What is Facebook ad targeting

Define Facebook target groups correctly

Would you like to run targeted social media campaigns? Then you should definitely deal with Facebook and Instagram Ads. Hardly any other online advertising platform offers you a more detailed target group approach than that of Mark Zuckerberg's social network. And it is precisely this fact that makes it so exciting for advertisers to place ads on the platform. In this article you will find out what is possible when selecting target groups for Facebook and Instagram ads, what settings there are and how to make the right selection for your campaigns.

Table of Contents

What does targeting mean?

Correct targeting is crucial for a successful social media campaign. But what exactly is behind it?

Generally speaking, “targeting” means the defined addressing of target groups. When placing ads, this means that you only show your ads to certain target groups, i.e. only users who meet certain conditions. You can then address them very specifically, which in turn increases the likelihood that they will click on your ad and convert. The targeting can be very narrow, but also very broad, depending on what you are promoting for a product.

An example: Accurate targeting if you only address women aged 20-25 who work as teachers. This address would then have, for example, the ad text: “You are a new teacher? Discover our new app for a digital curriculum! ". A broad targeting is the case here, for example: people between 20 and 50 years of age with the text "Become a game tester for the latest console!"

Up to a certain point, the more precisely a target group is defined, the more successful the campaigns will be. The reason for this is that so-called wastage is minimized. With a more narrowly defined target group, you only reach the people who are most likely to become your customers. In this way you avoid showing vegans steak advertisements. However, the target group must not be too restricted, otherwise too few people fit into the pattern and the ads may not be displayed at all.

So for targeting to work well, you need the right target groups. And this is where Facebook can score. As a social network, Facebook has the advantage that users voluntarily disclose private information about themselves, e.g. where they live, what interests they have, where they work, what school leaving certificate they have or what events they take part in. The targeting can be built on this information and you can use this for your Facebook and Instagram ads!

Where can I find the target groups in Facebook Ads Manager?

If you want to familiarize yourself with Facebook target groups, the easiest way to do this is to select the Target groups tab at the top of the Ads Manager:

Here you can find the target group manager

This tool is the target group manager (Facebook Audience Manager) and here you can let off steam and experiment. Which target group you actually want to use later is up to you. If you click on the link “target groups”, a page will appear with a blue button “create target group”.

If you have already saved target groups, a window appears that looks similar to this:

Overview of the already created Facebook target groups

But if you are creating target groups for the first time, your view looks like this:

Empty audience view

If you click on the blue button, you have three different options to choose from:

  1. Custom Audience: These target groups are constantly updating themselves and are either linked to the data collected on your own website or to certain user behavior within Facebook or Instagram.
  2. Lookalike audience: Google calls these target groups “Similar Audience”. A copy is made of a source target group with new users who have the same behavior and interests. They look something like the source target group and make it possible to address new users.
  3. Saved target groups: Here you can create target groups based on locations, demographics, interests, behavior and a lot more.

You can now find out what exactly these target groups make up!

Custom Audience

The custom audience are dynamic target groups. This means that they are made up of people who meet a certain condition. This can be, for example: "All website visitors in the last 365 days" (you are addressing all users who were on your website in the last year). This target group is updated daily. In doing so, all persons who fall out of the period are removed and new ones are included.

If you choose this target group, you can either work with your own data source (requirement: Facebook pixel) or your own Facebook data. The following list shows you what is possible within these options with a few tips and tricks.

Create a custom audience in Facebook

Use your sources (Facebook Pixel)

In order to be able to use this option, you must have correctly implemented the Facebook Pixel on your page in advance. The Facebook Pixel is an analysis tool from Facebook that you can install on your site. With this you can track what actions a user is doing on your website.

For example, if a Facebook user clicks on your ad and then arrives at your website, Facebook can no longer track the user's behavior from this point on. In order to measure what exactly a user is doing on your website, for example whether he is looking at certain products, adding something to the shopping cart or buying something, you need the pixel.

Within the pixel you can then define certain actions of users that are important to you. You can now select these here and create target groups from them.

  1. Website: You have the possibility to select all website visitors, visitors to a certain page or the top 25%, 10% or 5% visitors. You can also select all users who have performed a predefined action on your site. These are then the events that you create when implementing the pixel.

    Define website visitors as a target group

  2. Customer list: Here you have the opportunity to upload your own customer list. This can, for example, consist of your newsletter subscribers or even include buyers. The prerequisite is that you have the user's email address. However, for reasons of data protection law, you should proceed with the utmost caution and clarify whether, for example, your newsletter subscribers have agreed to Facebook retargeting. In our example, the customer list with the newsletter registrations is generated via the provider Mailchimp. But there are many other providers that are compatible with Facebook.

