Note: This article was originally published in 2018. We've updated it in April 2020 to reflect changes in the Facebook ecosystem.
It’s easy to split audiences on Facebook and Instagram based on country, area or city, age, gender, interests, behaviors, placement, mobile device types, custom audiences, and more. If you’re aiming to scale your advertising to reach larger audiences and increase sales, our advice is to think before you split. We'll also discuss why, with the introduction of Segment Asset Customization, the use case to split audiences when you run location-specific creatives is now effectively outdated.
When Facebook first launched its advertising platform, an essential part of the pitch was that advertisers could reach people more precisely than ever before - also a popular strategy in search advertising, where extremely granular targeting can reap a lot of benefits. As a result, many advertisers have adopted highly granular targeting strategies on Facebook and Instagram. Working with some of the world’s most advanced and successful 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 $24.96 in 2018. While the number of ad placements has grown, the growth in revenue isn’t due to just showing more ads per person. The major driver of growth has been the 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 unparalleled opportunities to target the right customer profile.
Advertisers should rely more and more on the powerful algorithms that Facebook has created. We recommend targeting as large of an audience as possible in your campaigns and not splitting them. Targeting a large audience also has the benefit of reducing your workload at every point of campaign management – from ad creation to optimization, and reporting.
When Should I Split an Audience?
There are only four reasons to split audiences.
1. 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 (i.e., frequent travelers, frequent international travelers, business travelers), city, or custom audience, you may want to split audiences. However, keep in mind that getting these insights comes at the cost of lowering Facebook's ability to optimize for you! It's best to use this approach only in temporal testing setups that will inform your future campaigns.
2. You Want 3rd Party Tracking on Ad Set Level
You want to use third-party tracking like Google Analytics on an ad set level, such as including unique UTM tags for each audience.
3. You Want to Allocate Budget to Retargeting Audience Segments Based on Recency
Your data shows that the longer the retargeting window, the less effective your ads become, and consequently, you're looking to allocate more budget to users who visited your website a day ago versus a week ago.
4. You Want to Show Ads Tailored to Specific Audiences
In some situations, if your internal data shows that specific audiences respond differently to different types of ad creative, you might want to target them separately. For example, you might want to show men and women a different creative or customize ad copy for people living in different cities. However, with the launch of Segment Asset Customization, you no longer need to split audiences when customizing ads based on the user's geolocation.
When Shouldn't I Split an Audience?
The general rule is not to split up audiences unnecessarily. However, up until quite recently, there was a use case to split audiences when you ran audience-specific creatives based on the user's location, or your audiences had different conversion values. These cases are now redundant thanks to the launch of Segment Asset Customization and the ability to use differing conversion values with Bid Multipliers.
1. Segment Asset Customization – show different creatives to people in different locations without splitting your audience
Segment Asset Customization allows you to split the audience into smaller segments (based on geolocations) in one ad set and customize the image or video asset shown for each segment.
For example, you can show a different image to men and women, or a different video to people living in different locations. SAC allows you to customize the creative further while keeping all the learnings within one ad set to maximize performance. To learn more about Segment Asset Customization read our blog article.
2. Bid Multipliers – Bid differently for different customer groups
Before the introduction of Bid Multipliers, it was a best practice to bid differently for users that had considerably different lifetime value. For example, if a fashion e-commerce business generated twice the lifetime value from people who converted on Instagram compared to those converted on Facebook, it made perfect sense to split these groups into different ad sets.
With the introduction of Bid Multipliers, this is no longer necessary; you can adjust your bid to be higher for Instagram within the same ad set. Again, this ensures learnings are accumulated within a single ad set, boosting the potential for performance gains, and saving you time by reducing campaign complexity.
To learn more about using Bid Multipliers, see our blog article.