Facebook now lets brands target ads based on how much time, money you spent on their sites, apps

Ads on Facebook are about to get even more reflective of what you did on a brand’s site or app.

Two and a half years after Facebook started letting brands retarget people who visited their sites and mobile apps, the company is going to let them retarget people based on specific things they did on a brand’s site or app, such as how much time or money they spent.

The expansion of Facebook’s website custom audiences ad targeting option is supposed to make it easier for brands to get in front of the most valuable members of their sites’ and apps’ audiences. “One of the challenges that marketers have is they’re seeing a lot of traffic to their websites and apps, but not all people are the same who come to their websites and apps,” said Maz Sharafi, director of monetization product marketing at Facebook.

Instead of just advertising to people who visited a site or specific page on a site, brands can pinpoint the people who visited a page or did something on the site a certain number of times. That could help brands make sure they aren’t wasting so much money on window shoppers and redirect those dollars to the people who are getting more serious about buying something, like the ones who keep returning to check out a specific car model or review financing options.

“If someone were to visit the site five times in a given day or spend five whole minutes on a particular page, that’s a very different and stronger intent signal than someone who hits their website and just bounces off really quickly,” Sharafi said.

Since this type of ad targeting can weird out people who don’t expect their browsing of a brand’s site to follow them back to Facebook — let alone how much they spend on that site to be reflected in their Facebook feed — here’s a rundown of how this targeting works.

A brand gets a piece of code called a tracking pixel from Facebook that it inserts on its own site or app. That pixel keeps track of everyone that visits the brand’s property, and a brand can direct the pixel to log information like what pages the people visit, how long they’re on those pages and how much money they spend when buying something on the site or in the app. A brand isn’t able to see exactly who this information corresponds to, but Facebook is able to match the logs against people’s Facebook profiles through a process called “hashing” that aggregates and anonymizes the audience lists. This matching is how a brand can then tell Facebook, “Hey, show this specific ad to people who spent five minutes checking out my page about lease financing options,” without the brand actually knowing who those people are.

In addition the new audience retargeting options already mentioned, brands can create sub-segments of their site and app audiences based on how much time people spent doing something on the site, like configuring a car; how much money they have spent on the site or app; if they had shown interest in a specific date range, like someone looking to travel around the Fourth of July; and what device they used when visiting the brand’s property, such as if they were on a desktop computer or an Android device.

The New York Times used some of these new ad targeting options to get more people to subscribe to its publication. As a result, the amount of money the newspaper pays to try to turn someone into a subscriber was reduced by 25 percent, and it got 2.3 times more people to subscribe, according to Sharafi.

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.