    Upload customer list

    You also have the option of using the customers with the greatest live time value. However, you may have to provide the LTV yourself in advance. This describes how much revenue a customer has already brought you in the past and gives forecasts of how much he will bring you in more.

  3. App activity: If you have an app instead of a website, you should have the SDK pixel installed there. This works just like the Facebook pixel on your website and measures the activities of users. If you have the SDK pixel in your app, you can track it just like you would with a website. For example, you can address all users who have already reached a certain level.
  4. Offline activity: Here you can combine online activities with the offline activities of your customers. A classic example is store visits. You select people who have already been to your local business or called you.

Facebook sources

The Facebook sources describe all data that Facebook collects within its own network. For example, everyone who reacted to your ad or saw a video you posted can be recorded.

  1. Video: Select one or more of your own videos and indicate whether between 25% -95% of the video was seen by the target audience or whether they watched it for between 3-15 seconds. You must have either posted these videos in advance or uploaded them to your advertising account.
  2. Instagram business profile: As with Facebook, you can only select certain interactions for your Instagram account that your target group must have carried out. This then only applies to actions within Instagram.

    Create audiences based on activities on Instagram

  3. Lead form: Lead forms are created via the page manager of your site. This allows users to register for a newsletter or something similar from you. These actions can also be set as a condition for a target group. Either you select people who have opened a particular form but not submitted it, or the people who have opened and submitted a form. The lead forms are only played within Facebook. Depending on how they are designed, they can also be played on Instagram. You'll find more about it here.
  4. Events: Here you can select people who have had a certain interaction within the last 365 days with an event you have created. If you have an annually repeating event, you can unfortunately only address the people from the year before and only if they have interacted within the time limit of a maximum of 365 days.
    Tip: An early start of the campaign can help you.
  5. Instant experience: Instant Experience is a full-screen display that opens when someone taps your ad on a mobile device. It is like a mini website before you get to your actual website, but it loads super fast. The target groups from Instant Experience work like the lead forms. Selects whether the people opened the ad or even clicked a link.
  6. Facebook site: Finally, you can still select people who, in a certain way, deal with your own page or your Advertisements have interacted.

    Determine target groups based on interactions with your Facebook page or your advertisements

It is important that you can only create one target group at a time, regardless of whether it is custom or lookalike. After you have created one, you save it and can then continue with the next one. But if you use the built audiences later, almost all combinations are possible. We come to this further below under the "Saved target groups".

Another tip: think of a meaningful structure for naming your target groups so that you can always identify them quickly and easily. The lookalikes name themselves independently, so the naming of the custom audiences is twice as important here. You can still change these later, but this saves you the step.

Lookalike audience

Do you have a target group that works very well, but is slowly becoming saturated, then you can create a lookalike of this. Saturation means that you have reached all people within this target group, possibly several times. You can lookalike target groups only from Custom Audiences pull.

Create a lookalike audience

First, you choose your source audience. You can also go directly to the target group you have already created and then select "Create lookalike target group".

Then you choose the location where your target group should be deployed. In the long term, however, Facebook wants to abolish this option so that you can use the created lookalikes worldwide. However, it is still the case that you normally create a group for a country and save it. Sometimes you can also select several countries directly, so that you have a larger target group. However, this sometimes results in an error message that the source target group is too small. Then just try one country and see if that fixes the problem.

Finally, use the slider to select how similar the lookalike target group should be to the source. The following applies: the smaller the percentage, the more similar the target groups are.

You can also create several groups with different levels of similarity at the same time using the “Number of Lookalike Audiences”.

We like to use the lookalikes to address new users, as they also change dynamically from time to time, just like the dynamic custom target groups.

Tip: If you want to use lookalikes in several different countries, create individual target groups. The Facebook users in Finland will most likely be very different from those in Mexico, so it will be more difficult for the algorithm to rate an ad equally for both countries.


Facebook is rolling out an innovation: in the future you will no longer have to build country-specific lookalikes, but can use a lookalike audience for all countries:

Lookalikes use ad group locations

This definitely simplifies target group management and prevents the error message that too few people are in a core target group. The surface will look like this:

Surface for lookalikes

As soon as this innovation is active for you, you should check your campaigns and replace the target groups. The old lookalikes are deactivated.

Old lookalikes can no longer be used

Unfortunately, one disadvantage is that the target group size can no longer be read off directly in the target group manager. But if you add the target group to an ad group with a location, an estimated size should be displayed.

Update lookalikes

For all companies without Facebook Pixel, there is a great new way to increase the number of followers and interactions. The lookalikes of Facebook page fans!

Custom Audience

First, as usual, you create a custom audience from everyone who “currently likes your page” and then you can draw a lookalike from them.

