SharePoint Audience Targeting – It’s Back!
SharePoint audience targeting has been revamped and renewed, and it’s back! First I’ll tell you how it works, then for those of you who have been using SharePoint for years and remember the old way, I’ll tell you how it’s different. First of all, as of right now, December 2019, there is no audience targeting for *navigation* YET, but it’s coming soon.
Audience targeting – what is it? The main thing to understand, is it’s not the same thing as permissions. Think about news, and in your organization certain news/topics may be much more relevant to certain groups of people than to others. Audiences are used when you want to focus certain content to be seen by certain groups of people. Think about the main homepage of your company. A news post about a renovation being done in an office in one of your locations in New York, may not be relevant to someone in your New Orleans office, but it may be super important for the New York office people to see. News posts and pages relevant to certain geographic regions of employees, or people in certain divisions / departments of your company, these can all be audience targeted to them, so that you can fine tune what your homepage (or any page) in SharePoint looks depending on who is looking at it. This isn’t top secret data, this isn’t permissions, it’s just putting info in front of people, info that is important to them.
Audience targeting for pages and web parts
Pages in the site pages library, and two specific web parts can use audience targeting. Here’s how to start setting it up:
1. Go to the site pages library on each site where you’d like to use audience targeting for the pages/news in that library, and go to Library settings.
2. Click Audience targeting settings.
3. Enable audience targeting, and click OK.
Once it’s enabled, now you’ll notice a new column in your site pages library, called Audience. This automatically gets added as a column in the default view. You can optionally remove it from being displayed in the view if you’d like to hide it. This is new metadata that you can edit. It can be edited directly from the site pages library, in the details pane, or you can edit metadata while you’re designing a page. You can pick one or more audiences for each file.
Example of editing metadata directly in the library:
Example of editing metadata while editing a page:
The audience of people can be either an Office 365 group, or a security group. It doesn’t even have to be an email-enabled security group, it can be just a regular security group. In Office 365 admin, when you click the button (in the Groups section) to Add a group, here’s what you’ll see, and I’ve circled the types of groups that will appear to pick from when you’re picking audiences. Just don’t pick distribution group, pick one of the others.
Here is a reference of all of the group types that you can create, from the Office 365 admin center.
Web Part Audience Targeting
Once you’ve set up your site pages to be targeted, and you’ve targeted them, that doesn’t really mean anything or do anything until you set up your web parts to display targeted content. The two web parts that that will allow for audience targeting are Highlighted content and News. These are both rollup web parts. When they are set up to use audience targeting, that means that the content (pages and news pages) that are displayed in the web part will only be displayed to people in the proper audience. So the whole web part isn’t targeted to one audience, each piece of content showing in it is targeted to an audience.
Both web parts have a setting called Enable audience targeting. So, not only does it need to be enabled on the library, it needs to be enabled in the web part.
Once this has been done, the web part will only show items that are targeted to groups that the current user belongs to.
Here’s an example. I’m in the Marketing department, and I’m in a group called “Marketing department”. The news page called “This is news for marketing” is targeted to the Marketing department as an audience. When I look at this web part, I can see the item targeted to me. I cannot see another news article in there that is targeted to “Asia Pacific region” because I’m not in that group/audience.
For those of you who have used audience targeting before, it’s a little different right now. Audiences aren’t dynamic like they used to be, they’re just groups. Also, the web part itself can’t be targeted to an audience, it’s just the items (pages) rolling up in the web part that will be targeted.
Here’s a full video of my SharePoint Power Hour demonstration of audience targeting, streamed live on 12/4/2019:
References from Microsoft:
Overview of audience targeting in modern SharePoint sites
Target files, news and pages to specific audiences
Any inside scoop on the other web parts getting audience targeting, Laura?
In SharePoint 2019 not seeing audience targeting on the two web parts mentioned in your post. Do you know if it will be available on prem?
I don’t know.
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Hi, thank you for the explanation.
is is the only for online or works for on-premise 2019 as well?
I don’t know.
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The requirement to create groups in the Office 365 admin panel renders this feature almost useless for site collection admins or site owners in an enterprise environment. Site collection admins and site owners no longer are empowered to do these things. Picture a site owner in a major enterprise trying to get this group created with layers of bureaucracy and help desk tickets. Once created, managing it would be a nightmare without the appropriate AD groups. Hopefully, I am missing something but based on the testing in my tenant this is almost useless unless you work as a SharePoint O365 Global admin. Additionally, the user entries applied to the groups do not seem to update with any consistency. For example, I have a test user in my O365 Audience group and after 24 hours they gained access to the highlighted content. Once I remove the account they still have access after 12 hours. Of course, I’ve cleared browser cache and even logged in with a different browser. Please tell me I’m doing something wrong and all of this is not by design.
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We are interested in using audience targeting for news post. We have 16 locations and 16 news sites. We would like for all news on one site to be targeted to one of the location audience on our main site news webpart. We however do not want to secure the news down to a specific group because we want it to be open to others if they choose to go view those news items. Is that possible? If i put group A in the audience column could group B view those items if they went to news item? I would imagine the answer is yes. In that case, is there anyway to default when a site page is created on a site that group A be the default audience? Or would the creator have to enter it every time. I have been working with this and don’t see how it is possible.
You’re correct, audience doesn’t equal security, so people who aren’t in the target audience would still be able to see that item. Also, I don’t think there’s a way to default an audience, I think they’d have to enter it for each page. But you could do that quickly with Quick Edit on the pages library.
I am working with audiences in my Global Navigation to make links visible/not visible.
The audience I am using is a Active Directory security group.
Strangely, I am running into some problems. I have created two sites, and for both sites I set up the exact same settings for this audience. The audience is working on 1 site, but on the other site it’s not working.
I don’t know what to do. I tried about everything you can try in an audience-way, but nothing seems to help.
Do you have any idea?
Hi Tim, I’m not sure, I’ve never seen that issue.
Thank you for the article it is very helpful. We used to be able to use SharePoint groups to target items within the site. I am not seeing the option to use them. Am I missing something?
I’d like to know if this is possible too, as I have create SharePoint Groups within a site and dont want to create O365 groups to clone the existing ones to audience target.
Yes, you can use SharePoint groups.