Microtargeting with Facebook Social Ads

Amy’s recent post on Facebook’s new social ads got me thinking about ways that non-profits could leverage these new ads to microtarget possible donors or members (incidentally, the social ads system confirms my theory of a couple months back that the infuriating fluff stories were a way to bolster interest filling out, which is the basis of how these ads do their targeting).

beaconfireThe system is  perhaps the ultimate affordable segmentation engine. While direct mail houses can segment out people to a very fine degree, it becomes prohibitively more expensive the more variations of a mailing you have to print to reach them all. What’s more, non-profits can’t go in and fine-tune their specifications in real time to see exactly who they’re hitting with each message.

Facebook social ads bring microtargeting to a whole new level. Let’s say that Beaconfire was looking for a Tech Lead (we are, incidentally – check our job listings for more!). I’ll walk through the process of creating the universe, and how you can do the same, below the fold.

We’ll start with the whole universe of 18 million US users age 18 or older. Since we’re located in sunny Arlington, we’ll cut that down to DC, VA and MD – giving us just over 1.1 million.


We don’t care about gender or age, so there’s no segmentation there. For key words, we’re looking for someone with an interest in "programming," but that brings us down to 880 people. We might also want to add in "non-profits," since that will help us hit people interested in saving the world… unfortunately, that’s not a listed interest. We probably want to expand the universe a little bit, so let’s drop in "computer programming" as well, bringing us up to 1,100. It’s important to note that these are or-sorts, not and-sorts.


In the education category, while a college grad might be a plus, it’s not a requirement, so we’ll leave that at "all" (also, "college grad" brings our universe down to just 380 people – since we’re trying to hire, and many of these people already have jobs, we need a little wider net).


If we were trying to poach from a specific company, we could enter that in as well – for example, if we were looking to hire someone with Kintera experience, we could add that in, though it brings us to less than 20 possible targets. But since we’re not, we’ll take that out.


While folks at Beaconfire are generally pretty progressive, we’re equal opportunity, so we won’t check anything on political views or relationship status. This gives us still 1,100 people we’re targeting with our ad. At this point, we might consider widening our search to nationwide, expanding the list to 18,100 people, or just adding a few states, like Wisconsin, from which all good things come, which would bring us to 1,540 people.


Moving to the next page, we’ll enter in some catchy language (no exclamation points, please), slap on our ubiquitous logo (it’s right up there with Pepsi and Apple), and we’re set to go. Or are we?

Because Beaconfire has its own Facebook page, we can link it to that with the "Add Social Actions to my ad" checkoff. What does this do? Well, according to the FAQ:

Social Ads leverage the actions that users take with Facebook Pages and Applications to create highly relevant promotions. If you choose to add social actions to your ad, we will attach any relevant interaction that a user’s friends have with your brand or business on Facebook as the headline for your creative. When you create your ad, you will be able to specify which Applications or Pages should contribute social interactions for your particular campaign.

Short version: you’re integrating your page with your ads, and making it easy for your page users to spread your ads virally.

In any case, with this level of microtargeting possible, groups that wrote off social media advertising in the past as being too expensive or casting too wide a net should take another look. There are people interested in the environment (12,860), physics (17,800), human rights (6,520) and even Amnesty International (4,780) – and you can target them directly, and segment them however you want.

Does advertising like this sound interesting to you? It does to 4,600 other people on Facebook.

Filed Under: Advertising, Social Media

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