How Does Facebook Ad Targeting Work?By Emma

3 min read

Ever wondered how Facebook knows you so well? Keep on reading to find out how Facebook ad targeting works, and if they're really listening to you!

How Does Facebook Ad Targeting Work?

People often wonder how Facebook knows them so well or why they’re seeing certain ads in their feeds. Well we’re here to tell you that no, Facebook isn’t ‘stalking’ you. Ultimately Facebook (Meta) is able to build a picture of who you are and what you might like, through the vast amount of data that it holds on you (the user). We’re going to run through a few of the different ways in which Facebook gains this information.

Facebook knows your likes and interests

Facebook ad targeting uses several different signals to determine your likes and interests. One of the primary signals is the information you provide on your profile (eg. age, gender, location, page likes). Another factor is how you interact with your feed (eg. commenting on posts, liking certain videos). The algorithm will use this information to show you brands and advertisements which it deems you’ll most likely enjoy. Every single interaction strengthens this virtual picture.

Facebook gains information about you from third parties

Another way Facebook gains data on you is through third party apps and websites. Facebook receives signals from the websites you visit and when you use “Login with Facebook”, all of which are used within its ad targeting.

Brands can retarget you using the Facebook Pixel

Lots of brands will have a Facebook pixel on their website and this will send data back to Facebook so that brands can retarget you. So if you visited a website but didn’t make a purchase, brands can serve you ads in the hope that you’ll come back and complete a purchase.

The Facebook pixel is a powerful tool which can also be used to make Lookalike audiences. This means that brands can build audiences which look like (or are similar to) their customers, web visitors or social engagers. So the algorithm may use one of the previous signals to garner that you should be included in that lookalike audience.

You may be present on a customer list

Brands can upload email lists of their customers and target those people with ads, or build Lookalike audiences that look like those customers. If you’ve purchased from a brand they may use your data in this way to target you again, or people that look like you.

Is Facebook listening to me?

A common misconception is that Facebook listens to your conversations, while they aren’t allowed to do this, they can track your location which helps the algorithm understand your behaviours and make connections between you and the people you spend time with.

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