social media how toDo you want to reach the right people with your Facebook Ads?

Want to learn more about targeted audiences?

Facebook’s demographic and segmentation tools let you serve your Facebook ads to people who match your ideal customer persona.

In this article you’ll discover how to build a target audience for your Facebook ads.

build a better target audience for facebook ads

Discover how to build a better target audience for facebook ads.

Listen to this article:

#1: Explore Facebook Ad Targeting Options

There are four primary sets of attributes to consider when targeting your audience with Facebook ads. Understanding what each one represents will give you the building blocks to construct your target audience.


Location targeting allows you to focus on an audience in a specific geographic area like a country, city, state or zip code.

targeting dallas texas in location

Target a specific location for your ad.

With advanced options, you can choose people who actually reside in the area or are just physically located in the area. This type of targeting is critical if you’re focusing on an area around a retail store and want to offer a coupon to nearby shoppers.


Demographic filters give you the option to target people based on criteria like education, profession, relationship status, life events and other cultural and social affiliations.

demographic targeting options

Target based on criteria such as relationship, education, work and more.


Interests data is based on Facebook’s gathering of specific information when you use the platform. For instance, if you like a page about pop music, you won’t be flagged as having an interest in rock and roll. Use Interests to filter people based on their interactions with pages, events and apps inside of Facebook.

interests targeting options

Focus on specific audience interests.


Base behavior targeting on online and offline habits like mobile device use, travel patterns and digital activities like online gaming. For instance, you could segment your audience by those who are planning to travel or those who have just returned from travel.

behavior targeting examples

Target your ads based on audience behaviors.

With proper use of these segmentation methods, you can narrow your audience and match your message or offer to a specific audience niche.

audience from targeting segments

Combine all of these targeting options to find your audience.

Now you might be thinking, “That’s great if I know the details about my audience demographics, but I don’t.” Don’t worry; Facebook gives you the tools you need to gain valuable insight into your customers and your competition.

#2: Gather Audience Details With Insights

With Facebook’s Audience Insights, you can get detailed information about your target audience. If you have a large enough customer base, you can import your customers email addresses or phone numbers into Facebook as a custom audience.

Once the process is complete, you then use Audience Insights to see the information about your customers age and gender, location, lifestyle types, education, marital status, job titles, top interests and more.

With this tool, you can also run insight reports on competitors, top brands or interests. The trick is to make sure you have a similar topic or brand to offer.

For instance, say you own an appliance store and want to sell more Whirlpool appliances. By choosing that brand in Audience Insights, you can see that there are 400K+ active monthly Facebook members interested in Whirlpool.

audience insights for interest in whirlpool

You can get audience insights for a specific brand.

Of that group, 59% are married, over 50% have households of three or more and 32% are in the healthcare industry.

job insights for audience interested in whirlpool

Look at the industries where your audience works.

Do you think a sponsored story about the health benefits of Whirlpool appliances for families with kids, citing healthcare professionals, would resonate with that audience? Yes, it would.

#3: Build Your Audience

Now that you understand the basic concepts of audience targeting and the tools, it’s time to take a look at some real-world examples.

These examples show how you can target customers using techniques for a variety of industries. Remember that these are just examples. The goal is to create your own interpretations to fit your business.


Suppose you’re a realtor and you want to target homebuyers. There isn’t a segment on Facebook for active homebuyers, so how do you do this? Think about your customers and what motivates them to buy a house. Consider focusing on people who are outgrowing their apartment because theyre expectant parents.

Your audience would be Expectant Parents and New Parents, Apartment Renters, Married or Engaged. This audience in Dallas, Texas is comprised of about 3,500 to 4,000 active monthly Facebook users.

As a realtor, you’ll also want to look at Recently Moved, Away From Family or Hometown and New Job segments as well. These options allow you to target people who are starting a new job and moving to the area.

Auto Shop

Facebook has some powerful automotive segments, most of which are provided by third-party data partners. Say you’re a small automotive shop for European cars and want to generate new business. Build an audience of affluent older men with European sports cars.

auto audience targeting example

Choose the characteristics that match your current or ideal customers.

