Using Facebook Ads To Make Local Markets Adore You

By: Special Guest Contributor |


The following is a guest article from Chadd Powell of Hanapin Marketing

Facebook has massive user base; 968 million daily active users (as of June 2015) and has become a dominate player in the online ad space. On mobile alone, ad revenue was $2.1 billion as of July 2015.

With it’s carefully controlled interface and ad formats, Facebook offers marketers a clear picture of who they’re talking to, where their market is located, what the market is interested in, and how engaged they are.

But, Facebook is just a tool – it doesn’t know your business, your audience, or how you’re perceived within local markets – it’s up to you to develop ad strategy that is relevant to the markets you conduct business in.

What Facebook doesn’t know is that while you’ve dominated the market in Tennessee, you’re virtually unknown in Massachusetts.

Facebook doesn’t know Tennessee natives won’t settle for bad barbecue, or that in Boston The Green Monster is only scary if you’re a Yankee.

Yet, PPC advertisers insist on running the same creative across all markets, with little to no regard to the local language, imagery, or culture that people are immersed in every day.

Problem is, when 90% of marketers do this, all it creates is noise.

Take a minute to think through who is going to respond to that ad. Would you click on the ad? Are people clicking on the ad only to find out it’s not relevant to them?

I know what you’re going to say.

You have the most advanced targeting strategy ever, with multiple demographic variables and all sorts of interest based targeting layered on top. The only people seeing the ad are the people you know will want your product.

Having a detailed targeting strategy is great, but it can’t cover up a bad ad.

Show people why they should be interested. Tie the users to the ad through the image and copy itself.

That’s where understanding local markets comes in.

What follows are two general ideas on how to think through the language and imagery when targeting local markets:

Target Ad Copy to a Location

The simplest method of tying your ad to a local market is to explicitly identify the location in the ad itself.

If identifying as a New Yorker is important to the ad being relevant, reference New York City in the ad.

Taking it a step further, if referencing a specific neighborhood, such as SoHo, increases the ads relevancy, use Facebook’s Zip Code targeting to narrow where the ad is shown, and use the copy to reference another popular location nearby.

For example, let’s say you opened a new high-end men’s clothing boutique. The ad copy may contain all the relevant points to the brand, but also close with, “Right down the block from The Dutch” referencing a restaurant popular among SoHo regulars.

That’s the general idea in a nutshell. Now let’s look at two examples of actual Facebook ads pulled from news feeds.

For example, what is Southwest Airlines advertising here?

You immediately notice the words “Indianapolis”, “nonstop”, and “$99” with a picture of a big, colorful plane emblazoned with Southwest. Look closer and you see it’s a flight from Indianapolis to New York for $99.

Sure, a flight to New York may not end up interesting you. But, for a brief moment you checked out the ad because it was “local” and made a connection between you and your location.

Our second example comes from Beazer Homes, which is looking to drum up interest in new home purchases.

The first line mentions Indianapolis letting users know that this ad is for you if you live in Indianapolis.

It’s a bit different from the Southwest ad in that “Indianapolis” doesn’t pop out at you from the image. Here you have to read the text above the image to find out it’s for Indianapolis, but the idea is the same. Mention the local market if that’s important for the ad to be relevant.

Targeting Ad Copy By Community

The second method of targeting local markets is to use the language and imagery to mention a community. For this you might be targeting a single or multiple locations, but you’re trying to identify with a specific community within those locations.

Say you sell cooking software that helps keep track of items in a kitchen and warns employees when items are about to spoil or run out. You’d target your ad budget to big city zip-codes with the highest concentration of high-end restaurants that would most likely pay for your service.

Instead of saying Miami or New York explicitly in the ad, you might mention the word “chef” or “restaurant” to tie the ad to that community of professionals. A chef or restaurateur seeing the ad would know immediately the ad was intended for them.

Let’s look at two examples of Facebook ads that target communities rather than locations.

The first example is Zipcar.

Here Zipcar is specifically mentioning the word “campus” in two different locations and calls the service “Zipcar for universities.” It’s clearly aimed at college students on college campuses.

If I’m part of a university campus, I’m going to be more likely to identify with this ad because I’m in that community.

The last ad is from Wealthfront, an automated investment platform aimed at Millennials.

Right in the opening line of the ad you see the world, “Millennials.” making it clear who they’re trying to connect with. It’s a good start, but how could it be made more relevant?

If they were running this ad in all major U.S cities, they could experiment using images of their “Model Millennial” in front of the popular Millennial hangouts within each city.

Taken a step further, if they wanted to improve performance among different demographics, they could target messaging & creative toward different genders, relationship status, and kids.

Editor’s note: As a happily married, father of two, Millennial in a city of 30,000, the ad above does not come close to representing me. I understand how it would speak to the single, tech start-up men in my generation want to use their new money to live large, but I would scroll right past this ad were it in my newsfeed.

That said, Wealthfront the investment product is interesting to me, but I only know because I researched while editing this article.

Here’s what would make this ad way more relevant for me…

A man my age, spending time with his wife and kids in a small New England town or park. The copy would move me to consider about investing for my family’s sake, while reinforcing the value proposition that the app is low-cost & hassle free.

The product is the same, but the reason I’d use it is completely different from my single male counterpart, and if that ad wants any chance that it won’t end up just being noise in my newsfeed, it needs to understand that difference.

Fall foliage is something very familiar to me, and localizing the setting in the ad’s creative immediately helps ground me in reality the ad is trying to sell, making me far more likely to move through the funnel.

However, I doubt this exact creative would have the same effect on fathers who live in the desert.


The point is, Facebook has given marketers an unparalleled opportunity to be ultra-specific in their creative and targeting, and most of us squander it because we’re lazy.

Yes, it takes a lot more work to target ads towards specific regions and their cultures, but in doing so it makes you much more relevant to those groups.

At the end of the day, Facebook is a social network, where people like, comment, and click on the things that are relevant to them, and relevancy is so much more multifaceted and complex than the individual likes, interests, and demographics in their profile.

Pay attention to the local cultures within your core markets, because at the end of the day, they’re spending more time there than on Facebook, and that’s the reality you want to be a part of.

About The Author

Chadd is an analyst for Hanapin Marketing, focused on the role of social media plays in marketing. He can often be found writing and discussing what it’s like in the trenches of social media marketing with anyone who will listen.

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