NestScale Blog

2023 TikTok Ads Targeting Options to Reach your Ideal Customers

how to find the target audience for your tiktok ads

For any advertising campaign, success hinges on identifying the target audience, and TikTok Ads are no exception. TikTok Ads Targeting options are effective tools to ensure your TikTok ads reach the ideal audiences.

So, what are the TikTok Ads Targeting options? How to make the best of targeting options to maximize your TikTok ads revenue? All of your concerns will be answered below!

What is TikTok Ads Targeting?

TikTok Ad targeting is a series of ads targeting options to identify what your potential customers look like. As a result, you’re more likely to reach consumers who are interested in your products and services. Particularly, you lower the chance of reaching uninterested users and minimize the marketing costs for your brand. 

To gain access to ad targeting in the Ad group when creating a TikTok ad campaign, you have to sign up for a TikTok Ad Manager account. Then select an ad group after having set up your campaign.

ads targeting options on TikTok

TikTok offers two modes of targeting: Custom targeting and Automatic targeting.

  • Custom targeting: This allows you to set criteria for your targeted users manually.
  • Automatic targeting: Based on your objectives, creativity, and performance, Automatic targeting will decide on the ad targeting option.

As automatic targeting is decided by TikTok when you choose this option, you won’t have to adjust too much. On the other hand, choosing to set up everything manually through means that everything will be a little bit more complex. Therefore, this article will focus mainly on how you can utilize TikTok ad targeting options in the Custom targeting mode.

There are 5 ad targeting options available:

  • Demographic
  • Audience
  • Interests & Behaviors
  • Device
  • Smart options

Demographics targeting

Since 2023, TikTok has updated more options in demographics targeting, making a total of 5 demographics targeting options: gender, language, age, location, household income, and spending power. Each targeting filter has a more specific range of categorization options for brands to choose exactly the types of demographics they need.

  • Gender: Male/Female
  • Language: Based on the audience’s app language.
  • Age: 13-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55+
  • Location: Target potential customers in specific locations including cities, countries, regions, counties, departments, districts, DMA Regions, oblast, provinces, states, and urban communities.
    Keep in mind that some targeting options are not available in all countries. For example, only US citizens can have the option of selecting Country/Region, State/Province, City, and Designated Market Area/DMA.
  • Spending power: Deliver ads to users based on the user’s purchase behavior through TikTok ads
TikTok ads demographic targeting
Demographics option

These 4 first filters are the building blocks of demographic targeting. Therefore, remember to assess your products and target market before filling in these fundamental details. This will ensure that the demographics that you choose are suitable. In addition, if your target market is more niche or high-end, the last targeting option can be extremely helpful.

For instance, if you’re advertising high-end jewelry, it’s smarter to target those with more spending power.

Audience targeting

TikTok ads audience targeting remains a crucial factor to your campaign success as it helps you improve your ads’ performance. You can target your audience in 2 approaches: Broad targeting and Narrow targeting.

Audience targeting options on TikTok ads

Broad targeting

If you are having trouble identifying your audience, it’s okay! TikTok’s algorithm allows you to find potential customers beyond any pre-defined parameters. By leaving the targeting options blank, its system will identify the most relevant audience for your brand, increasing the reach and impact of your campaigns.

Narrow targeting

When you decide to specify your target audience, you just need to fill into 2 sections that TikTok Ads Manager provides to you, which are Include and Excluded:

  • Include: When you fill in the Include section, you’re telling TikTok to include the traits of your previous Lookalike or Custom Audience. This data is what you get from your customer file, engagement history, app activity, and so on.
  • Excluded: In contrast with Include, choosing Exclude means that you’re asking TikTok to leave out the characteristics of your Lookalike or Custom Audiences.

Now, let’s check out the two options to help TikTok narrow down your target audience:

Custom Audience

This type of targeting is beneficial for re-targeting purposes, particularly when you wish to re-engage similar customer profiles that have given you conversion before. Furthermore, it allows you to increase your following, increase app engagement, or create lookalike audiences.

There are six ways to create a Custom Audience:

  • Customer file
  • Engagement
  • App activity
  • Website traffic
  • Lead generation
  • Business account audience.

You can watch the instructions from TikTok Business Center to understand how it operates: 

Lookalike Audience

Lookalike Audience is a powerful tool that helps businesses find potential customers with similar attributes to their existing customer base. Particularly, by analyzing data like age, location, and interests, the tool can expand your audience reach and increase your chances of finding interested buyers.

To generate accurate results, you need to have a source audience of at least 10,000 people and provide precise information about your audience. It’s also essential to choose the right audience size option, which can be Specific, Balanced, or Broad.

  • Choose the Specific option if you want the tool to find people who are very similar to your existing customers,
  • Choose the Broad option if you want to cast a wider net and find more people who might be interested in your product.

