Advanced Targeting With Partner Categories

Recently, Facebook began to incorporate third-party data into its ad targeting with the release of partner categories. I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain this new capability in a little more detail.

What Are Partner Categories?

For the first time, advertisers can target users based on their off-Facebook purchasing behavior. As Facebook puts it:

To date, advertisers have been able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook. Now with partner categories, they can also show ads to people on Facebook based on the products and brands they buy.

Data for these partner categories come from three third-party providers — Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon — which track purchase behavior and then match that behavior to users on Facebook. To date, there are over 500 separate categories, many of which are comprised of well over 1 million users. And that number will continue to expand as new partner categories are created regularly.

Current partner categories run the gamut, from people who live in homes of a certain value, to those who are likely to buy a Honda in the next 180 days, to people who are heavy buyers of seafood. Those examples should give you a good idea of how highly specific and detailed the partner categories are, and just how useful they could be to advertisers.

Facebook Partner Categories



Using partner categories is as easy as using any other type of targeting option, especially given their close resemblance to Facebook’s broad categories. As of now, they exist for use only in Power Editor. You simply select the category you’d like to target; you can also see the size, description, details, and source of each. You are limited, however, to selecting categories from only one of the three third-party providers.

They exist as any other targeting parameter on Facebook in that they can (and should) be used along with other parameters. As so many of them are comprised of millions of people, it’s important to continue to overlay demographic and keyword data to make sure you’re reaching the right users.

One unique characteristic of this targeting capability is that you can choose to target multiple partner categories in conjunction (all) or as distinct targets (any). With other parameters on Facebook, you do not have this ability.

For example, if you choose a string of five keywords, a user who likes any of the keywords in your string is eligible to see your ad — it is not limited to people who have liked all five keywords. With partner categories, on the other hand, you can layer more than one on top of another to target users who belong to more than one category.

Better Targeting = Increased Efficiency

The point of partner categories is to reach more relevant users who will be interested in your product or brand. It’s a much more robust means of targeting because it takes off-Facebook behavior into account.

As we have said many times before, targeting of ads is by far the largest differentiator in performance, more than creative or images. That makes sense; you need to put your content in front of people who will actually care about it. And, the more niche your audience, the more granular your targeting will need to be.

With over 500 categories, it is likely that more than one will fit your advertising needs; and, because they are so specific, more than one will be highly relevant. Before you start creating ads, look through the available categories and determine which ones are relevant for your ads.


Let’s say you own a local natural foods store in Seattle and are looking to drive customer awareness. You could use Datalogix Categories to target people who are heavy buyers of natural & organic products and whose activities suggest they are environmentally conscious and healthy.

From there, you can layer the geographic targeting of Seattle on top of that, as well as ages 25+ to reach only those users who would be able afford your products. In Power Editor, you can see exactly how many people you’d be reaching. And, you won’t be wasting impressions on users who wouldn’t actually shop in your store.

Direct Response Campaigns

Many advertisers have expressed concern that users’ activity on Facebook isn’t indicative of their behavior in real life. Here is an opportunity to match the two, making partner categories a great option for direct response campaigns. If you’re looking for someone to make a purchase through your ad, targeting people who regularly purchase something similar is ideal. The buyer intent is already there.

Preliminary data from our own campaigns at SocialCode shows strong performance for partner categories when trying to drive online sales for a major retail store. Females between the ages of 18 and 34 who are in the “Women’s Apparel” category drove higher conversion rates than those targeted by women’s apparel keywords. Likewise, when trying to convert Facebook users to order food online, QSR Partner Categories outperformed all other targeting strategies.

Given how easy it is to implement partner categories, you should try them out in your campaigns. As mentioned, we’ve seen strong performance out of these new categories — and as more are added and the data is further refined, we expect to see this trend continue.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook: Advertising | Facebook: Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is Advertising Team Lead at SocialCode, a full-service social media agency. She has two years of experience in social media marketing and is responsible for the development, implementation, management, and optimization of ad campaigns for leading global brands on both Facebook and Twitter.

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