social media how toDo you want to improve your Facebook ad performance?

Have you heard of flex targeting?

Flex targeting lets you serve Facebook ads to people who share a highly customized combination of interests, behaviors, and demographics.

In this article you’ll discover how to use flex targeting with your Facebook ads.

flex targeting for facebook ads

Discover how to optimize your Facebook ads with flex targeting.

Why Flex Targeting?

Flex targeting allows you to significantly scale up conversions while making sure that only a highly tailored audience sees your Facebook ads.

For example, suppose you sell a product for dogs and you want to advertise to families that own dogs. The easiest way to do that is to edit the ad set of your Facebook campaign and choose both dog owners and families.

ad targeting options

Specify your targeting options by starting with Detailed Targeting.

With these targeting options, your ad will be served to people who match at least one of the targeting options you select.

If you look at the bottom of the Detailed Targeting section, you’ll see two additional targeting options: Exclude People and Narrow Audience. This is where flex targeting comes in.

If you click on Narrow Audience, an additional field appears: Must Also Match at Least One of the Following.

narrow audiences must include

When you click Narrow Audience, you can refine your targeting to include people who share an additional demographic, interest, or behavior.

If you click on both Narrow Audience and Exclude People, here’s what you see.

new fields

You can also take advantage of the option to exclude segments of people based on demographics, interests, or behaviors.

You can now target more than one audience instead of either/or. Below, I filled in some audiences to show what this targeting looks like.

website conversions

This example shows what an audience refined with flex targeting might look like.

With the targeting options above, your audience will include people who match either Dog Owner and Family-based Households, and will exclude people who are Unemployed.

Now that you understand what flex targeting is, here’s how to use it to narrow the audience for your Facebook ads. Like all targeting methods, you set flex targeting at the ad set level. To get started, you need to create an ad set in Power Editor or Ads Manager.

#1: Work With Ad Sets in Ads Manager

Open the Ads Manager, and select the ad campaign you want to work with.

select ad campaign

Selecting your ad campaign in Ads Manager.

Then click on the Create Ad Set button.

create ad set name

You want to create a new ad set.

Next, type in the URL you want to promote and click on Create New Ad Set.

create ad set name

Type in your URL and click Create New Ad Set.

If you’re using the Increase Conversions on Your Website goal, you’ll need to select the conversion action that you want to track.

After you’ve created your ad set, you’ll need to edit it so you can access the flex targeting options.

First, select the campaign you want to work with.

select ad campaign

Select your ad campaign.

Then select the ad set you want to work with.

select ad set

From within your campaign, select your ad set.

Finally, click on the ad set Edit button.

ad set edit

Clicking the pencil icon lets you edit your ad set.

You can now work in the Audience section of the ad set and use flex targeting. You’ll find out how in step 3 below.

#2: Work With Ad Sets in Power Editor

If you’re using Power Editor, log into the Ads Manager and click on Power Editor.

click ad set

From within Ads Manager, click on Power Editor.

Download the latest changes to Power Editor.

click ad set

Be sure to download any changes to Power Editor before you begin.

Next, select the campaign that you want to work with and click on Apply.

select your campaign and click apply

Select your campaign and click Apply.

Then navigate to the Ad Sets menu and click on Create Ad Set.

click ad set

Click Create Ad Set.

Type in a name for your new ad set and click Create.

After you’ve created your ad set, here’s how to edit it so you can access the flex targeting options. If you’re using Power Editor, select your ad set and click on Edit.

ad set edit

Select your ad set and click on Edit.

You can now move to the next step and use flex targeting in your ad set.

#3: Add Flex Targeting Your Audience

After you follow the steps above to edit your ad set, scroll down to where you can edit your audience. (Note that the steps below are the same for both Ads Manager and Power Editor.)

edit your audience

Select the option to edit your audience.

In the regular Detailed Targeting section, select the interests, behaviors, or demographics you want to target.

