Have you fallen out of love with Facebook interest targeting in your ad campaigns. Maybe you found that interest targeting just didn’t seem to work for you?
For a long time interest targeting was the go to tactic for targeting an audience in Facebook ads. Slowly with the introduction of fancy stuff like custom audiences, website audiences, lookalikes, engagement audiences and so forth targeting people based on their interests has come to be seen by many of the Facebook pros I talk to as a bit passé. And thats a shame…
For me though interest targeting is still a big deal and its will continue to play a massive role in most of the campaigns I run. If you’re not having success with Facebook interest targeting chances are that’s because you’re not using them like we’re using them, so read on and I’ll explain how to get the most out of interests.
Firstly though…why is interest targeting important?
The beauty of targeting people based on their interests in Facebook is that it’s the best way to build large audiences of people who don’t already know about you, but who might have an interest in what you’re selling.
I can’t think of many marketing campaigns where that wouldn’t be considered a good thing. But if you’re just starting out, don’t have much traffic or an email list, or if you’re targeting rapid business growth, then its essential.
Combine the potential of interest targeting with the virtually infinite scalability of Facebook and tapping into interests correctly is the best way to reach the largest possible Facebook audiences and grow your business exponentially.
Hyperbole, maybe, but think about it like this.
Custom audiences and retargeting are great if you’ve already got the contacts or the website traffic
Lookalikes can work well if you have some good conversion data to benchmark from, but they’re limited in scalability.
if you’re a small business, a start up, an affiliate of if you’re any sort of business in growth mode, you need to be reaching new people. Lots of them, and all the time. You need a source of audience data that is always growing and that expands well outside your existing networks. That’s where interests come into their own.
Strategy 1: Use Interest Targeting To Serve Better Ads
Everyone should be interested in interest targeting, even if you have your own data, let me explain.
The biggest misunderstanding I see with interest targeting on Facebook is that it’s a tool solely for creating an audience and selecting people to show ads to. That’s a big part of it of course, and I’ll come onto it, but it misses a huge opportunity which I need to explain first.
Interests, like demographics, help you to serve more relevant and engaging ads to people inside your audiences. Here’s an example of what I mean.
Let’s say you have a campaign targeting a custom audience of 1,000,000 people. A nice place to start.
But are you going to show the same as to all 1,000,000 people? I hope not. At the very least you probably want to serve different ads to men and women or younger people to older people. But you can also bring in interests here to give your ads more context for different audience members.
Let’s say I’m selling lawn mowers and from my 1,000,000 audience I’ve selected 3 interests which each have a large overlap with the people I’m targeting; football, rugby and cricket. My ad sets would look something like this:
- Ad set 1: custom audience & interested in football – 250,000 people
- Ad set 2: custom audience & interested in rugby – 250,000 people
- Ad set 3: custom audience & interested in cricket – 250,000 people
- Ad set 4: custom audience & NOT interested in football, rugby or cricket – 250,000 people
(If you’re from the US and don’t know what rugby and cricket are there’s no hope for you- sorry. Please shut the door on your way out. Just kidding. But really.)
Because I can run different ads in each ad sets I can now show my lawn mowers in the context that’s most relevant for each interest. So ad set 1 will get photos of the lawn mower used on a football pitch, ad set 2 a rugby pitch, ad set 3 a cricket pitch. Ad set 4 might see a generic shot without context.
You can obviously tailor anything else about that ad as well, the copy, the landing page, the tracking (yes if you’re fancy you could pass those interests into Google analytics as custom dimensions, pretty friggin’ sweet).
I know not everyone is going to go to this level of detail with their setup but those who do will be rewarded with better CTRs and lower CPCs. So even if you’ve already got all the data you need to reach big audiences you really shouldn’t overlook interests.
The fun with interest targeting doesn’t stop with ads though, here’s some approaches to using interest targeting to create audiences of new people to show ads to.
I call these “audience stacks” because we’re going to stack up interests on top of each other in layers and use different types of targeting alongside them.
Strategy 2: Stack Lookalike Audiences With Interest Targeting
Now I love lookalike audiences as much as the next Facebook
marketer geek but have you noticed that when you create a lookalike audience of more than 1% of any given country things start to go kinda wonky?! That’s a problem in smaller markets where a 1% lookalike audience might only give you 10’s of 1000’s of people to target.
I’ll usually accept that the first 1% lookalike I create will be pretty good, then I’ll create new audiences for the 2nd, 3rd,4th and 5th %.
