Engaging the Consumer Journey: Display and Paid Social Audience Targeting

May 24, 2019

Utilizing display and paid social marketing strategies allows brands to reach a large pool of users beyond the search engine results page — where most audiences have already evaluated their core brand set and are ready to buy.

As marketers constantly push for maximum impact and efficiency, defining the right goals and segmenting display and paid social audiences is paramount achieving success with such full-phase consumer journey marketing initiatives.

Deciding which audiences to target depends on business objectives and what consumer journey phases are most impactful for your brand. Let’s look at a few ways to utilize various display and social marketing strategies to engage all stages of the consumer journey.


Audiences at the top of the funnel are not necessarily looking to buy or fully engage with a brand, so the goal of this stage should be growing brand exposure. Goals in this phase may range from creating brand awareness (clicks, new visitors, page views) to promoting a time-specific event or product launch of an already-established brand.

Targeting segments: Location, demographic and custom lookalikes (users who are similar to users who have taken actions on your site). 


Users may be shopping around and exploring brands they’re considering for their purchase. Goals like time-on-site, specific-product page traffic and various non-conversion site behaviors can be used to judge performance in this phase.

Targeting segments: Custom affinity (users that could be receptive to your ad through previous actions online), in-market (users who have online actions that show they may be ready to engage with a product or service) and interest (users who have demonstrated an interest relating to or directly with your product or service). 


These users are ready to invest in a product or service but are still comparing the value propositions between brands. These audiences are pre-qualified and on the cusp of investing in a brand. Since they’re more qualified, there’s an expectation of more competition, so capturing these users requires more aggressive and focused targeting.

Targeting segments: Keyword contextual targeting (serving ads to users who are viewing web pages that align with your product or service), remarketing through paid search ads (users who have been served search ads) and competitor targeting. 

Goal Completion

Previous site visitors who haven’t taken a desired action (remarketing audiences) should be targeted in the Goal Completion phase. These audiences are highly qualified because they have researched your brand and may have started to take a desired action, but left your website (cart or form fill abandoners).

Targeting segments: Previous site visitors and valuable CRM audience segments. 


Previous purchasers who have invested in your brand through product or service (remarketing audience) are perfect to reengage for a product upsell, upgraded service or companion product.

Targeting segments: Existing customer lists within internal CRM platforms. 

How do I access the right audiences for my brand?

Applying and testing the appropriate audiences for your display and social campaigns is the best way to ensure you’re reaching the right users at the right time. In the early stages of the Consumer Decision Journey, broad audience targeting (like utilizing demographic and geographic targeting) is available through data native to advertising platforms. In the middle stages of the Consumer Decision Journey, more focused audiences are modeled from brand and platform data via lookalike and affinity audiences. The different advertising platform technologies now create targeting segments for campaigns through anonymous aggregated user data – modeling audiences from predefined attributes or customer lists owned by a brand. In the later stages of the Consumer Decision Journey, highly relevant and most focused audiences are built from brand-owned data and existing media campaigns via remarketing initiatives and existing customer audiences.

If you currently have ads running, the platform you’re using will have tools that’ll give you insights on the users who have interacted with your ads. One powerful tool you can use is Facebook Audience Insights. You can learn how to use this tool in one of our other blog posts, “Master Facebook Audience Insights to Become a Targeting Genius.”

Knowing the purpose of your campaigns, building the most efficient audiences and targeting the right users will allow your campaigns become more successful. One thing to remember: Audiences and the digital space are constantly evolving, so testing different audiences and creative assets should always be top-of-mind (but that’s a different post for a different day).

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