Tiktok Ad Targeting

Let’s continue our series of articles about TikTok. This platform never ceases to amaze, each developer conference presents us with new tools for creating effective ad campaigns, increasing the potential audience for targeting, simplifying ways to influence users, expanding ad formats, and so on.

Yes, TikTok is evolving, so the guides on the platform become obsolete very quickly. And they need to be updated. If you have already looked at the targeting manual for TikTok 4-6 months ago, then you will be disappointed, as a significant part of the information is no longer relevant. So, today we are creating the newest targeting guide in TikTok, which will reveal to you all the existing features, identify the nuances, and help you target your ad campaign exclusively to the target audience.

About targeting in general and targeting in TikTok

Not all of our readers are established professional marketers or work in marketing affiliates. Some of the participants are newcomers who are just making their first steps in the industry. Therefore, in order for our review to be universal and suitable for a person with any level of competence, we will go through the basics a little.

So, targeting (in a narrow sense) is the process of fine-tuning the parameters of an ad campaign so that your ads are shown only to people interested in these offers. Yes, targeting means that you have already formed your own target audience. Whether you have identified it based on the analysis of past ad campaign, with the help of parsing or by pure analytics without input data, doesn’t matter, this guide is not about that. If you are interested in basic skills like forming target audience for an offer, then you should start learning here.

Well, targeting in most cases, no matter how companies assure you otherwise, is identical on almost every platform. Yes, some tools have more features, others have less. Ad networks often have less features than top social networks and search engines. But at the same time, they take their toll with the help of a narrow niche in the market, work in one or two verticals and with specific ad formats (e.g., networks purely for pooches or only for adult).

And here is an example of classic and modern targeting that meets all the requirements of a marketer or affiliate, you can see the example of targeting on Instagram described in this article.

What is the difference between ad targeting in TikTok and other networks? In terms of using modern technologies and features, there’s virtually no difference. TikTok is a bit behind, but in general it is quite consistent with Facebook Ads Manager, which is used to set up targeting on both Facebook and Instagram. However, in terms of unique and distinctive features, TikTok can present a lot of surprises. And they are not always pleasant, let’s be honest. But we’ll talk about it later.

TikTok Ads Manager

This is the key tool with which we will work on the platform. To use it, you will definitely need a business account. That is, you won’t be able to create full-fledged ad campaigns on a simple user account. Yes, it is possible to promote a specific video from the channel in a more simplified form without a business account and TikTok Ads Manager, but this method won’t work for a full-fledged ad campaign and product/offer promotion. And for a professional, too, even if they only use a channel to buy traffic from it.

After registration, the tool itself will be available to you with a concise design, a discreet interface, but at the same time with massive functionality that is hidden in a variety of unobtrusively located options.

TikTok Ads Manager
TikTok Ads Manager page

It is convenient that TikTok Ads Manager combines several roles at once. Thanks to its own ecosystem created by the platform, you create advertising campaigns, track and analyze them from a single interface. User audiences are loaded right there, Pixel is connected, comments are tracked, creatives are created. If you need to switch to an additional service, such as a Creative Center or a Commercial Sound Library, then the transition is also made directly from TikTok Ads Manager by clicking the corresponding options.

It is noteworthy that the tool allows you to export reporting forms from your tracker or directly from the accounting department directly to the local tracker. It also allows to combine general reporting, again, to process directly in the virtual cabinet. Thus, TikTok AdsManager will become a single control center for working with this platform.

And if something is suddenly updated on the platform, the moderators immediately notify the user that a new function has appeared or the old one has changed. This happened with our test account when the new comment tracking feature was introduced. Therefore, you won’t miss the news.

Notifications about new products
Notifications about changes in functionality

And, obviously, TikTok Ads Manager is where we will configure our targeting.

Restriction of targeting in TikTok

So far, we have talked exclusively about the good things, about the charms of the platform, the convenience and simplicity it provides to advertisers. But there is also a downside – complications. And one of them is strict targeting restrictions. Let’s see which ones.

Firstly, we can’t target countries that are not on the lists of acceptable ones for our region. That is, if we have registered in the USA, then we will have one list of available countries, if in Spain – another. And this is the most important obstacle – limited GEOtargeting. For global GEO, you will need to have a dozen accounts registered in different countries. And a simple VPN won’t help here (except temporarily or in the absence of manual moderation of the ad campaign). You will have to buy accounts.

But if, in principle, you are going to target the nearest regions or your own, then there will be no problems. Key regions are accessible to many, for example, you can target Turkey, Indonesia and Japan from almost anywhere. You can tune in to any European country if you are registered in a European country. Targeting the USA is more difficult, for this you need an account from North America.

