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Target Personas on Facebook


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The challenge of building high performance audiences at scale is compounded for big spend categories like mobile gaming or brands with niche audiences like ecommerce startups, But it's not just them. Performance marketers across all categories are having to pay more for quality audiences as they attempt to scale

There are a variety of reasons this occurs and the solution involves breaking down silos between creative and performance marketing teams. Doing so is best facilitated by a persona-driven approach to user acquisition - particularly for eCommerce.

In this article we discuss: 

  • Why the wrong strategy can spike acquisition costs on Facebook
  • Steps for building and targeting personas that unlock scale and performance 

Why audiences are more expensive


Budgets are pouring in

As traditional retailers with big budgets increase investment in their digital footprint to compete with Amazon and a host of innovative startups and deal apps like Wish, Letgo, Poshmark and Offerup, audiences are becoming costly.


Facebook and Google dominate

Facebook and Google eat up nearly 80 cents on every dollar spent in digital advertising. For the most part, marketers rely on similar tactics for building audiences on these platforms. This leads to targeting the same, limited audience via the same targeting parameters and missing out on large segments of relevant audience.


Overreliance on lookalike audiences

Facebook Lookalike Audiences are extremely effective, but have some limitations that are remedied when coupled with interest audiences. There are four major issues performance marketers encounter as competition floods in:


  • Precise segmentation becomes more challenging
  • Less transparency than Facebook Interests when using Lookalikes which limits ability to innovate with creative 
  • Scaling audience too far leads to less effective results


What is a persona?




A persona is essentially a personification of a target segment. In marketing and UX it is used as a north start to build experiences and target the right audience and it is imperative for performance marketers to embrace in a competitive space where creative, messaging, targeting and re-targeting must work together to effectively compete.


Why use personas for targeting on Facebook?

To compete in today’s uber-competitive environment, marketers must think holistically about the user experience that will drive results most effectively. That includes design, messaging, and targeting working in concert toward a common goal to deliver a more tailored and compelling experience. 

In a persona-centered approach, marketers can target precise segments based on values, interests and affinities and designers can match that distribution with tailored creative that inspires a click and purchase.


This approach isn’t just more effective in terms of ROAS, is supported by platforms because it delivers a better experience for users. In fact, Pinterest just rolled out 5,000 interests in it’s new product and Snap is improving their interest targeting (Facebook has over 600,000 interests by Appnique’s last count).


How to build persona targeting on Facebook

Whether your organization has pre-defined personas that you can work with or you have to build something “quick and dirty” from scratch, targeting by persona on Facebook is relatively simple. Here’s an example of how it’s done.


Root your target segments in real data and insight

Data can come in a variety of forms. Traditionally customer segmentation and/or market segmentation is a great place to start. Generally, those are then mapped to qualities that would inform a persona including demographics, interests, motivations and needs.


Using tools like Appnique to inform those personas is a great approach as well. With Appnique Affinity Analysis you can see all the apps related to a given app based on affinity (co-installed etc.). This gives you a little bit of insight into what the user base really cares about.


Example: A Look At Nike’s Top 50 Related Apps

For shopping apps like Poshmark, LetGo or OfferUp that need to acquire users around specific verticals to drive more efficient user acquisition, gleaning insight into the user base of flagship brands like Nike creates the opportunity to build line-specific ad and target them with messages that resonate by a demonstrated affinity to certain apps and experiences. Using Appnique, we see patterns that can be used to inform personas in rich and compelling way.


To keep this exercise simple, we analyzed just the top 50 apps ranked by affinity to Nike and found three discrete groupings of apps that signal audience segments.


Segment 1: Retail Affinity

As you might have expected, people that have high affinity for a certain brand may also have an affinity for the places they find it’s products.

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The Facebook interests that these top 3 apps map back to for targeting amounts to a total reach of over 13M in the U.S., but it’s likely that these branded interests are highlight competitive and over-saturated.


Segment 2: "Sneaker Heads"

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The “sneaker heads” segment that you might expect is represented clearly by trendy mobile brands like Kixify, GOAT, and the Jordan Release Dates app. These marketplaces offer hard-to-get and discounted merchandise with a premium user experience. 


The Facebook interests that these apps map back to represent an audience of about 17M. Larger than the more obvious competitor brands, this audience adds great color to a meaningful persona that creative can design around and can be targeted at a lower bid rate.


Segment 3: NBA/NFL Lifestyle Fans

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It doesn’t take long to recognize a pattern of NBA-related apps that goes beyond keeping up with scores and stats.


Casual games, Fantasy Sports, and Entertainment apps that immerse users in sports-related experiences in a variety of ways paint a picture of a sports fan that goes beyond the cliché of a fanatic. It shows a consumer that embraces sports-related entertainment far beyond catching the game and buying their favorite player’s jersey. 


The Facebook interests that these apps map back to represent an audience of at least 20M just in the top 50 related apps.


Personify Target Segments


Building a persona in a clean and easy-to-interpret template creates one source of truth that creative and the performance team can work from. There are limitless variations on what this could look like, but the key is to map insight that put you in the mind of your target audience. The more unique and distinguished the persona, the more compelling the creative, on target the message, and precise the targeting.


If your goal is to bring creative and targeting together more effectively as fast as possible, you might take a quick and dirty approach would involve selecting a template that you think works, gleaning insight from the data and making some assumptions to populate the persona in a meaningful way. There are also more sophisticated approaches that require buy-in from multiple stakeholders and some vetting, but take a little more time.


If you already have a persona that you want to work from, you’ll need to associate the motivators, interests, etc. to real apps and interests you would expect them to have. Again, you can use Appnique to discover unexpected apps/brands in a data-informed way or wait until the next step to expand your consideration set.


Map personas to interests for targeting

This is where many performance marketers come up short for two major reasons:

  • Interests are made based on obvious assumptions
  • The brand pool is too obvious/narrow


Making informed guesses only goes so far. With thousands of apps in a given category and hundreds of thousands of interests that can be used for targeting, getting the right combination and building the appropriate consideration set is impossible without some sophisticated technology. Appnique finds correlations in affinity and maps them to Facebook Interests to make targeting easy.



Demographic Filtering

To continue our example above, if we want to build a complete audience from the “sneaker head” persona we can add relevant interests based on high-affinity apps that are appropriate for that segment and refine results based on demographics: 


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Mobile-First Shopping Apps

We can target interests associated with each of these apps as a first step (17M audience) and model our targeting based on other high affinity apps related to this cluster of apps in particular.  

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Creative considerations

With your target persona clearly in mind and on paper, you can begin to see how creative and messaging can be crafting in a more tailored and compelling way. With this ad set, creative direction would likely include guidance such as:


  • Feature unique merchandise, hard to get product/brands
  • Lead with message on discount and/or availability (peer to peer signals price sensitivity)
  • Target


Targeting guidance

Once the initial audience is built for one aspect of the persona, you can easily discover and add related interests to scale the audience in a few clicks.


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Expanding target audience

If we want to broaden our targeting, we can analyze the sample mobile-first shopping apps we looked at above to learn that action games (a sample of which are included below) have a strong correlation in affinity to those apps. Build a separate audience segment with this criteria to test performance. 



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Your final interest collection might look something like this:



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Build your first persona-based audience for Facebook

There are a variety of approaches you can take to building scaleable, highly relevant target audiences on Facebook using Appnique. Our tools take the guesswork out of targeting and make sure you get the most out of every dollar you spend to reach the right end users. 

Give our suite of tools a test drive, free for 7 days to:

  • build lookalike-style audiences from the user base of any app
  • create persona-driven audiences of your own
  • measure the performance of each specific interest


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