How Does Facebook Know What Ads to Show You

Facebook probably knows more about individuals than any other online entity at this point. Over the years, Facebook’s advertising system has become more personalized including targeting based on users likes and shares to allow advertisers to target ads based on the users’ web-browsing habits. As Facebook track your activity online, it allows advertisers to show frighteningly specific ads catered to you.

However, it is important to note that Facebook offers users new control over the information Facebook uses to target ads, giving users a way to opt out of seeing targeted ads based on browsing habits. The more information you provide to Facebook – where you live, age, college, things you like and relationship status – can determine the type of ads you’ll see. Even if you provide Facebook with the bare minimum, anything that your friends share or add to your profile can be leveraged by Facebook in order to target specific ads for you.

Facebook also has the ability to leverage a few of their key partnerships in order to specifically target ads. The company partnered with data giants Epsilon, Acxiom and Datalogix to allow brands to match data gathered through shopper loyalty programs to individual Facebook profiles. For instance, Facebook ads could enable a company like Coca-Cola to target teenagers who’ve bought their soda in the last month. Another example is if you buy a bunch of frozen pizza at a grocery store, and use your loyalty card to get a discount, that information is cataloged and saved by a company like Acxiom.

Facebook breaks their targeting categories into subcategories including Demographics, Interests and Behaviors.


This is used to reach people based on information such as education, employment, financial income, language, etc. If we dive deeper into education, for example, we could look that the following:

  • What is their education level?
  • What was their field of study?
  • What school did they attend?
  • During what years did they get their undergrad degree take place?


These reach specific audiences by what their interests, such as what apps they use, posts they share or pages they like. This category has the most targeting options and they are broken down in the follow subcategories:

  • Business and Industry
  • Entertainment
  • Family and Relationships
  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Food and Drink
  • Hobbies and Activities
  • Shopping and Fashion
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Technology


Typically, this data is acquired by Facebook from third-party data collection companies because it includes information such as purchase behaviors or intents and device usage. Similar to Interests, there are many ways a company can target specific behavior by consumers, see the following examples:

  • Automotive: What kind of vehicle do they drive? What cars are they interested in?
  • Digital Activities: What internet browser do they use? Are they console games? Are they early or late technology adopters.
  • Mobile Device User: What brand of mobile device do they use? How many own a tablet and smartphone?
  • Purchase Behavior: Do they use coupons? What type of stores do their shop at? What kinds of products are they buying (clothing, books, household goods, etc.)?

Want to know more about Facebook advertising? At Big Marlin Group, we can take your Facebook marketing to the next level, let us prove it to you! Contact us today at Big Marlin Group.

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