Secondly, the placement also depends on the country you specified during registration. TikTok by default provides the opportunity to promote various partner apps through NewsFeed, as well as through the Pangle network. But these apps also have their limitations. In one country, everything will be available, in another – only a half, in yet another only the stories feed, and so on. So, if you are going to promote your creatives not only through TikTok or even not at all through TikTok, you will have to study the acceptable placement for your country first of all.

Thirdly, TikTok has strict rules. And they are in many ways much stricter than in similar social networks. For example, it’s impossible to promote dietary supplements through TikTok. Without restrictions, no matter if the drug works or not, it’s made by an underground factory or it’s used in the best hospitals in Seattle – it’s impossible. Same goes for gambling, adult, tobacco and political ads. Of course, many people use cloaking, but you have to make sure it’s worth it.

There are many restrictions, but how can a social network outweigh the disadvantages? There are some advantages. First of all, it is worth saying that targeting in TikTok really has unique features, which we will analyze in detail below. And it really allows you to target more accurately with the right analytical skills than even Facebook Ads Manager. And secondly, it’s worth noting that this is virtually the only comfortable and really effective way to target the Asian audience entirely. The Asian and especially the Chinese market is very closed, it’s difficult to get into it with your offers. But the additional TikTok placement allows you to use creatives on all the most popular networks, messengers and apps in Asia.

TikTok Targeting Settings

Well, now we are opening our TikTok Ads Manager, creating a new random ad campaign and starting to figure out what targeting in this social network has in store for us.

Creation of ad campaign
Creation of ad campaign on TikTok
Name of ad campaign
Name of ad campaign on TikTok

Goal selection

Some marketers may say that goal selection is not part of targeting. And they will be deeply wrong. After all, in fact, the choice of a goal both in TikTok and in any other social network is exclusively a targeting function. Yes, it works not directly, but indirectly, increases or decreases the potential audience, uses hard or soft compliance with the established targeting settings, and also determines which form of traffic payment will be used. So, we reasonably begin the analysis of targeting by choosing a goal.

TikTok gives us a choice of three categories of goals. Awareness and conversions have only one goal each, but viewing includes 5 goals at once.

Goals of ad campaign in TikTok
Goals of ad campaign

Let’s start at the beginning:

  • Awareness-reach. A goal suitable mainly for large brands that demonstrate a new product or event to the market, as well as news of any format. It’s also suitable for new brands that want to gather a primary audience. By choosing such a goal, we will set a very mediocre match between impressions and our target audience, which we will determine by targeting. Plus, the CPM model works here, which , by the way, is very expensive in TikTok in terms of price and profit ratio
  • Conversions. A goal that is necessary if you buy traffic to your site followed by a targeted action. This can be a purchase, registration, app installation, and so on. At least signing the petition is your business. The main thing is that for such a purpose 100% Pixel will be needed. You will also need to set the settings correctly, for example, whether it’s necessary to re-route only traffic that has already been on the site, or is it just necessary to route only such traffic
  • Traffic. The most common and familiar goal for most marketing affiliates, and marketers from other fields are familiar with it. The goal will be to set up targeting in such a way that ads are shown to users who are highly likely to go to the source site. They won’t perform an action there, namely, they will cross over. This is the difference from the conversion goal. Pixel is no longer required
  • App Installs. The same purpose as traffic, but for a specific action – installing the app. In most cases, you will need a Pixel analog, only for apps developed by the platform
  • Video views. Without going to the source. It means watching the video in TikTok itself, that is, the goal is suitable only if you promote your channel on a social network or if you route traffic from TikTok to YouTube, where the full versions of the video are posted, for example
  • Lead generation. A relatively new feature for the platform. Forming a list of potential customers, with which you can then fine-tune an already expensive ad
  • Community interaction. Another new product that didn’t exist before. The goal is to promote the TikTok account itself. Not a specific video, but the entire profile, both personal and community. Targeting goes towards people who subscribe to accounts more often, have a large pool of subscriptions


To select a specific placement, you need to switch the default checkmark from automatic placement to select placement.

Placement in TikTok
Choosing a TikTok placement

The automatic option is suitable exclusively for beginners, or if the placement doesn’t matter much to you. But it’s difficult to even assume that, because usually a marketer knows exactly through which platforms they are going to promote the offer.

By unchecking, three placement categories open up to us. This is the partners’ feed, TikTok itself and Pangle. For the test, it is recommended to work exclusively through TikTok, unless you are going to explore the Asian or Turkish market (many apps are of Turkish origin, and there are also options from Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates).

Keep in mind that if you are promoting an offer for the entire placement at once, then you need to choose a balanced format of creatives, and this is almost unrealistic. After all, square forms of creatives are often used in some feeds, and in TikTok itself, as you understand, vertical ones are used. Plus, the user interface of the apps is different, important information in some of them may be overlapped by overlays. More about TicToc’s advertising formats here.

