The Beginners Guide to Facebook Targeting Options

With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a perfect platform to launch an ad campaign. However, for a Facebook ads campaign to be a success, you need to display your ads to the people that are potentially interested in your services and products. That’s where Facebook targeting options come in.

With the right targeting strategies, you’ll be able to reach the right audiences on this platform. Here’s everything you need to know about it, including the best practices to get your ads campaign rolling.

How Does Facebook Targeting Work

Facebook enables you to create and manage the target audience seamlessly. The tool you’ll be using to do it is the “Audience Manager”.

To access the tool, you need to access the Facebook ads manager. Select the top-left sidebar and click on the Ad Center. Once you’ve opened the Ads Manager, click the “Audiences” in the Assets row.

facebook audience targeting option

Every time you want to create or manage your current Audiences, you’ll have to access this tool. What is the Facebook target audience, though? In terms of advertising on Facebook, it refers to a group of people you display your ads to.

Before we dive into the specifics of Facebook targeting options, let’s review the three basic audience types:

  1. Facebook saved/core audiences
  2. Facebook custom audiences
  3. Facebook lookalike audiences

Every audience type comes with different Facebook targeting options. Knowing exactly what each audience type offers will help you select the right one for your ad campaign.

1. Facebook Saved/Core Audiences

If you choose to create a Saved Audience, you’ll access the Facebook saved/core audience settings. Here you can define your audiences by selecting various criteria. Some of these include location, age, gender, interests, and so on.

This setting is quite versatile as you can use it to define your audiences before you start setting up your Facebook ads campaign or during the campaign setup process.

facebook targeting option - saved audiences

Facebook saved/core audiences enable you to refine your Facebook targeting strategies according to the following targeting types:

  • Location
  • Demographics
  • Interest
  • Behavior

Location-based Targeting

Location-based targeting refers to a method of targeting people living in a specific location. It’s telling Facebook the most relevant geolocation where you prefer to display your ads is. If you use location-based targeting when creating a saved audience, no one living outside of the city, region, or country you select will be able to see your ads.

At the moment, Facebook allows the following types of location-based targeting:

  • Country state/region
  • Counties
  • Designated Market Area (DMA)
  • City
  • Postal code
  • Specific address
  • Radius

location based targeting option

Facebook even went one step further, enabling you to refine your location-based targeting. You’ll notice a drop-down menu right beside the “Locations” label. You can use it to fine-tune your targeting strategy and display your ads to a very specific group of Facebook users.

The additional location-based targeting filters include:

  • Everyone in this location – this is the default setting, and Facebook will use it to display your ads to all users with the same location setting on their Facebook profile.
  • People who live in this location – Facebook will cross-reference the users’ profile location setting with their IP addresses and only display ads to those who live there.
  • People recently in this location – the platform tracks mobile device usage in the targeted location and displays ads to people who have recently been there.
  • People traveling to this location – this setting enables you to display your ads to users who had your target location as a recent location only if it’s at least 100 miles away from their home location.

Demographics-based Targeting

Every target audience has a unique demographics markup. Demographic characteristics include age, sex, spoken language, and so on. Facebook targeting options enable you to target your audience with the three basic options:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language


facebook age targeting option

Age is an important demographics filter if you are targeting a group of people within a specific age range. The settings enable you to define the range with two drop-down menus.


If you are selling a product or service that appeals to a specific gender, this setting will help you get your ads displayed where it counts the most. Gender setting allows you to target men, women, or both.


detailed demographic facebook targeting option

This setting ensures that your target audience understand the language you used in your ads.

When creating a saved audience, you can also use detailed targeting options to refine your targeting. All the following filters fall under the demographics category:

  • Education
  • Generation
  • Home
  • Life events
  • Parents
  • Politics
  • Relationship

Interests are also in this category, but due to the value they bring, we will take a closer look at them.

Interest-based Targeting

Facebook tracks user interests through the pages they like, groups they are members of, and interests they highlight in their Facebook profile settings. The chances are that there are users interested in a topic related to your services or products.

If you want to include them in your saved audience, you have to select a viable interest(s).

language targeting option facebook

Facebook interest targeting feature allows you to browse through the interest to select the ones you think are viable for your audience.

However, the more efficient way to do this is to type the relevant topic in the search bar and look at the suggestions the platform generates automatically.

