recurring theme presented throughout the available Facebook targeting options, its specificity. The ability to be so granular in your targeting approach is immensely valuable to any business advertising on the platform.


For more information on Facebook targeting options, please contact [email protected]


Additional Resources:

Facebook Marketing Organic & Paid Strategies

An Overview of Custom Audiences on Facebook

The 2016 Guide to Facebook Retargeting

Facebook Product Ads: A Retailers Guide to Facebook Advertising

How to Create Facebook Custom & Lookalike Audiences

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