Social Targeting Psychographics Stack-Up — What You Can & CANNOT Target (as of NOW*)

The channels in which marketers decide to invest media spend are crucial to realizing optimal, efficient ROI. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smacked my forehead when a client said they’ve already pre-paid $XX,XXX in channel Y (which always has to be used by a certain date or it disappears… SRSLY? WTF?) when they really should have invested in another because the audience they want to target is just not realistically doable in said pre-paid channel. (SRSLY, stop pre-paying for channels before you know what you want to do, and exactly how you’re going to do it.)

The “go where your audience is” advice is sound (especially for organic. LOL, “organic.”), but if you’re contemplating media spend between search and the primary social channels (Facebook/Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn), we recommend you spend money where you can accurately target. We don’t mean dry demographics, e.g. white males, 35-55, married, white-collar job (which is just about as boring as an unimaginative Craigslist personals headline), but powerful psychographics – and we ain’t just talking Facebook anymore.

Below, we’ve summarized just how the social ad targeting tools stack up – what you can, and maybe more importantly, what you can’t target in the main social channels, so strap in and bookmark this resource. 😉

Social custom audiences, “AND”/”OR” operators & BIG data

One of the most crucial elements marketers should look for in social media advertising targeting is a channel’s ability to target with custom audiences (first-party data), how that can be manipulated (via lookalikes and exclusion targeting) and what data marketers need to have (e.g. user ID, emails, phone numbers) in order to reach said custom audience.

Not enough can be said about the “AND” “OR” operators. The ability for marketers to qualify audiences by not only demographic data, but psychographic data, is the key to ultra-focused audiences. The AND operator allows advertisers to target politically engaged democrats, who also have a net worth of $100K+, and donate to political causes AND live in battleground states, for example.

social targeting features custom audience and remarketing


Demographic targeting has been a staple of marketers for ages so it may surprise you that most of the popular channels (aside from Facebook) don’t allow advertisers to easily target by age, marital status or sexual orientation. And even though Facebook has some ethnic targeting, it’s still limited.

Device targeting

Marketers know their content or ad will likely play better in certain user environments. Having the flexibility to target based on where the user will end up seeing the content is powerful and can sometimes make or break a campaign’s ROI.


B2B targeting

Often, when marketers think of B2B targeting, they automatically lean towards LinkedIn. Here we can clearly see it doesn’t blow the other channels out of the water as it should. Twitter’s behavior targeting (third-party) comes knocking with company age and sales revenue. Bada$$! It’s just too bad Twitter is extremely limited as marketers can’t use AND operators :\ so qualifying your B2B audience is limited.


Education targeting

Education targeting can be killer for many initiatives, from recruiting campaigns to financial qualifiers. Someone who never completed high school is less likely to have substantial income, while those who graduate from MIT with an engineering degree likely had companies seeking them out.


Family targeting

Campaigns that rely heavily on family position as part of their targeted psychographic should look to either Facebook or Twitter, which has gotten crazy good in the past year or so with behavior targeting. However, if lead-gen for adoption is your game, there’s no better targeting right now than in Pinterest. Sadly, across the board, dad targeting is underserved. Expect this to change in the coming years (likely from Facebook) as marketers become more keen on “dadvertising.”


Marketers who only look under the “family” categories when targeting may be missing out on what they’re truly looking for if that’s kids nearing high school graduation or expectant parents. In Facebook, these family targeting variables are found under Life Events.


Home type & homeowner targeting

No surprise here, LinkedIn and Pinterest are dismal options for this type of psychographic; however, surprisingly Twitter swoops in again to allow marketers the ability to target based on home value, moving intentions, owners versus renters and beyond. They still have a long way to go to catch up to Facebook’s home targeting stack, though.


GEO & proximity targeting

The specificity in which marketers can target by geo can make or break the selection of channels. Not only does Facebook allow marketers to drop pins, target by DMAs or by address, it also allows us to target those living in that area, traveling in that area or people recently in the area. It’s so good, all other social channels pale in comparison to Facebook’s geo targeting — even LinkedIn, which only allows advertisers to target major DMAs.


Financial targeting

WHOA! Where did Twitter come from with this juicy abundance of financial third-party behavior?! With Twitter, marketers can target by discretionary spending, retirement assets, taxes (is this for real?! Yes, yes it is.) and credit worthiness. In this category, Twitter blows Facebook’s long-standing third-party data dominance out of the water.


Of course the downside, as we mentioned, is Twitter Ads’ lack of “AND” operator targeting :\. Color me crazy, but I’d put money on Twitter rolling out “AND” operator targeting within the next few years.

I mean, we really, really, REALLY hope so. *cough* Twitter *nudge*nudge*

Purchase behavior targeting

With purchase behavior targeting, Twitter surprisingly out-shines Facebook again! (I know, I can’t believe I’m writing this myself.) Twitter serves up its users for advertisers to target by health insurance providers, insurance expiration month (damn, it’s a really, really good time to be a marketer) and those who attend pro sports events.


Go WAY in-depth with Facebook’s purchase behavior targeting with this four-part blog series:

Part 1: Facebook Buyer Persona Targeting Exploration & Combinations | Psychographic Hot House

Facebook Persona Buyer Targeting Part 2! Psychographic Hot House

Facebook #SHOPPER Persona Targeting Part 3 | Psychographic Hot House

SMASH Sales with Facebook Buyer Targeting Personas PART 4 | Psychographic Hot House

Auto intender social targeting

Straight up, if you’re in the automotive industry and not using Facebook or Twitter in your marketing mix, you could be leaving MAJOR money on the table for competitors. Just look at that data. 😍


Digital behavior targeting

Currently, Facebook is the only channel that allows advertisers to target by digital behavior (and now marketers can retarget based on social engagements in Facebook. #amazing), from email domain and internet browser used to recency of gaming. If these aid in qualifying your psychographic audience, Facebook should be your go-to channel.


Real-time targeting

Real-time targeting is a beloved tactic for many social PPC pros, writing carefully crafted sponsored posts that fall in line with what’s going on, or what will be going on (TV targeting), in the moment. With Twitter keyword and TV targeting, marketers can place advertising within the social stream, knowing their audience is watching or talking about <thing>. This is really awesome for beloved brands who do it well, a nightmare for those who may be seen as “intrusive” or “opportunist.” Tread carefully, marketers.


Also, expect Facebook to beef up real-time targeting features. It’s coming. It has to be. 😉

This high-level look at social media targeting options should be an integral foundation piece to choosing which channels earn precious media spend. Bookmark it now, we’ll update as features roll out. 😉

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