Core Audiences: How to Target Facebook Ads Using Behaviors

Facebook Advertising Behavioral Targeting

[AUDIO VERSION: I also recorded an audio version of this blog post. Click below to listen. Let me know if this is something you find helpful!]

Last week, I wrote about how you could use the “More Demographics” drop-down to target Facebook users based on the following categories:

  • Relationship
  • Education
  • Work
  • Financial
  • Home
  • Ethnic Affinity
  • Generation
  • Parents
  • Politics (US)
  • Life Events

The options here are far more powerful than they once were. I encourage you to poke around and discover how precise this new targeting is.

Today, however, I want to start digging into how you can target Facebook users based on actual behaviors. The amount of targetable behaviors available is in the hundreds, so I won’t cover all of them today. But I want to be sure you have a solid understanding of what is possible.

[Note: Some of this may not yet be available to advertisers outside of the US.]

The Basics: How to Target By Behavior

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors

Whether you create your ads in Power Editor or the ad create tool (I recommend Power Editor), advertisers will see the “Behaviors” drop-down in audience targeting.

Following are the categories of behaviors that can be targeted:

  • Automotive (DLX Auto Powered by Polk)
  • Charitable Donations
  • Digital Activities
  • Financial
  • Mobile Device User
  • Purchase Behavior
  • Residential Profiles
  • Travel

Click around and you’ll see just how targeted you can get based on behaviors…


Facebook Power Editor Behavior Automotive

Once the Automotive category is clicked, you’ll be shown the following sub-categories:

  • Motorcycle
  • New Vehicle Buyers (Near Market)
  • New Vehicle Shoppers (In Market)
  • Owners
  • Purchase Type
  • Used Vehicle Buyers (In Market)

When those sub-categories are clicked, even more sub-categories are exposed.

The amount of targeting you can do based on the type of vehicle someone owns or leases is incredible. As a result, a separate blog post to cover this topic was needed (read it here!).

This information is pulled from Partner Categories. Datalogix, a data mining partner, collects this information when large purchases are made and reports it to Facebook to be used in ad targeting. More will be discussed on this later!

Charitable Donations

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Charitable Donations

If you were to click the Charitable Donations category, you’ll be shown the following sub-categories:

  • All Charitable Donations
  • Animal Welfare
  • Arts and Cultural
  • Children’s Interests
  • Environmental and Wildlife
  • Health
  • Political
  • Religious
  • Veterans
  • World Relief

If you were to select “Animal Welfare,” for example, you could target all Facebook users who have self-reported that they donate to animal welfare-related charities. This could be incredibly useful targeting for non-profits looking to reach potential donors who have given to a similar cause in the past.

This data is pulled from data mining partners Epsilon and Acxiom, formerly found within Partner Categories. In most cases, it’s consumer self-reported data from surveys and donations.

Digital Activities

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Digital Activities

If you click on the Digital Activities category, the following sub-categories are revealed:

  • Console Gamers
  • Event Creators
  • Online Spenders
  • Online Spenders (Active)
  • Online Spenders (Engaged)
  • Photo Uploaders
  • Small Business Owners
  • Technology Early Adopters
  • Technology Late Adopters

All of this data is pulled from activities performed on Facebook.


Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Financial

When you click on Financial, the following three sub-categories appear:

  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Spending Methods

Each sub-category has more data buried within it…


  • Auto Insurance (target by policy renewal month)
  • Health Insurance (likely no dependents or likely to have dental insurance)
  • Home Insurance (target by policy expiration month)
  • Life Insurance Owners

Some of this is self-reported to data partner Acxiom and the Home Insurance info is publicly available.


  • Highly Likely Investors
  • Likely Full-Service Investors
  • Likely Investors
  • Likely Self-Directed Investors

This is pulled from Acxiom using a couple of different models, per Facebook…

Modeled based on investment interests, and a variety of additional demographic data and census median data

Modeled using MRI and built from a blend of public, self-reported, buying activity, and census/geo data

Spending Methods

  • Active Credit Card User
  • Any Card Type
  • Bank Cards
  • Gas, Department and Retail Store Cards
  • High-End Department Store Cards
  • Premium Credit Cards
  • Primarily Cash
  • Primarily Credit Cards
  • Travel and Entertainment Cards

This data comes from data partner Acxiom in a number of ways:

  1. Self-reported purchase activity
  2. Self-reported consumer information from surveys
  3. Modeled based on property data, investment interests, buying activity, occupation and census median data

You’ll recall that there was also a Financial section within the “More Demographics” targeting. In that case, however, we were targeting based on annual income and net worth.

Mobile Device User

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Mobile Device User

The following options for Mobile Device User are available:

  • All Mobile Devices by Brand (target by model owned)
  • All Mobile Devices by Operating System (target by specific OS)
  • All Mobile Devices
  • Feature Phones
  • New Smartphone and Tablet Owners
  • Smartphones and Tablets

Facebook has this information based on how users access their platform.

