How Does Facebook Target Ads Exactly?

An interesting thing happened to me over the weekend when I was down in Miami this weekend. At some point during the weekend I logged into Facebook and noticed an ad for South Florida Rehab Homes. Prior to now, I always thought the Facebook ad targeting program used profile data to target users. For instance, if you try to create an ad through the Facebook Social Ads tool, you can target by location.

I always assumed that when you selected a city, state or country, the information was displayed via profile data. If you select Florida, the estimated number of users in that demographic is 1,348,540. According to the Social Ads help section, “Facebook determines the location of a user based on IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, which can help identify the country or city where a user is physically located. The location of a user is not based on the city or hometown they may have listed and is also separate from any geographic networks that they may have joined.”

My guess is that the estimated number of people that will see your ad versus the actual number differs substantially. Does this matter? I think so. For instance, imagine if I’m a visitor to Florida versus a resident. The “Rehabs in Florida” advertisement most likely won’t be as appealing for visitors. Facebook could easily determine that I’m a visitor since my current location varies significantly from what I’ve actually entered in my profile.

Facebook has had challenges in developing more relevant advertisements and I think this is just one example of an area that Facebook could improve. Perhaps Facebook could add one more option to their targeting form when creating a new advertisement which allows the user to select between “Residents & Visitors, Only Visitors or Only Residents.” Just a thought!