3 New Ways to Target Your Audience with Facebook Pages

Lori Halley 04 September 2008 9 comments

We’ve talked before about how nonprofits are using Facebook to connect with their supporters online, figuring out ways to work around the “closed door” model of the popular social-networking site. For example, setting up a nonprofit Facebook Page  that can be viewed by anyone on the Web  is often more effective than just having a Profile page only other Facebook members can see.

So, why would you want to limit access to your nonprofit’s Facebook Page? Now that you’ve taken the time and effort to set up a Page, why would you want to hide it — or certain parts of it — from some potential viewers? 

There could be any number of reasons.

Perhaps you want to display some images that might be disturbing to a younger audience. Or perhaps there’s information related to your day-to-day operations that you want to share with active supporters, but don’t necessarily need to put in front of a more general audience.

And sometimes, it may simply be a matter of customizing your Page to better target a specific audience. Perhaps you have a message for people in a particular geographic area that just wouldn’t be of much interest to others — notice of a local event, for example.

Here are 3 tools to control access to your Facebook Page:

1. Age Restrictions for Pages

screenshot - Age Restriction setting on Facebook PagesOn your Page’s edit page, scroll down to the “Settings” section at the bottom and click to edit. You’ll see a drop-down list that lets you choose an age restriction limit — anyone under the specified age won’t be able to view the content or find your Page in search or Friends’ profiles.

You might wonder about the “Legal Drinking Age” restriction at the bottom of the options list?  As I understand it, this is part of a new Facebook initiative to control the exposure of minors to liquor advertising. For practical purposes, it's useful to know that this restriction sets the minimum age based on the location of the user: Canadians must be at least 18 or 19 (depending on the province), and users in the United States and elsewhere must be 21 or older to be able to view your Page.

2. Targeted Update Messages

When you send an update to fans of your nonprofit Page, you can target it by geographic location (country), gender, and age range. Simply check the “Target this update” box when you’re sending out an update, and a form will let you choose which groups will get your message.

screenshot - Target setting for Facebook Page Update Message 

3. Facebook Markup Language (FBML) Tags

The FBML Facebook application lets you control who sees your content in a great many ways, just by enclosing bits of it in special tags. This option is more complicated — and the on-site Help is less than user-friendly, as is regrettably often the case with Facebook applications — but FBML tags offers an exciting potential for doing some pretty sophisticated audience-targeting!

Facebook gives this suggestion for how one of the FBML tags might be used:

For example, if you have licensed a game for U.S. and Canada users only, you can use this method to restrict the application to those countries only, and it will simply not appear to users in the rest of the world.

If you have specific content you want to restrict, but want to keep your application generally visible to all users, you can use the fb:restricted-to tag to restrict the audience for that specific content. This tag ensures that the content will appear only to users who should view it.

I can see using FBML tags to deliver a custom greeting to Fans of your Page, while casual visitors from various countries might see a very precisely targeted invitation to join up: “Here’s what we’re doing in your part of the world!” Or you can customize your content for a specific age group, at the same time — what grabs the attention of a European teenager may not be as compelling to an adult in Dubai, after all.

You can see a complete list of FBML tags at the Facebook’s Developers Wiki — and please don’t be put off by the unfamiliar look of these tags!  Click on the name of each tag, you'll get details about what each one does. Play around and test a few...  I think you'll soon start to get an idea of how FBML tags might work as a tool for community-building and promotion.

screenshot - FBML tag example

What do you think? Could the ability to limit access to your nonprofit's Facebook content actually help you to reach out to potential new supporters more effectively?

 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 5:15 PM

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Comments

  • sciamannikoo

    sciamannikoo said:

    Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 9:52 AM

    Dear Rebecca,

    I might be wrong, but I would say that filtering contents would only limit the audience.

    I can agree about age restriction (even though I barely see a nonprofit page/organization that needs to filter contents for that reason), but any other restriction will only limit the audience.

    For instance, a page admin is sending a message only to Italian members of his page. As an Italian living in Netherlands, I might be interested as well to this message, don't you think?

    I prefer to see better (and cheaper not to say free) ways to advertise a nonprofit page: that would actually helps reaching more audience.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 4:23 PM

    sciamannikoo, agreed - it does seem counterintuitive to restrict access, and normally not a good thing! (In fact one of my big peeves with Facebook is its "closed" nature.) The ability to customize a message with FBML tags has all sorts of interesting possibilities, I think you'll agree -- but the first two tools are a bit more challenging to use well and wisely!

