The Only 5 Reasons To Split an Audience on Facebook

Juho Ikonen

Marketing

It’s easy to split audiences on Facebook and Instagram based on country, area or city, age, gender, interests, behaviors, placement, mobile device types, or custom audiences. If you’re aiming to scale your advertising spend to reach larger audiences, our advice is to think before you split.

When Facebook first launched its advertising platform, an essential part of the pitch was that advertisers could reach people more precisely than ever before. As a result, many advertisers have adopted highly granular targeting strategies. Based on our experience working with some of the world’s most advanced advertisers, we find that they use larger, rather than smaller and more specific audiences, relying on Facebook to do more of the work of audience targeting. 

Let Facebook find the people most likely to convert

Facebook’s revenue per user has been growing steadily since the launch of the platform, from $5 in 2011 to $15.98 in 2016. While the number of ad placements has grown, this growth in revenue isn’t due to just showing more ads per person. The major driver of growth has been their product development. Facebook is optimizing ad delivery to yield better results for advertisers, creating a suite of tools for marketers to reach audiences that are most likely to convert.

While many companies like to think they know their customers inside out, Facebook has extensive user data that offers unparallelled opportunities to target the right customer profile.

Advertisers should rely more and more on the powerful algorithms that Facebook has created. We recommend using as large audiences as possible in your campaigns and not splitting them. This also has the benefit of reducing your workload at every point of campaign management – from ad creation to optimization, and reporting.

When should you split an audience?

We venture to say that there are only five reasons to split audiences.

1. You Run Audience-Specific Creatives

This is a very valid reason to split audiences. You’re advertising different products to men and women, running ads in different languages or e.g. want to localize ad creatives targeting different cities. With creative automation tools, it’s easier than ever to generate and run audience-specific campaigns; you can add dynamic overlays on product images to personalize ads.

2. Your Audiences Have Different Conversion Values

Your audiences have different conversion values, bid differently for each and separate them in their own ad sets. E.g. you know from your data that:

  • the lifetime value of frequent international travelers is higher than business travelers
  • women age 35-45 are more likely to become return shoppers
  • the lifetime value of iOS installs is higher than Android installs
  • or remarketing to people who abandoned their shopping carts yields high conversion rates

3. You Want to Bid Based on Recency

Your data shows that the longer the retargeting window, the less effective your ads become and consequently, you're looking to bid higher for users who visited your website a day ago vs. a week ago.

4. You Want Insights Beyond the Results Facebook Provides

Facebook provides some reporting breakdowns based on age, gender, placement, and device. If you want to learn more about who converted, like breakdowns by interest (such as frequent travelers, frequent international travelers, business travelers), city or custom audience, you may want to split audiences.

5. You want 3rd Party Tracking on An Ad Set Level

You want to use 3rd party tracking like Google Analytics on an ad set level, such as including unique UTM tags for each audience.

For these last two points, remember the tradeoff. Most likely you’re hurting your delivery by splitting these audiences. Consider whether the information you’re getting is worth risking your ad delivery. During peak seasons like the Q4 holidays, targeting larger audiences and accessing less detailed measurement data may be worth it.

See the full presentation on How to Automate Facebook Advertising at Scale filmed at our Smartly.io Connect Stockholm event. What’s a Smartly.io Connect?

Editor's note: This blog post is an edited excerpt from our holiday guide for ecommerce advertisers. Access the full guide below.

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