Facebook Ads and Your Fans: When to Target Them, When to Exclude Them, and When to Go After Their Friends

One of the great things about social advertising is that you’re able to reach very specific groups of people who may or may not already have a relationship with your business. It’s part of targeting smart – understanding who will respond best to the specific offer you’re putting in front of people always improves your results, no matter how small your advertising budget.

So I’m going to answer some of the trickiest targeting questions out there:

When should I target my fans, and when should I exclude them from my targeting? And what’s the deal with “users whose friends are connected to my page?”

Before we get into strategy, let’s take a look at how to actually set up your targeting so that you can hit these different groups with your ads:

Facebook ads target your fans
The above screenshot is of the Connections targeting, found under the Audience section when creating an ad inside the Power Editor. If you’re not using the Power Editor to create your campaigns, you’re missing out on some really great features. That said, you can find these targeting options in the regular advertising interface as well. So now that you know how to target fans, friends of fans, or exclude your fans altogether, here is exactly what you need to know about who to target depending on your objectives:

You should target your fans if:

1. You want to sell something. If you’re planning on opening the cart for some kind of digital product or you’re taking on new clients, your very best bet for landing the sale is with email marketing. So that means you need to get your fans onto your email list, preferably before your launch. That way they can get used to receiving messages from you outside of Facebook’s platform. If you’ve got a direct line to someone’s email address, they’re more far more likely to visit your website, read your blog posts/watch your video/listen to your podcast than if they’ve just liked your page on Facebook. (Remember the Organic Reach Massacre of 2013? Yup. You may have thousands of fans but your posts are probably only reaching a minuscule percent of them. Hence the need to convert fans into subscribers before your next launch.)

BONUS: since your fans have already started down the path of the Know-Like-Trust process by following what you’re doing on your Facebook page, they’re more likely to sign up for your list than someone who’s never heard of you or your brand. Translation? You spend less to get more subscribers. BOOM.

2. You’re already selling something. Want to run ads that send traffic directly to your sales page? I can dig it. But there are only two types of audiences that you should be targeting with these ads: your fans and your email list. (There may be some crossover on those two, but it’s the good kind of crossover so don’t give it another thought.) I’ll be honest with you: it’s damn near impossible to show your offering to someone completely NEW to your brand and for that person to whip out their credit card and buy it from you. And the likelihood of that happening as a result of an ad on a social network is even less. So any ads that directly promote your product or service should only be shown to people who have already gotten to know you (even if that’s just by liking your page).

Pro tip: wait until the end of your launch to run ads that promote your product. You can use custom audiences to target the people who haven’t purchased yet and land a number of sales from people who otherwise would have missed the window. More info on that here.

You should exclude your fans from your targeting if:

You want to reach brand new people and convert them into fans and/or subscribers.  Pretty simple, right? If you’re trying to expand your reach, don’t spend money on ads shown to people who already know about your business.

A note on using different ads for different target audiences: your ad copy needs to be extra specific if you’re targeting new people. If you’re targeting fans to try to get them to sign up for your list, you might use language related to your brand, assuming that your fans have a baseline understanding of your business. (Don’t assume too much, however. You’d be surprised at how few of your fans or even the people on your list know exactly what products or services you actually offer.)

But when you’re trying to build brand recognition and add new fans or subscribers, keep your ad copy as crystal clear as possible. You may understand what words like freedom, passion, growth, productivity and ease mean as they relate to your business, but think about the experience of your target audience on Facebook. Am I hanging out there looking for freedom? Looking for achieving more productivity? Probably not. But if your ad promises me a system for writing 5 blog posts in 5 hours, or a step-by-step plan to take my side business full-time, I’m much more likely to click on your ad if you’ve hooked me with a very specific outcome.

You should target “friends of connections” a.k.a. friends of your fans if:

 a) You want to reach brand new people and convert them into fans and/or subscribers, AND b) you already have lots of fans. Targeting your fans’ friends can do wonders for your click-through rate. When a friend of one of your fans sees your ad, Facebook automatically shows them which of their friends likes your page. It is literally built-in social proof which directly impacts how we spend our money on – and offline. To figure out if this will actually work for you, let Facebook do the math for you. Here’s one of my own target audiences: Facebook ads target your fans
You can see there’s nothing about “people connected” anywhere in the audience specifications. However, this is the same audience with those specifications included: Facebook ads target your fans

Here I’ve added the filter of just targeting friends of my fans. As you can see, the target audience is just 14,00 people, which is a little too small for most successful campaigns. Why does this happen? Because I haven’t built up a huge fan base on Facebook. It’s not my priority – I would much rather run ads that drive people to sign up for my list than spend tons of time amassing fans that Facebook makes me pay to reach.

The downside of that, though, is that I can’t use the power of social proof in my ads (yet). But check out this target audience of one of my clients: facebook ads target your fansBecause she already has a very large following on Facebook, we’re still able to reach around 100,000 people even after we’ve applied the filter of friends of her fans. So if you want to target the friends of your fans, try creating an ad that has your perfect target audience, and then plug your page’s name into the Connections section, like this:

blog-targetfans5If you see that your potential audience drops below 10,000 people when you add your page’s name under “People not connected to,” it means this option isn’t for you just yet (sorry!). When your Facebook following has grown a little more, come back and try this targeting feature again.

That’s everything you need to know to navigate the waters of targeting fans versus friends of fans, as well as excluding your fans. Here’s a little summary of what you just learned:

You should: If:
Target your fans You want to convert your fans to subscribers before you launch something.
Target your fans You want to make sales.
Exclude your fans You want to expand the reach of your business to brand new prospects and grow your list and your social following.
Target the friends of your fans You want to get in front of new people and grow your list AND you already have a fairly large fanbase on Facebook.

Got it? Let me know how your own fan and friends-of-fans targeting is going in the comments below!