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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

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

Target the news in a news web part to audiences

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