How to target your TikTok Ads audience

TikTok Ads
April 23, 2024

Despite TikTok still being considered as largely untapped by advertisers, you’ll see many known brands jump into the bandwagon as it has become quite the platform to discover new products. Thanks to its massive active user count and immense popularity, it’s easy to understand why this platform has become the new ‘it’ when it comes to social media marketing (check our ‘TikTok Ads Guide for Beginners [2022 Edition’ to learn which niches work well on TikTok). 

Whether you decide to market your brand through TikTok influencer marketing or through targeted ads, rest assured that with its clever targeting algorithm—you’ll be able to reach the right audience who will take a liking to your product or service. 

How do we know, you asked?

You see, TikTok’s algorithm is based on the platform’s objective: to provide curated content that is authentic, and relevant to the user. From trending topics—to trends within the video community, these algorithms ensure that the most relevant content reaches the largest possible audience.

But how exactly does the TikTok targeting algorithm work? 

In this article, we’ll dissect the different targeting options, and how it influences  the content algorithm:

  • Audience 
  • Demographics
  • Interests 
  • Behaviour 
  • Device

Audience Targeting

Just as with any successful ad campaign, your TikTok Ad campaign starts with the CORRECT set of audience targeting. You can start by either choosing to target Lookalike Audiences or Custom Audiences. 

Here is how to decipher when to choose which:

Lookalike Audiences are people who share similar characteristics with your current customer base. They may not be your actual customers, but they are likely to be interested in your products and services. The idea behind using lookalikes is that if you know someone who shares some of these characteristics, you can use them to reach out to others who share those same characteristics.

This option is great for cold outreach.

According to TikTok’s Business website, you may choose to apply Lookalike Audiences regardless of whichever stage you are in the Ad Group delivery phase:  

  • Cold start: During this stage, Lookalike Audience can minimise the time it takes for users to find your product or service, and help the algorithms understand  which group of audience are likely to be interested in your ads, and the product you are promoting quicker. This—in turn, helps you get conversions faster.
  • Mature delivery phase: this is when you’ve achieved your conversion rate goals and want to expand your audience further. By using Lookalike Audiences at this stage, it will allow you to find people who are similar to your current customers and target these new audiences to maximise your ROI. 
  • Decline phase: at this point, this is when your audience starts to drop off and you need to start thinking about how you can get new people to see your ads. By applying Lookalike Audiences at this stage, it will extend the life cycle of your delivery—therefore, allowing you to target similar audiences who may not have seen your ad.

Now if you’re looking to target your warm leads, then Custom Audience is the right option for you. 

Custom Audiences is where you can target people who have already shown interest in your brand or products by having engaged with your brand in the past, have either liked or visited your page.  

This option is great for re-marketing purposes, reaching potentially repeat customers, expanding your following or app engagement.  Bear in mind that you should have at least 1,000 audiences (minimum size) before you can target Custom Audiences in an ad group. 

Currently, there are six ways a Custom Audience can be created. You may choose to customise it based on:

  • Customer File;
  • Engagement;
  • App Activity;
  • Website Traffic;
  • Lead Generation; or
  • Business Account Audience.

Targeting by Demographics

You know you’ve done a great marketing plan when you have your persona nailed down; because knowing the who, the what and where is your blueprint to effectively reach the audience who you want your ads to be seen by. 

Good news is: TikTok has this covered. Depending on your needs, you may select one, or all of the following:

Location Targeting allows you to deliver campaigns to specific countries, regions, states, provinces, among others—giving you the ability to tailor-fit messaging and offers. 

Do note though that targeting options may vary from country to country. This means that some countries may have the option to target a city, and others won’t. In addition, since location targeting relies on a range of signals to ensure users who are aligned with your targeted location are served your ads to, delivery cannot be ascertained. 

Gender. Yes—because some products are gender-specific!

Age. This is segmented per the following: 13-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55+.

Language; an option you want to use if you want to target those who speak a specific language who may not necessarily be residing in the country where that particular language is native in (you don’t want to exclude travellers or expats living in other countries, do you?). 

Defining your audience based on any of these is great—however, be mindful when doing so because you might end up narrowing your target down too much. 

Interests Targeting

Interest Targeting is a great way of reaching individuals based on their long-term interests and interaction with content on TikTok. It’s also a good way to get more engagement from existing fans. 

There are a couple of ways you may characterise your targeted user: Interest Categories and Additional Categories. 

Note that Additional Category is defined as interests that do not return an exact match in the list of predefined categories available in the drop-down menu.  By typing it down on the search box, all interests that are relevant will show up (see illustration 1.3). 

Here are screenshots taken from TikTok Ads Manager’s UI: 

Illustration 1.1: screenshot of the interest & Behaviour overview.
TikTok Business Help Center 

Select Add Interest

Illustration 1.2: screenshot of expanded view when adding interest
TikTok Business Help Center


To search for Additional Interest:

Illustration 1.3: screenshot expanded view when searching for additional interests that did not return an exact match in the predefined list of interest categories.
TikTok Business Help Center

Behaviour Targeting

You guessed it! 

This type gives you the ability to target users based on their recent in-app content interactions and behaviours—making it an incredibly efficient and powerful way to:

  • Test your audience;
  • Analyse your campaign(s); 
  • Make sure your campaign(s) are spending; and 
  • Evaluate your audience’s performance. 

There are two categories that can help you analyse how your audience engages with content on TikTok: Video-related Actions and Creator Following Actions

Video-related Actions are engagements that users perform inside TikTok such as watching a video in its entirety, and  liking, sharing and commenting on videos. Such interactions associate users with ‘video tags’ which may then are used as category options (under behaviour targeting) when marketers create a campaign.  


TikTok can now target based on someone’s device usage online (all thanks to multiple recent updates that Android and iOS has done in the past two years in efforts to distinguish which device belongs to which OS). 

With this option, you may define which OS is targeted. This is especially useful to brands that cater to very specific niches such as those that sell device-specific products (iPhone covers, etc.)

Our thoughts

While there are associated risks when it comes to advertising, it does not have to be a scary process. By making sure you are well-informed every step of the way, you increase your chances at achieving success on TikTok. 

Remember: knowing your audience is key to effective target marketing—and with TikTok’s targeting options, you have all the tools you need to successfully scale your brand on this platform. 

If you want to find out more about what we could do for your business, jump on a free strategy call with us to know how we can help you grow your brand!

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