Therefore, in my opinion, the only right option is to register a new ad campaign for each placement with its own targeting settings and creative formats.

By the way, if you include Pangle in the placement list, then a new function opens for you – the blacklist of apps. With it, you can add specific apps that you don’t want to use. And then irrelevant apps in Pangle will be blocked, your ads will not appear there.

Blacklist of Pangle
Pangl’s app blacklist

Audience targeting in TikTok

To use this option, we first need to get our own user audience. And it is created absolutely not here, not in the settings menu of the ad campaign. To do this, we need to go to the assets tab, and then select the Audience.

Creating an audience
Creating an audience fof ad campaign

Recently, TikTok offered 4 ways to create an audience, but now 5 are already available. Lead generation was added to the list has been replenished with. But let’s analyze all the methods.

Methods for creating audiences
Methods for creating audiences on TikTok
  • Lead Generation. Adding users based on an instant form of ads. That is, the function works perfectly together with the lead generation goal. Then you can target those who, in principle, have read the form or entered their data (email address, full name, phone number, and so on)
  • Customer File. This involves is upnloading your personal file, which contains a list of customers. Either those with whom you have already worked before, for example, the collected contacts of customers who ordered the service. or the result of parsing for a specific resource. In most cases, you will need a phone number, but you can also try an email address. But then there will be fewer matches, which means that it will potentially affect traffic too
  • Engagement. A list of people who have already interacted with your content in one way or another – commented, liked or just watched the video. This is a way to focus immediately on a slightly warmed-up audience, which, of course, will probably lead to a higher conversion rate. But again, the total volume of traffic is seriously reduced, unless you have millions of views on the video, of course
  • App activity. A list is formed of those users who have performed a certain set of actions in your app
  • Website traffic. Same as in the previous paragraph, but for websites, not apps
Let’s clarify that for the last two methods it’s necessary to have either a Pixel or its equivalent for apps.

In the same menu, we can create a similar audience. Just like in Facebook, Ads Manager allows to scale your list. Let’s say you parsed out all the useful traffic from the site and the resulting list contains barely a couple thousand users. Of course, this is not enough for a full-fledged ad campaign. But we know that it was these people who liked our site. So, we are scaling this audience, and TikTok finds people similar to those on the list. This means that it is likely that they will like our site, since they have many common features with our audience.

Creating a lookalike audience
Creating a lookalike audience on TikTok

To scale, we need to load an already generated list – the user audience. Now we are returning to our ad campaign and can safely include or exclude one or more generated user audiences.

Audience selection
Selecting the user audience

GEOtargeting in TikTok

Only one field is allocated for GEOtargeting itself. And it’s worth saying that specifically in this regard TikTok has a rather narrow choice. But this is understandable, because countries are limited to the list that is available for your country during registration. Usually it’s 4 to 20 countries, depending on the popularity of TikTok in your country.

GEOtargeting – selecting users by country

Accordingly, we won’t review the choice of the country in detail. However, choosing a region or a city within the country is already a more extensive task, as the service includes all major cities, but only large ones. You won’t find small settlements with 10-20 thousand inhabitants if they do not have some special significance (a tourist destination, for example).

Example of GEOtargeting
Example of GEOtargeting on TikTok

You can include an unlimited number of countries and regions among those that are available to you. You can change the settings at any time, so the campaign is finalized promptly, without stopping the process itself.

Separately, I would like to say that not so long ago TikTok began targeting DMA. These are dedicated market areas that divide the entire US region into 210 locations. Moreover, borders are based not on territorial factors, but on purely economic ones. They allow you to fine-tune the target audience up to the areas inside the city, observing economic expediency. After all, for example, New York is far from a homogeneous structure, let alone its suburbs. And with DMA, you will be able to pay a lot only for really expensive areas, which means premium clicks.

DMA targeting function
DMA таргетинг

Obviously, you will be able to target DMA in TikTok only if the USA is an accessible country for you. But the function itself is very useful. It allows both small brands and marketing affiliates to participate in the competitive race, while not draining huge budgets for expensive clicks. But again, to work with DMA, you need some experience as a marketer and at least an average level of competence.

Demographic targeting

As for demographic settings, they are not the most extensive, if not narrow. In this aspect, TikTok is clearly inferior to its competitors. Maybe it is just not trying to compete, trying to look more towards targeting by interests and behavioral factor.

Demographic targeting
Demographic targeting settings

Thus, we have here:

  • The usual choice of gender
  • Age groups that don’t allow you to choose the exact age or a smaller range than the system offers
  • Any language to choose

Interests and behavioral factor

Now we got to the targeting options that TikTok has the right to be proud of. For the most part, these capabilities determine the accuracy of your targeting. Thus, you mustn’t ignore these options.

