Everyone knows that one of the most important parts of advertising is knowing your audience. Without knowing who your audience is, you’re simply wasting your time (and money) showing ads to people that clearly don’t care. While it sounds simple enough to just “go ahead and advertise to people that benefit from your product,” it’s definitely more complicated than that—especially when you’re dealing with Facebook ads.
Here, you have to think about advertising like it’s a flywheel. In the beginning, it will be hard to push that flywheel as no one has heard of your brand before. But if you target the right audience (with the help of this guide), you’ll be able to keep that flywheel spinning and expand your reach to bigger audiences. With the help of Facebook’s massive audience pools and scalability, it’s safe to say that many millionaires were minted purely from just figuring out how to target the right audience. So first, we’ll go over the foundational aspects of your audience (like the avatar), then we’ll cover some useful tools you can use to create potential audiences within Facebook, and lastly we’ll go over how to read your data and find out who you’re advertising to.
The first thing you need to lock down before even starting advertising is identifying the buyer persona that’s most likely to interact with and buy what you’re selling. Here, we need to create your ideal customer avatar. I cannot stress this enough, doing this is the difference between having great success in advertising or failing miserably and going bankrupt. It’s super crucial and it’s the foundation that your advertising is built off of. Without it, you won’t resonate with potential customers and will have a hard time selling your product.
“So, how do I set this up?” To create your ideal customer avatar, there are some things we need to find out about them first. I personally like to put myself in my ideal customer’s shoes and basically interrogate myself to try and figure out what they’re feeling, what they do on a daily basis, and any other important factors. Here are some questions you can use to help clarify your ideal customer avatar:
– What kind of situation is your ideal customer in right now?
– What kind of pain or suffering are they going through because they’re not using your product?
– What is their dream situation?
– What kind of fulfilled life would the customer live if they used your product?
– What kind of problems would it solve in their life by using it?
While these questions do directly correlate to what kind of targeting we’ll use in Facebook ads, they also help solidify the messaging you’ll use in your copy. Understanding exactly what they’re going through helps the customer identify with your brand. Next, we can start going over direct details about your ideal customer. These are more demographic questions—here are some basic ones we ask each of our clients:
– What’s the age and gender of your ideal customer?
– What kind of income does your ideal customer have?
– What kind of education does your ideal customer have?
– Where does your ideal customer live?
– Where does your ideal customer work? What kind of job do they have? How big is the company?
– At work, what kinds of tools and software does the ideal customer use?
Those questions help cement the basics in our ideal customer avatar and ensure you understand where this person is at in their life. We then want to identify where this person lives digitally (no, not their literal address) and what they do for fun. Later on, we’ll see if some of these answers can be targeted through Facebook’s tools. Here are some of the questions:
– What interests and hobbies does your ideal customer have?
– Do they have any favorite brands they use on a daily or weekly basis?
– What kind of values do they have? What’s important to them and their life?
– What goals do they have?
– Are there any challenges your ideal customer could be facing right now?
– What media do they consume regularly?
– TV shows?
– Youtube channels?
– Specific Instagram/TikTok accounts?
– Do they attend any events? Digitally or physically?
– Is your ideal customer a part of any associations or memberships?
– Do they follow any specific gurus or experts?
Once these questions are answered, we can move forward to porting over some of the ideal customer avatar insights into Facebook to find our audiences. Like I said before, sitting down and getting this all on paper is one of the most crucial parts of advertising success. Now that we have a foundation, it’s time to start building on it.
This is where the fun begins. Here, we use our ideal customer avatar to uncover tangible interests that can be targeted within Facebook. Since we have our baseline setup of gender, age, occupation and location, we can start digging deeper on specific interests—this is where the last section of questions comes in handy. We can do this by either setting up an ad and plugging in certain interests by keyword through the interests targeting section, or you can go to Audience Insights and start searching there. Audience Insights gives you a lot of information about your audience (frankly too much), and it’s important to not let it overwhelm you. I personally just look for audience size and try to go for one sized at least 700,000 – 1,000,000+ and go from there (I choose bigger audiences mainly because it helps with scaling when it comes to that point in the campaign). From Audience Insights, you can either write the audiences down or save them as a custom audience to plug them into your ad sets when you’re creating.