Note that you can also target mobile devices within the Creative step of ad creation…

Facebook Ad Targeting Placement Mobile

The difference is that with Behavioral targeting, you can target users who own a particular device but who aren’t necessarily on it at the time. With the second example above, you are only targeting users who are using that type of device when targeted.

Purchase Behavior

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Purchase Behavior

When the Purchase Behavior category is clicked, a whole world of options is opened up to you…

  • Business Purchases
  • Buyer Profiles
  • Clothing
  • Food and Drink
  • Health and Beauty
  • Home and Garden
  • Household Products
  • Kids Products
  • Pet Products
  • Purchase Habits
  • Purchase Types
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Store Types
  • Subscription Services

As was the case with the Automotive category, Purchase Behavior requires a blog post of its own. The possibilities are practically endless!

This data is provided by Epsilon and Datalogix based on actual purchases made.

Residential Profiles

Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Residential Profiles

Click on the Residential Profiles category for the following options:

  • Likely to Move
  • Recent Homebuyer
  • Recent Mortgage Borrower
  • Recently Moved

The Recent Homebuyer and Recent Mortgage Borrower data is pulled from publicly available and self-reported information. The Likely to Move data comes from Epsilon and Recently Moved from Acxiom.


Facebook Power Editor Behaviors Travel

And finally, that takes us to the Travel category. Following are the ways you can target people based on where they go…

  • All Travelers
  • Business Travelers
  • Business Travelers (International)
  • Business Travelers (US)
  • Casino Vacations
  • Commuters
  • Cruises
  • Currently Traveling
  • Family Vacations
  • Frequent Flyers
  • Leisure Travelers
  • Personal Travelers (International)
  • Personal Travelers (US)
  • Planning to Travel (Returned from trip recently, use timeshares, used travel app recently)

Some of this data is available based on information users share on Facebook and travel apps used. The rest of it comes from Datalogix.

Here are a couple of examples of how that data is collected and then users are targeted, per Facebook:

Collected from U.S. Census, warranty cards, registration information, the Department of Motor Vehicles, public record information, survey data, and other offline sources. Data must be validated by at least two sources to be included.

U.S consumer data on where consumers shop, how they shop, what products and brands they purchase, the publications they read, and their demographic and psychographic attributes.

Where Does Facebook Get This Data?

The same rules apply here that applied to the More Demographics targeting.

It will undoubtedly sound creepy to some that you can target based on some of this information. But if you get past the creepiness, this data can be used to generate incredibly relevant — and useful — advertising.

Demographic targeting is based on data from one of two sources:

  • Information users provide to Facebook
  • Information mined by data partners

The first is easy to explain. Facebook knows a lot about you based on your activities through their platform.

The second has actually been around for more than a year in the US via Partner Categories, but some of this targeting has been moved to the More Demograhpics and Behaviors areas.

Facebook partnered with data mining companies to collect additional information on users for targeting purposes. Whenever you fill out an application or survey or make a large purchase, data mining companies often get access to this information.

As always, advertisers have no access to the names associated with this data. For more on how this data is used, make sure you read this message from Facebook.

How Can Advertisers Use This Data?

All kinds of possibilities! Here are a few ideas…

Automotive: A Toyota dealership targets Facebook users within 25 miles who own a Toyota Corolla that is 4-5 years old. They can even feature a picture of the new model, and direct users to a landing page to set up a test drive.

Charitable Donations: A Democratic political candidate running for office can target Democrats within the area.

Digital Activities: A B2B company with a product that helps small businesses can target those who have reported themselves as small business owners.

Financial: An auto insurance company can advertise their rates to Facebook users in the area whose policies are set to expire.

Mobile Device User: An iPhone app creator can promote an informational ad to iPhone users while not on their iPhone, then target those same users with an install ad when on their devices.

Purchase Behavior: A Pet store can target dog owners with coupons that will be relevant to them.

Residential Profiles: A mortgage broker or real estate agent could target Facebook users who are “likely to move.”

Travel: A travel company specializing in cruises can target Facebook users who are known to take cruises.

Your Turn

Have you started using this information in your targeting? What have you done, or what ideas do you have?

Let me know in the comments below!

  • Tom Leonard

    Jon, thanks for info. As you point out there is an incredible amount of data available for Facebook targeting. It seems like it is set up for specific industries – autos, financial services, etc – and over time will probably cover more industries if it is successful. It would be great to have a big budget to spend testing it all out to see how valuable these sources really are for generating online sales.

  • Heather Salovin

    I agree with Tom – definitely see the benefit in certain industries but am still missing a few pieces for reaching my target audience. I would love to be able to zoom in on people that have lived in the same (owned) home for more than 7 years, or 10 years. I would LOVE to reach people who have recently replaced their home’s AC unit. Or had their air ducts cleaned. Someday Jon… Someday

  • John Reh

    As a real estate agent, I’ve had success running webinars off of facebook ads based on demographics, but I’m definitely going to try out “likely to move” specifically for sellers now…

  • Grant Perry

    Great content as always Jon.

