We all agree: Facebook Custom Audiences are one of – if not the most – essential tools for successful Facebook advertising campaigns.
In this post, we will go through everything you need to know about Custom Audiences – from set up to advanced implementation to tactics.
If you’re short on time, or want this information offline, download the fully updated free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Custom Audiences.
If you’re already well versed in Facebook Custom Audiences, feel free to skip around within the article. Here’s the table of contents:
- How To Create a Facebook Custom Audience
- Types of Custom Audiences
- How To Create a “Customer List” Custom Audience
- How To Create a Website Custom Audience
- How To Create an App Activity Audience
- How To Create an Engagement Custom Audience
- How To Create a Lookalike Audience
- Targeting Facebook Ads to Custom Audiences
- 3 Ways To Boost Your Campaigns with Custom Audiences
- Advanced Custom Audiences with AdEspresso
If you’re new to this, make sure you read from the beginning! If you have any questions about a section, leave a comment!
To create your first Custom Audience, go to the ”Audience” section of the Facebook Power Editor or Ads Manager.
In the Ads Manager, it’s under the Tools section. Select “Audiences.”
In Power Editor, it has its own section, right under the the toolbar right beneath your ad account number:
Since this is your first Custom Audience, you’ll need to create a new one by clicking the green “Create Audience” button. A popup window will open and ask you to pick which type of audience you’d like to create:
There are many types of custom audiences, and Facebook is increasing them every day.
- Customer List (a.k.a. Standard) Custom Audiences
A list of emails, phone numbers, or Facebook User IDs that Facebook will match them with it’s users. Facebook will usually match between 60-80% of the contacts on your list. Uploading this list usually has to be done manually, unless you use a Custom Audience Sync tool.
- Website Custom Audiences
Instead of users’ email addresses or phone numbers, you can insert a Facebook Pixel tracking code on your website and target your Facebook Advertising to all users that have visited a specific page on your website during a set time period (up to 180 days)!
- App Activity Custom Audiences
You can create audiences based on what actions people take when they use your app – either on Desktop or Mobile. Mobile has outpaced Desktop on Facebook, and the trend continues. If your business has an app associated with it, it needs to be utilizing custom audiences on Facebook.
- Engagement Custom Audiences
You can create audiences of those who engage with certain ad types or your page. The duration of these ad types is up to 365 days, although the more recent is often better – it is engagement after all.
- Lookalike Audiences
Once you’ve created a Custom Audience, you can ask Facebook to create a broader “Lookalike Audience” to target your ads to. Facebook will look for patterns and characteristics your current users, leads, or customers, have in common – such as age, gender, or interests – and create a much bigger list of very similar users who most likely have never interacted with your business before!
We’ll go through how to create each one of these audience one-by-one, and then follow up with some tactics on how you can utilize them.
Let’s select the “Customer List” options. These are where you can put your leads – or potential customers. You’ll have two options to sync your customer lists:
- Manually upload your audience in a .txt or .csv le.
- Synchronization with your Email CRM to your Facebook Ads Account
1 – Manual Upload
As Facebook only offers MailChimp integration, chances are, you’ll need to prepare a file containing the contacts you want to add to your Custom Audience. Use a CSV/Excel file or open a simple text editor and insert one value per line like this:
Note: you can’t mix different data types – so it needs to be either all emails, or all phone numbers, etc.
Give your Custom Audience a short, easy-to-remember name that describes this specific audience. Some ideas include “Former customers,” “Email signups,” or something similar.
You’ll eventually want to use this field to insert notes every time you add a new audience.
2 – Syncing with Your Email CRM
With a Custom Audience Sync tool, you can make sure the leads that you acquire in your email list are automatically synced to your custom audiences (or vice versa, with Facebook’s extremely powerful Lead Ads).
With AdEspresso’s Data Sync feature, you’ll never have to do a “manual upload” again! We have constantly updated custom audiences based on your email or customer lists! For more info, check out our Facebook data sync feature here or sign up for a Free Trial (it’s included!).