There’s only one slight problem with Audience Insights—not knowing whether you can target an interest or not. Like I said, Facebook lists a lot of information under audience breakdowns, and you would think that all the audiences listed would be available for advertising … but that couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s the unfortunate reality of Audience Insights, but there is a way to find a targetable audience without plugging them in to see if they work. That way is through a tool called Interest Explorer. Here, if you search a topic, brand, or potential interest, it will spit out interests that you searched for and that are closely related to your search. While it’s a paid tool, I personally love using this when it comes to audience research for clients. Best of all, you can save audiences in specific folders for your clients so you can just go down the list of trying out different targeting audiences. If you can afford it, I highly recommend buying it as it’s just one of the best tools out there.
Like I mentioned before, Facebook offers you a plethora of data when you’re advertising. From what type of person saw your ad to their specific zip code, it can definitely get overwhelming. Here, we’re going to talk about how to avoid analysis paralysis and focus on important KPIs of our audiences after we’ve run some ads and spent some money. One of the most important caveats to reading data is ensuring you have enough data—this means letting an ad run for only one day might not be enough for you to understand whether the audience works or not. Facebook runs in ebbs and flows and takes the mean average to show you what’s working/not working. I personally try to either have a per ad reach of at least 3,000 or an ad set reach of 7,000 before making any drastic decisions.
Now that we have enough data, let’s go over the “Breakdown” feature. Here, you can see all sorts of crazy data, like what time your customers interacted with your ads, the device or placement used to deliver the ad, age, gender, country, region, what specific ad they clicked on (if dynamic), etc. So while there’s a lot to digest, it’s important not to get “lost in the sauce” as Gucci Mane once said because you can easily get into analysis paralysis trying to look through all the data at hand.
I would recommend initially just looking at age and gender demographics to see if you need to whittle down your audience to a specific age or if your ads only resonate with one gender. Another thing you can utilize to lower your CPA while using the breakdown tool is seeing which specific ad or ad set has the lowest CPMs and CPC, or if there’s a specific age group that has better stats that you can possibly test out as a cohort. This could help you determine if a specific age set or gender will cost much less to reach than more expensive demos. Playing around with the tool will definitely help you understand your data better, and if you separated your interest audience 1 per ad set, you can see specific data about that audience.
You thought I was going to write an audience article without mentioning lookalike audiences? Hah, think again. It’s pretty much a known fact at this point that Facebook Ads’ flagship feature is the ability to target lookalikes of an audience pool, whether it’s website visitors, social engagers, video viewers, or custom lists being uploaded. All you need is at least 100 people as a base audience, starting at 2.2 million and you can ramp that number up to 22 million people (if targeting the US) or less. The higher you go, the more diluted the audience gets based off the initial list you provided.
We personally use lookalike audiences in our initial testing when taking over a client account and again after we’ve received some better data after advertising for a few months. We’ve had great success using lookalikes, but at the same time we’ve had lookalikes that didn’t work at all, so it’s worth testing them just in case. We use a variety of purchase, email list, and view content based lookalikes ranging from 1-10%. I personally prefer going with 1%, 3%, and 10% variants for initial testing with eventually just using the 10% on most of the testing/scaling.
The next thing you can try might be a bit controversial, but you can simply use broad targeting with age or gender restrictions (if even that). This should only be used if you already have audiences that are proven and if your Pixel is already warmed up with hundreds of purchases tracked. Going full broad has the lowest CPMs, and here the only thing you’re optimizing for is messaging in your ads. So before launching, make sure you have a plethora of proven creatives/ads. This is where FB’s power comes in—the wider the pool of people to target, the more control you give to FB to find people based on your Pixel data. This, just like the lookalikes, is hit or miss. Recently, they have been working well, but again, this is worth testing because you don’t know if it will work for you. I periodically test broad targeting as it helps me determine where Facebook is at in terms of understanding the people I’m trying to target.
With all that said, I just wanted to conclude this with the main points—but with a twist. One, you need to set up the ideal client avatar before spending any money on Facebook and keep refining that avatar as you go along because it’s a never ending process. Two, utilize the foundation you built from the avatar questions to create a great pool of interest audiences to continually test from. Three, make sure you learn how to read the data and not get “lost in the sauce,” while also having enough statistically significant data to make decisions. Lastly, lookalike audiences and broad audiences are great and are always worth testing within your ad accounts. If your messaging is right, they should perform well. Best of luck on your advertising adventures, and hopefully you gained a thing or two from reading this article.