There’s an easy way to do that when you’re creating a lookalike audience in Facebook in case you didn’t know. Just click…
I’m then going to take these lookalike audiences and layer some interest targeting over the top of them, so I’m only targeting people who;
- lookalike my customers (according to Facebook) and
- are interested in the stuff that I think my customers are interested in
Depending on how broad or niche you go with the interests you select here you can create large audiences for mass market campaigns or tinnie tiny ones to deliver really highly tailored messages to people inside your lookalike audiences. Either way I find this approach can greatly improve the efficiency of wider lookalike audience targeting and bring more of the right people into your audience pool.
Worth noting that Facebook don’t recommend this approach if you’re using lookalike audiences alongside conversion optimization because lookalike audiences supposedly already take into account things like interests. The main issue if you’re doing this is that you keep your audience large enough to provide enough conversion data for Facebook to model off. As a guide you probably still want to the audiences to be in the 100’s of thousands of people if you’re using conversion optimization. Its less of an issue if you’re optimizing for traffic/ clicks.
Strategy 3: Layer Interests On Top Of Each Other
The biggest complaint with interest targeting seems to be its lack of accuracy. Go to your ad preferences in Facebook for a bit of fun if you want to see what Facebook thinks you’re interested in. Mine start off pretty well…
But pretty soon descend into chaos…
These interests come from all sorts of interactions on Facebook including links you’ve clicked on or videos you’ve watched so you’re likely to find Facebook thinks you’re interested in plenty of things that you wouldn’t exactly list on your CV. As a result targeting people by a single interest is prone to reaching the wrong people.
So Facebook thinks I’m interested in digital marketing but that could be because I clicked on an article a friend sent me 4 years ago that I spent 2 seconds looking at. The same could go for Adwords or Entrpeneurship, so instead of using an audience like this where I might only match 1 of your targeted interests:
I would use this audience to target people like myself:
But what I’ve found about these interests is that although some may be way out of left field, others are bang on. So if you’re advertising to someone with one relevant interest it’s highly likely to be wrong. If you’re advertising to someone who shares 3 or 4 relevant interests it’s highly likely to be accurate.
Obviously to make this approach work you need to invest a bit of time playing with interests and finding a combination that gives you a decent sized pool but remember you can use multiple interests at each layer of the stack and those will be matched as OR rather than and. So if I find each of my interests are a bit too narrow I can expand them at each level like you see below:
Strategy 4: Stacking Interests With Brands
Really similar to the above but instead of using “interests” per se I’m going to use popular brand names, which also show up as interests in Facebook Ad targeting, to narrow down my audience.
Using brands as interests in a stack is really powerful because it again limits the margin for error in Facebook’s classification of audiences.
So lets say for example I want to target small business owners but I’m not sure how accurate Facebook’s data is on the broad “small business” interest category. I can refine that targeting by only going after people who also have an interest in brands that I’d associate with small business, in this case accountancy packages…
Here’s another example, the “physical fitness” category is massive and very broad, probably not that useful for an advertiser. But combine it with some brands that suggest the person is serious about fitness and you massively increase the chances of Facebook being able to reach a real fitness enthusiast.
Strategy 5: Using Interests as Demographic Indicators
If you’ve played around with Facebooks demographic bands you’ve probably like me had mixed results. In the UK we have Acxiom data in Facebook Ads which lets us target homeowners, high net worths and so forth. But I don’t trust that data entirely.
The way old school advertisers targeted demographics was through their interests and that’s still my preferred approach. The things people “like” and particularly the brands they follow and the publications they read are massive indicators of their demographic bandings, social class, lifestyle etc so stacking these types of interests on top of other types of targeting is massively powerful.
So for example you would see vastly different results targeting this audience who may be interested in fashion & are also interested in sites like Buzzfeed:
Than you would with the same interest but stacked with the Wall Street Journal:
We’ve seen really interesting results stacking things like publications and supermarket brands on top of broad interests in this way.
Strategy 6: Build Audiences of Sharers For Viral Campaigns
Strictly speaking this strategy is more likely to use demographics data rather than interests but there’s cross over.
Facebook Ads is a great platform for launching content that you want to get in front of sharers and influencers. Take a look at the audience below from a real campaign we’re running to boost sharing. Data on bloggers, vloggers, journalists and other types of writer and internet folk is really accurate because unlike the pure interests we’ve been using in the first 5 strategies these are more likely to be self entered by the user.
We find this audience have a much much higher propensity to like and share content than ‘normal’ facebook users and they tend to have bigger and more active networks, so their reactions to your posts are going to spread further organically. Try it out when you’re next promoting a post that you want to ‘go viral’.
Time to Get Back Into Interest Targeting
So if you’re using interest targeting already, or if you’ve tried it and not got the results you want time to think again. To recap what you should do now:
- Start splitting down large audiences based on interests and serve those people ads they’re more likely to be interested in clicking on
- Start stacking interests on top of each other to remove Facebook’s margin or error
- And refining your targeting by adding lifestyle brands or publications as modifiers to reach more of the right sort of people.