This segment in Dallas, Texas is about 7,100 people, and targeting this group is extremely affordable. At a spend of $5/day, you can reach 370 to 990 of these people.

auto audience stats

This audience segment is comprised of 7,100 people.

If you own a dealership, there are even more options available, as you can target consumers Near Market or In Market actively shopping for a new vehicle.

auto audience stats

Narrow the audience by targeting people who are actively shopping for a vehicle.

You can even get as specific as the make of vehicle. If you have services relevant to new car owners like auto insurance, you can also select New Vehicle Owners.

Home Services

For this example, suppose you have an HVAC, plumbing or home maintenance company and want to attract more business. You can easily create a segment of Single Family Homeowners with home values from $200,000 to over $1 million, and have lived in their residences for over six years. This is the perfect time to hit these folks up for upgrades or repairs.

The average sale for a business like yours will likely be fairly large. Generating leads for a business on Facebook is particularly tricky. Let’s face it, when people’s air conditioners break down, they’re more likely to Google “ac repair” in their area rather than go to Facebook. Because of these challenges, it’s important that you have a compelling offer or call to action.

Travel Agent

Travel is a great vertical for social media, as research has shown that social plays a major role in influencing a person’s travel choices. Like the auto vertical, you have a great deal of control over targeting people in the various stages of their travel lifecycle.

In this scenario, you want to connect a life event to an audience segment with a specific offer to travel. Create an audience of people who have a relationship status of Engaged, are Frequent Personal Travelers International and who also have an interest in Beaches to market a romantic beach honeymoon.

That’s an easy travel scenario, but imagine the options you have with these type of controls. If you combine age, interests and household information, you’ll have a powerful formula for targeting all types of travel and entertainment destinations.

If you need to market a local attraction, museum or event, you can easily tie in Currently Traveling in your area combined with relevant interests.


Rounding out these scenarios is the elusive audience of small business owners. This segment purchases all types of B2B services and products.

There are a few areas you can use to segment small businesses. Choose Job Title and Owner as the value, or search for Office Type as Small Business or Home Office, and you’ll get a decent number of small businesses to target.

smb audience targeting

Find small business owners interested in what you offer.

Use behavior targeting to add 1049 Employees and Technology Early Adopters. This will build an excellent audience of small business owners with 10 to 49 employees who are early adopters of new technology.

smb audience stats

Imagine selling your products and services to a segment of this size.

Here’s one last bonus tip for marketing professionals. Use the Purchase Behavior category to target Business Purchases and specifically Business Marketing. If you want to target users who make decisions for buying marketing services, this is a great B2B segment.

purchase behavior targeting

This a great B2B segment to target for marketing services.


This article gives you a basic understanding of Facebook audience targeting and how it’s used in the real world. Now, think about your own audience targeting, segmentation and message.

What do you think? Have you used techniques like these to target your audience on Facebook? If so, what tips do you have to share? Please leave your comments and questions below.

how to build a better target audience for facebook ads

Tips for building a better target audience for Facebook ads.

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  • Tom,

    This was a very helpful article!

    One of the obvious things I missed when creating my custom audience was looking at it in Audience Insights to see what Facebook would tell me.

    While some of the things I could have guessed, Facebook is now giving details that help are helping me develop my buyer personas even better!

    Thanks for this!

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Thanks Shawn, glad you found the article helpful!

  • I think the greatest value of this post is probably the screenshots that give you an idea of how to get started. That might get some folks off the couch on this.

    I have to admit, there’s not much new here that you can’t find in a simple how-to guide on the ads.

    Personally, I don’t feel that this post helps me target better. On the first ad example we have a potential reach of 7,100 people, so you might get somewhere. The next has 40,000, which I view as too many to have much of an impact.

    Overall, a good example of how to get started but I don’t feel this will get me too far off the ground.

