Geo-targeting on Facebook is an often overlooked placement opportunity that holds huge potential for advertisers. It’s the first form of segmentation in the Facebook ad dashboard and is underutilized by many because of its simplicity. With a little extra effort, many have been able to increase the effectiveness of their Facebook advertising and maximize their return on investment through geo-targeting.

How does geo-targeting work?

Facebook can geo-target users two different ways:

1)  By IP Address

Facebook is able to determine a user’s location by their IP address. Anyone logged onto a computer within a certain geographic area will see a geo-targeted advertisement simply based on where they are logging onto Facebook.

2)  By Address of Record

Every user has the ability to enter their current street address and/or city, state into Facebook. Regardless of where a user logs in to Facebook, a geo-targeting ad can still be shown to that user based on their address. For example, if someone from Ohio travels to Florida on vacation, they can still see a Facebook ad from a local Ohio restaurant in Florida.

Note that while Facebook recognizes geo-targeting two ways, at this time, advertisers cannot distinguish users based on their actual location versus their address of record.

What types of locations can you target?

The geo-targeting options within Facebook are slightly different for each country. Below are the options for the United States.

1)   Everywhere: Targets every user within the United States

2)   State/Province: Allows you to target one or multiple states

3)   City: Permits you to target one or multiple cities, with the additional option to choose a radius around the center of the city or cities chosen

4)    ZIP code: Enables you to target Facebook users within one or multiple specific ZIP codes

Because geo-targeting is most likely not 100% accurate, you should always consider casting a wider net when targeting cities or ZIP codes. Consider extending a city radius just a little farther or targeting an extra ZIP code to ensure you target your entire potential market.

There are many uses for geo-targeting on Facebook, and each business will have a distinctive perspective on how to take advantage of it. Do you use geo-targeting on Facebook? What are some of the ways you leverage this segment type?

4 Comments

  1. Dennis Yu July 27th, 2013

    Sean– powerful points on geo-targeting for Facebook ads.
    What have you noticed about accuracy of targeting when you get down to the zip level? And have you tried international targeting, where it’s less precise.

    Love to hear your experience on geo-targeting on Facebook vs Google– how they perform.

  2. Sean Burke July 31st, 2013

    Hi Dennis,

    The accuracy of the geo-targeting on Facebook for ZIP codes isn’t perfect. It’s IP-based. So the targeting gets more fuzzy the more accurate you get. It tends to be more accurate at the state and city level, but an ISP can be located outside of a user’s ZIP code. This will lead to some inaccuracies in your targeting. How big of a problem this is will depend upon how reliant your marketing offer is on the ZIP code. Further, most of the target audiences I see for ZIP codes in Facebook seem a little low, but maybe that is Facebook managing expectations.

    I have experience targeting foreign countries, but only on the national level, so I cannot speak on that topic.

    With the movement towards mobile, I believe the future of geo-targeting on Facebook holds huge potential. Pretty soon we’ll be walking down the street checking our Newsfeed and see an ad for a restaurant right next to us with an offer to stop in for a free appetizer. For that restaurant to reach that customer on Google, it would take a voluntary search in an app or perhaps by chance on Google Now. I believe the casual nature of Facebook makes an ad like that less of an annoyance and more of a convenience. Further, I think it’s difficult to compare Facebook advertising to Google advertising in some categories because the placements can be used for such different actions.

  3. mitch August 2nd, 2013

    Sean, I’d like to talk to you about running a geo marketing campaign.

  4. Nabeel August 16th, 2013

    City level targeting is not available for my country, whats the best trick to reach the city specific audience in this case. I tried adding city name in “interests” but didn’t work well.

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Sean Burke
Sean Burke is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at PMAC Lending Services in Columbus, OH. He has managed social media advertising for clients around the country, from iPhone apps to a reality show contestant. Although an Ohio State Buckeye at heart, Sean is currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Media from the University of Florida.