ad targeting facebookJust a couple weeks ago, I was put in charge of running some Facebook ad campaigns for Heyo, in an effort to drive viewers to webinar replays we had embedded in a custom Facebook tab.

So, in an effort to be as effective as possible, I was scoping out the competition every day, and noticing what was coming across my right hand column and newsfeed. I started to notice two significant things…

First, some brands/businesses are really really good at their ads, and I found myself really wanting to click through the ads. I actually ended up clicking on some, and became a trial adopter of new software by one of the businesses.

Second, some brands/businesses are really really awful at their ads. It made me wonder why they were even showing up in the first place!

But then I realized, with the successful ads, it wasn’t the tiny thumbnail picture that caught my attention, or even the catchy copy writing in the ad. It was the fact that I was actually interested in the products some of these businesses had, and completely uninterested in others.

I didn’t need a beautiful photo or seductive copy to get me to click through, it was the fact that my interests aligned with the products/services being sold.

Lesson: When targeting is done correctly, products can speak for themselves.

Using Facebook’s Power Editor, you have much more control over your targeting options than using their standard self-serve ad tool. If you haven’t used this before, it’s time to start.

Here are 3 tools available to you in the Facebook Power Editor, and how you can use them to improve your Facebook ad targeting.

1. Partner Categories

Facebook has partnered with three big data-research firms – Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon – to tie offline and online purchase behaviors, demographics, and interests back to the way people act on Facebook. There are currently over 500 categories, and Facebook will be adding more. But as always, advertisers do not have any personal user information, only the size of the audience that will be targeted.

Acxiom’s categories focus on demographic info, like homeowner, renter, and income. Datalogix lets you target users based on purchase history, like vehicle make, model, and price, frequency of travel, or preference of beverage types, cereals, and children’s food. Epsilon lets you target users based on business type, charitable donations, certain purchase transactions, job type, and more.

facebook partner categories

I recommend using a Google Drive spreadsheet to create logical combinations of the different audiences, so you can easily narrow down your target audience to the size and demographics you want. The spreadsheet also serves as a great resource to refer back to for audiences in future ad campaigns.

2. Custom Audiences

If you have an active email list that you use for your business, creating a Facebook Custom Audience is a great way to market to your existing email list without repeatedly spamming your list. Not only does this help reinforce your marketing message, but it also helps to keep your unsubscribes low – it’s always heartbreaking to see people leave your list.

Here’s how Facebook Custom Audiences work: 1) you upload a list of your subscribers into Facebook; 2) their back end takes a look and then matches your email list to a list of current Facebook users. Now, this is heavily dependent on the email address they have on your list and use to login to Facebook, so you can’t always expect Facebook to recognize 100% of your list, but they do a pretty good job.

When you’re done uploading and naming the list, you can select this custom audience to be the target for your next Facebook ad campaign.

3. Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences is a brand new tool that Facebook released around the end of March.

The idea behind Lookalike Audiences is extremely powerful – target new users similar to your current customers. With this tool, you just upload your current customer list (email addresses, phone numbers, or Facebook UIDs), and based on their interests or reach, Facebook will give you a brand new audience.

And if you’ve already uploaded a Custom Audience into Facebook, they can analyze your list and create a new segment based on similarity or reach.

This tool is absolutely incredible, since it helps your advertising efforts to systematically grow by exposing your message to brand-new audiences, with the same interests as those who have previously purchased or interacted with you. Also, if the email lists you upload are segmented well, this could present a hyper-targeted ad opportunity as well.

What do you think?

Have you used any of these tools yet? How have they worked for you?


  1. Dennis Yu June 13th, 2013

    David– love it!
    Only pros like you are doing custom audiences, partner category targeting, and ninja-like slice and dice.

    Let’s hope that Facebook doesn’t cut any of these techniques over the next 6 months in their attempts to simplify. We saw they’re killing search ads, for example.

  2. David George June 14th, 2013

    Thanks so much Dennis – but I think you know who first alerted me to these possibilities ;)

    I agree! Search ads were never as powerful as newsfeed which is why I think they felt okay letting them go first. But do you think they will be growing these partner categories anytime soon?

  3. Joey Muller June 14th, 2013

    Nice post, David.

  4. David George June 14th, 2013

    Thank you so much Joey! Have you used the custom audience before?

  5. Terry Whalen June 19th, 2013

    Hi David, yes, Joey and I have – as Dennis would say – let the CAT out of the bag. Powerful stuff.

  6. David George June 27th, 2013

    It definitely is, Terry – especially when you can create a sustainable system out of it! When do you think Facebook Hashtags will work their way into the ads platform?

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, Digital Marketing Manager at Koofers, is passionate about helping people understand the power of social media, and more importantly - how to do it right! When he's not nerding out on his Android phone or A/B testing conversions, you can probably find him scuba diving in warm waters or watching Virginia Tech football. His two biggest passions in life are technology and making a difference in the lives of others.