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Facebook Interest Targeting – How to Laser Target Your Facebook Ads

Facebook Interest Targeting - How to Laser Target Your Facebook Ads

Working at Berlin’s finest Facebook Performance Agency I have jump started hundreds of successful ad campaigns.

While it’s great to work with established brands, I especially love the thrill of kickstarting companies that are new to Facebook advertising.

Before you can start your Facebook ads you need to know who exactly you want to target.

And this is where most companies fail.

Facebook is great when it comes to targeting options, but it’s this huge amount of options that gets people stuck.

Where to start?

Facebook offers three different core targeting options:

  • Interest Targeting (aka core audiences)
  • Custom Audiences
  • Lookalike Audiences

When you are just getting started or you want to expand your ad reach, chances are that you don’t have any customer data to target.

You are left with interest targeting.

Maybe, you’ve heard that your campaigns will never be successful with interest based targeting or you have always failed achieving great results.

But don’t worry.

I am going to show you step by step how you can create laser targeted Facebook ads using Facebook interest targeting.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Interest Targeting — And How Does Facebook See You?

Facebook knows you.

Be honest with yourself, how many times a day do you check your Facebook feed? Research suggest that we open Facebook up to 22 times a day.

And what do you do on Facebook? Do you like random posts or pages? Do you comment a lot? Or do you simply look at videos?

So you check your Facebook feed a lot. But are you always checking it from home? And how about the Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp?

Facebook collects a lot of data about people.

facebook world map

We as advertisers have the chance to exactly tap into this vast ocean of data. And target the people we consider to fit our customer profile.

Here’s a screenshot at how interest targeting works:

how interest targeting works

But how does Facebook make sure it can measure exactly what people are interested in or what kind of profile they match?

The most obvious thing is, that Facebook looks at the information you provide in your profile descriptions, or at the pages you like.

But that’s not all. Every kind of interaction, such as comments, time spent watching a certain video or image or even the kind of topics you comment on in your feed.

All that helps Facebook to create a profile around your person.

If you log into Facebook from New York City and 3h later you log in from Miami, Facebook knows that you took a plane.

Now, if you keep on doing that couple of times in a month. Facebook knows you are a frequent traveler.

Awesome right? Of course all this data is encrypted and anonymous.

Here is a screenshot of some of your activity Facebook uses to create your profile:

what activity facebook tracks

For us as marketers, this pool of accessible information is a dream. And it allows us to craft advertising messages as precise as possible.

If you are wondering what Facebook knows about you, take a look at this link.


Facebook Interest Targeting at the Example of a Bike Shop

Now you know how Facebook interest targeting works. So it’s time to move onto seeing how we can target our audience as precise as possible.

Instead of showing you some generic targeting options, how about I take you step-by-step through a real life example?

Love it? Awesome 🙂

Let’s assume that the business we want to promote on Facebook is a bicycle store operating out of New York City.

We sell anything related to bicycles and biking gear.

Here is what our perfect customer could look like:

bicycle marketing persona

Great! We know that our ideal customers are bike affectionados. Now it’s time to get started with identifying them on Facebook.

Step 1 - Get Your Toolbox Ready

First things first. Let’s prepare the tools we need.

  • Facebook
    Open up a tab with your regular Facebook home screen. We’ll need that for our research.
  • Facebook Audience Insights
    This free Facebook tool gives you insights about the people on Facebook, connected to your Facebook page or in one of your custom audience lists. You can find it here.
facebook audience insights
  • A notepad
    Pick a notepad of your choice. You’ll want to be able to quickly copy and paste names or URLs.
  • Google Spreadsheet or Excel
    Open up your spreadsheet tool of choice and prepare it the following way.
spreadsheet preparation
  • Google
    Yes, we will also need to use Google Search.

That’s it. Now you are all prepared to get started.

Step 2 - Start with Thorough Research - Success Will Follow

In our spreadsheet we have prepared the following columns:

  • Magazines (preferably with subscription)
  • Companies or products
  • Informational Websites
  • Public Figures (Influencers)

We are going to collect as many of those as possible within our niche. This will help us target our audience as close as possible.

