How To Use Occupational Targeting In Facebook For B2B Leads & Sales

For many B2B marketers, mainstream social channels a la Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn remain the proverbial Wild West of the contextual online advertising realm. While some early-adopters look to these platforms with intrigue and enthusiasm, others are handicapped by intimidation— skeptical of how rich and sophisticated these social landscapes might be.

Between the two channels, LinkedIn and Facebook boast around 800 million registered users globally. We have tons of experience with B2B clients who are less spooked by the concept of marketing to users in LinkedIn, classically described as the professional’s social network darling.

It can seem a less daunting environment in contrast to Facebook’s social playground, rife with brain-dead apps and pools of users in their ‘tweens. That said, there’s no escaping that FB users outnumber LinkedIn nearly seven to one. No one would argue that a statistically relevant percentage of them have jobs. Marketers would be remiss to assume heavy-duty B2B professionals aren’t kicking it on FB after hours.

Honing in on Facebook users by their occupation can be a seriously dead-eye targeting tactic, especially when approached with creativity, sharp senses and an unconditional willingness to do a lot of supplementary research.

This article will explore various targeting methods, from the literal to the inferred, from workplace to expressed interests.

Occupational Targeting In Facebook: The Workplace Bucket

In the FB Ads user interface (UI), you can directly target people based on their place of employment. This can be a fun, albeit obvious place to begin your trot down the occupational targeting road.

There are a couple of methods. First and most intuitive, simply enter the names of companies you know. Use Google to find other companies in the vertical. Another method near and dear to search marketers is to enter the main terms and synonyms that pertain to your target audience:



Tinker around with alpha-patterns to explore a wider spectrum of segments. In other words, try typing [term] “a”, then “b,” etc. You’ll be amazed at the workplaces discovered. By the way, the “Alpha pattern” thinking works all over the FB UI, so have your fun now as practice.


Social segments culled from the workplace bucket have their advantages, but are not without drawbacks. Often, this method of targeting yields small segment sizes and inherently lacks clarification as to the job function within the workplace.

For instance, if we’re selling expensive medical equipment for canines, and we want to brand to skilled professionals at a veterinary clinic, it’s not enough to target people who “work at ‘Animal Hospital’.” Who’s to say what job they hold? They could be receptionists, not equipment purchasers or decision makers.

Luckily, there are alternative tactics.

Occupational Targeting In Facebook: The Precise Interests Bucket

Over the years, FB has disclosed that the presets populating the Interests bucket are pulled from various data across users profiles, including – you guessed it – job titles.


Whether you’re targeting by literal or inferred interests, be deliberate with the segments you choose. Otherwise, you could end up targeting people who “like” veterinarians or certain clinics, rather than the employees themselves.

Literal Targeting In The Interests Bucket

Explore permutations of the specific occupation you’re targeting. Let’s continue with the example of veterinarians. It’s reasonable to assume someone who “likes ‘veterinary surgeon’” actually is a veterinary surgeon, rather than simply a fan of the occupation.

Just to be sure… we’ll go ahead and check out the page inventory for “veterinary surgeon.”


Not too much. Then, of course, there’s the red-headed stepchild of the Facebook family: the Community Page.

This bit of research reassures us that targeting people who “like ‘veterinary surgeon’” are, in fact, the real deal, i.e.: Facebook is pulling that element from elsewhere on their profile. Let’s continue.


Build out your bucket, populating it with the most relevant interests that define your target’s persona. If you’re not after assistants or associates, skip them. If a result looks unfamiliar, spend a few minutes researching it before you add it to your segment.

Targeting occupations by literal interests might not give up an estimated reach of hundreds of thousands. We’re focusing on quality, not quantity.

I’ll take a cool 30K of tightly targeted critter caretakers over “Animal Hospital” employees any day of the week.

Inferred Targeting In The Interests Bucket

A terrifically sideways approach to targeting users by occupation is to tap into the interests that strongly suggest a profession. We’re talking topical niche hubs – hardcore trade publications, groups and associations, courses and credentials, conferences and seminars, and where applicable, technical vernacular spoken predominately by those in the industry.

