In the past, a company whose core demographic consisted of (for example) recently divorced, politically moderate expatriates, who work in forestry, ride motorcycles and have an interest in cricket would likely have had a hard time reaching their client base and, chances are, wouldn’t have done particularly well. These days however, reaching an audience as specific as that takes just a few clicks and a comparatively small amount of capital investment.

Obviously, it’s unlikely that any real business model would necessitate such a specific set of targeting categories, but that doesn’t mean that advertisers can’t still get weirdly precise and frankly, creepy with Facebook targeting. In fact, the more you learn about Facebook’s targeting options the more it seems like the platform is becoming the embodiment of the ultimate obsessive ex. However, potential moral dilemmas aside, it’s clear that advertising through Facebook is both a powerful tool and an invaluable opportunity that 10 years ago, companies could only have dreamed of.

Whichever way you look at it (terrifying Orwellian tool of oppression or important device to assist small businesses in a market saturated by big guys) there are some pretty bizarre categories which you can use to shape your audience, we’ve collect 10 of the weirdest here:


Relationship Status


On the surface this doesn’t seem that invasive until you realise that, if you haven’t set a relationship status, Facebook will decide for you whether you’re single, in a relationship, engaged, widowed and even your sexual orientation (to name a few of the ‘relationship personas’ Facebook builds). We found this particularly useful when working with a client who ran Wedding and Baby shows around the country- newly engaged people proved particularly receptive! This category is however even weirder when you consider that (as a very extreme example) adverts have the potential to target recent widows with funeral services…


Residential Profiles


Facebook knows what kind of home you live in, (house or flat, year built, square footage etc.) if you own or rent, with whom you live, how long you’ve lived there for and the likelihood of you moving. If that doesn’t sound like exactly the sort of things a stalker would love to find out – I don’t know what does!


Fitness and Wellness


Generally, your weight, diet, and exercise regime (or maybe lack thereof) are shared only with your closest and most trusted friends, you might not even give it much thought, but somewhere in a boardroom a group of people might be deciding to target you with their ads based on those two months in 2008 when you tried Atkins.


Net Income


It’s often said that you can’t place a value on human life, not according to Facebook. Not only do Facebook’s targeting tools determine your income and liquid assets but they also assign you a ‘total value’ which advertisers can then use to decide whether you’re worth targeting.


Digital Activity


Facebook analyses if and when you upload photos, which platforms you use to access the site and through which operating systems, it knows which games you play and how much you paid for them. It also looks at whether you’ve ever created any events on Facebook and the nature of these, all done to build a more rounded picture of who you are as a user and (perhaps more importantly) as an asset.


Purchase Behaviour


Facebook works out how much you earn, knows what you spend it on and how important these purchases are to you. Whether you buy products for your kids, pets, the outdoors, beauty products etc. Facebook knows. Even your taste in food and drink is observed and advertisers regularly target you based on that as well.


Travel Habits


When you check in with that abnormally early pre-flight holiday pint Facebook is using that information. Facebook knows where you’ve travelled to and often can often work out your reasons for this, business, or leisure. For example, knowing that you’ve taken a casino holiday to Las Vegas is very useful information for advertisers. We’ve used this in some of our own campaigns too, when working with a client that operates a number of airport lounges nationally, frequent travellers are definitely worth investing in.


Your Friends


Interestingly, targeted Ads are not determined exclusively by your own actions on social media. In fact a significant percentage of the Ads you see on your feed will have been determined by the connections you have on Facebook. In essence, if you and a friend share a similar ‘persona’ i.e. behave similarly online, you can be targeted by the companies of pages they have visited or liked in the past.




Perhaps the most personal (or invasive, depending on your perspective) Facebook development, is that following the introduction of ‘reactions’ last year, algorithms can now build a profile of your mental state. Not only do ‘reactions’ provide a direct insight into the mood of the user, Facebooks language algorithms can now provide a reliable picture of the mental health of users.




Arguably the thing that shapes your online persona more than any other factor is your lifestyle which is in turn formed by your interests. Whether you’re interested in agriculture, architecture, interior design, or even down to the books, films, TV and music which you consume, these all inform your profile and are used to target your personal preferences. For example, working with a client that produced high-end products for dogs we able to not only target dog owners but also set up campaigns specifically for “urban” pet owners so that people who owned lap dog (like a Chihuahua) saw a city dog in their ads, and people who owned a big country dog saw a muddy Labrador or spaniel. On top of this we could also make sure that only Facebook users with a high enough level of disposable income to spoil their pooch saw the ads.

These ten categories barely scratch the surface of the infinite number of ways through which advertisers can reach increasingly specific audiences and if you are planning on taking on Facebook advertising it can certainly seem like a daunting task to begin with. This needn’t however, be the case. Getting Facebook advertising right is, at it’s core a process of testing and retesting which, while time consuming, can equally be a very rewarding exercise. If you’d like to learn more about how Facebook advertising can work for you or would like to speak with an expert about starting the process, click here.

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