For example, if you’re selling high-end Italian food, you want to target people whose behavior indicates that they’ll buy premium food. Under Detailed Targeting, you might select Italian Food and Italy as interests.

select targeting options

Select your initial targeting options.

However, not all people who buy premium food necessarily like Italian food, so you want a narrower audience. To do this, click on Narrow Audience.

narrow audience

Click Narrow Audience for more targeting options.

Select an additional targeting method within the interests you already selected and save your changes. For example, you might narrow your audience to people who live in Family-based Households.


Add parameters that narrow or exclude specific target options to refine your audience.

Now only a highly tailored audience will see your Facebook ad.

In Conclusion

Flex targeting radically changes how you can target potential clients for your Facebook ads.

Not only can you boost conversions by serving your ad to highly targeted audiences, you’ll also reduce the cost per acquisition because less of your budget is wasted on people who aren’t interested in your product or service.

As great as flex targeting is, if your flex targeting results in an audience that is too small, you won’t get much traffic and might end up paying a lot, especially if you’re using cost per thousand impressions (CPM) bidding.

What do you think? Have you tried flex targeting with your Facebook ads? If so, did you find it useful? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

optimize facebook ads with flex targeting

Tips on how to use Facebook flex targeting to optimize the performance of your Facebook ads.

Tags: , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 465,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (56 pages, 90 charts)!

More info...
  • Marc-André Paquin

    Thank you for the awesome tip. I’ll be recommending this as an advanced tactic to my clients. Enjoy the rest of your day.

    Marc-Andre P. (Twitter: @MAPToronto)

  • NDA

    Is it possible to use this in conjunction with other targeting options. i.e. I would like to create a single ad set targeting people connected to my Facebook Page AND those in my Custom Audience from my email list.

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    You are welcome!

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    You certainly can

  • NDA

    Can you explain how? From what i can tell, I can create a Saved Audience that includes multiple Custom Audiences, and can narrow it to people who like my Facebook Page. But i want to ADD them… I get a single target audience that contains a) People who have liked the page already b) people who are in my email list custom audience….who have NOT liked the page and c) people who are in my website visitor custom audience, who have NOT liked the page.

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    If I understand your question correctly the solution is using custom audiences to save 3 new audience and then mix them in the target section of the ad set (you can combine them any way you want)

  • Julian Wagner

    Most of the time I get better CPC when IM using a broader audience. Obviously this targeting is very useful, but one should not overdo it. I would just exclude like real conversion killer.

  • NDA

    Right…but from what I know there is no way to create a Custom Audience from “fans of the page”. Only a “saved audience”. And while you can create combinations of Custom Audiences while targeting, I can’t seem to find a way to combine a Saved Audience (Fans of the Page) with the two custom audiences I want to add. (email list and website visitors). The goal is to get a single audience that includes fans of the page, PLUS anyone in the other two audiences who have not liked the page. Thanks for your input on this…..i’ve been trying to find a way unsuccessfully for a while now. Seems like something that should be very do-able but I’ve had no luck.

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    I agree, overdoing it might not work very well!

  • Julian Wagner

    Im actually searching for evidence to prove this. I think in a very simple manner you would target as many people as possible and Fb will then generate you the cheapest clicks possible. Your job with targeting then should be to exclude those people who aren’t converting.

    Its pretty hard to improve CPC with a smaller audience & exclusion.

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    It mostly depends on the goals that you are trying to achieve. E.g. i have seen high CPC do much better from a CPA point of view than cheap CPCs. it is certainly a good start if a business finds a large audience that converts and can be optimized through exclusion of bad performing elements

  • Julian Wagner

    Definetely. But what you say my other statements are true, too?

    Because I really struggle to understand how the ad system behind FB works.

