How Specific Should Your Facebook Ad Targeting Be? (Hint: Less Is More)

‘Back in the old days’ of Internet Marketing, the term ‘hyper targeting’ used to be all the rage. The idea that you could perfectly pinpoint your exact customers/users and only show your content to them seemed like a game changer.

Unfortunately, the days of laser targeting are over. As ad platforms become more and more intelligent and robust, they’re able to outperform our ‘best guesses’ as to what our ideal customer looks like.

In terms of Facebook ads specifically, this means we are allowing Facebook’s platform/algorithm to do most of the heavy lifting for us.

Let’s look at an example. Below is the ad set-level targeting of an eCommerce I consulted with briefly:

Looks pretty good right? They knew their target audience well (from previous customer data) and essentially just ‘plugged it in’ to Facebook’s targeting options. In logistical terms, their audience for this campaign is:

  • Women, aged 18-25 in the United States who also….
  • Watched at least 95% of one of their previous promotional videos, who also…
  • Like Sephora, and also…
  • Like ULTA Beauty

Their results were good, but not great. Now, let’s try something different. What if we gave Facebook much more control over who we allowed them to show our ad too? Take a look at the ad set-level targeting I set up:

Looks pretty bare right? All I did was open up the age targeting, and remove their layered interests. Some would even say a little too bare. However, in classic clickbait fashion, “the results may shock you!”

Why was my ‘lazy’ ad set able to outperform the clients original, ‘hyper targeted’ ad set? The answer is essentially that Facebook’s algorithm has improved, so much so that it’s often smarter than you 9 times out of 10.

Think about it: If you run an established business, and you’re creating lookalike audiences based of thousands of data inputs, Facebook is able form a pretty complete picture of what your target customer/demographic looks like, without any further guidance from you. It makes sense too, given how much info Facebook collects on their users! It’s in their business model to be able to find customers for you.

This does not mean you should just let your campaigns run completely open-ended for long periods of time. The purpose of this ‘general’ form of targeting is to allow Facebook to start your campaign off, and for you to interpret the results. Let Facebook’s algorithm point you in the right direction, then take it from there.

At this point, it would be beneficial for me to break out the best performing age groups into their own ad sets and test their performance. But, if we hadn’t let the ad set run completely open to start we wouldn’t have that data to begin with 🙂

I would also like to caution you against using this strategy if you have a fairly new business, and don’t have a lot of data to feed Facebook to create nicely sized lookalike audiences (1000+). Though, in that case, I would caution you against using Facebook Ads, or any form of paid traffic in general, and work on building up your core customer base first 🙂

As with all things in paid traffic (and marketing in general) I urge you to test this out yourself and see what sort of results you get. What works for me and others might work differently for you, but you will never know until you try.

If you do end up trying some of these ‘lazy’ sort of ad-sets, let me know in the comments your results!

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