What do you do if you don’t have a big enough database of emails, Facebook User IDs, or phone numbers to create your own Custom Audiences?
You guessed it: Website Custom Audiences! This feature doesn’t require you to have any data about the users you want to target. All you have to do is wait for a user to visit your website. Thanks to a special tracking code – the Facebook Pixel – Facebook will recognize users and automatically add them to an Audience, making them ready to be re-targeted with advertising.
How To Install and Verify The Facebook Pixel
For all others (don’t worry, you can do it!), go to your Facebook Pixel Tab in Ads Manager
Important Note: There can only be ONE Pixel per Ad Account!
- Click Create a Pixel (if you already have a Pixel, you won’t see the “Create a Pixel” button)
- Enter a name for your pixel. Since there’s only one pixel per ad account, choose a name that represents your business.
- Make sure you’ve checked the box to accept the terms
- Your Facebook Pixel tracks multiple events depending on the page.
You’ll want to add the Pixel to all pages you want to track, so ask a developer to help, or use a plugin that automatically does this for you. The Pixel will also slightly change if you want to track things outside of just “website visitors” (like leads, purchases, etc.).
For WordPress, you’re in luck: we have a 100% free plug-in, Pixel Caffeine.
And if you want to check to make sure your Facebook Pixel is working, download the free Google Chrome Extension, Pixel Helper.
What are Standard Events?
The Pixel doesn’t just track “visitors.” The Pixel, if installed correctly, will track multiple events that website visitors take on your site with slight variations of the code.
We won’t dive into each unique event (like how it tracks your leads and customer purchases), but we recommend getting a developer involved to maximize the amount of tracking you can do on your site.
Advanced Website Custom Audiences
Note: This section on advanced WCAs is intended for marketers reasonably experienced with Facebook’s Custom Audiences.
Facebook released upgrades in 2016 that allowed highly detailed targeting based on the intensity of interest visitors display while they are on your website. Basically, you can start targeting your most interested prospects before you even know who they are!
Under Website Traffic, choose the “Custom Combination” parameter to get started. You’ll need to switch over to “Advanced Mode” to see these features, and Facebook may or may not have rolled out all of them to your particular ad account. You can target:
- Frequency: how many times a website visitor performs an action, i.e. visits a page. This is currently the most robust and has been rolled out to the most ad accounts
- Dynamic date: Allows you target visitors who have visited over a range of dates rather than a set number of previous dats
- Aggregate values: this is the total amount of time a person has spent on a page or combination of pages
- Devices: this includes Android, iOS, desktop, and other mobile devices. You can exclude or include each one.
Additionally, you can combine the above options with targeting based on the Standard Events website visitors take as well.
The combinations are bordering on endless, so don’t get too lost with it all! We recommend keeping it simple to start, and experimenting with just the Frequency first!
With mobile being the dominant platform for Facebook ads, it only makes sense that creating audiences based on app activity is quickly becoming one of the leading forms of custom audiences.
For example, you can target people who previously used your app, but have not come back to your app within the last month. Or you can target people who have added an item to their cart on your app, but never actually purchased it. Target them with a discount coupon and voila!
You can create audiences based on actions a user did or didn’t take within your app!
There are 14 actions (or non-actions) you can currently target, but the most popular are:
- Recently Opened yourApp
- Recently Completed a Purchase
- Completed Large Purchases
- Achieved a Certain Level in your Game
One of Facebook’s newest custom audiences is engagement. In other words, how people interacted with your ads or your Facebook page.
These 4 types of engagement custom audiences really open up the doors for businesses that lack the volume of audience size with other options.
Video Engagement Custom Audiences
When you create an ad with a video, you’ll be able to create custom audiences of everyone who viewed the video or just a percentage of the video! You can do video advertising, just to engage users to get them to know your brand.
