facebook geo targeting

You’re Not Geo-Fencing with Facebook Ads? (Learn What and How)

Geo-fencing with Facebook Ads, we define it, bring you up to speed on how to run them, and feature a case study on their use.

It’s political season and at the time of writing this, the primaries are in full swing. Take it easy…this post is about marketing, not politics.

I love this season for a number of reasons, and chief among them is that I genuinely enjoy paying attention to the marketing tactics the various different candidates and their campaigns use to get elected.

geo-fencing with facebook ads

They all pay the best firms and top dogs in country to market for them, so it’s a great idea to follow their ads, emails, commercials, etc. and mine some good, creative ideas you can try in your own marketing efforts.

Which leads me to Ted Cruz.

I read an article in the Washington Times about how the Cruz campaign employed geo-fencing to laser-target audiences with tailored messages.

Geo What?

Let’s start by defining the term.


Geo-fencing, or geo-targeting, is based on what Facebook calls “Local Awareness Ads.”

In the simplest terms, it allows you to draw a geographic circle around an area and then show ads to people on both Facebook and Instagram that are within that circle.

If someone within your geographic circle checks Facebook or Instagram, Facebook identifies that they’re within your target area so that you can target their feeds with your Ads.

Ok great, but haven’t you always been able to target geographically?


So what’s different this time?

Before, your options were based on country, state, and city. So you could target the United States, or Ohio, or Columbus.

Now…you can narrow the target down to a 1 mile circumference.

You can further narrow down the target with additional demographic restrictions and Facebook will let you advertise to as few as 20 people (so they say).

With me so far?


Let’s get back to the Ted Cruz example.

The article mentioned he was speaking at an NRA event and he drew a geo-fence around the conference hall. He then showed theses folks Ads that were all pro-gun and touted his gun-loving bonafides.

I read that piece, remembered Facebook releasing the feature, and naturally I wanted to experiment with it, too.

Before I get into showing you how this feature works and my first test, let me give you some ideas (yes, I realize you are not likely running for president) of how this could be completely awesome and applicable to your business.

Geo-fencing could be great for you if…

  • You are exhibiting at a trade show and want to drive awareness as well as bodies into your booth — btw how expensive is trade show advertising again?
  • You are going to be selling at a local art fair and want to drive traffic to your booth.
  • You own a retail art gallery and want to woo the surrounding foot traffic to come checkout your gallery.
  • You are trying to get on the radar to some interior designers so you light up their entire trade show / meeting / offices with your art for a month non-stop (I just made that up but man is that good).


  • You want to tell your significant other how much you love them so you create some amazing art or beautiful message and you light up her office building and not only does he/she know how much you love them but their whole office does (bonus!!!!).
  • Say you photograph ducks and Ducks Unlimited are having their quarterly meetings. Find out when those meetings are. Get the meeting locations of all 100+ chapters. Hit them all at the same time with your latest duck photography.

I trust that is enough to get the creative juices flowing.

This tactic is really pretty cool, and despite the fact that it’s been around for about a year or so, very few are taking advantage of it or have been properly educated about it.

So let’s get into it, go over the first test I opted to run, how to do it, and how it turned out.

Most importantly, before any of you go negative Nancy on me, this technique is REALLY easy to do.

You could start testing this for low spends ($10-$50) and it does not take more than an hour to do everything from start to finish.

Susan Michal

As I was marinating on how to best run this test and give it a shot, the first idea that came to mind was to attempt this technique at a trade show.

Renowned portrait photographer Susan Michal was on her way down to the Imaging USA show in Atlanta.

Susan has a killer new photo book out called “Flowers in Transition” that benefits PPA charities.


Here’s a sample page from the book:


She was going to be selling and signing copies of the book at a tradeshow party and then in the PPA booth at the tradeshow itself for a few days.

Susan and I talked about the idea, she was game to giving it a test, so we agreed.

The Plan

The plan was two fold.

Let’s test a few Ads with minimal spend at the party ahead of the trade show (Susan is also a musician so she was playing in a band that night) and then, #2, let’s test some ads for the trade show itself.