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Hey Greg, thanks for the comments. Looks like you may be more ahead of the curve than I thought 🙂 Most people doing advertising are not using this type of audience segmentation. I think the real magic here is learning to think of your audience in this segmentation manner. That combined with the right content should lead to strong engagement. Good luck and if you crack the code to your targeting issues, please make sure you share your learnings.

  • Daryl Griffin

    Good stuff! It’d be great to see some tips and tricks for incorporating email lists into Facebook to target and do look-alike.

    Will this be a series?

  • Erin A.

    Hi Tom,

    Nice job on this article! It’s thoroughly explained and easy enough for beginners to understand. You could go through this step-by-step to set-up an effective Facebook Campaign! I especially like how you used specific examples of different industries/businesses and how they can use the targeting tools to cleverly decide how they can reach their customers like Realtors targeting expectant parents, etc. It’s all about thinking outside of the box!

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Thanks Erin! Appreciate the comments.

  • Pretty Good Articles Useful for Start up to Promote their business

  • The travel vertical is something that does work pretty well using the ability to dig down and zero in on the right demographics but it also a matter of trial and error too as working out which ads resonate with your respective audiences is an ongoing process albeit a relatively straightforward one.

    One thing worth mentioning though is that re-targeting plays a critical role in conversion ratios as not many are likely to respond immediately to their first sight of your ad no matter how targeted.

    For instance, some factors that determine success are – 1). How good is your ad copy? 2). Will it prompt an impulse buy? 2) What stage of the buying cycle they’re at etc,? With re-targeting, however intrusive it may be at times a lot of the guesswork can be eliminated as well as being a pretty cost effective way to drive down conversions.

  • Thank you. Now, under my audiences ( and following everything step by step ) I was surprise to see that in Miami, FL I do not have the option to for “Job Titles” and “Office Type” I looked everywhere and I am pretty good with facebook ads so maybe they do not have that option for Miami? Weird

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Hmm, seems like its working on my end, I just replicated it in Miami.
    Sometimes I accidentally ad a saved audience or another criteria, might want to double check.

  • Thomas Fanelli

    One more thing, they are under the Demographic Menu, if that wasnt clear.

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Darryl, excellent comment and ideas, I totally agree. One shift for me as a SEM guy to social was understanding you do not have the same “intent” as you do with a keyword search on social platforms. (Maybe we will get there someday with Graph Search). Social is more about Awareness then Conversion, which is a bit of a mental shift from SEM. No doubt re-targeting plays a huge part in keeping those people in your funnel. You can also use Like’ing as well to keep that audience readily available.
    Thanks for sharing, great comment!

  • Mike – Rinse Salon

    Thanks for this!
    What suggestions would you give me to target potential clients? I own a hair salon. Thanks!

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Mike, thanks for sharing, here are some suggestions:
    Obvious ones are: Gender and Age, target this to your customers or the customer you want.
    Next is try a cross section of interest groups. For instance, if you do professional women, you can do interests in business + women + age.
    If you do hip rocker girls, then you can target certain bands, night clubs, or cultural groups.
    Here is another suggestion, Life Events. If you are salon that specializing in weddings, there are segments like: Recently Engaged.
    Last recommendation and I think this is the most important. You need to collect email addresses and then upload those to facebook and make sure you are getting everyone to Like Your page. Then you can target “Friends” of those people, and I think that will be a really great group for you. Run a campaign where you refer a friend and get a discount.
    Good Luck, there are tons of options around fashion, style, and beauty, only limit is your imagination and willingness to test!

  • Andrew Wasyluk

    For those of you who may see some discrepancy between the screenshots in the article and what is on Facebook (depending if the change has been rolled out to your account yet, most should have it.) Facebook has combined the demographics, interests and behaviors into a single section labeled “Detailed Targeting”:

    Great article Shawn!

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Thanks Andrew!

  • Jay Broyer

    I run ads for a swimming pool company….i dont know why i havent thought to target home value is beyond me… if they had a field for acres owned that would be a gold mine!

    Also there are a couple targeting options i have noticed for small business targeting. There is a interest and a behavior labeled “small business” what would be the difference?