Let’s go through this step by step together.

Finding targeting ideas through Google Search

Open up Google search and type in: “bicycle magazine”.

google search magazine

This will present you with a list of results. Now, what you want to do is, open up every search result that looks like a magazine to you.

Next, you want to look for two things.

Does the magazine have a subscription section or does it sell products?

magazine subscription 1
magazine subscription 2

If so, that is great. Because you have just found a magazine people are willing to pay for, which again means this is a “wallet-out-of-pocket” audience.

The second thing you want to look for is their Facebook page.

find facebook page

Then save the Facebook page in your notepad. At this point we don’t plug the stuff into your spreadsheet. This comes later.

Now, continue doing so until you have a quite extensive list of results.

This is how mine looks like.

magazine facebook pages

Next up, we’ll repeat this process for companies, local stores or any kind of eCommerce product.

Here are some keyword combinations you can try in Google:

  • Bicycle online shop
  • Buy bicycles in New York
  • Bike store in New York
  • Bicycle store in New York
  • Bike supplies online
  • Bicycle supplies online
  • Popular bicycle stores

Here’s how some of your SERPS can look like:

google serps

Again, look for the Facebook pages of each store. And note them down into your notepad.

Here’s what I came up with:

bike shops - facebook pages

Keep on repeating this process with websites and public figures. When looking for websites you’ll want to look for popular blogs or DIY websites.

In the bicycle world, public figures can be athletes, bike stuntmen or some “pimp my bike” types.

FYI, here’s what I’ve found:

blogs and public figures

Fill in the Blanks with Facebook Search

Hitting Google is not enough to complete our research process. We’ll now head over to Facebook.

At this point we want to find more pages, products or any other kind of keyword that will help us in identifying where exactly our target audience is hanging around.

Highly underestimated, but the Facebook search bar can unveil some hidden secrets!

Highly underestimated, but the Facebook search bar can unveil some hidden secrets!

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Type “Bicycle Magazine” into your Facebook search and then filter by “pages”.

facebook bike mag search

Now you’ll want to note down any page that you did not find yet.

note down additional facebook pages

Repeat this process for shops, websites, generic keywords and public figures.

Here are some search terms you can try:

  • Bicycle athlete
  • Bicycle store
  • Bicycle & equipment
  • Bicycle events

Again, you will end up with a couple of more items on your list.

Use these Hidden Facebook Secrets

Time to unlock some hidden gems of the Facebook search!

The goal is to have an as extensive list as possible, before we start using our Facebook Audience Insights tool.

To get even more ideas, there are a couple of more things you can do right in Facebook.

Hack 1
Type into your Facebook search the following combination: “pages liked by people who like [PAGE NAME]”.

pages liked by people who like

Cool right? This search will give you some more ideas of other pages we can add to our list.

You are also able, to modify this search slightly. You can for example search for only pages liked by men or women.

Or you, can add an area or age range. You can also look for interests or communities… Just try it out.

Hack 2
Go ahead and a like those pages.

Every Time you like a page you will see some further suggestions below.

like suggestions

*Note: the suggestions don’t always appear right away, you might need to try it couple of times until you see them.

Hack 3
Check what pages are liked by the page you are checking out. This will give you some more ideas, you can add to your list.

pages liked by the page

Hack 4
Now comes a cool trick :p.

Type into Facebook search: “people who like [PAGE NAME]”. This will give you a list of people that like a certain page.

people who like a facebook page

Then browse the people until you find some from your target location. In our case New York City area.

fan from NYC

Next open up their profile and check for the pages they like. Add every bike related page or interest to your notes, that you don’t have yet.

find more ideas on personal profile

I like to do that with around 20 people per page.

You can of course do that with as many people as you like, but I found that after checking 20 unrelated people in the same niche, the liked pages tend to be the same.

Repeat this process for each of your noted down pages, if you want to be thorough!

