Jump to Section
arrow down

New Advertiser's Guide to Facebook Audiences, Part 2: Custom and Lookalike Audiences

By The Leadpages Team  |  Published Nov 02, 2017  |  Updated Nov 17, 2023
Leadpages Team
By The Leadpages Team
New Advertisers Guide to Facebook Audiences

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a multi-part Facebook advertising beginner's guide that details the key aspects of targeted advertising for more leads and sales. If you're brand new to Facebook advertising or have yet to see meaningful results, you'll want to bookmark this series. In part one of this series, you discovered the virtually unlimited targeting options available by tapping into Facebook's database of over 2 billion users. Read about creating Saved Audiences here. For any marketing team or business owner that's in the newer stage of marketing, these Saved Audiences are critical to gaining visibility for your brand. However, as soon as possible, the savvier business owner will pursue Custom and Lookalike Audiences. That's our focus for this part.

Fine-tune your advertising with custom audiences

In most cases, Custom Audiences will give you the most profitable return on ad spend (ROAS). This is because these audiences consist of people who already know your company exists. They are created from people with whom you have an existing relationship—either as a subscriber or as a customer—or who have at least visited your website at some point in the last 6 months. You can also create a custom audience from people who have engaged with your content on Facebook (and Instagram) in the past year. Another profit advantage of these types of audiences is their costs are typically lower than saved target groups. Because you have done the heavy lifting of determining this audience, as opposed to tapping into Facebook’s enormous database, you’ll typically save money compared with relying on Facebook’s database 100%.

Fb Custom Audience Choices
You have options with creating custom audiences

Let’s take a closer look at the three best types of custom audiences, which are also called “remarketing” audiences.

Custom audiences from website traffic

Fb Create Custom Audience
Creating a custom audience begins with a click

Whether visitors come from search engines, social media, other webpages, or your own ads to Saved Audiences (see Part One), Facebook users are added to your custom audience based on which webpages of yours they've visited online (including your Leadpages landing pages). Generally speaking, this audience keeps growing over time. You don’t have to keep uploading customer or subscriber CSV files to keep this audience current. Facebook handles that for you. This type of audience becomes larger faster as you run ads to Saved Audiences that we discussed in Part One of this guide. Strangers you first targeted using demographics, behaviors, and interests become part of your web traffic custom audience upon their first visit—even if they don't take any other action on your website during their visit.

The secret to this type of Custom Audience is the Facebook pixel, a little snippet of code that you place on all your webpages.

Once someone arrives on your landing pages, website, or eCommerce store, the pixel is “fired” back to Facebook. As long as that person is a user on Facebook, they get added to your website Custom Audience. You can send ads to these visitors anytime over the next 6 months after they’ve last visited your site. Every time they visit your website again, the clock restarts. And that’s not even the best part. The best part about a Custom Audience built on website traffic is being able to create audiences based on which specific pages on your site they’ve visited (or haven’t visited), so you can make sure to send even more targeted ads to the right people. You can also restrict a website traffic audience further with other custom audiences you’ve created, as well as demographic, interest, and behavioral filters. A key example is when you know someone has visited your pricing or checkout pages, but they haven’t landed on the post-purchase thank you page. This means that they know about your awesome product, but they haven’t yet decided to buy it. That particular Custom Audience is primed to receive ads from you that help them make that final purchasing decision. Once someone does purchase your product, you can add them to a new web traffic audience (customers) because they visited your product's post-purchase page (i.e., the Thank You Page).

Creating an audience from website traffic

This type of custom audience should be the first for new advertisers to create. Even if you’re not quite ready to run ads, create these audiences immediately because you can advertise to this type of audience for up to 6 months after they’ve qualified to be in that audience the criteria (i.e., visited a key webpage). At a bare minimum, create 3 website traffic audiences. First, create a custom audience called “All Visitors” or some other type of general audience term that means something to you. This audience will be triggered by “Anyone who visits your website.” This really means visitors to any page of yours that has the base code on it. Next, create a second audience called “All Subscribers” and base that audience on visits to your opt-in thank you pages after visitors have filled out a form on your website or landing page. Your third custom audience should be “All Customers” and base that audience on visits to your post-purchase thank you pages after they have bought your product. After you've created your website traffic audiences, you'll be able to get your Facebook pixel. This pixel is the same for all audiences within the same business manager account.

Fb View Pixel

Once your audiences are created, you'll be able to view your pixel code.

Fb Pixel Base Code Xxxx
Your base code will look like this:

Your Facebook Pixel base code (your business ID will be in place of the XXXXXXXXX)[/caption] You’ll include this base code literally everywhere you can put it. This includes your landing pages, your blog, your opt-in forms, your thank-you pages, your sales pages, your Shopify store, etc. This code goes in the <head></head> area of your site and pages. To better track your results with your Subscriber and Customer audiences, you'll need to get the "event" code to add to your lead and sale thank you pages. For example, here's the purchase event code, which is added to the <body></body> section of an order confirmation page.

Fb Pixel Event Purchase Example
Event code for selling a $247.35 product

A Lead event code would be appropriate for thank you pages after new subscribers have opted in. Pro tip: Make your website URLs have a naming convention to make this easy for yourself in the future. For example, start the slugs for all your thank you pages with /tyl- (for new leads/subscribers) and /tyc- (for new customers) so that Facebook can recognize that prefix for your custom audience. You can use whatever prefix you want, just so long as you match that with the value you enter into the “URL contains” field in your audience setup.

Fb Custom Audience Pageurl
Fine-tune your audience with URL prefixes

Depending on the complexities of your business, you may want to continue making more elaborate audiences based on combinations of page visits (or lack thereof). However, these first three audiences—all visitors, all subscribers, and all customers—are a great starting point for showing ads to people who are familiar with your business. [cta-box]

Facebook custom audiences from a customer file

Have you already made sales of your products and services where you know the email addresses of your customers? Or, have you at least started building your email list? You can use your lists of subscribers and customers to create a Custom Audience.

