For most everyday people, Facebook is a portal to news, place for entertainment, and a way to connect with friends and family. On the other hand, many business owners and marketers see Facebook as a way to reach their target audiences with a message or to increase sales for their business.

This isn't sinister, per se. Popular entertainment and advertising have been connected for generations. Minus the part about connecting to friends and family, everything in the opening equally applied to newspapers, radio and television media. What makes Facebook so much different is the ability to fine tune targeting to maximize the potential of reaching a potential target consumer.

Facebook has a massive amount of data on the people who use their platform. And though the company does a lot to limit potential abuses of this data, it still creates a lot of way to advertise to specific groups of people on Facebook. The problem is that many business owners and marketers don't know how to fully take advantage of Facebook Ads. This article will showcase three of the simplest but most effective ways to better target consumers on Facebook.

Demographics, Keywords and Interests

To start with the most basic way to use ad targeting, is to properly using keywords and interests to create a solid advertising audience. Depending on how a company uses their Facebook page, their fans may not be their ideal customers.

Simply relying on the option to target a page's fans, or their friends can lead to less than optimal results. To illustrate, say a business uses their Facebook page to post popular images of expensive products. Many of the fans would lack the means to buy the product, so advertising deals and specials only to fans would be a waste.

Instead, by using Facebook's extensive Keyword, Interest, and Demographic options, businesses can target people who are more likely to buy the product or service. There are obvious ways to use these tools, such as by targeting a specific gender and age range. But Facebook has added new interest groups, such as job titles (i.e. moving in on LinkedIn turf), industries, and more.

It's hard to overstate the power in these tools. It's worth if for marketers to think hard about what their ideal customer looks like and use that to build an audience. That audience can be saved for later or modified to make it more effective. Facebook offers a lot of suggestions so it makes it easier for someone with just a vague idea to think of other ways to target their ideal customer.

Lookalike Audiences

As was stated before, the people who like a Facebook page may not truly be the ideal customer. But sometimes, they are. With this in mind, Facebook has made it easier to target people who have similar characteristics to the people who have liked a page and it's content. This lookalike audience feature can be used to gain more fans for a page and to encourage engagement on content.

This is an especially useful for businesses that use their social media page to showcase a wide range of products. The people who are constantly liking those images and posts reveal the qualities that make good candidates for eventual customers.

In essence, Facebook uses data and algorithms to create a profile that singles out the factors that tie most of your current audience together. With it's massive amounts of data and power algorithms, Facebook can see connections amongst the fans that may not have been obvious before. The lookalike audience feature answers an important question: "What kind of person likes my products?"

Source-Based Custom Audience

The power of Facebook's data and algorithms is nothing to take lightly, but sometimes, business owners have their own data they want to use in creating an audience. In other words, sometimes they know exactly who they want to reach, but they need someway to make that happen through Facebook ads. In a way, this is possible through custom audiences.

For ethical and, probably to a greater extent, PR reasons, Facebook doesn't allow marketers to directly market to individuals. You can't write an ad directed to Bill Smith from Texas and then show it to him in Facebook Ads. But with custom audiences, there is a slight workaround.

A marketer can create and audience based on an opt-in email marketing list or even from tracking pixel on a webpage owned by the company running the ads. These two kinds of custom audiences lead themselves to different marketing and advertising techniques.

For those using an email list, Facebook checks to see if any of those emails are used to login to Facebook. If so, then those people are possibly served the ad. The list has to be large enough so Facebook isn't hounding the same small group of people with the same ads. But if the hypothetical Bill Smith from Texas had signed up for emails, this would be a way to reach him via Facebook ads.

By using a tracking pixel on their site, it's possible to "remarket" to people who visited the site in the past. So say Bill Smith went to a website about an upcoming conference; the conference organizers can run Facebook ads that would remind Bill that he should sign up for the conference or to offer him discounts. Again, it's not guaranteed that Bill will see the ad, but it's one of the best ways to target people who have shown an interest in a business or product.

This was just a review of three of the ways better targeting can be used to improve Facebook ad results. There are actually a lot more, but that's something to be covered another day. For an interesting read on the ethical issues that can arise from targeting, read this article on a lawsuit filed against Facebook alleging discriminatory bias based on ad targeting.