Fantastic! Now let’s move on to the next step.

Step 3 - Analyze Your Findings with the Audience Insights Tool

At this point you will have a huge list of Facebook pages sorted by magazines, companies, websites and public figures.

Now it’s time to fire up our audience insights tool.

Make sure you have set your target country, in our case the United States.

audience insights - country USA

Next, we start to feed the interest section with our noted down pages. We do that one after the other.

start adding interests

After you added the first interest navigate to “Page Likes”.

navigate to page likes

On your page like section here is what you want to look for.

The closer the topic of the pages liked in the top categories are to your niche, the more qualitative this page is.

what you want to look for

The next thing you want to do is look at the “Page Likes” below. Here focus on the Affinity score.

pages by affinity score

Affinity indicates how active the pages are and how likely this audience is to interact with the page you have selected in your interest field. That again means, that this audience is likely to be of high interest to us.

Right there, you have more highly relevant pages that we can add to our notepad.

Once you have found a page that has a lot of bicycle related pages in their top category, do two things:

Add your selected page to your spreadsheet, into the correct column.

add page to spreadsheet

Open up all the pages that you do not yet have on your notepad list, and add them to your ideas. We will put them through the same audience tool process later.

click and open new pages

Now why are we doing this?

The purpose of this process is to filter out the pages that we can actually target within Facebook and to gather more data about their addressable audience and affinity.

Probably, you have noticed it already that we are not always able to target all pages in our Facebook ad manager. A possible answer is that those pages are not yet indexed.

The real reason however is still unknown. But there are definitely various factors in Facebook and off Facebook coming together to define, what pages can be targeted and which not.

Anyway. You need to repeat this process with all of your noted down pages, until you have a concise list in your spreadsheet.

Let’s do one more together.

First, we enter our page into the interest field:

public figure

Second, we check if most top category pages are related to biking.

check if pages are related

If so, we’ll add that page to our spreadsheet and open the rest of those pages, we haven’t found yet.

Now, just keep on repeating this process.

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Step 4 - Create Your Ad Set Structure

Our research part is done. Now we move on to setting up our ad sets.

The goal is to quickly identify the interest audience that is willing to buy from us. To do that, we are going to create one ad set per interest category.

That means we will have one ad set each for:

  • Magazines
  • Companies
  • Websites / Blogs
  • Public Figures

I like to do that at the beginning because it allows us to quickly filter out the interests that just do not convert at all.

You can then of course setup an A/B test within your ad itself, but I am not going into this in this post.

Here is how my testing structure looks like:

ad set testing structure

The budget and time for your test you can select on your liking, I recommend however at least a $10 daily budget per ad set and a two weeks test period.

That should give you a good idea, on which audience set will respond the best.

Step 5 - Set Up Your Campaigns and Ad Sets

Let’s take a closer look at one of your ad sets. The magazine interests.

Here’s what you do.

First select the area you are going to target. In our case the New York City area.

ad set location

Next add the rough demographics that match your ideal customer (see our marketing persona above).

add rough demographics

Then, we are going to add all the magazines we have found into the interest section.

adding all the magazines

By the end of it, we will be left with a laser target audience.

If your audience is too large (depending on your possible daily reach) start to intersect your interests until you reach a good audience size.

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Learn how to apply the power of Marketing-Psychology to write persuading Facebook ads.

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Every successful Facebook campaign starts with extensive audience research.

Every successful Facebook campaign starts with extensive audience research.

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Don’t be shy to spend more time on your research until you find a target group that fits all your buyer’s criteria!

Start by digging deep into the interests of your target audience, look for magazines with subscription based models. Look for other companies in your niche, look for influencers and informational websites.

Make sure that you double check everything you have found in your Audience Insights tool. Remember to look at the pages liked and the affinity. The closer they are to your product the better your audience targeting will be.

Following all the steps I have outlined above you will be one step closer to launching a successful Facebook campaign.

But now over to you. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have to create a laser targeted Facebook ad campaign.

  • August 30, 2017