Here is a complete guide from TikTok Business Center to help you get started with this feature: 

Interests & Behaviors targeting

Since August 2022, TikTok has changed its Interest & Behaviour interface to optimize the selection process. Hence, in the Interest & Behaviour targeting dashboard, you will find 3 main targeting options: Interest, Purchase Intention, and Behaviors/Interactions (Video interactions, Creator interactions, Hashtag interactions)

Interests & Behavior targeting

Interest Targeting

With the Interest Targeting section, you can find your potential customers depending on what they are most interested in and how they interact with your TikTok content.

There are 2 categories of Interest Targeting: Interest Categories and Additional Interest. For further details, we will show you how to use both of them in TikTok Ads Manager:

Interest Categories

Interest Categories on TikTok are lists of interests based on categories. If your business operates in a specific field and you know your ideal customers, these categories can save you time. TikTok even breaks them down into sub-categories and calculates the audience size, making it easier to reach your chosen audience.

Interest categories

For example, if you want to advertise your adventure-themed game, “Games” and “Travels” can be the two interests to choose. When moving the cursor to each specific interest, TikTok will even display the potential audience size.

Search additional interests

However, even if you’re unable to locate your viewers’ preferences in the Interest Categories, don’t worry. TikTok has got you covered with its additional interest suggestions.

First, just type in your desired interests into the search bar. Then, the additional interests that share similarities with the original one will be displayed on the screen.

Additional interest

In this case, as I type the word “Jump“, a number of related interests such as “Jump rope” or “Bungee jumping” are suggested. This helps me to easily choose more relevant interests for my audience.

Note: Pangel doesn’t allow Interest Targeting so you can’t find out any users from it.

Purchase Intention targeting

Purchase Intent targeting displays content to audiences on the For You Page who are “in-market”. In other words, it’s those users actively researching or buying a specific category of product or service. This targeting is beneficial to drive lower-funnel marketing success since it helps brands optimize both purchase conversions and costs. 

Purchase intention

Important to note, this feature is all about conversions. To see ‘Purchase Intent’ in your Interest & Behaviors targeting, you need to select conversion advertising objectives like App promotion, Lead generation, Website conversions, and Product sales.

Behavior/Interactions targeting

With the support of behavior targeting, you can define the audience based on their recent interaction in the platform through organic and paid content. It’s quite different from Interest Targeting which concentrates on long-term content consumption.

There are three types of behavior: Video-related interactions, Creator interactions, and Hashtag interactions.

TikTok behavior ads targeting options
  • Video Interactions: With video interactions, you can record users’ interactions with organic video content from the last 7 or 15 days (video completion, likes, comments, and shares). Additionally, you can select users who have recently watched, liked, commented on your post, or shared a certain genre of material.
  • Creator Interactions: This feature lets you filter users who have followed or viewed profiles in a specific category, giving you a better chance to connect with a relevant audience for your business.
  • Hashtag Interactions: Using hashtags is an easy way for the audience to find your content since they can easily find your brand based on specific hashtags. When clicking on “Hashtag interactions“, you can see that TikTok already provides popular hashtag bundles for you to target. You can always search and find more hashtags in the search bar.

Device targeting

If most, or all of your target audience happens to be using a special device or device setting, you can also adjust the Device targeting option to serve your needs. TikTok provides 6 device targeting options that cover most of the device settings:

  • Operating system (OS) versions: As the name suggests, it is a list of versions based on your selected operating system.
  • Device model: This option also varies based on your OS options. For example, if you choose Android, TikTok will suggest a list of Android software devices for you, such as Google, HUAWEI, Lenovo, LG, etc.
  • Connection type: WIFI, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
  • Carriers: Deliver ads to users based on their mobile phone carriers. As each country has its own mobile phone carriers, the suggested options will differ from country to country.
  • Internet service provider (ISP): Deliver ads to users based on their most frequently used ISPs in the past 30 days. Similar to the carriers targeting, the ISP targeting option will also differ from country to country.
  • Device price: You can also target users based on the price of their devices. You can either select Any price or go with a specific range of your choice.
Device targeting

Smart TikTok ads targeting options

In addition to the regular targeting we talked about earlier, TikTok also offers some clever targeting options to boost your results and save you time. Let’s check out these three smart targeting options to supercharge your ad performance:

Targeting recommendation

Targeting recommendations are an effective tool for advertisers to reach their desired audience through ads. By evaluating and analyzing the performance of similar ad groups and your current ads, you can identify suggested Interests & Behaviors categories that are relevant to your brand and apply them accordingly.

Setting up this feature is super easy. In “Recommended categories” under Interest & Behaviors, click “Show all” to reveal all of TikTok’s interest suggestions based on your industry. It’s important to note that the first recommendation will have the widest reach with a large available audience, and the audience size will decrease as the choices become more specific.

