Facebook Platform Updates: Targeting Posts & Ads

  • Author: Lauren
  • Lauren Fisher,

Facebook's ad targeting options have always been a big win for the site, and it's always one step ahead of other social players when it comes to targeting niche audiences. Understandably so since it has the most user data to play with, both in breadth and depth. Sometimes this has been at the expense of users who are more than a little perturbed by being blasted with dating ads if you're listed as single, or ads for how to achieve that ultimate flat tummy if you're a female within a certain age range (speaking from personal experience here), but Facebook has always kept on the safe side, just when it comes to protecting their users' privacy.

Until now that is. This week, Facebook announced plans to allow advertisers with managed ad account to target ads at users by email, phone number and user ID (the unique identification number on your Facebook account). While this is great news for advertisers, it's unlikely to go down well with users, particularly if you are a little too obvious with your targeted messaging.

This comes alongside another recent platform update, which sees page owners able to target updates by a number of new factors, including sex and relationship status. Below I take a look at the extensive targeting options available to brands and advertisers in Facebook, and how you can take advantage of these...at your discretion :)

Ad Targeting

Target Ads By Email

If you've built up a database of email addresses - where people have explicitly granted you permission to capture and use their email details for marketing - you can now target your Facebook ads specifically at these users. Quite how Facebook is handling carrying over users' personal information from one database to another is unclear, but it's an option that many advertisers are likely to exploit.

Of course, it's down to the marketer here how cleverly this is used. You would assume that if you have someone's email address by explicit consent, they are already a fan of your brand, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to pay for a Facebook ad to retarget that same fine. But this could be tied into a wider email campaign, which cleverly uses Facebook ads as support, as opposed to a standalone ad campaign that will cost you money needlessly.

Target Ads By Phone Number

In a similar way, if you have already been granted consent by that person, you can now target ads by phone number. This is likely to be less successful and appealing than targeting by email address as it's quite unusual for someone to list their mobile number on their Facebook profile. But where Facebook requires you to register a mobile number during registration or as part of their password recovery process, they may well take this into account, allowing you to target users in this way. This feels very, very intrusive, but could well form part of a clever campaign if you're using the right creative messaging as opposed to going for the hard sell.

Target By User ID

Facebook always stood fast by the fact that they would never let advertisers reach individual users, but rather that they could reach certain groups based on factors such as demographics and interests. Well that has just changed as the new ad options allow you to reach people based on their unique Facebook ID. This means that if you have captured user ID through an app on your page for example, you can select right down to an individual who you want to target further with an ad. You can be pretty clever here, for example targeting ads at your most/least engaged users with relevant messages.

Post Targeting

Target Posts By Gender

While Facebook has allowed page owners to target fans for a while now by location and language, it has recently introduced a whole new set of targeting options, allowing you to more closely control which fans see your updates in their newsfeed.

The first of these is gender, where you can choose to only target male/female fans, which will be a great asset for many brands. This is a huge game changer for how you handle communications on your page and will allow you to plan your content more strategically, taking into account different key audiences.

Relationship, Interested In & Education Status

Going deeper than demographics data, Facebook is also including the option to target people by relationship status (whether they are single, in a relationship, engaged or married), interested in (men or women) and education status (in high school, college or graduate). This will be useful data for brands to target posts by, ultimately with more personalised, relevant content. Now that Facebook has made this type of data available, it should ultimately mean that your engagement rates are higher. This will, in turn, improve the Edgerank score of your Page; how Facebook determines how relevant your content is and how highly it will be surfaced in the feed.

Combined Targeting

Within the new page post options, you can choose to target by any number of the options and the post will automatically update with the number of people you will reach on the Page:

When planning your targeted updates, you should try and make the most use of Facebook's page analytics, so you can see the dominant audiences on your page, who is the most engaged and who you should be reaching out to. You can see this to an extent on the 'Likes' tab on insights:

App Notifications

Targeting Updates

In addition to updating targeting for ads and posts, Facebook has also this week allowed app developers to target notifications to fans. The notifications API is currently in beta and will allow app owners to send notifications to their fans without the user having to explicitly grant this permission. At the moment, it doesn't seem that Facebook will allow you to target these notifications to different demographics so this may well be coming, if their other recent changes are anything to go by.

People can, however, unsubscribe from these notifications at any time to be wary of being too spammy and try and make notifications part of the game/app process itself, for example a reminder when a new competition element is taking place or new content is available. This is a great addition for app owners as before your only real chance for re-engagement was through email contact, which can be a bit too intrusive, particularly given that's not the platform in which they first engaged with you.

If you are worried about spamming people or being too intrusive, then you'll be pleased to hear that alongside the notifications API, Facebook is also launching a new insights dashboard which will allow you to see how people are engaging with your notifications. You can see insights such as how many people are unsubscribing from your notifications, clicks vs views and open rates over time:

Facebook has yet to announce when this will become live for all app owners.