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Facebook Ad Targeting – Best Practices

Facebook Ad Targeting - Best PracticesFacebook Ads is the most targeted traffic your advertising dollars can buy. Sure, we’ve had Google AdWords for some time and they’re very powerful and effective. But Facebook takes the ability to hyper-target – based on a vast range of personalized data – to a whole new level.

Given the amount of data Facebook users share on the site, some of the areas you can target with your ads include:

  • Location: Country/State/Province/City
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Birthday
  • Relationship status
  • Interested in status
  • Language spoken
  • Education level
  • Place of work


In addition, you can choose to target Facebook users who are connected — or not already connected — to YOUR Page, Event, Group or App. Plus, you can target the friends of users connected to your Page, Event, Group or App.

Facebook Ad - Connections

Facebook Ad - Connections detail

Likes & Interests

Here’s where the game of Facebook advertising can get real tricky. You can target any “Likes & Interests” that Facebook users have on their profiles:

So, of the millions of possible activities, movies, musicians, books, TV shows, celebrities – you name it – everything is fair game to target in your Facebook ads. This means you could, if you wanted to, without breaking any Facebook rules, take out ads targeting users who have joined specific fan pages (now that fan pages are really “like pages.”)

Trademark infringement

Where it crosses the line and becomes a possible infringement of trademark/intellectual property, is when the advertiser uses a person/brand’s name in the ad that could cause consumers to be confused.

Recently, an advertiser has been running a series of Facebook ads using my name in the ad copy and targeting Facebook users who have “liked” my page. The advertiser had the intent to divert people to their fan page services.

Facebook Ad using Mari Smith

Facebook Ad using Mari Smith

Facebook Ad using Mari Smith

Facebook Ad using Mari Smith

My inbox and fan page wall kept filling up with friends asking me if these were my ads, if I was getting any kind of compensation, if I’d endorsed the ads, if I sponsored the ads, if I was affiliated with the product or the advertisers. The answer was a resounding “no.”

My name was being used without permission and it just did not sit right with me. The ads, the landing page and the service all just looked and felt completely disconnected from my own brand. (I’m trying to be polite and diplomatic here. Really, I mean to say, “spammy.”)

I wrote a post on my fan page wall about this practice of targeting other fan pages, and invited my Facebook community to express their opinions. I was amazed by the flood of responses: 178 comments.

Mari Smith Facebook Fan Page Ad post

It seems we found a rather heated, and somewhat divided, topic. Comments ranged from “it’s totally unethical and out of integrity,” to “you should be flattered, you’re a brand!” Hm. 😉

I decided to seek legal counsel and spoke with my attorney today. There is a term in Trademark law called “initial interest confusion.” Per Kevin Houchin:

…the federal trademark laws are in place to prevent consumers from being confused as to the source of a good or service and by preventing consumer confusion, protect the investment of brand owners in their company’s reputation, goodwill, and marketing dollars. There’s a concept in trademark law called “initial interest confusion” which is when one company unfairly diverts the potential consumer’s attention away from the brand they were looking for over to the competing product at the moment of initial interest, even if there is no confusion at the point of actual purchase.

(My buddy, Ed Dale, was also the target of this same advertiser and invited his fans to share their thoughts. Again, a somewhat divided response… though Ed himself doesn’t seem to mind the ad practice.)


I decided to track down the advertiser and simply ask him to stop running the ads. He responded promptly and courteously stating he would do so soon. I waited almost 24 hours, then asked again. 😉 The ads have stopped, thankfully.

The whole arena of buying keywords for ads that target brands, businesses, trademarks is rather sticky and has been something Google has had to deal with for awhile. Google have a comprehensive help section including their AdWords and AdSense trademark policy. My attorney tells me Google typically respond promptly to any infringement claims and take down the ads in question.

I’m guessing Facebook get their fair share of similar keyword trademark issues, seeing as they make it so easy for any keywords to be purchased. Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines do, however, include a clause stating the advertiser cannot infringe on intellectual property rights of third parties.

SO, what are your thoughts about this type of practice? How do you respond if you see an ad capitalizing on someone else’s name/brand/reputation? Do you think this is an area that Facebook should take more control over? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Recommended reading:

Mari Smith

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Forbes describes Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” IBM named Mari as one of seven women that are shaping digital marketing. Mari is an in-demand keynote speaker, corporate social media strategist, dynamic live webcast host, and popular brand ambassador. She is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day, and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

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  1. Joris Brabants on July 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I found this post searching for ways to target facebook users that are fan of another page. I was wondering if that is still possible, because I cannot find it anywhere. £

    If I use the “Specifik Interest” and look for the Facebook page I want to target (or the fans of that page) it always disappears when I leave that field of the form.

  2. jwero on May 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I am amazed at the power of Facebook Ads, when using some precise targeting.  I recently made a how to video showing small business owners how to create facebook ads that target users birthdays, engagements, expecting parents and users who have recently moved.  I help it’s helpful to someone.  You can find it here

  3. David Dewhirst on April 3, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I agree that it’s bad practice, and I think you handled it in the very best way possible! Sometimes a little grace, dignity and poise go a long, long way.

  4. Sandy on February 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Mari, our town is celebrating its centennial this year. So I would like to create a facebook targeting people who say they are FROM Port Alberni (our town) so I can encourage them to come back for a visit. I know there is a spot in the database where you can say where you are from. Is it possible to use this in a targeted ad?

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