Mastering Interest & Behaviour Targeting

If you know one thing about Facebook Ads, it's that it gives you about a million options for how to target people.

One the one hand, having so many options can be daunting. On the other, it provides endless possibilities for optimisation. This article takes a look at how to make the most of interest & behaviour targeting.

Detailed Targeting

Interest and behaviour targeting methods are what Facebook refers to as detailed targeting. They can be found at the ad set level, by looking under Audiences:

There are a couple of things to know straightaway in order to make the most of the detailed targeting options available.

Positive Targeting

Positive targeting refers to targeting people who have a particular interest or behaviour. If we add 'dog walking' to the first box in the screenshot above, we'll be positively targeting dog walkers.

The best way to build your positive targeting is to put one or two ideas into the box to start with. If you then click suggestions, Facebook will offer a range of additional targeting options which have high overlap (share a lot of users) with the targeting you've put in.

For example, if we start by positively targeting 'dog walking', we can see a lot of highly relevant targeting options by clicking suggestions:

Once we have these suggestions we can add them to our targeting. If we think that any of the suggestions are actually more relevant to our brand than our initial positive targeting, we can replace that original targeting with the suggestion. You can keep iterating on this process of looking at suggestions, until you find the most relevant audiences.

Note that if you choose to add multiple audiences, your ad set will show ads to users that are in any of the audiences you've selected.

Narrow Targeting

If we want to make our targeting more precise, we can click the button that says Narrow audience. A second targeting box will appear, and this will allow us to define audiences that users must also be in, in order to see our ads:

For example, let's say that we want to target people who walk German Shepherds. We could approximate this by putting German Shepherds into the second box:

Our ad set will now only show to people interested in both dog walking and German Shepherds, which is a close approximation for people who walk German Shepherds.

You can keep clicking the Narrow audience button in order to refine your targeting further. Whilst it can be fun to target your ad sets more and more finely, we wouldn't recommend doing so if it takes your target audience size below around 50,000 people. Any lower than this, and Facebook will struggle to optimise who it shows your ads to.

Negative Targeting

So far we've talked about who we target. Just as important as this though is who we don't target. There are always going to be some audiences that aren't going to engage with your brand, and it's important to make sure that you aren't wasting money on them.

We can do this in Ads Manager by using what's called negative targeting. To negatively target an audience, click Exclude people next to your targeting options. The following box will appear:

You can add audiences in here to ensure that they don't see your ads.

For example, if we were targeting German Shepherd walkers, we might be worried about Facebook erroneously classifying some people as German Shepherd walkers when they do not in fact walk German Shepherds. For instance, Facebook might think that people in vet school would be interested in both dog walking and German Shepherds.

If we didn't want to show to these people, because they weren't relevant to our brand, we could exclude them by adding 'veterinary school' to our negative targeting:

With this negative targeting in place, our ad set will now show ads to people interested in dog walking, interested in German Shepherds, but not interested in veterinary school.

Expanded Targeting

You may have noticed an option hovering by the detailed targeting boxes which says:

Expand detailed targeting criteria when it may improve performance at a lower cost per result.

Sounds like a no-brainer right?

What ticking this box will effectively do, is to open up your ad set's targeting to anyone within your selected location, ages, and genders. It will essentially ignore any detailed targeting you've put into your ad set.

I've seen some cases where this has worked well for large-scale advertisers, but this is only because they're putting in enough spend for Facebook to quickly work out who they should show ads to.

For smaller budget advertisers, under $10k a month, I'd highly advise against using this option. Facebook won't be able to optimise your ad delivery quick enough, and you're better off trusting your own instincts about who to target.

Interests vs Behaviours vs Job Titles vs Fields of Study (Advanced)

You may have seen, while selecting audiences, that they have different audience types written next to them:

These reflect the different ways that Facebook populates these audiences, and what data it uses in creating them. We generally find that performance can differ between types of audience, which we put down to Facebook being more certain about some audience types.

For instance if someone edits their profile to say that they work in marketing, then Facebook can use this information to put them into a Job Titles audience for marketing. The data that Facebook have used here, which was provided by the user, is much more reliable than the signals that Facebook would look at to classify whether someone is just interested in marketing. For this reason, if you were advertising a marketing product, we'd recommend targeting people who work in marketing rather than people who are interested in marketing.

If I was to rank audience types by decreasing accuracy, I'd rank them:

  1. Job Titles
  2. Employers
  3. Fields of Study
  4. Behaviours
  5. Interests

If you're not convinced that interest targeting can be unreliable, take a look at what Facebook 'knows' about your interests and decide for yourself!

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