How (and why) to use retargeting in your Facebook ads

A key part of FEE's advertising strategy is retargeting our customers across multiple channels. Retargeting, also known as remarketing or behavioral targeting, is the practice in online advertising of showing ads to people based on their previous online activity. Here is how we do it:

1. Define Custom Audience


FEE's retargeting is based on three data sources:

  • Website visits to specific domains or web pages. For this example, we are tracking visits to http://www.feecon.org/ via a Facebook Pixel tracking cookie. Some of our website audience originates on other organizations' websites and are anonymously shared with us.
  • Membership in email lists, including FEE Daily or audiences shared with us by partners. (Facebook allows audience sharing without sharing any individual email addresses.)
  • Online and offline transactions. If you purchase something from our store, register for an event, or make a donation, you'll eventually be imported as a Custom Audience for retargeting.


Here is how we've defined the audience for all FEEcon.org visitors during the last 6 months:

https://business.facebook.com/ads/manager/campaign/adsets/?act=25217845&columns=[%22name%22%2C%22delivery%22%2C%22results%22%2C%22reach%22%2C%22cost_per_result%22%2C%22budget%22%2C%22spend%22%2C%22stop_time%22%2C%22schedule%22%2C%22relevance_score%3Ascore%22%2C%22actions%3Alink_click%22%2C%22actions%3Aoffsite_conversion.fb_pixel_purchase%22%2C%22call_to_action_clicks%22]&pid=p23&ids=6065093699400&business_id=670229536476628


2. Create Saved Audience


We've created a custom audience of FEEcon.org visitors, but we don't necessarily want every visitor in the audience to see our ads. In this step, we'll exclude people who have already registered for FEEcon, and set an age range so we can create different ad sets based on age.

Below, we've included all FEE.org visitors, and excluded everyone who's already registered and does not match the specified age range.



3. Use Saved Audience in Ad Set


Now that we have the target audience defined, we can use it in ads sets. I suggest that you create audiences before you create ads. You don't want to spent a lot of time creating an ad only to learn that Facebook (or Twitter, etc) either cannot target the audience, or that it is too small.

The strategy below is the same as a traditional essay outline:
  1. Show an ad that tells the customer what they're going to see 
  2. Show them the product on the landing page (and capture them via a Call to Action)
  3. Retarget them with an ad reminding them about what they saw.
This screenshot shows the four audience that we're targeting:
  1. Young professionals (the audience definition actually has 12+ "secret sauce" criteria)
  2. Young people who already visited our landing page
  3. Current FEE supporters who might be interested in FEEcon
  4. Current supporters who have already visited FEEcon.org 


Conclusion: Why retarget?

What are we trying to achieve with this strategy?  Two things:

First, retargeting optimizes the return of our ad spend. Given a target audience, only 5% might be interested in the product we are trying to sell. We want to identify that 5% and spend much more effort converting them than the 95% who are not interested. 

Second, retargeting allows for creating a conversion funnel. People who are seeing our product for the first time should get a different message than those who are already familiar with it. In the ad for the first time visitor, I can direct them to more information, while the retargeted audience is already familiar with the product and can be asked to purchase it or offered a discount (since I can also exclude people who have already bought tickets).


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