    Awesome post…..pitting it into action tomorrow!

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Jay, thanks for the comments. Here is the difference right from FB.

    Behaviors are activities that people do on and off of Facebook that helps inform their device usage, purchase behaviors or intents, travel preferences and more. Behaviors are constructed from both someone’s activity on Facebook and through offline activity provided by data from Facebook’s trusted third-party partners Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon.

    Interests may include things people share on their Timelines, apps they use, Pages they like and other activities on and off of Facebook. Interests may also factor in demographics such as age, gender and location.

    Think about your core customers demographics, do they have kids most of the time, if so that might correlate with people who own pools. Think of another data point and you can likely narrow down your target audience in addition to home value. Good luck!

  • Mike – Rinse Salon

    Thanks Thomas!
    I have been running ads by plugging in our email list. Created Lookalike audiences too. My question is:
    Can I run different ads using the same audience but changing the Interests? I don’t want to seem like I’m spamming the same people on Facebook.

  • Adealingz Akhter

    Great article. I enjoyed the last part the most as it was targeting “small businesses”. I would love to read more on targeting small businesses.

  • Adealingz Akhter

    @thomas_fanelli:disqus Can you share more content on specifically targeting businesses? I would love to read more regarding ADs targeting in B2B model.

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Any specific types of businesses you want to target?

  • Adealingz Akhter

    Dear Thomas, Thanks for responding. Seriously I was not expecting such a speedy reply. Well I would like to target 2 kind of businesses.

    1) Small business who are looking for digital content creation and content marketing services.
    2) Industrial/manufacturing businesses for corporate blogging.

    Would love to hear from you. 🙂

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Thanks Adealingz, appreciate the kind comment!

  • Ahlairique Eleftherios

    Hey Tom Great Article!

    I really never though about segmenting this way but they way you explained it, it makes a lot of sense.

    Personally, I don’t have enough of a customer base to create custom or look alike audiences so usually I just build my audiences from the ground up using audience insights when I am promoting my cpa offers. Any tips on how I should approach building an audience in a situation like this?

    I also noticed that on most of your examples, you really didn’t use the ‘interests’ options much at all, and mostly the targeting seemed to be set up with ‘behaviors’ instead. It appears that your building defined audiences without even using the interests. Can you just elaborate a little as to why that is?

    I am just trying to figure out whey would one use a behavior over an interest when in some cases, the same targeting keywords can be found in both segments , for example of the European car dealer example; you can find those same auto maker keywords in ‘Interests’ just as you can with ‘Behaviors’. Thanks in advance.

  • Thomas Fanelli

    Thanks for the comment! Great questions.
    All these tactics will work for building audiences from the ground up, not just with lookalikes or pixeled audiences.
    One thing to remember, and since you use cars, lets expand that.
    If a person is interested in a car, like a Lexus, that doesn’t mean they drive a Lexus. The Behaviors data (US Only) will actually pull data from 3rd party data sources that actually track which cars a consumer owns… This data is really helpful if you are selling services ONLY to people who drive/own a Lexus vs might just be “Interested” in a Lexus.
    That being said, I believe using more data points to narrow the audience is generally better than less. This more focused you can get the better, so by all means, you should combine behaviors and interests. For instance a great combo: If you sell Social Media Marketing services… You could target Behavior that is “Business Buyers of Marketing Services” with people who are Interested in Social Media Examiner. This would allow you to target people who are both interested in Social Media + those responsible for buying these services for their company.

    Hope that helps! Remember, Experiment, Test, and Learn!
    Good Luck!

  • Ahlairique Eleftherios

    Wow, thanks for the expedient reply back and the value, the way you explained it makes a lot of sense, I really appreciate it!!

  • Craig Dalton

    Great article, but I cannot seem to get Facebook target adverts to work as displayed above with demographics and behaviours producing the intersection of the two categories – instead it adds the categories together enlarging them rather than narrowing them. e.g.audience of 3 million with interest A , then add an education level and it increases the audience instead of narrowing/decreasing the audience – any suggestions?