TikTok doesn’t provide too many interests for targeting at first glance, but every option has a concise explanation that pops up when you hover the mouse. Naturally, interests can be combined, you are free to add any number. However, for reasonable reasons, you shouldn’t add opposing interests, so as not to reduce the potential audience too much.

It is noteworthy that some interests, like Financial Services or Travel, don’t have built-in categories. The developers decided that these are quite narrow categories, so it makes no sense to split them into internal groups.

Targeting by interests

Other interests, for example Beauty & Personal Care, include a lot of categories at once.

Interests – categories of Beauty & Personal Care
Example of interests – categories of Beauty & Personal Care

But this is not the most intriguing thing about the service yet. The main thing is the behavioral factor. It is also heterogeneous, divided into two main categories.

The first is interactions with videos. To work with the option, we again need to select the categories of interests. Having determined the most suitable positions, the system will automatically target people who interacted with the video using the designated tags.

It’s convenient that we choose the trigger of this interaction ourselves. There are 4 options: watched to the end, shared, commented, liked. And we also choose the time for which the analysis is carried out. There are always two options – 7 or 15 days. Of course, TikTok is a very modern and dynamic platform. The mood of users here also changes quickly. And if the user liked something 30 days ago, it’s far from fact that they like it now. The developers themselves seem to hint that for effective ad, we need to work with a warmed-up audience. And the warm-up with the help of videos on selected topics shouldn’t happen earlier than two weeks ago. In principle, it’s a very logical approach.

Interaction with videos
User interaction with video

The second is interaction with creators. Here the principle is absolutely the same, but there is no time limit. And there are only two interaction options – viewing a creator profile and subscribing to it.

Interaction with the content maker
User interaction with the content maker

Device targeting in TikTok

This section turned out to be surprisingly extensive. And in fact, this is one of the most high-quality targeting methods specifically by device.

Targeting by device
Targeting by device type

To begin with, we are offered to choose an operating system. There are no surprises here, the standard polar scheme – iOS и Android.

The second item is the OS version. The list contains all versions of the designated operating systems that exist, even those that have not been supported by developers for a long time.

Next is the device model. All the largest and most famous brands of the planet are represented. But there are no small local firms that have not entered the world market. However, it is quite expected. After all, the number of their clients is simply negligible compared to the total number. The next item is the connection type. Nothing unusual.

But choosing a carrier is no longer a trivial option. Usually, developers don’t provide this. The list of carriers flexibly changes depending on the selected regions in GEOtargeting. 3-4 of the most famous carriers in the country are represented.

Telecom operators

But the most interesting thing is the choice of the price range of the smartphone. Such information is easily calculated indirectly, since the social network determines the brand of users’ phones. At the same time, the information will give us a lot of useful information for analytics. The price of the phone will say a lot about the overall solvency of the client.

The price range of the device
Choosing the cost of the device

Therefore, I believe that any marketer is simply obliged to use the option when setting up their ad campaign, even if you choose a very wide range. By the way, you won’t be able to manually specify it, you will have to choose from the suggested values.

Secrets of successful targeting in TikTok

Well, we are done with the guide and analysis of ad targeting opportunities in TikTok. It remains, according to our long-standing tradition, to please you with a list of actionable recommendations from professionals who have been mastering this platform for a long time.

  • TikTok allows you to automate almost all processes – the choice of placement, targeting settings, and even making of creatives. But it is not recommended to use any of the features, only manual control. AI of the social network sometimes makes strange decisions.
  • Don’t be afraid to target across broad categories. The narrowest targeting for TikTok is not quite suitable. After all, most users of the social network are similar in age and views, so it makes no sense to grade it into hundreds of narrow groups.
  • Remember that the number of targeting options will directly affect the CPC. So try to pinpoint your target audience, but don’t let the potential audience slider drop too low.
  • Be sure to use your own audience lists. With their help, you will be able to disable certain user groups in order to analyze the effectiveness of ad campaign with a particular list. Then you will be able to create universal ad campaign, which consist of a specific set of your user audiences. You can also combine these lists with different methods depending on the requirements of your offer, especially if you always work in the same vertical/niche


As we can see from our review, targeting in TikTok is really interesting. Yes, the range of settings is really inferior to Facebook, for now, this network cannot be called an alternative to Facebook Ads Manager, we just proved it together. However, the platform also has its own advantages, and at least it’s definitely worth a try.

Author: LeadBit Team
A team of experienced marketers, traffic, advertising, conversion specialists with more than 10 years of practical experience in the marketing world ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.