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How does Audience Targeting work in SharePoint?

Audience targeting is a SharePoint feature which assigns set of groups to the SharePoint content so that only those set of groups and the group users can see the content. We will go through the Audience targeting in this article and also understand how it’s different from SharePoint permission.

Audience Targeting and Permission

Suppose there’s one list where we are storing data for the entire company and we want to put the data of the account department only using a web part on the home page. Now that data is irrelevant for the other departments. The audience targeting feature will help here to show the data to only the people from the account department.

  • Audience targeting only works for groups and distribution lists so you CANNOT add the individual user into the Audience targeting field.
  • Audience targeting is NOT a replacement of permissions. You still need to set the permissions on the SharePoint content in order to restrict access based on roles.
  • This is the only feature where even Site collection administrator can not see the data if he’s not part of the group which is added in Target Audience.
  • If a user is having Read permission on the item but he’s not in the target audience group for that web part then the user will not be able to see the item on the web part.
  • If a user is part of the target audience group but he is not having read permission on the item then he will not be able to see the item through the web part where the target audience is set.
  • You can add more than one group in Target Audience. Separate groups by using a semicolon and space.

Types of content eligible for Audience Targeting

Navigation Links

  • For quick launch bar or Top navigation links, you can actually set Audience targeting.
  • Go to site settings >> Navigation in Look and Feel
  • Go to Structural Navigation: Editing and Sorting: Select the link you want to set the Audience for and click on Edit
  • Structural Navigation Editing and Sorting
  • One pop up will open and in the field Audience: you can give group names here that you want to set Audience targeting for. This particular link will be visible only to the group members.
  • Navigation link Audience

Web parts

  • Some web parts support Audience Targeting. Will show how to set for a list view web part.
  • Edit the page and Edit the web part properties.
  • In the Advanced section, you can see the last option: Target Audiences. You can give group names over here.
  • In the same way, you can explore the other web parts as well.

List and Library

  • Go to a List/Library settings
  • Click on Audience targeting settings
  • list and library Audience targeting settings
  • Tick the Enable audience targeting option. This will create a column in the list. The content query web part (CQWP) will use this column and the logged-in user context to present the data to the user.
  • Enable audience targeting
  • After performing the above step, if you edit property on any list item, you will find an additional property where you can put Target Audiences.
  • list item target audience
  • Now when you use CQWP, you can turn on Audience Targeting from setting and the results will be displayed according to the audience set here for each list item.


We went through a very useful SharePoint OOB feature called Audience Targeting, how to achieve that for various SharePoint content and how it is different from permission.

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