One of my favorite Facebook Ads tricks has nothing to do with running an ad of my own. Instead, I use a little-known trick that allows me to see who my competitors are targeting on Facebook Ads. It is SO easy, and the best part about it is that it is entirely honest with nothing rogue or slimy about it.

This tactic will help you find out what audiences your competitors find valuable, and it will also help you determine what other industry-specific brands see as a valuable audience to reach on Facebook, too. Before we start, it should be made clear that just because a competitor is targeting an audience, doesn’t mean that you should target that same audience.

Rather, think of this tactic as:

  • a way to gauge what competitors perceive to be a potentially valuable photography marketing audience
  • insight into other brands they see as potentially valuable
  • a potential jumping-off point for your own brainstorms
  • a group you may want to avoid targeting, knowing the bids may be higher with more competition for the space

The reason I like to see who my competitors or industry-pros are targeting is because I can’t always target the competitors’ audience directly.  The competitor might be significant to me, but not large enough for Facebook to consider them an interest base or a target base. By peeking inside who they are targeting, however, I can get a good idea of where I might insert my brand into their lives and try to grab some crossover or mutual fans.

So let’s begin!

Start Seeing Competitor Facebook Posts

The first step toward taking advantage of this Facebook Ads tactic is to start “liking” the Pages whose ads you want to see. Most people and Pages who run Facebook Ads for their photography business choose to show ads to their fans and to people outside of their fan base. Take a moment to also make sure that you have “liked” other pages on Facebook that attract an audience you are interested in.  Think about the blogs your clients might read, the sites they visit, or the brands they might like.

To help keep my News Feed a bit more organized with all of my Page likes, I put all of those Pages into a list. Then, click the little  symbol and choose “Add to Favorites”.

How to Make a List on FacebookThis will move the list to the top of your navigation so you can easily get to it in the future. The image to the right demonstrates where you should go to make the list.

See Which Audiences Those Pages Are Targeting on Facebook

Now you wait. Use Facebook as you would normally. You can click on your list from time-to-time to see what they are posting (which is helpful in it’s own way), but really, you’re just waiting to see their ads in the News Feed. Trust me, Photographer Facebook Ad Targetingonce you know how to see what Page is targeting which audiences, you start doing it on every ad for awhile. It’s truly interesting!

When you do finally see an ad for one of the Pages or brands that you want to know more about, you click the dropdown arrow on the far right of the sponsored post. Then choose, “Why am I seeing this?”

As a side note: I think many people already know this, but if you want to follow a post on Facebook to see all the notifications, don’t be that person who comments with “Following” or puts a “.” in the comment. Just click this arrow, then click “turn on notifications for this post.” Everyone will love you for it.

The next window to pop up is where you see who that ad is targeting on Facebook. The explanation is right up at the top. This has been around for awhile, though very few people know to take advantage of it. It was part of Facebook’s move toward making their advertising practices a bit more transparent to the general public. I’m not sure if that was accomplished, but I really enjoy the information I glean from this feature.Tailor Made Facebook Ad Explanation

As you can see from the pop-up window screenshot on the right, the reason I saw the ad from Tailor Made is because I am aged 25 and older, in the U.S. and I am similar to their customers. My activity on Facebook, including the posts I’ve clicked on, the Pages I like and the ads I interact with have helped them come to this decision.

This example is an interesting one because Tailor Brands is using “lookalike audiences” in Facebook Ads to reach me. This involves using the Facebook Custom Pixel and creating custom audiences.  If you’re not at a place where that is familiar, that’s just fine. But, if you have been working on your Facebook Ads for awhile and you’re ready to go to the next level and try some retargeting, then you should join me for a webinar on how to get started with Facebook retargeting! I’m limiting the webinar to the first 50 people to sign up.

But back to our snooping!

Southwest Airlines AdAnother example of what you can see comes courtesy of this ad from Southwest Airlines. I’m a fan of their page, and every time they come out with their fare sales, they seem to supplement that announcement with a Facebook Ad buy. As you can see from this explanation, I’m seeing this ad because I’m a fan of their Page and I fall into their age range.

Those of you who have read my post about targeting on Facebook might feel like this is incredibly broad information. It is. Facebook isn’t going to tell you EVERY part of what is targeted. They refrain from sharing it all. But even looking at this ad from Southwest, I can see that they know that the people who are their fans are the people who are repeat purchasers of their sale fares, and those of us in the age range are the most likely to click through and buy.

Let’s take a look at one last example. This is from a Page that isn’t one I consider a big competitor to this site, but it’s one that I watch regularly because we both target similar audiences. Hence, I’ve redacted the identifying information.

Facebook Ads Why Am I Seeing This

A lot of my readers are wedding photographers, and obviously Jasmine Star is someone a lot of wedding photographers know and respect.

All of these examples show just a few of the things you might see when you open up the reasons for being shown the ad. There are a few others that you might see, as well. For example, you might see one that says it’s because you fit an audience as defined by Acxiom or DLX.

Acxiom and DLX are third-party big data houses. These are the partners to Facebook Ads that help Facebook serve up ads to certain income brackets or who is about to go on vacation. They help identify who might be buying a new car or who works from a home office. Didn’t think that targeting could do that? Oh yeah, it can.

So now that you know how to peek into competitor or brand ads targeting, how should you put it in place for your photography business marketing?

The answer is not cut and dry. I personally use it to help inform me about what is happening around me. I like to know what websites who are targeting similar people are targeting. It helps me think about potential new avenues and audiences to explore. It helps me think about audiences I might be missing. It also helps me tread lightly on other audiences – if I see three competitors all targeting those who follow Jasmine Star within a few days of one another, I tend to avoid that audience because the competition drives up prices per click and that audience is probably getting a little fatigued of ads. I’ll probably try another direction for a week or so.

Those who are the best at marketing their photography business are the ones who are keenly aware of their target audiences, but they’re also the ones who are incredibly tuned in to what their competitors are doing. I also feel that the photographers who stay on top of industry trends (even if they don’t participate in said trends), and what’s happening in the medium around them also have an upper hand when it comes to marketing their business.


    • annaliseReply

      Right? It’s one of those little things you can do. Is it going to blow your mind every time? Probably not. But over time it’s interesting to see what is happening with our competitors.

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