Search engines are the contextual marketer’s friend. Let’s leverage the power of search to identify other human attributes we should be looking for, as well as qualify the segments Facebook serves up.

Trade publications are a nice place to start. Who reads them, but our target demographic?

Once you have some insight, map it to Facebook.

Groups and associations are common personal signals. Look to anywhere in the physical world that humans cluster.


Schools and certification programs can be clutch persona clues.


Conferences and expos—more topical real world clusters.


You can burrow down different rabbit holes for hours.

If so desired, go ahead and mash up your literal (“realtorbroker”) and inferred (“Realtors Commercial Alliance”) presets in one giant bucket. Are you getting the picture? Creativity rules the contextual marketing roost.


That’s a pretty sweet honey pot right there. And we didn’t even lump in all of our inferred segments.

Beware Of Misleading Targeting

Be discriminatory with your interest choices, and be prepared to do some research. It’s not enough to assume people who “like ’43 Degrees North Real Estate’” actually work there. Those “likes” are more often than not comprised of customers.


This isn’t a page for realtors – it’s a page for house-hunters or homeowners.

Let’s keep building out some personas.

Additional Demographic Nuggets: Day Traders / Stock Traders

  • Workplace Bucket

  • Interest Bucket – Literal Targeting

  • Interest Bucket – Inferred Targeting

Again, be wary. Here’s a classic example of misleading Interest Bucket targeting we wouldn’t have uncovered without a bit of research.

Additional Demographic Nuggets: In-Home Senior Caregivers

  • Workplace Bucket

  • Interest Bucket – Literal Targeting

  • Interest Bucket – Inferred Targeting (Misleading)


Bonus Occupational Targeting: Facebook vs. LinkedIn Shootout

We thought it would be fun to host an occupational targeting shootout between the two social spaces, comparing apples to apples across the two social platforms.

What follows isn’t to say “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” some examples illustrate that certain professionals have a propensity to unwind in one social community one over the other.



True occupation targeting, although nascent, is clearly going to be a significant (read “radical”) component in the socialized new order of contextual marketing. Early-adopters are starting look to these platforms for ROI and finding success.

Just be aware of what true occupation targeting is and be selective of the signals you accept as indicators. An entire world of professionals is sitting-in-wait for highly-focused, tasteful ads to come their way.

In a future post, we’ll talk about what types of ad creative push buttons and result in KPI conversion. For now, happy hunting!

Related Topics: Advanced | B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Social | How To | How To: Facebook


About The Author: Lauren Litwinka is an online marketer specializing in organic social media, cradle-to-grave community management, search and social creative, real-time journalism, holistic social befriending, as well as content aggregation, creation, and strategic syndication. Currently serving as Community Editor for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, she spends her days sharing valuable industry resources and conversing with likeminded professionals / fellow geeks via the Interwebz -- always striving to connect the right people with the right content. Her first Wiley book, "The Complete Social Media Community Manager's Guide: Essential Tools and Tactics for Business Success," was released in January, 2013 and can be found on You can say hi to Lauren on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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  • Clark Mackey

    This is a great post. Thank you for the detailed look nature of the suggestions. Required reading for anyone building Facebook campaigns.

  • Lauren Litwinka

    Hey Clark – right on! Thanks for the feedback.

  • Phyllis Khare

    Very nice article. Well done. I’m looking forward to the follow up post about what to do once you have that nice targeted list…

  • jli623

    Very helpful! Many advertisers don’t know about the \traps\ they are setting when building their social targeting strategy. Must read!

  • Mary Kay Lofurno

    Thanks for the article.

    We have tested this in both FB & Linkedin and I am sorry to say that it did not convert for us. Our first tests for both were around April of this year. We tried it across a variety of products, knowledge bases, book ecommerce site; and audience generation. I was very disappointed, especially because our products are around B2B technology.

    This is not to say that we won’t try it again. I have it in my mind to test them again first quarter of next year.

  • aisong2005

    This function help us a lot, hope to hear more . Mvh Ken

  • aisong99

     Write very detailed, very helpful to use, did not expect such usage like this.


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