Who is Facebook showing your ad to? (It may not be who you think!)

No Comments Yet | by Elise Perkins

Guest Post by Caroline Wood.

One of the key pieces of the Facebook ads puzzle is finding the right audience to show your ad to. Have too broad an audience and you will find yourself showing your ad to people who have no interest in what you are offering. Too narrow an audience and you won’t have enough people to show your ad to.

But working out exactly who is in that audience is tricky, which is where Facebook steps in to try and help you out. You set up your ad including the audience you want to show your ad to. You also tell Facebook what the main objective of your ad is. The options for your objective include amongst others promoting your Facebook page, increasing conversions on your website, and getting people to install your app.

Based on this information, once your ad goes live Facebook will start looking at the results from your ad over the next 24-48 hours and working out who to show your ad to, to get the best result possible for your objective. Facebook looks at who is clicking and taking action on your ad and based on this starts showing your ad to other people who are most likely to take the right action to meet your objective for your ad. For example, if your objective is to get people to visit your website it will look at who is clicking on the link in your ad.

This can be fabulous. Your ad gets shown to the people who are most likely to respond positively to your ad. But if you haven’t thought out your audience, it can have unexpected results as I found out the hard way.

What not to do with your Facebook ad audience

I was testing out some new audiences for an opt-in. I had it set up with the interests I wanted to target plus the age, gender and locations. I was targeting some of the main English speaking markets of the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. I had taken my time to think about my audience but as I was setting up my ad I was emailing a friend of mine who I had volunteered in Namibia with. I got all misty-eyed for that part of the world and at the last minute added South Africa in as another country to target.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy to work with business owners in South Africa but I am not that savvy about the business environment in South Africa and the opt-in was helping businesses to sell physical products locally. In other words, South African businesses were not my ideal client in this instance.

But Facebook doesn’t know this and because I included South Africa on the spur of the moment, Facebook figured I knew what I wanted (how wrong it was). I was fairly new at this Facebook ad game and just assumed Facebook would show the ad to people in these countries based on the number of people from each country on Facebook.

Oh how wrong I was!

For some reason the lovely people of South Africa started reacting to my ad, clicking, liking and signing up. Much more so than people in the other countries I had selected. Facebook saw this and thinking I had set up my ad audience with lots of thought and not prioritising any one country over another started showing my ad primarily to people in South Africa.

When you take into account how much you have to spend on your ad there is of course only so many ads you are buying. As you can see from the screenshot below things did not go to plan in terms of who my ad reached.

While this wasn’t a complete disaster, it did mean I had to quickly do some research and tweaking to better help those clients. I spread myself a bit thin.

How to stop this happening

Be specific with your audience

The best action you can take is to clearly think out your audience before setting up your ad and stick to your plans. Rather than trying to use a broad audience made up of possible fans, stick to probable fans.

For me that means being specific about the age groups and gender I target (as well as of course the countries!). While I do have people of all ages who are interested in what I offer, I appeal more to women aged 35-50. By being specific in my audience it has a much better reach with my ideal client. I only have so much to spend – I want my ads to be shown to that group.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work with women aged under 35 or over 50. Some of my favourite clients are in those age groups but I only have a limited budget for advertising and so while I would love to be able to spend money advertising to all my possible clients I need to direct it to those most likely to want to work with me.

Separate out your ads

In my case, after the surprise of finding I had a South African audience, I decided I was interested in working with businesses located there. But I also wanted to advertise to people in the other countries as well. I set aside a portion of my advertising budget for my South African audience and set up a separate ad specifically targeted to potential clients in that country.

Not quite sure who your audience is?

You probably have a reasonable idea who your ideal client is. But Facebook helps you narrow this down further. I knew that my clients were in their late 20s and up to mid 50s but I don’t ask my clients their exact age and I am rubbish at telling ages from looking at people.

But by running Facebook ads to a broad age group I was able to look at my ad results and narrow it down. I looked at who Facebook was optimising to show my ad to in the same way I found out about my little South African accident.

The not so big secret to Facebook ads, particularly when you are first starting out is that it is going to take some testing to work out who your ideal ad audience is – at least until you are in a position to use lookalike and custom audiences.

Have you had any misadventures with Facebook ads?

Caroline Wood is a reformed food blogger who now uses her tech skills to help people build their businesses by using Facebook ads to grown their audience and make more sales. When not wrangling Facebook ads she can be found drinking gallons of coffee at her favorite coffee shop or hanging out with her pups. You can read more about her Facebook ad services at carolinemwood.com/facebookads/

About Elise Perkins

Elise Perkins founded ep communications in 2014 after seven years of working for trade associations and think tanks. Today she focuses on building brands for businesses and people, using a savvy mix of content and influencer strategies. She sits on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations.

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