Music Night

Cooking it up with PPA Charities Celebration. Susan sent me this text message with details about the evenings gig.

File Jan 21, 10 54 14 AM

So I knew the event was located in the Omni Hotel, North Tower.

All I had to do at that point was Google the hotel and get the exact address of the venue.

#1 How to Set Up Your Geo-Fencing Campaign and Ad Groups in Facebook’s Power Editor

For the first part, I wanted to make a quick video. So watch this for a step-by-step tutorial on the Ad Campaign and Ad Group setup in Facebook.

#2 Ad Setup

For this particular evening, I wanted to test at least two Ads against one another and see if one performed better than the other.

So here were the two ads I authored for the night:



Tradeshow Ads

  1. Overall, the setup was the exact same. I created two new Ad Groups and changed the geographic location from the trade show party to the trade show hall itself.
  2. I again created two different Ads so I could A/B test them.


Susan texted me this shot of her in the booth, so I uploaded it and used it for the ad.


The Results


As you can see from the image (click to make it bigger) we spent a grand total $61.13 on the test, $35 on the party night, and the remainder on the trade show itself.


If you recall from the video, we chose for our objective “Page Post Engagement” so we averaged about $1.02 per engagement.

Not a great number by any means, but one has to keep in mind this is showing Ads to what has to be considered 100% cold traffic.

That engagement broke down to 37 post likes, 1 post comments, 5 post shares and 3 page likes.

The more important number really though on this test was reach, or in other words, how many people in those geo regions saw her posts.

That number ended up being 4,304.

What about the most important number? How many people came up to Susan and mentioned seeing the ad and then purchased her book?

Short answer is there was none. Although we are pretty uncertain on this one.

For one, the ads didn’t have the best language in them (more on that in a minute) and two Susan was crazy busy (getting fellowships and the like) the whole show and barely had time to think let alone ask folks how they heard about her.

So the long and the short of it is we have no idea on how effective this technique was this time around.


After the first test I am really optimistic to continue to try this technique for a number of reasons.

We are WAY early to this party. Very few people period — feel free to insert the name of your competition here — are doing this right now.

So if you get in early and start testing this could be a great leg up on the competition.

I am also really encouraged by what I think could be a really creative and cutting edge tactic for the print studios, art galleries, and artists on our platform as well as us here at ASF.

We plan on running a number of different case studies on this one and will report back here how they went and also in the forum.

Okay back to the takeaways. Both what I learned on this test and what I want to try for the next test.

  • Understand the true geography of what you are testing. What is the population density? If it’s big then you will need to ad in some demographic info to narrow down the audience (in this test it was Atlanta. I probably should of added in “likes photography”).
  • Keep in mind the reach portion of the results. While your ideal results (sell books in this case) might be tough to measure (if you are busy and not asking) it’s important to understand your brand being seen by as many targeted eye balls as possible is a goal too.
  • You can crush a trade show, without paying trade show ad rates, on advertising this way. Why pay $1500 so you can have a crappy full page ad in a magazine that nobody looks at anyway. Throw that $1500 in Facebook ads and you could REALLY light a show up.
  • If it’s direct sales, and an in person visit only,(you don’t care about silly things like brand exposure) then you need a proper way to measure a true conversion. I should’ve written into the ads “mention “Facebook Ads 50” for x dollars off, or to get a free t-shirt, or sticker or whatever” Then I really could of known the impact.
  • While I was excited to test and God Bless Susan for giving me the shot, the whole idea was wrong. We were trying to sell a book to cold traffic. That goes against everything I teach in the first place. It was a first date situation and our ads were asking for sex, figuratively speaking of course.
  • Give yourself plenty of runway to really take advantage. For this particular show I should of turned the ads on a day ahead of time and let them run a day later. Lots of folks are coming into town and leaving town.
  • Been to trade show recently? At any point did you get board and check your Instagram or Facebook while there? This technique will work epic if you can get the recipe right
  • Don’t ignore Instagram. Had every intention of doing so on this post. Ended up not having the time to get everything configured properly to do so. For those that don’t know FB owns Insta and writing an ad for Insta is the same as Facebook. It’s one extra click.

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