Achieving Hyper-Relevance Through Geographic Microtargeting Of Facebook Ads

Can I target people on Facebook in one specific building? Can I show Facebook ads to people at a particular event? Yes! An expert explains:

Article Difficulty Level: Advanced

Ever wanted to run Facebook ads to people in one building, at a convention, or other event? Have you been told that’s impossible by so-called Facebook “experts” or “consultants?” It’s not. I do it all the time for my own businesses and my clients. It is easy and effective once you get the hang of it. Combine it with killer content and you’ll be on your way to success in no time.

Please note: The following article assumes an intermediate-level understanding of the Facebook Ads Manager. I will not be taking the time to explain beginner-level aspects step by step. However, even beginners will benefit from the strategies and tactics discussed below. 

Geographically microtargeted Facebook ads. Sounds like a complicated thing, doesn’t it? It sounds like it costs a lot. It sounds like you need some special third-party program that cost millions of dollars to develop and charges a high monthly premium. If you Google how to do this, you won’t find anything. 95% of the so-called Facebook “experts” charging hundreds of dollars an hour will tell you that it’s impossible. They are wrong. For me and the clients I assist and train, targeting very specific ads to people inside of single buildings or at a local event is a routine thing.

These ads are extremely effective. It’s not just the targeting that makes the difference. Your targeting allows you to run very specific messaging that you normally couldn’t get away with.

Imagine this: You have a booth at a large, important convention. You’ve paid hundreds of dollars to be there and are desperate to make the most out of your time. You take a quick 30-second video of you standing in front of your booth. “Hey guys! It’s awesome to be here at the convention with y’all. If you’re in the main event room, just turn right when leaving out the main door and I’m the fourth booth on the left. I’ve got some goodies to give away to anyone that mentions this video, so come on by!” Now what do you do with it? Armed with Geographic Microtargeting (“GMT”), you can then boost that video to ONLY people who are physically inside the convention center. Not just in their news feed, either. You can insert your video into the websites they are browsing (Audience Network), slide into their Messenger app, and pop into their Instagram. Imagine how effective that would be.

I’ve done this. I have a vending franchise that works with K-5 schools. I was at a convention with approximately 3,000 elementary school educators once. I did exactly what I described above, except it was a photo instead of a video. I had school principals walking up to me for a week during that convention saying “I’m not sure how you got onto my phone, but I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.” We’re talking about a product where my customer LTV exceeds $1,000, so that kind of interaction is invaluable. For approximately $150, I generated about a dozen leads during that convention that I knew for a fact were because of my Facebook ads. I had many more that I suspected were due in part to the ads I ran. Once I pulled that off, I began integrating the strategy into my training sessions with other business owners. I love seeing their eyes light up when they realize the potential!

The potential is incredible. People respond best to content that is hyper-relevant – content that forces them to stop scrolling. “We make great sandwiches!” Doesn’t make you stop. “Stuck at Helen Keller Hospital for lunch? We’ll deliver a delicious sandwich straight to your room.” Now, THAT makes someone stop. It makes you think, and it makes you react. It makes you wonder – how did they know?! If you don’t know how Geographic Microtargeting works, you are left with the assumption that this restaurant is running ads across your entire area that conveniently seem relevant to you and pretty much ONLY you. I guarantee you – whether you order lunch from that restaurant from that ad or not, you’ll remember them next time you’re in the area.

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 20-04-26




Now, I mentioned at the beginning of the article that I’m going to assume that you have an intermediate-level understanding of the Facebook Ads manager. Therefore, I am not going to waste time explaining how to create an ad. There are thousands of free tutorials out there for that. I’m here to talk about something unique. All I’m going to address is how to create an audience that is Geographically Microtargeted. I’ll also note that this is only accurate to an extent. By my rough measurement through trial and error, I estimate the accuracy to be somewhere from 100 feet to about 1/10th of a mile. So, you can’t target one house in the middle of a crowded neighborhood, or you’ll get the surrounding houses and roads as well. But it works great for a building the size of one city block or larger – like any convention center. The main goal is to get your radius FAR below the generally accepted minimum of 1 mile.

The concept is simple. We’re going to take some basic elements that most Facebook Ad managers know exist, and use them in an unexpected manner to deliver unprecedented results.

Let’s start by creating a Saved Audience. Go to your Audiences by clicking the menu in the top left hand corner of your Ads Manager. Click “Create Audiences” and “Saved Audience.” Now, ignore everything else and go straight to the geographic section.

You have a couple different options to start. If you know the address of where you are targeting, you can enter that as your target. However, if you are dealing with an extremely large facility, your pin may not be in the center of your target, which is not ideal. In that case, you can manually drop a pin on the map, which is what I generally do. Find your building, and drop a pin on the center. Set your radius to the minimum: 1 mile.

