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The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Ads Targeting

James Parsons • Updated on March 17, 2024
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Facebook Ads Targeting

Facebook is often hailed as the be-all and end-all solution for advertising targeting. After using it for a while, you’ll wish other advertising programs had even a fraction of their targeting options.

The reason Facebook is so potent is because it has become a hub for people from all walks of life to publish personal details about themselves. Facebook collects this data and records it, and allows advertisers to use it for targeting. If you’re a bacon manufacturer, you can advertise specifically to everyone who eats bacon. If you’re a biker, you can advertise directly to people in Pennsylvania who ride bikes. It’s all very flexible and detailed, and the fact that some people don’t take advantage of every aspect of it is a crime.

In fact, there are seven categories of targeting demographics, excluding using custom audiences. Here’s what you can find in each.


This section deals specifically with location. You can specifically advertise to people based on their country, their state or territory, their city or their zip code. This is all fairly generic. For advertisers using internet-based businesses, location targeting is best limited to country, so as not to exclude valuable users. Conversely, local businesses can be hyper-local to target only people within a few miles of their location.


Age can be segmented as much or as little as possible. You could advertise specifically to 21-year-olds, or you could advertise to anyone from 18 up. Ideally, a 20-year span is best for grouped interests.


Facebook isn’t quite progressive enough to have non-binary gender options for targeting, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they show up in the next few years.


Language refers to the language the users are using Facebook in. Consequently, it includes their gimmick languages, like l33t and pirate. It also has all normal Facebook languages, of course.

More Demographics

This is where the real meat begins. What can you find under this little, unobtrusive option?

  • Romantic interests by gender.
  • Relationship status.
  • Education level.
  • Field of study in education.
  • Specific schools the user attended.
  • Years they were studying undergraduate programs.
  • Specific employers.
  • Specific job titles.
  • Specific employment industries, though the options here are somewhat limited.
  • Income range and net worth.
  • Type of home owned, and whether the user rents or owns, as well as the value of the home.
  • Household composition, including interesting options like new teen drivers or veterans in the home.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Specific generation divisions, like Gen X or Baby Boomer
  • If they’re parents, if they’re moms, and what kinds of moms.
  • Political views and affiliations.
  • Life events, such as engagements, long distance relationships, newlyweds and moves.

It’s recommended that you don’t filter using too many of these options at once. Facebook will show you their projected audience for a given set of targeting; if that projected audience dips too low, your ad will be ineffective.


This section has a lot of interesting information as well. You can target people based on the types of media they consume, the types of tools they use to communicate, the events they attend, the pages they like or even the people who influence them in their niche. This is great for competitive analysis and targeting the audience of your competition.


There’s a lot of information here as well. Consider:

  • Type of vehicle owned, how it was purchased and how it was paid for.
  • If they donate to charity, and which charity.
  • If they’re gamers, online shoppers, photo posters, early or late adopters of technology and other digital behaviors.
  • How their financials look, including the month they renew their insurances.
  • Whether or not they are investors.
  • What their spending methods and habits are, including whether they use gift cards, bank cards or gas cards.
  • If they use mobile devices, and if so, which.
  • How they purchase products. This includes their basic profile, such as DIYer or athlete, as well as their buying habits within certain industries. You can target people who are specifically interested in buying soccer equipment, or people who love green products.
  • What their travel habits are; if they move frequently, if they vacation frequently, where and how they travel, and more.

About This Information

Facebook doesn’t collect all of this information directly. After all, when was the last time you posted your net worth on Facebook? A lot of this information comes from third party sources, which Facebook buys. Still, it’s of great help to any advertiser looking to target specific people.

It also lends a great amount of power to their custom audiences. You can take one list of emails you collect from your mailing list and put it into a Facebook custom audience. Facebook then compares those emails with their registration information and generates a list of Facebook users who are part of your mailing list. It then populates that audience list with all of the information from all of the demographics and interests above. You will be able to see a lot of that information through your Insights panel.

The most potent means of targeting is using this audience. Specifically, you can create a lookalike audience and exclude your current audience. This commands Facebook to scan through their entire database of people looking for more people who match the people on your list. If your entire list is full of women ages 30-50 who have one child and have recently traveled to Hawaii, your lookalike audience will be full of other people who match all of those descriptions, but who are not part of your mailing list. You can then advertise directly to them, knowing that they’re likely to be interested in what you have to say.

Basic Targeting Guidelines

It’s a good idea to use a few basic guidelines for just about every form of targeting you do. You’ll want to geographically limit your targeting to users in the right country. You’ll want to narrow it down by language as well. Gender and age are at your discretion, depending on the averages you see in your Insights.

From there, it all depends on what you can find in terms of commonalities amongst your audience. Facebook has so many targeting options that you can spend years testing your way through them.


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