Discover How To See Any Facebook Advertiser’s Audience Targeting Tactics

by Josh Barney

Facebook have been working towards greater transparency…

…and as a result, they’ve rolled out an improved version of their ‘why am I seeing this ad?’ feature.

This updated version was aimed at helping Facebook users understand more about how their data is being used and as a result, build more trust in the Facebook brand.

But this transparency update can also arm marketers with tons of priceless audience targeting tactics, and in just a moment I’ll show you the how, what and where of using it.

facebook audiences ebook

The Importance of Audience 

BTW: An advertising audience are the people who you’re targeting with your ads. They can be defined on Facebook by their interests, online behaviour and demographics.

A great ad with an amazing offer won’t perform well unless it reaches the right people.Click To Tweet

Your target audience are one of the most crucial elements of your advertising campaign. If you are able to reach people who are interested in your ad’s offer, you’ll succeed at FB ads!

Think about it like this: if I sell the best dog food in the world and reduced the price for an advertising promotion, but only cat owners saw the ad, do you think it would do well?

I don’t.

The great thing is, now we have the chance to look at other advertiser’s FB audience targeting strategies and how they match up with their offers.

Let’s start by finding the front door…

How To Find Any Facebook Advertiser’s Audience Targeting Tactics

The first thing you’ll have to do is go to your regular Facebook feed.

Sign in and scroll down your newsfeed until you find see an ‘ad’.

BTW: Every ad will have a ‘Sponsored’ label (beneath their user name) in grey text.

Click on the three dots on the top right of the ad:

facebook audience why am i seeing this ad


This will open a dropdown menu. At the bottom of this menu, you’ll see an option called ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’


facebook audience why am i seeing this ad

After you’ve taken this option, Facebook will open a pop-up window that reveals (a whole lot more than it used to about the) advertisers’ audience targeting tactics:

facebook audience why am i seeing this ad

What Can Advertisers Learn?  

For starters, just like everyone else on Facebook, you can now see how you’re being targeted with ads.

That’s exciting, but it gets a lot more interesting when you look at these targeting tactics from the other side of the FB ads looking glass.

This update allows us to see:

  • The targeting tactics of our competitors
  • How they match audiences with their ad creatives and copy
  • The difference in their offers as their audiences change (in their marketing funnel)

BTW: Apologies to AdRoll (or congrats on the extra exposure), your ad was the first on my newsfeed when I started writing this article.

Let’s peer into the audience targeting tactics of an ad and see what we can learn:

facebook audience why am i seeing this ad

I’ve highlighted three audience targeting tactics from this ‘Why you’re seeing this ad’ page, just to (quickly) highlight what you can learn.

Here’s a short break-down (the numbers correlate with those in the image):

  1. This point tells me that I am part of a lookalike audience: ‘…reach people who may be similar to their customers…’ More specifically, I am part of a lookalike audience of their existing customers.
  2. I can see that they have narrowed down this lookalike audience further by their interests. more specifically ‘Shopify’ AND ‘Drop shipping’. The word ‘and’ is crucial here. Their lookalike audience will have to tick both of these criteria, not either.
  3. I can see that they have narrowed their target ages to 23-49. This will be based around their knowledge of the most likely people to take this offer. If I was selling a similar product, I could do the same.

When you couple this information with an analysis of the ad creative, copy, ad offer and landing page, it reveals tons about an advertiser’s campaigns.

I don’t want to go into too much more detail about this ad (I don’t want anybody to think that I’m picking on them!)…

…but this ad is clearly running as a conversion campaign. It directly offers a ‘sign-up’ for their product, has low engagement and their audience targeting tactics tell me a lot about their aims (especially ‘lookalike of existing customers’).

facebook ad audience and objective

As an advertiser, you now have the keys to a whole new world of information and competitor analysis.

But before you go, follow these tips to make the most of this update:

The Best Way to Use FB Audience Targeting Information 

In order to truly make use of this feature, you should do everything possible to see ads ONLY from relevant sources.

And when I say relevant sources, I mean your direct competitors.

Whilst you can learn a lot from the advertisers who are already targeting you, you’ll discover a lot more relevant information from advertisers who’re chasing the same audience as you.Click To Tweet

So, how can you ensure this happens? Here are a few quick tactics that will guarantee you see competitor ads:

Like Competitors’ Pages (and Other Industry Relevant Pages)

Many advertisers will target their existing Facebook ‘followers’ with ads (especially those using the ‘Engagement’ objective)…

…but, they will also target audiences who have demonstrated an interest in their industry (by liking other business pages and groups).

facebook engagement increase

By liking relevant pages in your industry, you give yourself a much better chance of viewing their ad and using the ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ feature.

You will also increase your chances of being targeted in a ‘lookalike audience’ (like the one I highlighted earlier).

Engage with Industry Relevant Posts

Facebook track and analyse the data from everyone on their platform to make the experience as personal as possible.

When you regularly interact or engage with posts that are relevant to your industry, you tell Facebook’s ad algorithm that you have an interest in it.

facebook post engagement

Facebook will use this information when advertisers are targeting ‘interest-based audiences’. By demonstrating high levels of engagement, it’s likely that you will also be targeted with ‘engagement’ ads.

Go To Their Website

Another way to demonstrate an interest is to visit your competitors’ websites.

Thanks to the Facebook Pixel, advertisers can retarget users with ads based on their behaviour.

facebook retargeting audience

People like this will be placed into a ‘custom audience’, which can be narrowed (and targeted) by more demographics, interests or behaviours.

By visiting a competitor’s website, you might be retargeted with ads, giving you the chance to see how they’re building their custom audiences (including interests and demographics) and how they’re trying to convert them.

Become a Lead

Email lists can be uploaded to Facebook as a custom audience.

This type of audience will (usually) be targeted with a different type of Facebook ad to an ‘interest based audience’ (AKA saved audience).

collect email leads

Whilst you can use this tactic to check their audience targeting tactics (especially to see if they’re narrowing this audience further- particularly by behaviour), you can also see how their offer, ad creative and copy correlates to this stage in their marketing funnel.

Remember, the audience targeting tactics are so much more valuable when they’re analysed alongside the ad offer!

Abandon Your Cart (if they’re selling online)

If you’re involved in an industry that sells products online, you should load up your shopping cart with your competitor’s goodies, get to the buying page and abandon.

Custom audiences can easily be created off the back of cart abandons.

cart abandon audience

Using this new feature, you can check if your competitors are using this type of custom audience and see what type of offer they’re presenting to these people.

Is it a reminder? An offer? Are they narrowing their cart abandons by any other demographic, interest or behaviour?


facebook audiences ebook

It’s always interesting to see how advertisers are optimising their FB ad performance, but this new information about audience targeting tactics can give you tons of campaign ideas.

I’d suggest that you spend some time trying to make sure that you see your competitors’ ads, and when you do, analyse everything about them.

We have had the on-page ‘transparency’ feature option available for some time, but this update to the ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ feature, arms advertisers with loads more priceless information.

There’s the door, here are the keys…

…what are you waiting for?

Want more Facebook advertising strategies? 

Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer, best selling author and creator of the He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links so he can get back to writing as himself.

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The 3 Pillars of Business

FREE 3-Part Video Training

You are agreeing to our Terms and Conditions