The Secret To Facebook Ad Interest Targeting [Tested + Proven]

Justin Briones
Justin Briones
Operations Manager
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There’s a reason Facebook Ads hidden interests are called “hidden...” Facebook is no longer the advertising gold mine we once knew. The days of cheap CPMs, no competition, and an untapped market are gone. Today, if you’re not advertising on Facebook with at least a retargeting campaign, you’re missing out on some low hanging fruit.

If you’re prospecting, you may need to update your approach. And assuming you’re in a very competitive market, it all starts with targeting.

Now, because Facebook has made its advertising platform dummy-proof, the interface limits the number of suggested interests available for certain keywords.

In other words, Facebook has been holding out on us advertisers by showing us a limited amount of interest suggestions to target. So how do we access these Facebook "hidden interests" and start targeting them to maximize our CPMs and social advertising performance? Well, keep reading and we'll show you.

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Why Facebook Hides Hidden Interests

As I mentioned above, Facebook's advertising platform is so dedicated to a blissful user experience that it's actually gone and hidden actual targetable interests from advertisers' eyes.

Below you’ll see what I mean. This is what you find when you type in the term “yoga” within the detailed targeting suggestion platform:

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Now, I know what you might be thinking.

“I’m pretty sure you could just keep searching related interests yourself and get even more interests to target.”

Yes, you could. But how much time would that take?

You could probably access an additional 20 related interests in a matter of minutes. And that’s assuming each are large enough and available within the interface. And you know what they say about assumptions...

Below you’ll find a screenshot of the suggestions for “yoga poses” (a related interest to “yoga”). However, just because a suggestion is related to a keyword doesn’t mean it’ll have the audience size you need or even be available for targeting.

For example, ever seen this?

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Frustrating, isn’t it? Even if you think of highly relevant interests, there’s a good chance they won’t be available as a target interest.

“I just thought of another interest that Facebook’s gotta have available...”

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Well, you’re right. It’s definitely an available interest. How’s that audience size though?

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And the nightmare continues…

Facebook shows the same suggestions to everyone. With more than six million advertisers using the platform and growing, Facebook had to make their interface as user-friendly as possible. That’s why they limit the interest list. A lot easier on the eyes, you have to admit.

The interests that tend to show up often have very large audiences. They're the first interests you see, and probably the first interests you’ll pick since they’re so relevant.

But doesn’t that mean those are probably the first interest suggestions your competitors pick as well?

This means more competition, driving CPM prices up.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? As marketers, we aren’t strangers to this concept, even if we are continually plagued by it every day.

But don’t worry. There’s another way.

How To Leverage Facebook Hidden Interests To Your Advantage

Let your competition fight over those ‘public interests.’ You don’t need to directly compete with them at all.

But how do we do that? My first reaction as a marketer is to look for better results so I can find a market that is highly relevant but only a few know about. In other words, without competition (cheaper CPMs).

To find these ‘hidden interests’ manually, you’d have to do a lot of research. And once again, you’ll probably experience the same frustration we did earlier when our research led to low volume or interests that simply don’t exist on Facebook’s targeting interface.

I’ll show you exactly how to find AND take advantage of Facebook’s ‘hidden interests’ by using Facebook’s Marketing API.

"Facebook Marketing API? That’s too technical for me. Can’t hang.”

You can. You don’t need to be a software developer to mine thousands of Facebook interests from the Facebook Marketing API.

And the best part? Since we’re pulling straight from the API, these ‘hidden interests’ are guaranteed to be available in Facebook’s targeting interface.

So, What Is Facebook’s Marketing API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface.

But I’ll be real with you homie -- you don’t need to know what that means. You just need to know what it can do for you.

In simpler terms, the Facebook Marketing API is the data you see on the Facebook ad’s interface. Raw. Without restrictions. This is why we can access interests that won’t always appear in the interface -- because the interface restricts that data to make it more user-friendly.

The trade-off with the API is that the response you get won’t look as pretty as the Facebook Ads manager.

Getting Started With The Facebook Marketing API

The first thing we need is an access token. To do that, we need to hop over to Facebook for Developers. Once you’re there, follow the steps below:

1) Click on the +Add a New App button.

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2)You’ll see a prompt for your contact info and app display name. When you’ve filled this out, click on Create App ID.

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3) At this point, all you need to do is go here to get your user access token.

4) You don’t need any special permissions to access what I’m about to show you, so just click Get Access Token:

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5) The “access token” field you see there will have an assortment of numbers and letters. Copy and paste that onto a clipboard.

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Once you have the access token copied on your clipboard, you can start using the methods I’ll show you below.

Using Different Facebook Marketing API Methods

Now that we have our access tokens, there are two methods (URLs) for accessing hidden interests:

Ad Interest Method:[Golf]&limit=10000&locale=en_US&access_token=your-access-token

Ad interest connects to the Marketing API with a keyword as an input and returns related interests.

1. Replace ‘your-access-token’ with the token you copied onto your clipboard.

2. Then replace the keyword above “Golf” with any keyword you want, much like the interface you’re already familiar with.

