While Facebook has done a good job of providing advertisers with specific demographics, it needed a way to help them target the people most likely to be in the market for their product. The social network is hoping to remedy that with the launch of a new self-serve advertising product.

Today Facebook launched partner categories which help you target more categories of people based on what they actually buy and want to buy, both online and offline. The social network began offering this type of ad targeting earlier this year, but it was limited to its managed service clients. Now any Ads API partner can target more than 500 specific segments.

The new product mixes Facebook’s data with that from Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon. Partner categories include a mix of transactional data, survey information, and other online and offline behaviors. Once you’ve chosen your category, consumers that meet the required criteria are then “delivered” in an anonymous group to advertisers. Larger categories can be narrowed down even more by cross-matching with other categories.

As an advertiser, partner categories should help you create better targeted ads — something that has become increasingly more important now that Facebook Ads are more prevalent in News Feed. The downside is that they don’t promise relevant matches. TechCrunch noted that “it’s not a guarantee that the kids’ cereal buyer will only be used by Kellogg’s or Quaker Oats. It might be a vitamin or toy company… or really any company at all that may decide to serve an advert to that particular product category.”

That said, Facebook provides marketers with a variety of other targeting options. Through a combination of these tools, you should be able to mold the exact audience you want to market to. And as the past year has shown, the social network actively tests and tweaks its advertising products to ensure businesses are using the most effective and efficient versions of its tools.

Companies large and small are noticing the dramatic change in the quality of Facebook Ads. Most noteworthy is General Motors, which is reportedly coming back to the social network after it pulled all advertising last May. GM, the country’s second largest marketer, plans to utilize Facebook’s mobile-only targeting features as part its upcoming “Find New Roads” campaign for the Chevrolet Sonic.

It will be interesting to follow GM’s progress as it re-engages with Facebook Ads. It’ll also interesting to see how partner categories impact the quality of Facebook Ads for both advertisers and consumers. There’s a tremendous opportunity here for those willing to invest the time and budget required. Partner categories will be available for all U.S. advertisers in Power Editor and through the API starting today.

[Via: VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Image credit: Timm Suess]