With more than 1.35 billion users around the world, there's a good chance that the target audience for any business can be found on Facebook. That's great in principle, but in reality, it's about as helpful as saying, "There are fish in the ocean." Marketers need to know how to fish for their target audiences when using Facebook to promote content, events, sales, and more.

Fortunately for marketers, Facebook makes it easy for page administrators to find and target specific audiences once they start using paid content. However, the system is more complex and robust than people realize. And just like fishing tactics in real life, the better marketers understand the Facebook advertising environment and system, the better the results of future campaigns. Here are four advanced targeting tactics business owners and marketers can use to improve their Facebook ad campaigns.

  1. Include Your Major Competitors as an Interest Target
    This first tip is a simple way for marketers to chip away at their competitors' market share by peeling away a few customers with enticing Facebook ads. When selecting interests to target in the ad creation menu, just include the names of large competitors or national brands. For example, if a business is trying to sell supplements, they can target fans of national chains such as GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe. Many of these fans will be loyal to the brand, but most consumers won't ignore a good price or a product with better features if they see it in an ad.
  2. If You Have the Data, Use Custom Audiences
    When trying to reassure privacy advocates, Facebook often emphasizes the fact that marketers can't target specific people with Facebook ads, but that isn't entirely true. Facebook allows marketers to create custom audiences, which includes creating audiences based on email mailing lists. In practical terms, this means that if a company has an opt-in email list, they can import that data into Facebook. If any of those email addresses are being used to log into Facebook, the logged-in user would see the marketer's ad. So while it's not guaranteed that a particular person from that group would see the ad, it's still a lot more targeted than many realize. At any rate, marketers can take advantage of this to integrate their email marketing and social media marketing campaigns. This can be very beneficial. A study from earlier this year found that when consumers saw a message both on Facebook and via email, the response rate increased by 22 percent. However, when using data in this way, business owners need to be careful. For example, it would be wise to include a line in your privacy policy that tells consumers you may use their email address in such a way, or at least make sure there's nothing in the policy that says you wouldn't do it.
  3. Use Behavior Options to Zero in Likely Engagers
    Because of the nature of the platform, Facebook is very good at identifying people's interests but less good at identifying their behavior patterns. To fix this shortcoming, Facebook gets a trove of behavior data from their third-party partners, which marketers can use to cast their bait where the fish are biting. For example, clothing retailers can target users based on the type of clothes they buy. Similarly, realtors can find people who plan on moving soon and travel agents can find users who are frequent flyers. For any marketing campaign goal, there is a behavior that correlates to it you can include in your targeting. There are some limitations to the effectiveness and accuracy of the behavior data, but it's definitely something marketers should try for some of their ad sets.
  4. Targeting by Location
    Facebook has several options for targeting users by location. These features are essential for local marketers. The simplest way to include location in targeting is to select a particular city or state for the ad to run in. This is targeted enough for most marketers, but Facebook has made the system even better by introducing Local Awareness Ads earlier this year. These ads can be targeted with a specific radius around an address. This feature is still being rolled out, but once available, a marketer can use it send ads to people when they are in a location to take advantage of the deal. This makes Facebook a valuable tool for increasing foot traffic to local stores, boutiques, or restaurants.

Facebook may be a vast sea of people, but that doesn't mean that marketers need to search the waters blindly. Using these advanced tips for targeting audiences makes it possible to get ads in front of the right people. And when the right people see the right message at the right time, then advertising is usually effective. Use these advanced tactics when targeting audiences on Facebook, and you can land the big fish.

For more news on changes and updates to Facebook, read this article about the changes to the Facebook Terms of Service and Privacy Policies that go into effect in a couple of weeks.

Published on: Dec 15, 2014