This can now be it’s own custom audience, that you can send to your sales page, an e-book, or a more traditional ad!
Lead Ads Engagement Custom Audiences
As a marketer, we’re sure you know of Facebook’s Lead Ads – we even gave you a guide on how to sync your Lead Ads with your Email CRM. But did you know that you have the ability to target those people who opened your Lead Ad, but didn’t convert?
They almost gave you their phone or email…but something stopped them. With our highly niche re- targeting, you can target them again with another Lead Ad, or even a more traditional ad that takes them to a submission form on a landing page!
Canvas Engagement Custom Audiences
Impressing a lot of people with your Canvas ads, but aren’t getting the sign ups you hoped for? Now you can re-target anyone who played around or checked out your Canvas ad!
Page Engagement Custom Audiences
You can now target those who interact with your ads or your page. This means all those likes, comments, and shares are no longer vanity metrics! Rejoice!
Confused by all the options? Let us break it down:
Everyone who engaged with your Page
Everyone who visited your Page or engaged with your Page’s content or ads on Facebook or Messenger.
Anyone who visited your Page: Anyone who visited your Page, regardless of the actions they
People who engaged with any post or ad:
Only the people who have engaged with a Page post or ad. Engagement includes reactions (Likes, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry), shares, comments, link clicks or even carousel swipes.
People who clicked any call-to-action button:
Only the people who clicked any available call-to- action button on your Page. For example: “Shop Now”
People who sent a message to your Page:
Only the people who sent a message to your Page.
People who saved your Page or any post:
Only the people who saved your Page or a post on your Page.
Keep in mind, the audience of page engagement has to be at least 20 people!
While standard custom audiences are great for re-engaging people who already had an interaction with you, lookalike audiences allow you to find hundred of thousands of users that don’t know you yet, but are very likely to become your customers.
It’s not hard to guess how powerful this feature can be. For example, you could create a Custom Audience with 10,000 of your customers, and get a Lookalike Audience with 200,000 people who are very similar to your customers and ready to be targeted with advertising!
The smallest lookalike audience, by default, is 1.9 million. You can create a lookalike audience of:
- Page Fans
- Email Lists
- Current/Previous Customers
- Website Custom Audiences
- App Activity
- Engagement (Video,App,Posts,andmoreverysoon)
- Conversions/Standard Events
For more advice, check out our post on Facebook lookalike audiences.
Note: A lookalike audience is created for only ONE country. This can be very tedious for international brands as they have to create multiple audiences in Power Editor. In comparison, with AdEspresso, creates lookalike-by-country audiences much faster.
Targeting audiences is extremely simple. Start with opening the Facebook Ads Manager or Power Editor and create a new ad.
After you’ve created your ad’s creative, you’ll get to the “Audience” section. Choose the first option, “Custom Audiences”.
Just start typing the name of the Custom Audience you want to target and select it from the autocomplete list. If you want, you can select more than one Custom Audience to increase your reach.
Once you’ve selected an audience, you’ll notice that hovering your mouse cursor over it will cause two icons to appear. The X deletes your audience and clicking the down arrow gives you the option to exclude the audience.
If you’re an e-commerce business, make sure you read our e-commerce custom audience blog post – it’s packed full of tips!
Now that you know how to create all different types of audiences, it’s time to switch from tutorials to tactics.
How you segment your lists really depends on what kind of business you are running. Let me just give you a couple of examples and then I’ll leave it to you to understand what’s better for you.
1) Grow Your Facebook Page’s Likes (Cheaply)
If your product is a long-term asset that every serious business should seek, Custom Audiences can be a cheap way to have your contacts like your page. Simply create a Facebook Ads campaign targeted to a Custom Audience containing all your contacts.
To avoid wasting money, exclude all of your existing Page fans from your targeting options. They’ve already liked your page and typically won’t add value. Chance are many of your existing customers didn’t bother to like your page. This is a shame as it means they are – by way of their money – your biggest fans.
