When developing your social media marketing campaign, it helps to understand which targeting methods will be most effective in reaching your desired audience. There are a multitude of targeting methods available that marketers can leverage, but selecting the right one isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. For example, the best social media marketing agencies understand when to use lookalike targeting and when to use more granular demographics to reach the right audience.

In this article we will take a deep dive into the differences between lookalike audiences and interest-based targeting, and how to determine when to use one over the other. 

Lookalike Targeting for Paid Social Campaigns

One of the easiest methods for building a following and efficiently employing social media marketing is to use boosted posts and lookalike audiences. Put simply, lookalike targeting takes the information that exists for your current social media followers and targets accounts that have a similar demographic.

For example, if you own a ski shop in Park City, Utah, you likely have a balanced following of males and females aged 18 – 50 that are located within 25 miles of your brick-and-mortar location. They’re probably interested in snow sports, physical activity, and supporting local businesses. By selecting the lookalike targeting feature available in Facebook marketing, Instagram advertising, and other social platforms, you’ll automatically target other people in the area that fit the key demographics shared among your current following.

Contrary to how this may sound, lookalike targeting doesn’t simply target the followers you already have. Instead, it’s a way to reach new followers that match the characteristics of those who already know and love your brand. This way, you’re reaching an untapped audience that already matches your ideal buyer persona.


Interest-based Targeting & Social Media Advertising

Sometimes lookalike targeting isn’t the best method for reaching your target audience (more on that later). However, that doesn’t mean that social media advertisers can’t find ways to optimize their marketing efforts to reach the right people. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms all provide the option for interest-based targeting, allowing marketers to set specific, granular details about who will see their advertisement and where it will appear.

Let’s say, for instance, you just opened up a specialty bakery that makes dog-safe baked goods. Based on your individual research, you know that your ideal customers are female dog owners aged 20 – 45 who care about animal welfare and have plenty of disposable income to spare. Taking this information, you choose to develop a custom target audience to reach the right people at the right time on Facebook. Using the Facebook marketing platform, you can enter in the exact parameters of your buyer persona, including age range, gender, occupation, interests, income, and geographic location.

It’s important to note that while granular targeting such as this can be effective, most brands don’t get specific enough when setting these parameters for their ads to be impactful. Prior to developing any ad set, brands must have a thorough understanding of who their target audience is and what platforms they use the most. Only through a strong command of these details can companies hope to develop powerful ad sets that earn them the results they seek.

Understanding When to Use Each Targeting Method

It’s not enough to simply understand the target audience: Brands also need to understand when one targeting method is the better choice compared to another. Many mistakenly believe that a lookalike audience always makes sense to use. Why wouldn’t you want to target the people similar to those who already know and love your brand?

The problem with this strategy lies solely in how you built your existing following. If you’re a small business owner whose following largely consists of paid followers, friends, and family members, your lookalike audience probably doesn’t match your ideal buyer persona. Instead of reaching customers that meet a specific demographic, your ad spend gets wasted delivering materials to a large group of unrelated individuals that may not be in the market for your products or services.

Likewise, interest-based targeting can present its own set of problems. In order for this method to work effectively, companies need to have an airtight understanding of their target audience. The more granular and detailed your parameters, the more likely it is your ad will be delivered to the right individuals.


WiT Group Social Media Marketing Services

Delivering paid social advertisements to the right people and the right time isn’t as cut and dry as it seems. Luckily, WiT Group’s team of social media gurus understand what targeting methods to employ to earn the highest rate of return on ad spend of our clients. If you’re not sure how to optimize your ad set to reach your target audience, our team is here to help! Contact us about our paid social advertising services to get started with your campaign today.