Now, we’re going to do something a bit different. Roughly guess the distance between your pin and the exterior wall of the building you are targeting, and drop another pin outside your radius by that exact amount. You can use a ruler if you aren’t good at eyeballing this type of stuff, but you can also edit it later so it’s not that big of a deal if you miss. Drop a number of these pins (at least 4) around your main pin, each one just as far outside your radius as your middle pin is from the outside of your target building. When you finish, you should have one pin with a 1-mile radius surrounded by a bunch of other pins with 1-mile radii around that pin, none of which should overlap the original pin.

Next, hover over one of your locations in the location list. You’ll see a little dropdown arrow appear. Click that, and select “Exclude location.” You can also accomplish this by clicking the pin on the map. Do this for all pins except your original one.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Screenshot from 2018-08-25 20-20-28



Exclusion zones are a not-as-well-known feature of Facebook’s geographic targeting. It’s not used very often. For most people, it’s really only useful when you’re targeting a radius around a city but want to exclude other states or cities that your radius might overlap, due to the phrasing in your copy. What we are doing is creating a complex Venn Diagram consisting of exclusion and inclusion zones that ultimately result in only one single building being targeted. At first, this takes some time to set up. It takes a while to get used to, and it took me quite a while to get to the point where I was confident enough in the accuracy to get the distance around the building just right. But it works.

Is this accurate? I’ve had some people question whether or not this actually works. Trust me, it does. Facebook tracks your location using your cell signal, your GPS, and your Wi-fi. They have your location pinned down to within 30 feet. The potential inaccuracy up to 1/10th of a mile comes primarily from people that are moving – like in a car. It just takes a minute or so for Facebook to update your location, so you may see ads a little ways away from the facility if you just left it or drove by it. It may catch some people driving by as they briefly enter the radius, but it’s still pretty accurate. I explained this tactic to a group of clients once, and I saw their minds explode as they processed what I was saying. The very next day, one of those clients sent me an excited text with a screenshot of an ad very similar to the one I posted above. They were in the parking lot next to a building I was targeting and saw my ad mentioning the building. Since they knew I worked with that business and since I had just explained it to them the night before, they knew exactly what was happening for the first time, and they were absolutely thrilled to see it in action.

It’s not complicated. We are taking some very simple features of Facebook Ads and combining them in unusual ways, that’s it. I honestly didn’t think too much of it at first, I thought everyone knew how to do it. But as I began mentioning it to my clients and other people running Facebook Ads, I realized how few people know how to do it.

This has the ability to transform your business. Not just on the reach of these ads themselves, but through the use of Lookalike Audiences (LLAs). You can use GMT strategies to build extremely precise and well-filtered Custom Audiences (CA) to base your LLAs off of. I recently showed a boutique jewelry company owner how to use GMT to identify high-relevance potential customers at a convention and then use an LLA to dynamically expand that group to begin advertising to similar high-relevance potential customers nationwide. You should have seen the expression on her face – she knew the potential of what I was talking about. Interest targeting is better than nothing, but it’s nowhere near as effective as an LLA based on a high-relevance CA. You can target people who are interested in the topic Jewelry all day long, but nothing beats taking a group of well-established wholesale jewelry purchasers and creating an audience of everyone like them in the world – and ONLY people like them.

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44 thoughts on “Achieving Hyper-Relevance Through Geographic Microtargeting Of Facebook Ads

  1. I commend you sir. Thanks for taking the time to write that. I got more value and understanding on audience targeting and LLA than I have from the generic how to videos. You gave my time more value than I expected reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge imparted here. So simple and elegant and yet never seen this being tried before. Beautifully written! Thank you so much for taking the time out to impart this invaluable piece.


  3. Hey Trey. I’ve done this before but never with the level of precision that you laid out here. Thanks for the awesome post. I just published a campaign using the geographic microtargeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Trey, I tried this for a convention and didn’t get any impressions delivered. It was a large facility in Las Vegas. Could the issue have been I chose the wrong objective? I have another convention coming up and really would like this to work. Any advice is greatly appreciated.


    1. Hard to say without seeing the rest of the ad set. Did you narrow it using any other criteria? Did you set it up at least a couple days before the event so the algorithm would have time to figure the rest of the audience out? What objective did you choose?


      1. I set it up one day before and I used the traffic objective. I reached out to a FB group and someone suggested to bid really high? Any suggestions on how high to bid etc?


      2. $100/day.


