How to use Facebook’s new Audience Optimization Targeting

This article was originally published on our sister site ClickZ, but it’s so helpful we thought we’d share it here too.

Another week, another Facebook feature. Over the past few years, declining organic reach has become a major issue for publishers using Facebook.

Facebook audience optimisation

While this is partly a rod we’ve made for our own backs due to our ravenous search for ever-increasing ‘Likes’, it’s good to see the platform launching tools that are specifically designed to combat this.

I thought I’d check out the new Audience Optimization Tool and see how – and if – it can help get my superbly crafted* social media messages to a wider audience

*If you use the word ‘crafted’ to describe your marketing messages, you should probably go home and have a long hard think about your life. Your business will be better off without you.

First things first, let’s check out Facebook’s official ‘How To’ guide:

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This all seems easy enough, although in practice the instructions are rather poorly written. If I currently head to settings then I won’t actually see ‘Audience Optimization for Posts’ if I have more than 5,000 ‘Likes’.

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Facebook explains that the feature will automatically be turned on for larger pages, but it would be more useful/make more sense if all pages could at least see the option.

To be honest, Facebook has a long history of writing confusing guides though, so let’s chalk it up to experience and move on. Here’s how to turn the feature on if you have less than 5,000 ‘Likes’:

Facebook optimisation

  1. Head to your settings.
  2. Under the ‘General’ heading, select ‘Audience Optimization for Posts’ and turn feature on.
  3. You’re ready to roll.

Again, the confirmation language is slightly odd, implying that you may have actually restricted your audience, although this is not actually the case.

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Now let’s try posting something.

Oddly, this feature is not yet available inside Business Manager, or for posts that are created using the Power Editor. I’m going to assume that there are two reasons for this.

Firstly, posts created in Power Editor have CTAs built in, and are generally designed to drive traffic directly to a site.

By limiting this, Facebook is clearly encouraging you to create posts that work within Facebook’s walled garden. Essentially, use this if you want reach and engagement, but not if you’re looking for traffic. Secondly… Facebook may just be tired of no one knowing how to use Power Editor properly, and have decided not to swim against the tide.

Add a link as you normally would, and then select the small ‘Crosshairs’ icon underneath to add ‘Interest Tags’. Essentially these are just the old Interest categories, but according to Facebook they operate in exactly the opposite way.

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In the past, interest targeting would restrict the audience that could view your post.

While this option is still available, here Facebook promises that interests will help surface relevant posts to a wider organic audience, although whether this presents your posts to users who have not yet ‘Liked’ your page, or simply adds yet more jiggery-pokery to the algorithms of existing fans is not revealed.

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I’m testing this from Search Engine Watch’s Facebook page (what do you mean you aren’t a fan? Hop to it!), so I’ve rather obviously chosen ‘Search Engine Optimisation as a category.

Facebook tells me that the potential audience is a massive 19,870,820, although obviously there are differing levels of value and actual interest there.

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Once you’ve chosen your first category Facebook will also serve up some suggestions. This may be me, but again, these seem strangely worded.

‘Web Banner’ seems like a weird thing to be interested in, but I would assume these are based on the stated interests of users. I play it safe and choose ‘Social Media Optimization’ and ‘Digital Marketing’ as secondary categories.

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Hit ‘Publish’ and away you go.

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So… did it work?

SEW has just over 37,000 fans on Facebook, and based on the time of posting (10am GMT on a Friday), I’d expect a low organic reach of about 300 users initially. I waited a few hours and checked back at 3pm to find… my post had reached 380 people.

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So initially, no more or less than I’d have expected. There are of course any number of reasons this didn’t resonate with users.

I deliberately toned down the copy a little, although the content itself was very appealing (go read the post if you don’t believe me). It was early on a Friday – typically a slow day – and it’s possible this may increase once our US audience comes online later in the day.

I’m going to sit on the fence on this one, and guess that the low reach difference is down to how new the feature is. Facebook is obviously not going to show my post to every user on the first attempt, although I’m going to make the correlation that this feature does only reach existing fans.

It’s clearly designed as an engagement tool, which can only be a good thing, but I’d think carefully about your business goals before regularly using this.

I’d be fascinated to hear if you are seeing different results from this tool, and I’ll be sure to post an update in a month or two to see how results develop.

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