How Facebook Targeting Falls Short (& the Shamefully Simple Solution)

How Facebook Targeting Falls Short (& the Shamefully Simple Solution)


Facebook’s built-in targeting options and layers are fantastic and oftentimes very fruitful; but not necessarily sufficient for all brands for running successful Facebook ads and finding the balance between ideal quality and quantity leads.

In the scheme of online audience targeting capabilities, Facebook is unquestionably inimitable. The absolute volume of users (1.4 billion active daily users as of December) justifies its value alone – yet combined with all of its proprietary, user-provided data and its hundreds of third-party data partners, this platform’s targeting capacity transcends that of any other social platform in both conceivable reach and specificity. It even surpasses the daily user volume of Google search (1.17 billion)!

Not only does Facebook have troves of valuable assets, but it provides additional superior value through the countless combinations of testable targeting layers: the makings of outstanding potential to slice and dice  and pinpoint your exact audiences. Interest-based, geographic, demographic, user behavior on and off Facebook, device-based, placement-based, time of day – based…even audience creation modelled after your existing customer base, are available – and then some. These hyper-targeting capabilities can do wondrous things and unlock invaluable insights into your customers and ideal prospects, especially when the audience in question is quite large.

But When Historical Data and Scope are Limited…

If you are a new brand, just new to Facebook advertising, still haven’t identified your ideal audience, or simply if scope is limited (for instance targeting a small geographic location, or to a list via CRM data or a small website custom audience), narrowing through additional targeting layers could be harmful and too restrictive. This would be counterproductive, effectively eliminating possible quality leads in the process of trying to pinpoint them. Even if there are no considerable limitations to your audience (i.e. not only targeting Charleston but the entire USA), Facebook targeting should never be solely depended upon.

We mustn’t forget the value of traditional marketing research tactics (i.e. surveys and interviews), and employ them to not only inform our online targeting; but to sometimes replace it as the granular approach and fill the holes left behind. Jewels discovered through conducting old-school marketing research can be the most valuable targeting capability of all. Sometimes, the best approach to finding and speaking to your audiences on Facebook is to keep it’s targeting layers broad and simple, and let your messaging do the talking.

Back to our roots.

Technology is great, but it is still only a tool – we need to pick our heads up out of excel and user interfaces and acknowledge the value of time-honored, back-to-basics marketing through talking to real people and market research! Our approach to gaining a holistic view of the brand before launching any campaign is to do our due diligence before onboarding a client. Skipping this critical step in the interest of a deadline could harm the relationship in the long term.

Not only do we do our competitive research and audit current online presences, but we take the time to know the ins and outs of your brand through the eyes and hearts of those who know your brand the best: your staff and your current customers, and using their words when mocking up our ad copy messaging.

We build a “database” of verbatim quotes, phrases and research that becomes an asset all its own, a trove to pull from that directly speaks to the type of people we want to foster more of. This serves as a magnifying glass to the bones of your brand –  who your brand really is, logo, tagline and jingle aside. The thoughts and associations that accompany your brand name are your brand, and the most accurate reflection of such is your ambassadors’ thoughts and feelings. We collect this information through surveys, loose conversational phone interviews and occasionally in-person recon.

Questions to get to the soul of your brand.

  • When you think of [brand], how do you feel?
  • If you were to write a diary entry about it, what would that page look/sound like?
  • Imagine [brand] didn’t exist – how would you feel? How would your life change?
  • What does the brand mean to you?
  • What pain points does the brand alleviate? What pain points still exist that we can help address?
  • What specific words/associations come to mind?

Delving into the feelings and associations rather than facts when asking these questions allows for free thinking and open-ended answers that typical “when did you join, how did you hear about the company” questions can’t provide. This dialogue establishes a direct line to similar prospects that don’t yet know what your brand could mean to them, by speaking their language and weaving the words of the loyal customers into ad copy.

Closing the loop.

Once you have collected your anecdotes and built out some enticing ad copy, Google Analytics can further inform who the users are that actually engage with your site after clicking on ads – disregarding those users who bounce. After you have gathered data for a couple of weeks, then you can strategically utilize that information (including demographic information, affinity categories, in-market segments, language, device and more) to further hone-in and craft your messaging and focus. Of course, this requires the Google Analytics pixel to be implemented on every page of the site – something we at TMC require regardless of investment in organic or paid measures!

It’s so easy nowadays to get lost in all of the technologies and big data promises, that we lose sight of the importance of knowing a brand on a personal level. Big data is here to stay, and sure has its proven value – but we as marketers would be remiss to neglect simple listening and conversation in speaking to the people who will champion your brand – and incorporate that into speaking to people like them.

Alex May
Alex May
Alex is the Paid Ads Specialist in charge of conceptualizing, executing and maintaining TMC’s portfolio of advertising clients. She graduated from UNC Wilmington with degrees in Marketing and Psychology, which complement each other to provide a hollistic understanding of humans as individuals and as consumers. When Alex isn’t working she loves exploring nature, live music, being at the beach, going running and longboarding.