        But, seriously. Jack that up, but just WATCH IT when it first starts running. If you’ve set it up incorrectly, you could end up burning through all of your money real quick. I’d also suggest using a Lifetime budget and using Accelerated Spending if you can’t get it to spend fast enough.


  5. Greetings Trey,

    Thank you for this brilliantly simple technique.

    Just looking at my recently created Saved Geographic-targeted audiences, and Facebook Ad Manager (Audiences) is telling me “You cannot create a Lookalike audience from a saved target group.”

    Now I haven’t run these targeted audiences yet. Would that matter? It seems to be saying this for All of my Saved Audiences that I’ve ever used.

    With thanks,


      1. Thanks for your reply, Trey. I tried that first but I cannot create geotargeting for a custom audience. The only option for custom audiences are: Customer File, Website Traffic,
        App Activity, Offline Activity, and Engagement.
        I found the only way to do this is create the geotargeting on a saved audience. Run an ad on that saved audience, then create a custom audience based on past engagement, then create the LAL audience from that.
        Perhaps there’s another way?
        With thanks,


      2. Yes, that is what I meant by creating an LLA off of a custom audience. You’ll need to do audience building… In other words, run a video to your saved audience and then create a custom audience of the video views.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, do you know if there is anyway of saving the audience created, by this I mean say you run the geo targetting for 2 days because there is a convention on, can you save all those people as audience (separate from the location)?


    1. Hi, Charles! Sorry for the delayed response. No, you cannot save the people in the audience and retarget them per-se. HOWEVER, my recommendation is to develop some short-form video content that is light and engaging, and run it to your targeted audience. You can re-target people that watch 3 seconds or more of that video! It’s a great way to capture people for retargeting.


  7. Hey Trey, Does the potential reach of the audience show accurately? That or it seems like the exclusion zones aren’t working on my test. I’ve tried 2 different sized exclusion patterns, each display 6,600 and then I just did a version with no exclusions and the same 6,600 appear.


    1. This may be a display error on the part of Facebook. I was seeing the same thing when creating the saved audience (by the way, a saved audience isn’t required — you can also just create this straight from the ad set). But on my Audiences page, it’s showing it as being a much smaller, more appropriate number that would reflect the exclusions.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi, Ben! No, the potential reach is not specifically accurate. I’d say it should probably be accurate to the nearest thousand or ten thousand, but definitely not beyond that. With so many people entering and leaving the zone constantly, it is impossible for Facebook to accurately predict the traffic, especially not during your specific event.


    1. Hey, Jon! I got a new job back in October doing this specific type of targeting full-time, so I haven’t paid much attention to my blog, and just now saw your comment. I had no idea people were still reading this, I published it so I could send some specific people a link, and basically walked away. I was shocked to log in and discover that this blog actually has significant daily traffic to this day.

      I’ve been reading your content for years – you are the only person that I ever found to get into this level of detail on technical topics, and your writing style is what inspired how I wrote this. Thanks for all you do, and thanks for the comment/link! If there’s ever anything I can do for you, let me know.


  8. I’m wondering.

    What is the min audience this would work with? Like, probably not a single restaurant?

    But, could you load the addresses of say 100 grocery stores and get enough cumulative audience to target?


  9. It can **THEORETICALLY** work with a single restaraunt. But the margin of error is high enough that it’s not terribly practical. Achieving effectiveness has more to do with the size of a single contiguous area than a bunch of disparate areas. In other words, one large building will work. A bunch of tiny buildings may not. There’s a 30-100ft accuracy margin on this because of the heavy use of GPS, combined with low refresh rates.


  10. Hello Trey
    Great article.
    I want to target registered nurses who work in hospitals. I understand how I could do the geo-targeting you suggest to target hospitals but unless I am mistaken my ads would be shown to nurses, patients and visitors. To avoid this would it work to add a job title parameter of “registered nurses?”


  11. Hi Trey, thanks for this excellent article. I tried a similar approach but ran into an issue:
    I used the geographic microtargeting on a student dorm in Asia (using “recently in this location”). As I’m only targeting the international students , I added Western Languages in my targeting (English, Spanish, French, etc.).
    While I’m 100% certain that I did my geographic microtargeting right, my Western friend who lives 2km away from the dorm received the ad several times, without coming close to the dorm.
    To understand why, I checked the audience overlap of 2 audiences: (1) the audience I described previously and (2) Everyone recently in this location (without specifying the languages). To my surprise, the overlap is only 4%.
    Now, I would like to target that overlap (the 4%), which is exactly the audience I need. They must be exactly the Westerners who have been in the dorm recently. Do you have any advice on how to do so? I’ve tried to target the intersection of 2 SAVED audiences but can’t find a way to do so.
    Thank you in advance!


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