Behaviour-based Targeting

Facebook tracks, records, and analyses huge user data sets – user behaviour analysis included. Facebook knows what its users purchased when it’s their anniversary, which events they visited, and so on. Behaviour-based targeting is available via the Detailed Targeting Menu.

behaviour based facebook targeting option

Currently, there are dozens of Behaviours you can choose from, including:

  • Anniversary
  • Purchase behaviour (business purchases, clothing, food and drink, health and beauty)
  • Digital activities (the operating system used, canvas gaming)
  • Travel (frequent travellers, business travellers, commuters, recently returned from a trip)
  • Mobile device users ( mobile device brand and OS)
  • Seasonal and events (sport, cultural, religious, art, and other events)

behaviour interest targeting option

Including more people in your saved audience with behavioural targeting will help you make your ads more relevant and increase engagement rates.

2. Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook custom audiences enable you to create an audience for your marketing campaign of people who’ve already shown interest in your brand, product, or service. In terms of value, a Facebook custom audience is probably the most high-value one. How come?

With Facebook Custom Audiences, you will be able to target qualified leads and boost conversion rates. Custom audiences enable you to target people who are already engaged with your brand and interested in your products and services.

For instance, you will be able to target people who used your mobile app, spent some time on your website, or previously purchased your products or services. With custom audiences, you can remarket to people that previously engaged with your Facebook ads too.

There are four types of Facebook Custom Audiences:

  • Customer list
  • Site visitors
  • App activity
  • Engagement

facebook custom audience targeting option

Customer List Targeting

Facebook audience targeting algorithms are becoming smarter. With Customer List Targeting, you can upload your customer files and match them with people on Facebook. Facebook will cross-reference your files with its user database and build you a custom audience.

It’s the most efficient method if you want to display ads to people that are your previous customers, app users, or newsletter subscribers.

how to add customer list

It currently supports 15 different identifiers, including:

  • Email
  • Phone number
  • First name
  • Last name
  • ZIP/Postal code
  • City
  • Date of birth

However, advertisers commonly use email addresses, phone numbers, and mobile advertiser IDs.

Facebook currently supports integration with MailChimp to streamline contact import. Once you add the customer file, you need to choose identifiers, and the platform will create your Custom Audience.

Site Visitor Targeting

Custom audiences also enable you to pursue site visitor targeting. We’re talking about a classic remarketing campaign here. Some people have already shown interest in your brand and offer. Remarketing to them is a valuable opportunity to push leads down the funnel and close more sales.

However, to remarket your products or services on Facebook, you first need to create a custom audience by targeting site visitors. Before you can leverage your website traffic to create a custom audience, you need to install and use Facebook retargeting Pixel.

WordPress site owners have a slight advantage here because they can simply install the Pixel plugin. In any case, here’s a step-by-step Facebook guide on how to install Pixel on your website.

site visitor targeting option on facebook

Once you have Pixel up and running, simply choose the Website Traffic option in the Create a Custom Audience popup.

You have several options to refine your site visitor targeting. You can select any of the following options:

  • Anyone who visits your website
  • People who visit specific web pages
  • People visiting specific web pages but not others
  • People who haven’t visited in a certain amount of time

App Activity Targeting

App activity tracking is a great Facebook targeting strategy if you have an iOS or Android app. This targeting option lets you create an audience for your Facebook ad campaign by pulling the app usage data.

However, for Facebook to pull the data from your mobile app, you’ll need to set up a Facebook app event tracking.

facebook app activity targeting

It’s an extremely convenient method for marketing your products and services on Facebook because it allows you to create custom audiences and include various user segments. Some of the settings allow you to include/ exclude people who have:

  • Opened your app
  • Gained a level
  • Added their payment info
  • Made in-app purchases

App Activity targeting lets you set a timeframe for targeted events. It’s a nice perk to use as it enables you to use relevant data in your current ad campaigns.

You can make your own pre-requisites mix to create different custom audiences and deliver a highly effective marketing message, and it’s a repeatable process.

As long as you’ve set up app event tracking, you can come back and create custom audiences with the app activity trigger. Make sure to give your custom audiences custom names so you can easily manage them later on.

Engagement Targeting

Engagement targeting is one of the handy Facebook targeting options if you have an active following on the platform. Everything a user does on Facebook is recorded in the activity database. It allows you to build a custom audience, including people who have engaged with your brand on Facebook in one way or another.

