Facebook Improves Ad Targeting

By Julie Knudson | Posted March 10, 2014

Recently announced improvements to Facebook's targeting features should make small and midsized businesses sit up and take notice. We talked with a couple of Facebook advertising experts to find out what the new features include and how SMBs can get the most out of them.

Facebook and Small Business Advertising

"The new targeting features will let small business advertisers reach precise audiences within four main categories: location, demographic, interests, and behaviors," explains Rahul D. Yodh, co-founder of ATM Digital Branding. The location category lets you target Facebook users by country, city, state or zip code, as well as to exclude subcategories if you wish. Yodh says you can use demographics to "create an ad that targets users by their relationship status, age, job title, and employer."

Facebook simplified the subcategories under the interests heading into a keyword search-type option. But it's the behavior-targeting that Yodh says is the probably the biggest game changer. "Previously, all targeting was done based on pages you liked," he says. Now it's no longer necessary to wait for users to click the like button to target ads at them. "All I have to do is have a status update saying, ‘Wow, this place has great pizza,' and almost instantly my profile changes, and I will be served pizza-related ads," Yodh says.

Some of these features are similar to, or simply expansions of, previous offerings, but Zach Greenberger, founder of adMixt, says the options have been streamlined into what Facebook calls core audiences. "Before, they had myriad targeting options like age, gender, location, interests, sexual preference, relationship status—they were all spread out," he explains.

Each type of targeting now falls into one of the four primary elements, an organizing move Greenberger believes will be advantageous for SMBs. "From a small business perspective, I think Facebook hopes this makes the existing options easier to navigate and easier to use," he says.

Making the New Facebook Features Work for You

Tailoring Facebook advertising to bring in new or better-qualified customers may take a bit of fine tuning, but the potential to grow market share is tremendous. "If a small business is diligent with its advertising and targets the right people, then it can drive customers and monetize pretty quickly," Yodh says.

Using his previous pizza example, a pizzeria could target people within a 5-mile radius of the restaurant and send them coupons if they talk about pizza. Or the company might target users with children and offer them a kid's special. "The possibilities are endless," Yodh says. "You just have to be creative enough to leverage them."

In conjunction with the previously released Partner Categories, small businesses can also target their ads to Facebook users based on offline activities such as past purchases. According to Greenberger, this third-party collected data may be the most valuable tool Facebook offers.

Sellers of jewelry or clothing, for example, can now target people who generally spend money on those types of products. "It's a tremendous value to small business owners, because if they don't have their own list of former customers in a format they can upload into Facebook, it lets you use a communal list that's been collected from a variety of other sources," says Yodh. Most small businesses can't afford this sort of market data; getting it as part of the Facebook ad platform is a significant perk.

Given the limited resources of many small businesses, it may make sense to focus on a just a few features initially. Greenberger suggests organizations starting with the advanced demographics and behaviors feature, which includes things such as changes in a user's relationship status. "That targeting is getting a lot more powerful," he says. "You can target based on how recently the change occured—3 months, 6 months, 1 year." This feature hits a sweet spot for companies seeking to target newlyweds or those who have become engaged.

Fortunately, Facebook's advertising structure means that small business owners don't have to shell out big bucks to see results. And no matter where you dive into the new targeting features, "Facebook gives you a ton of control over how much you spend and when. For example, if my budget is $100 per month, I can set an ad schedule within Facebook where the max I spend is $3.33 per day," Yodh says.

As businesses review ad performance is reviewed and adjust the targeting options to achieve better results, they have the flexibility to modify their advertising budgets accordingly.

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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