Facebook Ad Targeting Options

Facebook Targeting Options

FaceBook Targeting is a great tool to ensure your message is being delivered to your audience. While it isn’t perfect, there are many tips and tricks to help ensure that your ads are shown only to those who would be interested in your product or service. With Facebook business advertising being an active part of any marketing campaign, it's important to know how to target the correct audience. This guide is meant for businesses of all sizes but will be beneficial for Facebook advertising for small business. We've outlined Facebook audience demographics and how to use Facebook custom audience targeting to the best of your ability.

Facebook targeting capabilities are endless. You will be amazed at how specific you can get after reading this guide. Of course, the first step to creating an effective FaceBook Campaign is understanding exactly who your market is, and understanding what complimentary or otherwise similar interests your customers may have.  The importance of this will make sense later in the article, but for now, let’s start with the basics.

Location Targeting

The first choice you’ll be asked to make is location targeting. FaceBook targeting is based off of the Boolean programming language, which means you have the option to either allow or disallow different options. For example, for Location Targeting you can choose to Include specific areas as well as exclude specific areas. Including more cities or general areas will increase the possible reach of your business. If you are a business who only services a specific city or region, in most cases you should only select those areas.

In addition, FaceBook will allow you to choose from four options for Location Targeting - Everyone in this location, People who live in this location, People recently in this location, and People travelling in this location. In addition, you can drop an inclusion or exclusion pin to a specific place on the map. You can set up a variety of statements for the same ad, such as ‘All people who live in Toronto’ and ‘All people who are travelling in Edmonton’. Ensure that your statements are distinct and do not negate one another.

Age Targeting

FaceBook targeting allows you to set a specific age range for your ads. Having a wider range will expose your ad to a larger audience. Make sure you understand your customer base well because the end user of your product or service may not actually be the person who you want to see the ad. For example, if you are selling Children’s Toys, you likely won’t be targeting Children, but rather the family members of those children.

Gender Targeting

As of now, FaceBook only has 3 options for gender targeting - Only Women, Only Men, or Both. As with the age targeting, make sure that you have thought through who should be seeing the ad. Although it may be a product for men, it is possible that it could be purchased by a female in that man’s life. When selecting the Gender-based FaceBook Ad Targeting options, ensure that you know exactly who you are trying to target, and not just who will be using the product or service. 

Language Targeting

If the language your business runs in is common to the area (such as English and/or French), FaceBook suggests you leave the language option blank. If you are hoping to serve a community that is not common that speaks a language that is not common to the area, you can add this to your targeting restrictions. You can add multiple languages for targeting. However, if your ad is written in a specific language, it is advised that that is the language you choose.

Detailed Targeting

Within the detailed targeting section, you can add restrictions to either include or exclude FaceBook users based on Demographics, Interests, or Behaviours.


You can choose from a variety of demographic factors for Demographic inclusion and exclusion. For some categories, FaceBook provides a list of options to choose from, whereas other categories are search-based options. For categories with a given list of options, FaceBook allows you to select multiple factors within a Category, such as selecting users who are a ‘High School Grad’, a ‘College Grad’, and those who are currently ‘In College’.

Targeting by Demographics can be a tricky game. If you're not 100% sure what the demographics of your market are, it's a good idea to keep things a little bit more broad. For example, if you are running an ad for skateboards, you may think the best ad group is kids 'In High School' or 'Some High School' or 'In College', with a 'New Job'. However, this would be eliminating the parents of these kids or older college graduates who still skateboard on the weekend. Notice that there is also a Category of "Generation". Selecting either Baby Boomer, Generation X, or Millennials will include all individuals within a specific age range. For some ads and businesses, this may be more effective than grouping your market by Education or Work.

If your ad is targeted to a very specific audience (Ex. 'Free Spa Day for Female Nurses who are Engaged'), then be as specific as you wish. Remember, selecting to include a specific factor within a Category is also essentially specifically excluding another. Not selecting a specific option within a Category leaves all of the options as included possibilities. Here are all of the current possible categories to choose from:

FaceBook Targeting Options - Demographics



Targeting your audience based on a specific type of interest can be beneficial if your ad and business is focused on a specific industry or product. For example, if you are trying to promote a new wine, selecting the "Wine" option under Food & Drink > Alcoholic Beverages would be an advantage. FaceBook knows a person's interests based on their likes, follows, page memberships, etc. Everything is coded and broken down into the categories pictured below.