This is an excellent option if you want to re-engage people who have already interacted with you. It’s a viable targeting strategy for small businesses and startups that don’t have big email lists or popular websites.

facebook engagement targeting option

Other popular engagement targeting options include targeting people who:

  • Visited your Facebook page
  • Engaged with your Facebook posts and ads
  • Clicked on any call-to-action buttons
  • Sent a message to your Facebook page
  • Saved your posts or Facebook page

People who’ve done one of the above-listed things are already engaged with your brand, products, or services. Engagement targeting is a great way to display your ads to high-quality prospects who are eager to learn more about your offer.

Furthermore, besides Facebook Page, the engagement targeting settings offer several additional data sources to use for engagement analysis:

  • Video
  • Instagram business profile
  • Events
  • Lead form
  • Instant Experience

The video engagement targeting allows you to choose from various engagement levels ranging from people who watched at least 3 seconds of your video to those who watched at least 95% of your video.

3. Facebook Lookalike Audiences

Facebook Lookalike Audiences come with targeting options to help you reach high-quality leads. When creating a Lookalike Audience, Facebook will target people similar to your existing audience.

These are the people with the same characteristics and exhibit the same purchasing behaviour as your existing customers. Using lookalike audiences targeting settings can help you boost conversion rates and generate more sales.

lookalike audience facebook targeting option

Lookalike audience algorithm gains insights from the targeting data you provide when you set up a Custom Audience. So, before you can create a Lookalike Audience, you need to create a Custom Audience first.

Once you’ve set up a custom audience and chosen a targeting method, go to the audience creation menu and select the “Lookalike Audience.”

You’ll also have to select a target country where Facebook will display your ads and a percentage of Facebook users in the targeted country.

Using Lookalike Audience for your Facebook marketing campaign can help you extend your reach and get your ads in front of people who are likely interested in your products and services.

When creating a lookalike audience, you control the size of the audience itself. You can choose between a range of 1 and 10%. 1% is the targeted country’s audience sample that most closely matches the custom audience you used to create a lookalike audience.

In terms of performance, 1% audience size outperforms both 5% and 10% in all categories - impressions, click through, conversion, and cost per click.

The bottom line - if you decide to use Facebook Lookalike Audiences, consider choosing the audience size of 2% and below for the best results.

Best Practices

Now that you know Facebook targeting options basics, you are ready to learn the best practices. The following tactics can help you run a cost-efficient Facebook marketing strategy while reaching people interested in your offer.

Narrow Down Your Audiences

Don’t get surprised if you find out that even after targeting your Facebook audience includes over a million users. Running ad campaigns for audiences this large is simply not feasible because of the overwhelming costs.

Fortunately, there are a couple of best practices that can help you narrow down your audiences and significantly cut-down your marketing expenses while still reaching your goal.

1. Use AND/OR Targeting Options

AND and OR targeting options are particularly useful when you want to narrow down your Saved Audiences. The OR targeting option enables you to grow your audience by adding additional targeting options.

best practices for facebook targeting option

The AND targeting option does the opposite. For a person to qualify for your audience, it has to meet both your criteria. Putting the AND targeting option to good use will help you significantly narrow down your audiences and create audiences with very specific interests.

Let’s use the image above as an example for when to use AND to narrow down your audiences. If you’re selling beverages with caffeine exclusively or want to boost the sales of caffeinated drinks, you can use AND targeting option to narrow down your audience and include people who are both interested in espresso and coffee,

2. Use EXCLUDE Targeting Option

EXCLUDE targeting option enables you to avoid adding groups of people to your audience based on their demographics, interests, or behaviour.

The EXCLUDE option even allows you to include or exclude any of your custom or lookalike audiences from a current custom audience.

Imagine displaying your ads to people who have recently bought something from you. It doesn't only translate to wasting money but could potentially frustrate customers and affect your relationship with them.

With the EXCLUDE targeting option, you can solve this potential problem. All you have to do is to exclude people who have recently bought from you, and you are set.

3. Create a Saved Audience & Use Interest-Based Targeting

If you want to use a Custom Audience or a Lookalike Audience for your next ad campaign, but it is too big for your budget, there is a fast way to narrow it down. To do it, you will have to use demographic- and interest-based targeting options.

Start creating a Facebook Saved Audience. Use the Custom Audiences section to add your “too big” Lookalike Audience or Custom Audience. Now you’ve imported it to your Saved Audience and have access to demographic, interests, and behaviour targeting options.

Add additional demographic, interest, or behaviour-based targeting options to narrow your audience down.

For instance, if you create a Custom Audience and use App Activity Targeting, you can end up with tens of thousands of people in your audience. However, you might want only to advertise to people younger than 30 years old.

