A Social Media Advertiser’s Guide to TikTok, Facebook, & Instagram: Audience Targeting

Pinpointing and engaging with the right audience can make or break a social media advertising campaign. This is even more critical for local social advertising. Franchisees and location managers have limited budgets. Every dollar counts. Audience targeting ensures advertising is not wasted on viewers outside their area. While Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok share common ground, their approaches diverge in crucial ways, offering advertisers distinct avenues to reach their desired demographics. 

Facebook and Instagram use the same targeting technology, we’ll discuss them as Facebook for simplicity.

Core Targeting Capabilities of Facebook and TikTok

Facebook and TikTok equip advertisers with tools to target based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and device preferences. Similarities also emerge in location targeting as outlined in the table below. 

Facebook TikTok
DMA/Region DMA/Region
City City
Zip or Postal CodesZip or Postal Codes**Not launched in all areas
Congressional DistrictsDepartment
Geographical Region (Broad Locations)Urban District
WorldwideSome targeting options are not available in all countries or regions.
Other Restrictions:
Some advertisers may be subject to the Housing, Employment, and Credit ad policy.
Other Restrictions: Some advertisers may be subject to the Housing, Employment, and Credit ad policy.

This foundational similarity lays the groundwork for effective audience engagement across both platforms. However, it’s in the nuances of location targeting where the true distinctions emerge. 

Nuances in Location Targeting: A Detailed Comparison

When it comes to location targeting, Facebook boasts a mature suite of tools that enable advertisers to refine their audience focus down to a specific address and its surrounding area. This granularity empowers advertisers to home in on hyper-local audiences with surgical precision. Facebook’s geo-targeting tool allows advertising across multiple locations in a densely populated area without overlap.

On the other hand, TikTok offers a broad range of geographical parameters for targeting, including provinces, urban districts, and zip codes (where available). However, TikTok’s user base may not be dense enough in certain areas to allow for city-specific targeting, which can limit advertisers’ ability to target as precisely as on Facebook. Still, marketers can effectively direct traffic to specific locations using landing page URLs.

The Age Factor: How Platform Maturity Influences Targeting

Facebook (Meta), with its roots stretching back to 2004, has had a significant head start compared to TikTok, which only burst onto the scene in 2016. This time advantage has allowed Facebook to build a vast user base, ensuring that even the most specific ad campaigns find a sizable audience. It’s not just about the numbers, though. Over the years, Meta has poured resources into refining its advertising technology, with a keen focus on boosting advertiser performance. This dedication has turned advertising into its main revenue source, with advances in machine learning and AI leading the charge in creating more precise targeting options. Simply put, Facebook’s blend of a large, diverse audience and cutting-edge ad tech make it a powerhouse for advertisers. 

But that doesn’t mean advertisers should ignore TikTok. Given its rapid expansion, TikTok is on track to match Facebook’s targeting capabilities. The journey to achieving this parity will likely be faster for TikTok, as Facebook has already paved the way, establishing a blueprint for successful targeting strategies. Moreover, TikTok’s immense popularity underscores a crucial point: advertisers should not delay leveraging this platform for their campaigns. Waiting for TikTok to fully catch up might mean missing out on the opportunity to establish a strong presence and connect with its vibrant, rapidly growing user base.

Miss our previous articles in this series?  Check out: A Social Media Advertiser’s Guide to TikTok, Facebook, & Instagram: Demographics & Statistics,” and “A Social Media Advertiser’s Guide to TikTok, Facebook, & Instagram: Objectives & Budget.”


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