    I’d tried a little of this when it was under Partner Categories. I don’t even see Partner Categories as an option any more so it seems this is just the same targeting under a different name albeit a little more beefed up.

    I had mixed results before but as with all things FB they seem to get better at it as they have more time (e.g lookalikes were terrible at first and now work fantastically well) so I plan to try more of this targeting method. I’m sure it will continue to evolve.

  • Luke Moulton

    Can’t wait for this to become available in Australia. Thanks for the great content as always Jon.

    • Peter Moriarty

      +1 – Would love to know when it will be available in Australia

    • Marketing Leap

      You and me both Luke ;-)

    • Olivia Walsh

      C’mon Aussie..C’mon :) This level of targeting is amazing

    • Nicole Vlug

      Still waiting…we have a limited list available – such a pity – websites are accessible and directed to the world market but cannot access the research data needed…

  • Dennis, ListsUK

    Jon, great summary, thank you.

    As a data/mailing list broker of many years, my guess would be that part of the motive in moving the 3rd party or profiled data in with the regular Facebook selections is to counter advertiser’s hesitancy in trusting the former as much as the latter, but hey, maybe I’m just cynical!

    Also, any idea what the difference is between ‘active’ online spenders and ‘engaged’ ones?

    • Raphael

      I’m not sure about the difference between the two, but I’m very interested about the answer ;)
      Let me know if you find it.

      • Dennis, ListsUK

        Sorry @disqus_s29JMDJ8yK:disqus – no answer as yet from Mr Loomer; looks like we’ll have to look it up ourselves ;)

        • Jes

          Active: People who have issued payments to a third party site using Facebook platform in the past 30 days.

          Engaged: People who have spent more than $100 on Facebook Payments platform in the past 3 months.

  • Seán O’Riordan

    I use the automotive to ferret out net worth, or perceived net worth. I will market a little differently if somebody has a car worth $50k-$75k than I will to a person with a car worth $20-$30k. I also love the breakdown of credit cards. High end store card and premium credit cards, you can really become an archer and choose your precise target market.

  • bobrock22

    To bad this is not available in Europe.

  • junaid ahmed

    Fabulous as always! This is something really what I want. I am glad to find great social media solution from your blog that let me bring a good brand image on social media. Thank you for sharing such an amazing and helpful material.

  • Sherri-Lee

    Jon, my behaviors list isn’t showing as the same as yours. I only have 3 choices, digital activities, mobile device and travel… how do I get all the other great options you show? Thanks!

    • Jason Dainter

      Click travel!…

  • Hisocial

    Thanks for this article Jon, it’s a great presentation. This feature certainly looks very helpful and it’s bound to take Facebook advertising to a new level. Even though the additional targeting options will narrow down the number of people the ad is going to reach, the campaigns are much more effective.

  • Kimberly Reynolds

    Since I work in the faith based film industry, I used the charitable contributions info to target religious donations. However, it would be helpful if I had other ways of targeting a faith-based audience. Thanks for the info!

  • Larry Sockets

    Nice. It will help a lot in lowering my CPA. I’ve seen some massive differences already. Do you see much change over time Jon? For example, in one Ad Set, I’m seeing a CPA of £25 for age bracket 25-34 while the CPA is £130 for 55+! Quite a difference! I had turned off this Ad Set but know I have great expectations when refining with the additional targeting.

    It’d be nice if they brought this on another level for when you target clusters of Pages to generate traffic. For example, if I grouped competitor one, two and three together, it would be nice to know which page the converted user originally liked.


  • Matt Sable

    What do you feel is the best way to target SMB’s using FB’s Behavioral Indexes’.

  • Allyson Maiolo

    Is there a way to target people “currently traveling” or “planning to travel” to certain locations?? We take family portraits on the beach and 99% of our customers are people on vacation. Haven’t found a good way to target them with Facebook ads…

    • Jason Dainter

      Yes, FB lets you target countries (but not cities in case this is what you were after)

  • Harish

    SUPERB! A wonderful post.

  • Chris Hall

    Great article Jon. You can really drill down on this stuff. Thanks!

  • Robert Balkovec

    Facebook has restricted these options. Or I can`t find all these options.

  • samuel Odewale

    great post

  • Aaron Parnes

    Is there a way to target *new* business owners – i.e. people who just opened up a new business?

  • Facubena

    Hi from Argentina!
    I’ve just strarted to use behavioral segmentation, it isn´t as well developed as in U.S.A. but there´s plenty to do. As new as I am in this, I don´t have much to say, but i´m amazed by the different uses you can give to this beyond the obvious… Travel segmentation can be used by a travel agency, but is also very useful in others ways, as I just segmentated by recent and international’s travelers just because I wanted to aim at AB – ABC1 and travelling can be used as an indicator of high society.

    I hope reading about others not common uses of targeting by behavioural segmentation that can be very usefull for fellow marketers!

  • Derek Cosgrove

    I’ve been looking for a guide like this for a while – thanks Jon – great stuff!