5 Essential Tips for Defining Your Target Audience on Facebook

Put simply, marketing is the art of attracting certain persons to buy a product or service. Once you’ve established your product or service, first you need to define your target buyer. This is where things can get tricky. Very rarely are we, as entrepreneurs or small business owners, able to accurately predict what our customers will look like. In general, we have an idea but when you were first dreaming up that product or service, your ideal customers were different in some way than what they turned out to be. I highly doubt that Kurt Cobain set out to be the grunge king of the world and I doubt further that he would have ever predicted the types of people who connect with his music.

Facebook advertising is changing the game for marketing because everyone and their grandmother are on Facebook. No, seriously, my grandmother loves Facebook and I bet yours does too. I’m sure you’ve heard a story or two about the misunderstanding of status updates vs. direct messages. The power of Facebook as an advertising platform lies deep within the engagement that we all actively participate in on Facebook. Pages we like, videos we view, products we search, and ads we click — Facebook uses this data and feeds it into its wildly effective advertising algorithm.

The effectiveness of the Facebook Advertising platform begins with the ability to craft your perfect target audience. They have made it so simple that all you have to do is put pen to paper and dream up all of the qualities you think your ideal customer has. There is a little bit of research required so we’ve outlined some tips on how to craft the perfect audience for your ads. These tips will help guide your hand in creating an audience that is more like the actual people who will buy your product, weeding out certain assumptions we often make as marketers that can dilute your audience and waste valuable dollars.

1. Utilize Facebook Audience Insights

Audience Insights is an exceptional tool to get a macro view of your target buyer. You can create a custom audience using your existing customer list if it has more than 200 emails or phone numbers. Learn about what makes them tick through data that is sourced from their personal Facebook pages and online behavior. The larger the list, the better. When looking at this data, take notes on overarching themes and patterns about your audience. With this information, you can create a buyer persona that will act as your ultimate guide for creating your audiences and tailoring your content and ad creative.

2. Build Buyer Personas

Creating a buyer persona or “customer avatar” is a VERY important asset that will act as your key reference point for future marketing campaigns. These personas are how we put ourselves in the eyes of the buyer to make sure we are staying on message and maintaining consistency in our marketing efforts.

When you start to build your personas, take the size of your business into account first. If you are a local business, you may only need 1-2 buyer personas. If you are a regional business, it is probably best to create 2-4. This all depends on the depth of your product offerings and the diversity of your customer base. Remember to be broad and consistent in choosing the common interests and demographics of your client base.

Instead of diving into this deeper, I am going to direct you to this blog by Digital Marketer on Customer Avatar Creation. They do an excellent job of breaking this down further and giving very specific examples and templates to help craft the perfect buyer persona. Once you have your buyer personas nailed down, come on back and I will show you how to do the damn thing on Facebook.

3. Know Your Audience Category Breakdown

The key elements of Facebook targeting that need to be carefully considered are broken down into 4 main categories: Location, Demographics, Interests, Behaviors, and Audience Size.


This seems to be straightforward. Just type in the name of the city where you offer your services, right? Sort of… There are a few follow-up questions you should consider:

  • Are your customers primarily local or transient?
  • Do you offer online services?
  • Are your services fueled by people who live nearby?
  • Do people actively search for your product or service?

Let’s say that you own a fitness gym. It would be in your best interest to set a location spanning 5-6 miles around the physical address of your gym since it is common for people to work out close to where they live. As well as choosing people who live in this location, Facebook uses IP addresses and the “current city” of your Facebook profile to determine if you live in a certain location.

alt If you own a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar, you want to select a broader area surrounding your location as well as the “Everyone in this location” option. Facebook calculates most recent city and mobile device data to determine who is actively in a specific area. The last piece before we move on to Demographics is choosing Age, Gender, and Languages. Defining these pieces of information lay the groundwork for the rest of your targeting endeavors.