    A good example is a part of my business where I promote nightlife events. I do not sell tickets, so I don’t have any CPA information. All I can go for is a click or a an event response. And I really tried a lot of targeting but always the broadest match leads to the lowest CPC/CPA(Eventresponse). So I think Facebook automatically optimizes for the cheapest actions you define as goal. So at least in theory you cannot even decrease the CPC with smaller audiences that are totally included in the bigger audience. What’s leading me to the question.. How is Facebook knowing who clicks most often when my ads start. Is it using my past ads, my Pages, people that click on ads often or what? Or is it optimizing via the delivery and based on the ppl who already made an action? Which would lead to the recommendation to let an ad ran for a longer period of time, since the CPA/CPC should go down with more data for FB to use. I really can’t find a lot of information about this and Im searching the web for hours. Even some tests or stuff would help me a lot and I would ofc also pay for it.

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    Hi Julian

    The reason why event response is better on wider audiences is also due to the limited geographic exposure. In this case, flex targeting might be way too targeted for some category of users.

    For event response ads, Facebook tends to deliver your ads based on data that they already have in the platform. They won’t optimize delivery based on your past ads if the ad set setting doesn’t include the option to optimize for a given conversion pixel. Facebook definitively knows who, when and where take action on Facebook Events and deliver ads accordingly.

    In cases like that, not having a conversion pixel, it is all down to the optimization of the ad and event. The more engagement you get the lower your CPC and CPA will be.If the event is not attractive or doesn’t engage your target audience, costs will go up.

    I hope it helps!

  • Julian Wagner

    Yes this helps already, but I saw that I get cheaper CPC and CPM if im doing an AD with Website Clicks that lead to my FB Events. I mean its like really <50%.

    So therefore If I target 100k people how does FB choose which 5000 ppl to show first? Just PPl who click on ads often?

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    Hi Julian,

    The difference in CPC is due to the different campaign types. Event campaign is focusing on CPM mostly while website click focuses on clicks. CPC ends up to be lower in 90% of the case with CPC focused campaigns. However, it is important to figure out what brings you the most responses to the event.

    In case of an event campaign, FB shows the ads to the 5k people that are the most likely to respond to an event at the lower cost per event response. In case of a website click campaign it shows it to the people that are the most likely to click at the lowest cpc (this is just a general rule that will not apply if you have manual bids).

    It can totally be that event responses are higher for website click campaigns but “officially” the distinction is the one above!

  • Julian Wagner

    Thank you very much. You already help me a lot. The only thing Im not getting 100% is, how is FB determing who is likely to Response or Click?

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    They use their own algorithm and data set about customer behaviors to determine that

  • Julian Wagner

    So its based on the desired action and the familarity with the fanpage/event?

    For example in my head there is sth like

    +++ user likes fanpage of ad
    ++ user has a lot of friends that like fanpage
    ++ user has a lot of friends who attend the event
    + user has a lot of friends that like the post
    + user has a lot of friends that click the post
    or after a time:
    ++ user has high similarity with ppl that clicked already
    + user has medium similirty with ppl that clicked already

    would you say this is true?

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    I would say it depends on desired action and general behavior toward events (not necessarily your event). For sure FB also considers customer profiles that might be interested in your business as well, but it is difficult to pin point the exact formula. So what you are saying is true as long as you consider all of teh other factors

  • Julian Wagner

    OK man you made my day. I think I finally understand. I just can decrease cpc if the narrowed audience is so much more likely to click on my AD that it outperforms the disadvantage that the FB algorithm can choose of less people 🙂

    Can i Buy you a book on Amazon?

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    Hi Julian,

    I am glad I could help. Good luck with your events and no need for a book. I am always happy to help when I can!

  • Vinodh Ramakannan

    Thanks for the step by step explanation on Flex Targeting. Well written article!

  • Fiona Birch

    So it’s only avail if you choose the conversion option right? For a website with no cart (not a selling site) is it worth to use this option and point to the main page just to get the flex options?

  • Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

    Hi Fiona,

    Flex Targeting is is a great option and worth going the extra mile for!