It’s no secret that Facebook has been generous to social marketers. It offers an impressive suite of advertising tools that just seems to get better every year, and 2014 is no exception.

There’s just one problem. It doesn’t offer all those tools equally. At least not yet.

Take partner categories. At the moment, they’re only available to American advertisers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re marketing to an American audience or not. You can’t even see them from an IP address outside of the United States.

When you access Facebook, the site reads your IP address. Your IP address tells Facebook if you’re in New York City or Buenos Aires. It tells Facebook where you are, wherever you are. And that’s how Facebook knows to display – or not display – partner categories.

Power Editor on a Non-American IP Shows No Partner Categories

Partner categories simply aren’t there on a non-American IP address.

So, if you’re a non-American company interested in advertising to Americans on Facebook, or if you’re based in the states but simply need to work a bit while you’re overseas, what do you do?

Well, there are a few options – VPNs, DNS redirectors, and proxies.

I personally recommend a VPN, as they offer a host of other benefits, so we’ll talk about that method today.


What’s a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to access and interact with a public network, like the Internet, but with all the security, management, and functionality benefits of a private network.

You can log into your company’s intranet from afar, work confidently with sensitive information on a less secure network, and you can access region-locked content – like Facebook partner categories.

For our purposes, a VPN lets us connect to a remote server in the U.S. – say, Miami – and then browse the web as though we’re actually there.

Facebook doesn’t know the difference. It reads the U.S. IP address – not your “actual” one.

And it reacts accordingly, displaying partner categories.

What VPN should I use?

Though quite a few providers offer free versions, they’re usually not very good. They can be paid with things like banner ads – very annoying! – and come with strict bandwidth constraints, limited features, and usually only a few locations.

They may still work for getting partner categories, sure.  But, you should note that even if a U.S. location is available it may be in a part of the country that’s not close to yours, making connectivity a concern.

Because of all this, I’d like to turn your attention to a few paid options:

You’ll notice they’re all very affordable – usually under $10 a month.

How do I use a VPN to access partner categories?

I personally use VyperVPN, so I’ll run you through the steps of how to access partner categories with it. Many VPNs have similar interfaces and procedures, so this should help give you a feel for how the process works.

To start, open the VyperVPN client and select the server location window.

VPN Select Server Location

Here’s the first step.

Click the tear-shaped icon next to “Connect” to bring up the server connection menu. Then, click “Show All Server Locations.”

Now, you’ll see the list of all the available servers.

Server Location Screen

Select your server location.

Scroll down until you see the American servers. After that, select the one that’s closest to your physical location. For the sake of the example, we’ll say it’s Miami.

You’ll return to the main screen. You can use whatever connection protocol you like, but we’ll go with the standard OpenVPN – 256 bit. Click “Connect.”

VPN Connected

You’re connected!

You’re all set! Facebook now sees you as accessing it from Miami.

From here, just log into Facebook and pull up an ad. You’ll now be able to access partner categories. If you need to refresh yourself on the process, we’ve got you covered.

What if my Facebook account is based overseas or paid with a foreign card?

It doesn’t matter.

With a VPN, you can still use partner categories on a foreign Facebook account with a foreign payment method.

When I logged into a French Facebook account on an American IP, I was still able to access them.

Partner Categories Displayed on French FB Page

You can still use catégories de partenaires in France!

The nationality of your payment method doesn’t seem to have an effect, thankfully. Alternating between American and European cards didn’t change a thing.

What does this mean for my business?

1. If you’re a foreign company operating in an American market, you can now use this tool for your Facebook advertising.

2. If you’re an American company operating in an American market, you can still work with partner categories when you’re abroad.

The first point is particularly exciting, as non-American companies don’t have to be disadvantaged against their American rivals when advertising in the U.S. You can use partner categories too!

The second point is also exciting, but will benefit fewer of us. But if you’re one of them – say, the always-on-the-go social marketer, attending conference after conference or meeting with client after client – it’s good news!

If you need to work during your international trips, you can.

What else should I be aware of?

A couple things.

1. Partner categories are only available for American audiences.

With a VPN, you can access them outside of the U.S., but that data only applies to American consumers.

So, if you happen to be a Turkish or Brazilian or Norwegian company interested in leveraging purchase data to advertise to your countrymen, I’m afraid you can’t do that. Not yet, that is. You can only use partner categories with an American audience.

2. Don’t forget to use Power Editor!

You’ll only see the partner categories section in Power Editor.

Of course, you can still access the partner categories filed under More Demographics on Ads Manager, but the process works better on the professional ads platform.

That said, give it a shot and let us know how it went in a comment below!