3. Put the finished URL into your browser and hit enter. You’ll see a page filled with interests along with other valuable targeting data. It should look something like this once you’ve plugged in your keyword and access token (fake access token used, bold red text for variables needing to be replaced):

4. Once you’ve plugged in the necessary information into your finished URL, hit “go” on your browser. You should get all available related interests as a response, just like the Facebook ads manager interface.

NOTE: The only difference is that we’ve removed the limit of 25 (screenshot below does not contain all available results):

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Like I said, not the prettiest data presentation from the Facebook Marketing API. However, there are 100+ interests to pick from -- from just one keyword! And more importantly, they’re all related to your search and available for targeting.

Ad interest suggestion method:

The Ad Interest Suggestion method might not be the most powerful of Facebook features, but it can still bring in relevant interests that the ad interest method may have missed. It does not work for every keyword, but it’s definitely worth a try to cover all your user research bases.

1. Replace ‘your-access-token’ with the token you copied onto your clipboard.

2. Replace the keyword above (“Golf”) with your keyword. Be sure not to mess with the “%22” portion between the square brackets, unlike the previous method where it looked a lot cleaner with simple quotation marks.

3. Put the finished URL into your browser and hit enter. You’ll see a page filled with specific interests and more valuable targeting data. (Should look something like this once you’ve plugged in your keyword and access token -- fake access token used, bold red text for variables needing to be replaced:)

4. Once you’ve plugged in the necessary information into your finished URL, hit “go” on your browser. You should get all available related interests as a response, just like the Facebook ads manager interface.

Facebook Interface vs. Facebook Marketing API

By now I’m sure you’ve already used the above example to see all the results from the Facebook Marketing API with the keyword “golf”.

Let’s do a comparison of what that same keyword would get you on Facebook’s user interface, using the "Detailed Targeting" drop-down menu: gif maker

From the example above, you’ll see about 25 targeting research suggestions that Facebook Ads Manager was able to provide based on the keyword “golf”.

The API methods above should provide access to many more related keywords via your browser alone. I did say it doesn’t look pretty though -- no API response ever does.

So, I’ve imported all of the interests and audience sizes into a Google Sheet (via Javascript) so that it’d be easier to illustrate for this article:

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What you see above is the last row in the spreadsheet for the keyword “golf” using just the ad interest method. There are about 45 rows using the Ad Interest Suggestion method:

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That’s 232 possible interests that you can target! All of which have a pretty decent audience size AND are available as targets on the Facebook Ads interface.

The whole point of this is to save you, my fellow social media marketer, some valuable time. You can gain insight into a new target audience without spending hours searching through interests that are either unavailable for targeting or not large enough.

While all the audiences shown here may not be relevant to your target market, it will save you time in comparison to searching through all of them with the interface alone.

Case Study - Using Facebook Hidden Interests On An Actual Client

Oh, were you looking for proof of the Facebook Marketing API's power for social media marketing? I’m so glad you asked. It just so happens that I applied this concept for a client of mine that never had success on Facebook, aside from retargeting campaigns.

Their typical CPA for retargeting campaigns on Facebook was under $50. Leads were only counted after a customer put in all their credit card information, completing their “booking” so to speak.

Since Facebook prospecting never worked for this client, it was hard to come up with a prospecting CPA goal to shoot for. My first thought was that even our best results wouldn't beat our retargeting campaign ($32) since that campaign targeted users with the highest intent.

We had to use Google Ads as our baseline, with an average CPA of $150. Remember, these were bookings where users had to put in their credit card information at the very end of the conversion process.

As online marketers, we all know how tough it is to get an ideal customer to convert, especially when the next step asks for something threatening like credit card information. And if we're using a platform the client has had bad experiences with, that's an extra layer of trouble.

The CPA below was for a prospecting campaign I launched with this script. After the first few days of implementation, I pulled targeting interests using the Facebook Marketing API:

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You’ll see I didn’t have that much budget allocated to the campaign, as this was simply a test to prove a point. It performed far better than I had anticipated, simply targeting interests that I found deep within the results of the script we walked through together with ideal audience sizes and relevance.

I've since scaled the prospecting campaigns for this client and I’m still seeing cheaper CPAs than on Google Ads, the only other platform they’ve ever known.

Closing Thoughts on Facebook Hidden Interests

The whole point of accessing the Facebook Marketing API was to save us time as marketers when researching potential interests on Facebook. But I understand if you feel like this blog post already took up all of the time you might have saved in the first place.

Remember, it’s an investment of time. Getting all these access tokens and API methods set up can be a chore if you’re going to use them effectively.

But once you have the FB marketing API methods setup, access tokens locked down, and keywords to start researching, you’ll save much more time on research in the long run. You’ll also get access to suggested interests within Facebook’s interface with less competition, leading to cheaper CPMs and eventually cheaper CPAs overall.

And that’s where you’ll see the returns from your Facebook Marketing API investment.

Chapter 4:
Facebook Audiences

What You’ll Learn: The right audiences with the right offer will make or break your Facebook success, make sure you prioritize correctly.

Chapter 5:
Facebook Campaign & Ad Types

What You’ll Learn: Discover the different ad types you can use through Facebook to drive the results you want.

Chapter 6:
Facebook Ads Budgets & Bidding

What You’ll Learn: Take advantage of the best Facebook budget and bidding strategies to get the most effective performance from your ads.