Targeting recommendation

Targeting expansion

When the system predicts that it will be difficult to deliver ads to your intended audience based on your initial targeting selections, turning on Targeting expansion is a way to broaden your targeting settings to reach a larger audience.

You can easily use this feature by taking some simple steps. First, in the targeting expansion option, turn on the Targeting Expansion toggle under Device. Then, tick on the criteria that you want to expand your target. Only those criteria that you’ve chosen the conditions before can be ticked.

Targeting expansion

This targeting feature is that it’s only available for conversion marketing objectives. Also, Targeting expansion won’t be available to Pangle, too. So, if you want to ensure your conversion for your TikTok ads, you can resort to this support when your available audience is too narrow.

A new update is coming up: In the upcoming weeks, the Targeting Expansion won’t appear in the Targeting section anymore. Instead. it will be replaced with Smart Targeting toggles, including Smart Interests & Behavior and Smart Audience.

Automatic targeting

Automatic targeting is a feature that will automatically target the right audience for a marketing campaign without needing much involvement from advertisers.

Specifically, it will optimize the targeting settings based on some factors such as marketing goals, ad delivery, ad content, and previous campaign information.

How to make use of most of this function for your campaign? Let’s take a look at some steps below to set up Automatic Targeting: 

Step 1: Campaign > Choose advertising objectives 

It’s important to note that only some objectives support Automatic Targeting, such as Traffic, App, Lead Gen, Community Interaction, and Conversion Web.

Choose advertising objectives 
Choose advertising objectives 

Step 2: Go Ad group > Targeting > Automatic Targeting

Automatic targeting

A new update is coming up: At the moment, the Automatic targeting is in a separate tab for you to choose. However, in the upcoming time, this optimizing feature will be applied to all ads. We will announce to you the change as soon as possible, so stay tuned with us!

TikTok Ads targeting options: Common issues & How to solve

My audience is too narrow and is generating zero revenue 

Solution #1: Aim broad by expanding your Location options 

Start broad (Location Targeting only) to allow the platform to explore the audiences that would work best for your campaigns

broad audience size

When TikTok determines that your audience is wide-ranging, it will show its assessment on the screen so you can be aware.

Solution #2: Analyze the segments by identifying the trending interests and behavior. 

Understanding the trend behind the users’ interest and behavior can help you execute Interest & Behavior targeting more efficiently. It is also recommended that at least 15 interest and/or behavior categories are added to make sure your ad can reach a large audience. 

Solution #3: Finetune your targeting if necessary

To optimize your advertising campaign, consider creating a separate ad group for your best-performing interest/behavior tags. You can allocate a higher budget to this ad group to increase the chances of reaching your target audience effectively.

Otherwise, if you are still in doubt, you can consider campaign budget optimization (CBO) to automatically optimize toward the best-performing ad group. 

I failed to retarget my audience from older campaigns

Solution: Make sure your custom audience is made relevant and current, and rebuild if necessary 

TikTok’s audience collection is limited to 180 days, after which the audience will gradually decay and become ineffective for campaign targeting purposes.

That’s why you need to ensure that any custom audiences are created and activated after the campaign ends, within 180 days (6 months) with auto refresh switched off.

I am uncertain about the performance of my ad

Solution: Split Test

If you are a small business with a limited budget, targeting a broad audience can be a costly and worrisome approach since there is no guarantee that the ad will be relevant to such a large group of audience.

This is when a split test comes to save you! A split test, or A/B testing, lets you test two ad versions and optimize future campaigns by identifying the better-performing ad. To utilize this feature, there are some notices that you should keep in mind: 

  • To ensure effective testing, you should establish a proper framework and clearly define the hypothesis or question you intend to answer through the test. 
  • When a winning ad group is identified with a confidence level of 90% or higher, it means that the chances of obtaining the same results in a repeated test are also at 90%. Hence, you can use this result for future campaign targeting. 

You can watch the video below to understand the process behind setting up a split test:

Set up a split test in TikTok Ads Manager

It’s time to find the right audiences on TikTok!

Finding your target audience for your TikTok Ads is easier than ever with the support of Ad Targeting. If used properly, it can deliver your products and services to the right users as fast as possible. In addition, including this function in your marketing campaign will broaden your brand reach and drive fantastic results.

Want to run your TikTok ads campaign effectively with smart audience recommendations, the right strategy, and dedicated support from experts? It’s time to try NestAds – our all-in-one TikTok ads management software, tailored-made for your e-commerce. With NestAds, you can easily analyze your TikTok ads performance and conduct in-depth targeting by using our report and custom & lookalike audience tools. No need to go further than your store – you can manage everything in just one NestAds platform!


Meet our Author


Author at NestScale

Kriss is a professional content writer, focusing on technology and e-commerce business. When she’s not working, you will find her interested in sports or traveling.


Recent post

You may also like ...

You may also like...

Want to grow your business? Let's talk.