Media Planning & Buying Mobile Marketing Social Media

Facebook Unveils Four New Targeting Options for Advertisers

March 24, 2014

Facebook recently released a new suite of core targeting options that allows advertisers to further refine their audiences in paid social campaigns and gain better insights into performance. Following the update, advertisers can expect upgraded controls over location, demographic, interest and behavior.

Facebook has been rolling out the new features over the past month through the platform’s API. Several preferred marketing developers (PMDs) have confirmed that they will reach full integration with the new features by April.

In the post below, we provide details around each of the four new targeting options and their implications for advertisers.

Updated targeting profile: Location

What has changed: Facebook will now offer “flexible” location targeting, allowing marketers to build campaigns for any combination of geographies: country and city (e.g. France and London), country and state (Canada and New York), state and city (California and Las Vegas) and state and zip code (US only). It will also now be easier to exclude locations right down to the zip code level.

Updated targeting profile: Demographic

What has changed: Core Audience targeting will have added selection values for relationships including civil unions and domestic partnerships, as well as greater flexibility around targeting life events such as a marriage. For example, a retailer might want to share wedding registry promotions with someone who has been engaged within the past three months. Additional targeting options now include information like workplace and job title, and offer expanded information around education. These updates allow advertisers to better align messaging and promotions around key life events or affiliations.

Updated targeting profile: Interest

What has changed: Facebook has done away with hashtag and keyword targeting, instead focusing on the overall interest expressed through the platform. Facebook explains, “We developed a new methodology that increases the precision of interest-based targeting by allowing advertisers to simply choose one segment. Now, if you want to reach baseball fans, just choose ‘baseball’ as your targeting segment and [Facebook] will pull in all the people that have liked or expressed interest in baseball-related topics on Facebook.” If your current campaign contains precise interest keywords, including hashtags, they will be grandfathered into the platform.

Updated targeting profile: Behaviors

What has changed: Behaviors are a new addition to Core Audience targeting options. Behavior targeting allows marketers to target campaigns based on engagement behavior and the types of devices people use to exhibit this behavior. When creating a target audience, marketers can choose combinations of behaviors and then narrow down. For example, you can reach people who listen to music while on their iPhone and are more likely to make purchases online. The behavior section of audience targeting will also display third-party partner categories; the distinguishing aspect is that Core Audience behaviors will be guided by proprietary Facebook data.

Advertiser Implications

Keywords and hashtags won’t be a part of your next Facebook strategy. The removal of interest keyword targeting will pose a challenge for marketers seeking to capture positive and negative sentiment. To combat this limitation, Facebook notes that their new Core Audience interest categories will target people who have expressed an interest in (through their profile) or have liked pages related to the desired category. This means that hashtags, keywords and context in status updates won’t be taken into account when serving ads to an audience.

Real-time conversation targeting will remain on Twitter. Marketers should keep in mind that they will no longer be able to explicitly follow a conversation on Facebook — only interest in a category — when designing upcoming media strategies. This is a key difference between the Facebook and Twitter advertising platforms. Twitter’s recent product releases, like TV Conversation Targeting, encourage marketers to track conversations and their sentiment in real-time. Alternatively, Facebook’s new suite of targeting updates encourages advertisers to focus on granular audience interests and behaviors, instead of the context in status updates.

Flexible location targeting will allow marketers to better reach mobile users. With the introduction of flexible location targeting we can see Facebook’s mobile advertising vision taking shape. The company has explicitly stated interest in developing a mobile ad network, and has put its money where its mouth is with the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram.

Moreover, Facebook is evolving its location targeting options to the level of Google Mobile Search Ads, which can be hyper-targeted based on smartphone GPS location and around brick and mortar stores. Although the Facebook platform has had zip code level targeting for years, the extra control over location persuades brick and mortar business owners to use the platform with confidence. Sophisticated ad campaigns can also benefit by limiting exposure and increasing relevance all at once.

Facebook is goings head-to-head with LinkedIn targeting capabilities, making way for testing opportunities. The addition of job title targeting has introduced performance measurement opportunities within the broad social ecosystem. Testing LinkedIn versus Facebook campaigns is now a cleaner comparison for some advertisers. We can see Facebook is taking a competitive jab at LinkedIn’s core market. LinkedIn has long been the go-to social network for B2B advertisers. It will be interesting to see which platform performs best when targeting the same companies and job titles.

Tailored behavior profiles will mean higher efficiency at a potential lower cost. The ability to blend behaviors is one of Facebook’s best additions, as it allows marketers to fine tune campaign goals toward the people who will take the appropriate actions. For instance, if a marketer wants to reach people of a certain age, with certain interest, who are more likely to purchase through a certain device, this target can be created by leveraging the new behavioral targeting combinations. The fact that Core Audience behaviors will be proprietary to Facebook has advantageous bid and budget implications. Facebook Core Audience categories are notoriously less expensive than Third-Party Partner Target Categories.


With all these promising targeting updates, finding the right audience for a brand just became easier and less costly as well.

Cover photo via Kinetic Social