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How to best use Facebook’s interest targeting

Back in December, Facebook added a new targeting feature, a nice freebie for all pages. As well as targeting an audience by age, gender, language and so on, pages were given the option of targeting by interest. According to Facebook, this can include ‘interests shared on their Timelines, apps they use, Pages they liked and other activities on and off of Facebook’.

For example, a page that posts about a range of sports may want to target a post about an upcoming Premier League game to only those with a known interest. By adding interest targets such as ‘Premier League’, ‘Arsenal’, ‘Chelsea’ and ‘soccer’, the post will only be seen by fans who have indicated an interest in one or more of those topics.
These posts will of course reach a smaller audience than usual, which can be off-putting to brands and publishers. However, engagement may increase, a trend that has been reported by both Facebook and publishers. Furthermore, as important as it is to reach the right audience on social, it’s just as important to not reach the wrong audience.

So how do the numbers stack up? According to data released by Facebook that looked at the top 100 pages that used interest targeting during March, those posts generated 290 percent more likes per impression, 79 percent more comments per impression and 54 percent more shares per impression than non-targeted posts from the same pages.

This certainly makes for impressive reading, and it can be backed up by publishers that have been experimenting with the new feature. The New York Times used the feature in a post about Ariana Grande, and reported 40 times more engagement than their average post.
Cynthia Collins, editor of social media at the New York Times, explained their early rationale and findings. “You’re going to get people who are knowledgeable and passionate about this topic. It’s anecdotal, but there seems to be more interaction between people. This is seemingly providing a better experience to all our readers.”

It would seem that interest targeting is proving to be a useful tool, so the question is how to make the best use of it.

First of all, as with any new software or feature, it’s best to experiment and analyse the results. Try out different interests and various combinations, and use the Facebook insights to see which have generated the most engagement and which combinations work best.

Secondly, use the interest targeting in moderation. If you use the feature in too many posts, you will be excluding a lot of your audience from ever seeing anything. It’s best to post the majority of your content for all to see – making about 10% of your posts interest targeted may be a good starting point.

It’s also important not to make assumptions about what your followers or may not like. Although Facebook is pretty accurate about determining which of your fans have particular interests, by targeting only those there is always the risk of excluding fans who would have liked your post. Your post may not appeal to everyone, but they are usually following your page for a reason so it’s imperative to keep pushing content for everyone.

If you haven’t tested out interest targeting yet, there’s no time like the present. Remember to experiment, analyse and use sparingly to find out what works best for your brand.

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Greg Bortkiewicz