Fb Custom Audience Customer File
Add customers/subscribers from your CSV file or data list

Facebook matches the data from their lists with their user database. The more information you have (such as phone number, gender, location, etc.), the more likely you are to match more of your customers and subscribers. As you upload your lists, create different custom audiences to designate which are customers (and of what products), as well as which are subscribers. It’s also to your advantage to upload the information of people who have lapsed as customers or who have refunded their purchases. We’ll talk about why in a bit. Finally, remember other sources of contacts you know to upload as a Custom Audience. For example, LinkedIn allows you to export your connections’ names and email addresses. By cultivating a strong relationship on LinkedIn, then creating a Custom Audience of these same connections, your Facebook ads can have as big or bigger impact than advertising directly on LinkedIn.

Creating a Facebook audience from a customer file

From your shopping cart and/or email service provider, download a CSV file with an email address, phone number, and address. Upload that file into Facebook, and the system will match that information with existing Facebook users to create your audience.

Fb Custom Audience Customer File Matching

Clearly name your uploaded audience (e.g., Customers - uploaded, Subscribers - uploaded). Also, if you have a suite of products, upload customers of each individual product separately for better cross-selling and upselling opportunities in your remarketing campaigns. Uploaded custom audiences do have a downside: they are historical, not forward. In other words, your audience consists of people who were on your CSV list at the time of import. When you add more subscribers or customers, they are not automatically added (or subtracted) from your custom audiences.

Add (and remove) subscribers from your Facebook custom audiences—Automatically

Want a dynamically updated Custom Audience from your email subscribers' activity? Use Drip's built-in Facebook audience integration to add (or remove) subscribers based on where they are in your workflow.

Fb Custom Audience Drip Integration
Use Drip's Automated Audience integration with Facebook

Learn more about Drip's Facebook Custom Audience integration here.

Custom audiences from engagement on Facebook

If your company is active on your business page, then you’ll want to take advantage of Engagement Audiences. This is particularly true if you are uploading videos or broadcasting via Facebook Live because those viewers of your content have shown a higher degree of interest in your marketing.

Fb Engagement Choices
Engagement audience options in Facebook

When choosing a video engagement audience, you can select who’s watched a certain percentage of the total time of particular videos of any video. Alternatively, you can choose anyone who’s seen over 3 or 10 seconds of a video.

Fb Engagement Video Viewing
Advertise to people who've watched at least part of your videos

You can also create engagement audiences based on:

  • Whether someone opened, opened and closed, or opened and completed a Lead Ad
  • Someone opened your Canvas or collection ad (particularly useful if you sell multiple products in an e-commerce store)
  • Who has interacted with your business page: visited, engaged with a post or ad, clicked a CTA, messaged you, or saved your page
  • Instagram followers who have visited your profile page, interacted with your posts or ads, messaged you or saved your page or ad
  • Those who have selected “going” and/or “interested” for your Facebook business events.

Fb Custom Audience Engagement Page
Advertise to people who've engaged with your business page

The best part about these engagement audiences? They can be set up to include anyone who has performed any of these interactions in the last 365 days!

Expand your reach with lookalike audiences

Once you have custom audiences locked in, you'll want to quickly add Lookalike audiences to your marketing.

Fb Lookalike Create
Create your Lookalike Audiences after your custom audiences are successful

A Lookalike audience is exactly as it sounds: Facebook takes an existing custom audience you’ve created and culls its database of 2+ billion users for people who match significant characteristics to that existing audience that live in a country or region you specify. This is an ideal audience to use when you’ve solidified your entire marketing campaign around a particular audience, including your destination landing pages, email follow-up sequence, and sales pages. When you’ve locked in your numbers and seen a great return-on-investment on your campaign (we’d recommend at least a multiple of 3x ROI), then you’re ready to scale with Lookalike audiences. A Lookalike audience is also a good choice when you’ve optimized your campaign in your home country, and you want to expand to an international audience since all Lookalike audiences are built around one or more countries. This type of audience requires a source audience of just 100 people, but, due to Facebook’s matching algorithm, works much better when your custom audience is over 1,000 people. The minimum audience size for Lookalike audiences is 1% of the country you’re selecting. For the United States, that means your minimum audience size is above 2 million. For the UK, it’s about 400,000. You can expand your audience size as your budget allows. However, for closest matching to your original custom audience, start with 1%. Pro Tip: Create a Lookalike audience based on lapsed and/or refunded customers. Just as you can include Lookalike audiences for your ad campaigns, you can also exclude them. If Facebook’s algorithm is able to determine particular patterns for people who make bad customers for your business, you can run your ads to more qualified strangers with this tactic.

Creating your lookalike audience

This is so simple, you'll wonder why you didn't set this up months ago. After you choose to create a Lookalike Audience, follow these three steps:

  • Select which audience you're basing it on
  • Choose the country to match
  • Pick the size of your Lookalike Audience (the smaller the percentage, the better the matching)

Fb Lookalike Australia
Consider creating Lookalikes in different countries than your own

Coming up in part three

In the final part of this New Advertiser's Guide to Facebook Audiences, we'll go beyond audiences and discuss best practices for your Facebook ads, landing pages, and follow-up email campaigns. Combined with your new knowledge of the different types of audience targeting, you'll be ready to rock your next Facebook campaign.


Share this post:
Leadpages Team
By The Leadpages Team
New Advertisers Guide to Facebook Audiences
squiggle seperator
Try it free for 14 days

Curious about Leadpages?

Create web pages, explore our integrations, and see if we're the right fit for your business.