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Can You Trust Social Media Profiles? How To Get The Most Out Of Facebook Targeting

If you use Facebook Ads then you’ll be familiar with the targeting options they offer, which allow you to choose a target audience for your ads based on demographics, locations, interests and behaviours. But have you ever stopped to wonder if this data is fully accurate?

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Why Facebook users can’t be trusted

In 2016 Facebook came under fire in the US because the social network was reporting one core target group at a level that was seemingly incorrect.  Analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group complained that within the Ads Manager, Facebook was listing the number of 18 to 24-year-old Facebook users in the United States as 41 million, when according to official census data only 31 million 18 to 24-year-olds actually exist in the US. This discrepancy may be at least in part down to the fact that the demographic data for Facebook users- e.g. their age, gender and location- is recorded by users themselves. Research by Hootsuite and We Are Social  found that the self- reporting by Facebook users has caused a disproportionate spike in users of certain ages, particularly 18 and 21 which may be down to younger users inflating their age for reasons of vanity. They reported that 110% of the eligible male audience around the world aged 18 is currently using Facebook, i.e. there are more Facebook profiles listed as 18 year old males than there are 18 year old males in the total global population at present.

Are your interests accurate?

Less shocking but still worth considering for ad targeting is the fact that a Facebook user’s hobbies and interests may not be accurately listed, as once again they are self-reported. Facebook might assume someone is into motorsports when in fact they have just ‘liked’ their brother’s motorsports fan page as a show of support; or that they love romance films because they once got dragged by friends to the cinema to watch The Notebook. As Facebook is over 10 years old, those of us who have had profiles for some time might find that our interests vary significantly from those we added when first setting up our profiles.

If you have a Facebook account, you can check your own ad targeting interests. Go to Settings > Account Settings, scroll down to Adverts and then select ‘Your interests’ to find a list of topics that Facebook thinks you are interested in such as Sports, Cosmetics, Travel and Tattoos. This is based on the interests listed on your profile and also the interactions you have with the content that appears in your newsfeed. As you might expect from a list of hundreds of interests, some of them are accurate whilst others are less so.

How to optimise your audience targeting

Whilst these inaccuracies are not ideal, issues associated with self-reported data will likely be the same across all social networks. Facebook ad targeting still remains a vitally useful marketing tool as the targeting options are so numerous and allow you to be very specific in who you are aiming ads towards. When it comes to creating custom audiences for your Facebook ads, the narrower the better- targeting users who like ‘food’ is not the best option for promoting your vegetarian children’s cookbook as plenty of those users will not be relevant. Instead you can add people who are interested in vegetarianism and/or veganism, then narrow this down to only include parents. You can then narrow this down further to focus on people with an interest in cooking, which should provide you with a highly relevant and focused audience to show your ad campaigns to. By narrowing your audience in this way you are ensuring maximum ROI for your ads, as you know that each click will be from a potential customer from your target audience.

Summary

Our takeaway message is: Don’t take the audience data for granted. Take some time to consider exactly who your target audience are- not just their demographic but other relevant interests and hobbies they may have. Focus your targeting options and make sure you combine different audience data in order to get the best results. If you would like further advice on managing Facebook Ad campaigns get in touch with us today.