Saved target groups

The saved target groups allow you to combine the audiences that have already been created and to relate them to certain characteristics of people.

First you can name your target group and then insert your already created custom audiences. You can choose whether you want to include or exclude the people in the groups. Exclusion is particularly useful if you do not want to use people who have already bought something from you.

Create a saved target group in Facebook


Next you choose the location. Here you can differentiate between people who live or have recently lived in a certain place, or people who have recently visited or are currently visiting this place. Recently there was the option “Everyone in this place”, but it has now been deleted. We observe that some of these target groups are now automatically set to “lives in this place”, which in most cases makes sense. For others, it now only says “location” without any further explanation.

If you select the option “People who have recently been to this place”, then all tourists will also fall into your target group. You should definitely keep this in mind if you want to expand your audience in this way.

You can also include or exclude countries, regions or addresses.

Then you can narrow down the age. Facebook starts targeting at age 13 and ends at 65+. If you want to advertise for minors, however, consider the youth protection law that applies in the respective country.

You can also determine the gender. A distinction is made between men and women.

Detailed targeting

Within these settings you can set further demographic information, as well as interests and behavior.

Tip: As soon as you have made a few entries, take a look at the suggestions! Unfortunately, the search does not always work reliably, but you can often still use your actual term.

Create detailed targeting

Demographic information

You can choose people according to theirs training in terms of the level of training, the field of study, the schools or years of completion. It used to be an appreciated one too Household income to select with. However, this option is now only available in a scaled-down version for the USA. These are still interesting for many industries Life events, such as engagement, wedding or birthday and relocations. It is also possible that parents targeting of children of different ages.

In addition, of course, can be specified relationship status to be selected.There are not only “single” and “forgiven”, but also “separated”, “widowed”, “registered civil partnership” and many more. The extent to which users provide this information differs from country to country and you should always bear that in mind. In Germany, for example, only 22,000 users stated that they lived in a registered civil partnership.

Finally, you can still certain employer or select entire industries.


One of the great advantages of Facebook target groups is the selection of specific target groups based on their interests. There are almost unlimited possibilities, starting with different industries such as "design“, „Banking"Or"advertising", above Shopping and fashion and to eat and drink up to preferred Technologies and entertainment. With each superordinate category one can become even more granular and, depending on the size of the general interest, select individual companies or special products.


In this area you can find people based on their Buying behavior or theirs Purchase intentions to reach. You can also address people who are specific Technologies use or specific activities performed in canvas games. However, some behavioral data is only available for audiences in the United States, for example, "Multicultural interests"Or the topic"politics“.

Tip: With all these options, you should always keep an eye on the stated potential range (top right) and try not to get too small, but not too big either. Roughly, you can say that a target group of less than 5,000 people is not very effective. However, no general statement can be made upwards.


Finally, you can decide whether your target group should be related to your site. We often use the "exclude people who like your page" feature so that we only reach new users. Individual combinations are also possible here. IMPORTANT: Select your desired setting and you will see it displayed as follows:

Determine the relation of the target group to the Facebook page

Now you have to click in the field: "Add page" and enter your page:

Specify Facebook page

Your page is now selected, the function will not be used before.

Apply Facebook audiences

Now you've learned about all of the features that are possible with Facebook's Audience Manager, but that's still not all.

If you want to use your target group, you first have to go to the advertising manager and then to the ad group level. Then when you create this you will find that there is a minimal difference here from the previous view.

Apply Facebook audiences

Here you now have the tab at the very bottom: “More options”, behind which the adjustments for the “connection” and the language setting are hidden. This is an important setting, especially if you are not advertising in the national language. The official description is: “Enter a language to show your ads to people who speak a language that is not common for your location. Otherwise, leave this field empty. ”If you want to reach everyone who lives in Germany but also understand English, you should enter English there and, to be on the safe side, also German.

Small digression: If you should advertise loans, jobs or apartments, you have to indicate this at the campaign level and you may not have all options available. This is to prevent discrimination in these areas and also depends on the country in which you want to advertise.


With its three different types, Facebook covers all the important functions of target groups. You can create dynamic groups that Facebook automatically updates and lookalikes from. If you want to reach new customers, you have a huge selection of setting options from demographics to behavior with the saved target groups.

Now you know how you can use the Audience Manager to define target groups, what is possible, but also where there are restrictions. I hope you enjoy trying out and testing!

Chiara fights

Chiara came to lunapark in 2019 as a working student, and is now a junior consultant in the Paid Ads team. While studying business psychology at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, she worked at Vierfreunde GmbH, among others, where she was responsible for the Facebook campaigns. At lunapark, in addition to Facebook and Instagram campaigns, she also manages LinkedIn, display and search campaigns.

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