There are around 250 different FaceBook Targeting by Interests options to choose from, and just like in the demographics, you can choose multiple options under each category. Make sure to look through the entire list, because there may be a hidden and relevant category that you don't want to accidentally Exclude.

FaceBook Targeting Options - Interests

Behaviours & More Categories

The Behaviours category is likely the trickiest of the 4. Within the Behaviours category, you can segregate your audience based on their mobile device choices (such as brand, operating system, specific model, or how recently they've purchased their phone), or their mobile and digital usage (such as how often they play games, what browser they use, where their email address was registered, whether or not they are early or late technology adopters). You can also specifically target Expats from specific nations.

The options in the Expat category refer to people who used to live in the given country. For example, choosing Expats (Argentina) will select all users who have listed their nationality as Argentinian, but their current city as a city located anywhere else in the world. Finally, you can target your audience based on seasonality and events, such as those who participated in Ramadan, or those who recently returned from a trip.

More behaviour choices are likely to appear as FaceBook begins to understand our digital decisions more and more, but for now, these are the current Behaviour & More Categories to choose from:

FaceBook Targeting Options - Behaviours & More Categories


To better understand FaceBook targeting, we created the following example. For this example, we will use a fictitious company that sells bridesmaid dresses in Calgary called 'Four Maidens'. Four Maidens had created a new style of bridesmaid dress that they want to promote to all of the newly engaged brides and their friends and family. Four Maidens created three different ads targeted for their three different markets: Brides, Bridesmaids, and Parents of the Bride and Groom.

Ad 1 - Brides-to-be

Four Maidens want to ensure that they are including as many possible young local brides as they can in their targeting. We've chosen to target brides in Calgary, as well as brides who are within 25 mi of Calgary - a fairly drivable distance. The age range has been set from 18-35 as that is the most common age range for brides. We've chosen to include users who are listed as engaged, have an interest in weddings, and/or marriage to further target our audience. Finally, we've excluded Newlyweds and those who are already listed as Marred. Here is the full set-up the ad for Four Maiden's Bride Focused Ad:


Ad 2- Bridesmaids-to-be

For the Bridesmaid specific advertisement, research shows that the majority of bridesmaids live one to two provinces away from the brides. Because of this, we want to increase the reach to all of Western Canada. In addition, we've added the 'Friends of Newly Engaged' category to our audience. Finally, we've increased the age range for Bridesmaids, as bridesmaids typically tend to be +/- 5 years of the bride's age.


Ad 3- Parents of Brides-and-Groom-to-be

In contrast, the Parents of the Brides-and-groom-to-be are a completely different market. Research shows that in Canada, the parents of the newly weds who typically have the most impact in making bridal decisions if they live within the same province as the couple. Because of this, we've increased our reach to be all of Alberta. We've included an Age Range of 40-65+, and have chosen to also include people who are interested in weddings and marriage. This may also help to reach other family members of the bride and groom. The only exclusion we've set is to exclude Millennials. Here is what we've set up for the Parents of the Bride and Groom:


For comparison, let's take a look at the Audience Definitions (Bride  -   Bridesmaids   -  Parents of the Bride or Groom):

FaceBook-Targeting-Options-ComparisonNote that the audience for the Brides is the most specific of the three. This is partially due to the location restrictions. Although more specific, the Estimated Daily Reach between Brides and Parents of the Bride or Groom is fairly similar. Although the potential reach for the Parents targeting is larger than the Brides (670,000 vs 160,000), there are fewer overall potential parents of newlyweds within the region. Also, although the Potential Reach of the Parents category is larger, there are more Instagram users in the other two categories.

Start Creating Your First Facebook Ad!

We hope you have found this Facebook targeting options guide helpful in answering the question how to target Facebook ads and how to find your target audience on Facebook. These Facebook ad targeting tips will ensure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the correct place.

Improperly targeted ads can result in unnecessary spending, or even having ads shown to a completely incorrect audience. By making sure you understand exactly who you want to show your message to and understanding exactly how to create those detailed audiences can reap major rewards in the world of FaceBook Ads. Have a question about Facebook Ads management? Contact us today!

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