2) Regain Lost Customers
How many times have you discovered a great site only to forget about it later? This clearly happens often, even if you’ve bought a great product. This may be the case for your old customers, as well.
To solve this, create a Custom Audience with a list of all the people who have bought something from you in the past, but haven’t bought anything recently, and target them with ads about your new products. They already know and trust you since they’ve purchased from you in the past. Leverage this! Remind them that they’ve done business with you in the past, and maybe offer them a sweet deal since they are long time customers.
In this specific case, the best type of Facebook ads are Right Column or News Feed Ads pointing to an ad hoc landing page to re-engage those users. Don’t underestimate Right Column Ads, they are less sexy and people click them less but most of the time they are really cheap!
Remember, they already know, and probably trust you, so leverage this to convert them. Craft a very clear and friendly message, use your brand in the ad’s picture or title … they already know it and it will bring trust!
Here’s a nice example from an expert marketer, Neil Patel. He knows I already visited his blog and subscribed to his blog so he boldly use his name and picture in the ad.
If you want to sweeten the deal tell them you’ve missed them and that you’ve a tasty special offer just for them because you care about your customer.
In this case there’s no need to exclude from the target those who are already fan of your page, just target your custom audience and split test some creatives and demographic audience to increase your conversion rate displaying ads just to those subsets who perform better.
You can get even more complex by targeting those who abandoned their shopping carts, but more on that in e-commerce custom audiences.
3) Up-sell upgrades/new products to existing customers
It’s easier to sell to someone who has already bought from you than to a total stranger.
Create a custom audience with your most active users, and if it makes sense for your business, segment them based on the kind of product they usually buy or the level of subscription they’re in if you’re selling a SaaS solution.
Once you’ve segmented them create a campaign with a very specific ad. Don’t waste time with generic advertising about you … they are loyal customers …promote the sale of a product that would fit well with what they’ve already bought or tease them with the benefits of upgrading their subscription.
I’d suggest you to split test the different custom audience you’re targeting and see which one generates more sales.
With AdEspresso (a B2B software) as an example we usually split our lists this way:
- Users who have signed up but never created a campaign, users who created a campaign but stopped using the platform, active users
- By advertisement type: Users who promote mobile app install, users who promote ecommerce websites, users who promote Facebook pages
- Newsletter subscribers that have not yet signed up for AdEspresso
We throw in even more tactics in our ebook, The Ultimate Guide To Facebook’s Custom Audiences – so make sure you check it out!
Also, don’t be shy to experiment with different types of Facebook ads with your custom audiences. They are over 12 as of this post!
AdEspresso currently offers two options available to its users that are a step up from Power Editor:
Custom Audience Search with Rapid Lookalike Creation
With our custom audiences filters, you’ll easily be able to instantly create lookalikes from all your existing audiences.
Just pull them with our simple and easy
to use search function! You can also search by custom audience name in addition to the source.
AdEspresso’s Asset Manager
With our asset manager, you can now create and organize audiences in ways not previously possible. You can create hundreds of unique audiences by combining the power of interest targeting (non custom audiences) with custom audiences. Give it a go!
Final Word on Custom Audience Rules & Legality
Finally let’s quickly review some bureaucracy. I encourage you to read the full Facebook Custom Audience Terms of Service. But since I can guess most of you won’t, here’s a very quick summary of the TWO things you MUST know if you don’t want to have your account suspended.
- You can’t keep people in your custom audiences that have requested to Opt Out of your other customer lists (i.e. your email lists). So if someone unsubscribes from your newsletter you should remove him or her from your custom audience as well.
In short: keep your custom audiences always updated!
Facebook Ads Custom audiences are a very powerful tool to increase your sales at a very competitive price.
I’m sure you can find many other creative ways to get the most out of them, please share them in the comments!
As always, my suggestion to get the most out of your marketing budget is to always split test your Facebook Ads … with AdEspresso of course!