By Helen Udolloress

Whilst it’s important to pinpoint the exact audience you want to be targeting, from a social media perspective it’s equally important to plan exactly who you want to exclude. Nobody wants to be targeting and putting spend behind users who aren’t likely to convert after all! 

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Fortunately for us, Facebook makes it easy to build up a sophisticated exclusion strategy; ranging from allowing you to exclude users by their interests or precise demographics, or excluding people who have recently completed an action (no matter how complex) on your website.

We will therefore run through the most widely used and important exclusion strategies below, so you’ll be able to refine and perfect your targeting, reaching the right people in no time.

1. Excluding Current Customers

There’s always a time and place to re-target a current customer. However, you generally don’t want to be marketing your product or services to somebody who has only just bought in, as chances are they won’t be ready to convert again for a determined time frame. Although this window may vary on the kind of product or service you offer (e.g. people may buy food on a weekly basis, and a new kitchen every ten years), there are two separate exclusion methods that can be applied here to exclude those users from seeing your ads, for the optimal space of time.

- Pixel Based Exclusion Audiences 

If you have a pixel installed on site (a small snippet of code installed on every page of your website that allows you to track conversions and user activity), you can very easily create an audience of users who have completed certain actions on your site within a pre-determined time frame. You can then either include or exclude these from your targeting, e.g. exclude people who have purchased or subscribed within the last 30 days, but continue to target people who have 'added to basket' or visited your site, but not converted with your ads. The lookback window for these audiences is limited to 180 days, but it’s perfect for excluding past customers if your product/ service's lifespan is such that these customers may return within that time span to potentially convert again. If you’re an online clothing brand, a cosmetics shop, or food delivery service, this may be the perfect method for you. Simply exclude these audiences from your current targeting, making sure that the lookback window for the exclusion audiences reflects a reasonable time before customers may convert again.

- CRM list Exclusion list 

You may need to exclude customers for much longer than 180 days, especially if your customer is not likely to make another commitment to you in the foreseeable future. This could be the case if your product is extremely high value (cars/ computers/ kitchens) or subscription based in nature (gym memberships, phone contracts, internet products). If this is the case, a CRM list exclusion list may be the one for you. Simply upload the list of emails/ phone numbers/ names and Facebook will match these with its users. Facebook will not typically be able to match 100% of your list with its user base (as people may have given you a different email to the one they use for Facebook), but even so, making use of CRM lists offers the advantage of providing you with an audience of users to be excluded that haven’t just visited your store online, but in person too.

2. Demographic exclusions

A second useful exclusion method is based on demographics as Facebook will allow you to exclude users from your targeting based on their gender, relationship status, age, location, predicted income levels, or even if they’re a parent or not. If your product or service has a specified target market, this method of exclusion can be of huge benefit when it comes to only targeting the exact market you wish to be reaching. You wouldn’t want to serve a 70-year-old man an advert for a crop top aimed at teens just because they’ve liked Justin Bieber on Facebook (most probably by mistake!). This feature is therefore great if you know that your product is likely to only be bought by one gender (i.e. a bikini or a male’s suit), or if you are looking to promote your new restaurant only to the people who live or work in the areas surrounding it and not anywhere else. 

3. Conflicting interest

Another valuable exclusion method is by interests, which can go a long way to avoiding negative feedback on your ads, or making sure you’re not targeting people who lead a certain kind of lifestyle that excludes that need for your product or service. If you’re promoting ads with meat or dairy products, for example, you might want to exclude vegans and vegetarians from your targeting. Alternatively, if you’re promoting indulgent confectionary, you may want to exclude people who are interested in weight loss and dieting. Same goes for luxury products – you probably don’t want to target people who have interests in bargain stores or extreme couponing, if your product is perceived an indulgence which has an exceptionally high price tag.

4. Excluding page/ post engagers audiences

Next, if one thing is becoming clearer to brands after the upsurge of social media it’s that it’s not always a happy playground. Frustrated customers who have received less than perfect service (perhaps through no fault of your own) often find social media to be the perfect arena to make their dissatisfaction public knowledge. If you’ve found your Facebook page has become subject to such displays, it may be worth excluding certain audience groups from your ad targeting. Below are my two favourite methods of doing so:

  • Excluding people who have messaged your page

If somebody has messaged your brand’s page on Facebook, let’s face it, it’s not always going to be to offer you unspoken praise, since many users now find social media the perfect platform to complain. If you’d like to limit the number of dissatisfied customers leaving negative comments on your ad, one way to go about this is to exclude an audience of people that have messaged your Facebook page within a set number of days. This approach may go long ways to boost performance (as those users were probably not going to click and convert) and can also limit the number of comments left on your ads that could dissuade other users from buying your product or service.

  • Excluding people who have engaged with your ads

Another more stringent manner of excluding dissatisfied customers from impacting your campaign’s performance is to exclude anyone has engaged with your ads in the past from your prospecting targeting. This method could, of course, result in excluding people that have left positive comments on your ads, but if those users have clicked to site with high purchase intent, they will find them within a remarketing list anyway, and you can engage with them further from there. 

5. Users who may fall into multiple (remarketing) audience groups

Last but not least, exclusions also play an important role when it comes to making sure you’re not including users within more than one audience at a time. Even despite the fact that this is something that cannot be avoided completely, there are a number of things you can do to try and stop this from happening. Below are the top two:

  • Excluding entire audiences from one another

Although Facebook does not currently allow you to exclude one interest/ demographic-based audience from another, when it comes to custom remarketing audiences, it’s a whole different story.

If we take remarketing as an example, chances are you’ve split your remarketing strategy into different strands. e.g. people who have visited your site in the last x days and people who have added something to their cart but not purchased. What can be easy to overlook is the fact that any user who has added an item to their basket must naturally fall into the “users who visited your site” audience, as they cannot add an item to basket without also having been on your site! Since you never want to bombard the same individual with too many ads, it’s important to make sure users aren’t falling into multiple audience groups. Here it’s important to make sure you always exclude the smallest remarketing audience from the largest (i.e. exclude all add to cart from all page views).

  • Excluding interests used in other audiences

When it comes to demographic/ interest based targeting, there are still measures you can implement to try to try to avoid as much audience overlap as possible. Since you cannot exclude one interest/ demographic based interest from another, best practise is to exclude as many interests from your largest audience that feature in the smallest, or at the least make sure you don’t include the same interest in more than one audience at a time. As most users like a multitude of pages and show many different behaviours on site, these kinds of exclusions will never be exhaustive. However, some time spent strategising as to which interests must be excluded to form a pyramid structure of targeting (excluding each smaller audience from your larger) can help a great deal.

So, there you have it – our top five methods of excluding audiences on Facebook! At Merkle | Periscopix we are always exclusive (as well as inclusive) when it comes to who we target. If you’d like some help with your social audience strategy, be sure to get in touch.

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