    That said, could you see where certain information or images -- around reproductive technology or human rights issues, just for example -- might the kind of material that many parents would prefer not to have available to their under-13 children?

    But since it's possible to set up more than one Facebook Page, it might make sense in that case to have one all-purpose "gateway" page that's suitable for all audiences -- and maybe set up separate (linked) pages to address certain issues.

    I'm just "thinking out loud" here...

  • Chris Garrett

    Chris Garrett said:

    Friday, 05 September 2008 at 5:49 AM

    I hadn't looked much into this after I fell out with facebook due to all the spam "someone has thrown a sheep at you" messages, but this looks very useful so I am going to take another look :)

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Friday, 05 September 2008 at 7:25 AM

    Just thought of another case where the Age Restriction option could be useful:

    If a citizens' group uses a Facebook Page to rally support for/against a piece of legislation (as reported here http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2008/06/13/tech-copyright.html for example), it might be useful if one could say to the government, with some authority, that all those supporters are (a) from the country in question, and/or (b) of voting age.

    Yes? No?

  • Patrick

    Patrick said:

    Friday, 05 September 2008 at 10:41 AM

    In my mind, the ability to restrict content to just be seen by certain users is a precursor to a much more powerful idea: showing different content to different users.  

    I think Seth Godin made a post a few months ago that touched on this...it might seem taboo at first to show different customers or different demographics a different landing page, but depending on what action you want certain people to take (such as comment on your post, sign up for a newsletter, buy a product, etc.) then it actually makes sense to start getting fancy in some cases and show different things to different people.

    Seth warned about potentially offending some people by doing this, but the payoff in optimization is probably worth it, especially if you are careful about how you frame your separate messages.

    What do the rest of you think?  Does the idea of targeting different visitors with different content seem like a logical extension of the ideas in this post?  (And is it ethical to do so in most cases?)

  • Ken A.

    Ken A. said:

    Friday, 05 September 2008 at 12:42 PM

    I'm with Chris... I find Facebook to be such a "goat rodeo" it's almost not useful. For me, anyway. But this post piqued my interest. Maybe targeting a more focused audience is the way to go. Thanks Rebecca!

  • sciamannikoo

    sciamannikoo said:

    Monday, 08 September 2008 at 7:51 AM

    @Rebecca:

    Yes, I agree with you. somehow I had in my mind the fact that Facebook restrict the access to under-13, but looks like I'm wrong.

    (Besides, is an US law that set this limit? In Italy - and in most of the Europe, I believe -, usually the "maturity" limit is 18.)

    I still find hard to believe that sexual contents (the one allowed by Facebook I mean) should be filtered. I believe that today's children are a lot smarter than children of my youth and it's hard to shock them, thanks to all other media.

    But, yet again, I should agree with your thoughts, including the political scenario.

    @Patrick:

    I agree with you as well, but partially. I still think that limiting the contents is a bad idea: for instance, a different landing page, with the option to see anyway all the contents, could be a good compromise.

    The problem with Facebook pages is that the page is just one and is not easy to manage many contents. I suppose that FBML could help on that, but I've never approached it, even though I'm quite curious about this topic.

    @Chris and Ken A.:

    I'm with you. I'm one of the people that at the start used to send invitation to everyone. Then I've got the payback and understood how annoying and frustrating is that.

    Now the privacy system in Facebook has been improved and even though we keep receiving hundred of invitations, we can just ignore them.

    I mean, I can survive with that ;)

    @all:

    Sorry again for my bad English. when you don't understand, try to think how an Italian would speak English: this might be helpful :)

  • Ralph Albrecht

    Ralph Albrecht said:

    Thursday, 25 September 2008 at 10:31 PM

    Rebecca's reference to the age of 13 relates to the following US law:

    The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers

    The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them.

    The law, which became effective January 1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site. A "transactional or relationship message" – email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship – may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, is authorized to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. CAN-SPAM also gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce its criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can enforce the law against organizations under their jurisdiction, and companies that provide Internet access may sue violators, as well.

  • Daniel

    Daniel said:

    Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 1:22 PM

    What I would be interested in doing is sending messages to targeted groups.  Specifically, I would want to send some messages to people who are registered volunteers of our org, but not necessarily everyone who is a fan.  Or maybe send a message to only volunteers who are involved with a specific task.  As in, only to cat volunteers, but not to dog volunteers.

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