The demographics section should be carefully considered. It consists of:

  • Education
  • Financials
  • Generation
  • Home
  • Life Events
  • Parents
  • Politics
  • Relationship
  • Work

This is where you need to evaluate the qualities of your buyer persona and choose things that will not limit your audience too much. Being too specific here can make your audience size too small which can drastically diminish your results.


Interests are calculated based upon pages people like, posts they share, and websites they visit. This is where the fun starts. Just start typing and include as many interests as humanly possible. It is wise to also include any competitor pages in this section.


Behavior targeting is based upon data (from 3rd parties) of consumer purchasing behavior and device usage. This type of targeting can include people who have recently moved, made a charitable donation, currently traveling, play video games, and people who use different browser types.

Custom Audiences:

Custom audiences are extremely powerful and can be very effective if you have the right data. These audiences can be built based upon a current client list of emails and certain types of engagement that your audience has had with your content like video views or people who have visited your website within a certain time frame.

4. Create a Saved Audience Before You Run A Campaign

Please note that some of the targeting strategies may not link exactly with what is right for your business. Take the concepts and methods that work best for your business and apply them as best you can. My recommendation would be to create a saved audience based on the buyer persona you created, and use that same saved audience to build all of your campaigns. When you learn more about your audience, you can continue to add and evolve it. The audience may vary based upon the campaign you are running but you will always use your base audience to ensure consistency.

When creating your first saved audience, let’s assume that we are running a general awareness campaign. An awareness campaign goal is broad in scope and focuses more on impressions vs other goals like clicks, conversions, or downloads. You will want to incorporate all buyer personas.

Narrowing your audience equation:

It is important to note that adding a bunch of demographics, interests, and behaviors does NOT accumulate your buying persona. If you do not pair them correctly, you end up with segmented interests that do not relate to each other. You have to look for a group of qualities that all of your buying personas share and segment them further beneath those common qualities.

When you begin to build your audience asset, it is important to segment your audience interest into two categories: your “must have” targeting and “nice to have” targeting.

Start with a set of extremely broad categories that your target audience MUST match in order for your ads to be shown to them. It is VERY important to choose categories that have a large number of people because once these “must have” characteristics are chosen, we will choose “nice to have” interests which will diminish the size of the audience greatly. And as you can imagine, the bigger the pond, the greater potential for fish. But sometimes, a large pond with tons of fish isn’t always what we’re looking for, because some of those fish may not be what we’re trying to catch.

After you have chosen your “must have” qualities, then you can be more specific about characteristics that your buying persona possesses and begin to start adding your “secondary must have” characteristics.

Putting It Together:

Imagine you own a yoga studio. The majority of your members consist of females who are all married with children and drive a red Prius. If you added these characteristics to your targeting, your ads will be targeted to people who match at least ONE of the chosen categories unless you narrow it down further. So if you choose married, has children, and drives a red Prius, your ad will be shown to all women who drive a red Prius, all women who have children, and all women who are married. But those qualities are not necessarily significant for your yoga studio when they are independent of each other.

Before choosing demographics/interests/behaviors, ask yourself: If I only showed this ad to a person with [insert quality here] would my message be relevant? In the case of the yoga studio be sure to narrow your audience to something broad that each of these women who are married, have kids, and drive red Prius have in common. Like “Health and Wellness” or “Physical Fitness.”

5. Size Matters

It’s true. The size of your audience on Facebook is extremely important, and this is where the “must have” targeting and “nice to have” targeting combination becomes crucial. When you choose location, age, and gender, you are automatically putting those targeting options in your “must have” pile. Based on your location, these things can greatly affect your audience size. The more physical people who live in a particular location, the more specific you can afford to be with your targeting.

Let’s go back to that pond analogy I mentioned earlier. The bigger the pond equals more fish equals more opportunity? Not true. The key to audience targeting is creating a pond that has as many of the right types of fish that you can cram in there. A huge pond with the wrong kind of fish can be detrimental to your marketing efforts. If you are a local B2C company, a general rule of thumb for Facebook audience size is no less than 45,000 people per ad set. Unless you are working with custom audiences.

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