Creating a Saved Audience with your Custom Audience enables you to use demographics filters. It can help you narrow down your audience and reach precisely the people you want.

Combine Two Unique Audiences Together

You can find yourself in a situation of not knowing which behaviour or demographic categories you want to target. If you don’t use several targeting options, you’ll end up with a large audience and a campaign that requires a substantial budget.

You can narrow it down if you combine it with a second audience. There’s always a way to fine-tune your marketing message and speak to two groups of people that appear unrelated from the outside. Combining two unrelated audiences can help you narrow down your audience and engage people with a message they can relate to.

Use Ad Relevance Diagnostics To Identify Opportunities

Facebook keeps track of every Ad’s relevance score. It tells if you’ve targeted the right audience with the right ad. The company is regularly updating its Ad Relevance Diagnostics tool. The latest update broke down the Ad relevance score into three categories:

  • Engagement rate ranking
  • Quality ranking
  • Conversion rate ranking

Why is this important?

No matter how well you plan and execute your Facebook targeting strategies, some of your ads might underperform. Knowing what the Ad Relevance Diagnostics metrics mean and what to do can help you quickly fine-tune your targeting strategy and improve your ad performance:

  • Low-quality ranking – It means that your audience is not responding well to the specific creative idea in your ad. Your ad might be right, but it didn’t reach the right audience. Try changing the audience and keep track of quality ranking to make sure you’ve reached the right people this time.
  • Low engagement rate ranking – Your ads are not engaging Facebook users. You need to refine your targeting to reach people who will more likely engage with your ad. You can take a few shortcuts if you know how to use Audience Insights.
  • Low conversion rate ranking – Your current audience doesn’t have the intent to buy. In other words, your product or service is not relevant to them. You need to use different targeting options to reach the people who need what you have to offer. The best way to fine-tune your targeting is to choose a relevant behaviour or life event targeting option or simply choose the “Engaged Shoppers” option in the purchase behavior targeting options category.

It’s important to note that it’s borderline impossible to create an ad that will be relevant to every person in your audience. However, consistently monitoring Ad Relevance metrics and fine-tuning your targeting strategy can help you push your relevance ranking higher.

Use Audience Insights to Target Your Competitor’s Fans

The chances are that your competitors are right here on Facebook. If only you could check how you are performing against them? It is possible to do it. More importantly, you can discover your competitors’ fans and target them.

The tool you need to use is Audience Insights. It will help you discover your main competitors on Facebook and learn a great deal about their subscribers and people who interact with their posts and pages.

Even if you’ve never used it before, the following steps will help you master it for this particular use-case:

  1. Access the Facebook Ads Manager and click on the top-left main menu.
  2. Navigate to the “Plan” column and click “Audience Insights.”
  3. Select “Everyone on Facebook.”
  4. Navigate to “Create Audience,” located on the left side.
  5. Use the location, age, gender, and interest targeting options to build your perfect target audience.
  6. Go to the “Page Likes,” which displays all the pages your target audience is connected with.
  7. Copy this list and paste it into a document or create a spreadsheet.
  8. Navigate back to the “Create Audience” tab.
  9. Type the name of your competitor’s Facebook Page in the “Interests” box.
  10. On the right side of the screen, you can see the demographics information about the audience connected to a competitor’s page, which can help you fine tune your future targeting strategy.
  11. Click the “Save” button, and you will create an audience that includes your competitor’s fans.

Once you save the audience, it will show up in your Facebook target audience list. You are free to refine your targeting furthermore. You can use additional targeting options to narrow it down or expand it. Additional targeting will help you create a niche audience that fits your specific business goals.

If you have problems finding relevant people on Facebook to advertise to, Audience Insights provides a shortcut to help you jump the train and match your ads with the right group of people.


Audience Manager is a powerful Facebook targeting tool that helps you not only create audiences but target them as well. While there are “only” three types of audience types on Facebook, you still have the option to merge audiences. As you can see, you have access to a dozen Facebook targeting options to create an audience no matter how specific your niche is.

Hopefully, this guide will help you improve your Facebook targeting strategies. Don’t forget to include Audience Insights and Ad Relevance Diagnostics in your toolkit. It will help you identify and assess your competitors’ strategies on Facebook and enable you to improve the performance of your campaigns.

If you still require help with refining your Facebook targeting options, Heroes of Digital can help. We are the top facebook marketing agency in Singapore with over 600 clients.

Get your free digital marketing consultation now!

Xavier Tan
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.

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