Facebook Ad Targeting Part 2 – Facebook Custom Audiences

How to set up Facebook Custom Audiences

I provided an overview of Facebook’s impressive ad targeting options in a previous blog post. Today I want to share an advanced targeting feature called Custom Audiences. It’s my absolute favourite way of targeting ads on Facebook.

Briefly, Custom Audiences let you target your ads at people from your mailing list (that’s your email database, rather than your Fanbase). Not only can you target this group, you can also choose to use the list to exclude those people from seeing your ads (for instance if you are running a lead generation campaign on your Facebook Page to build your mailing list).

Custom Audiences can also be created from people who visit your website that also have a Facebook user id.

Once you have a Custom Audience in place you can then create a “Lookalike” Audience and target that with ads.

Let’s look at how they work.

Creating a Custom Audience

  1. Save the email addresses or phone numbers from your mailing list in CSV or TXT format
  2. Go to the Audiences tab in Adverts Manager
  3. Click the Create Audience button, select the Custom Audience option, then choose Customer List
  4. Upload the CSV or TXT file
  5. Your Custom Audience will be ready in about 30 minutes

Now you can create an ad in the usual way but pop the Custom Audience in as your target group (see below for more info).

Website Custom Audiences

Website Custom Audiences are a little different and are a way of remarketing to your website visitors via Facebook ads. These should enable you to:

  • Bring back website visitors for a subsequent visit, perhaps to purchase a product (see the Lean Greens ad below)
  • Target ads at people interested in particular website pages or products
  • Precise targeting of your “hottest” fans – i.e. ads targeted at people that are both your Facebook Fans AND have recently been on your website

Facebook retargeting ad example

Here’s how to create a Website Custom Audience

  1. Go to the Adverts Manager
  2. Click the Audiences tab on the left-hand side of the navigation
  3. Select the button Create a Custom Audience
  4. A box will appear with a variety of options. Choose Custom Audience from your Website.
  5. Review and agree to the Terms and Conditions
  6. Next place the pixel code provided by Facebook onto your website (Facebook can’t see what people are doing on your website without this).
    Copy the pixel code from the Create Web Remarketing Pixel box, and paste it between the <head> and </head> tags on all pages of your website. Or, send the pixel code to your website developer.
  7. Click Create Audience
  8. Name your audience and enter an optional description
  9. Choose from one of the 4 options to add people to your audience. You can include all of your website visitors, those who visited certain pages and more.
  10. Select how long you’d like to capture your Custom Audience pixel for. To include past website traffic, tick the box.
  11. Click Create Audience
  12. Select OK to finish setting up your remarketing pixel code to start adding people to this audience

Creating Lookalike Audiences

I’ve found Lookalike Audiences to be highly effective. As we’re all aware, Facebook knows an awful lot about us and is pretty handy at spotting those similarities in others.

You have three options from which to create Lookalike Audiences:

  • People that are similar to your Page’s fans
  • People similar to your Mailing list (which you’ll have uploaded already as a Custom Audience)
  • People similar to visitors to your website (or specific website pages). This is a Lookalike of your Website Custom Audience

To create a Lookalike audience you will first need either an existing Custom Audience or alternatively a Conversion Pixel or a Website Custom Audience set up. Then:

  1. Go to your Adverts Manager and select the Audiences tab
  2. Select Create Audience
  3. Choose Lookalike Audience
  4. Select your customer group. Choose a Facebook Page, Custom Audience, conversion pixel or Website Custom Audience.
  5. Next, increase or decrease the size of your lookalike audience using the slider. The bigger the reach, the more your compromise the similarity:
    • Similarity: Start by optimising your lookalike audience for Similarity, which will show your adverts to a smaller, more precise audience. With this Facebook will show your ad to the top 1% of people on Facebook in your selected country who are most similar to your source audience.
    • Reach: Then, experiment with optimising your audience size for Reach, which will show your adverts to a larger audience. With this option Facebook  finds the top 10% of people on Facebook in your selected country who are most similar to your source audience.
  6. The Lookalike Audience takes a while to populate but should be ready for advertising within 6-24 hours.

Using the custom audience in an ad

You can access your Custom Audience at any time in the Audiences tab in the Adverts Manager or Power Editor. When you go to create an ad you’ll see the option for Custom Audiences at the top of the targeting options page. Here you can select the relevant audience to either include or exclude. See the example below of ad where I am choosing a Custom Audience of people who have been on the Guitar pages of my website.

Website custom audiences example



Does it all seem too much? Would you like us to do it for you?!

Facebook advertising seems to get more complicated as every new feature is rolled out.  It is becoming increasingly challenging to get right. Ad copy is an art form in its own right. And the targeting options can be overwhelming. More experienced advertisers opt for Power Editor rather than Facebook’s “self serve” Ads Manager platform. Power Editor has multiple advantages but can be daunting for newbies.

Over the years we’ve worked in many guises to help clients with Facebook advertising. At one end of the spectrum we’ve written the ads, designed the creative, sorted the targeting and handed the client the leads and a detailed report. At the other we’ve sat down with their team, trained them on the art and science that is Facebook advertising and continued to provide an arms-length coaching and support service.

As well as Canvas, our ads service offers you the ability to test up to 250 different ad and targeting elements in a single campaign – something that’s simply not available to you either through Ads Manager or Power Editor. We work with both organisations and agencies to help maximise their ROI on Facebook.

We can help you in one of three ways:

  • Do-It-Yourself With Coaching
    We’ll train you and your team (either at your offices or online) to use Facebook ads efficiently and effectively. Prices start from £199. 
    Get more info.
  • Done For You
    We’ll assess your goals, target marketing, customer profiles and from that build, test, run and analyse your Facebook ads from scratch. Get started here.
  • Online training
    With the Digiterati Academy

Want more help with Facebook ads?

Check out my brand new course ‘Zero to Hero with Facebook Ads‘ in the Digiterati Academy. You’ll fast track all my knowledge of what’s working to create great Facebook ads right now and feel confident in your ability to run an effective campaign.

Zero to Hero with Facebook Ads Course


Marie Page

About Marie Page

Marie Page is one of the UK’s leading Facebook marketing experts. She is a founding partner of digital marketing consultancy The Digiterati and the Digiterati Academy e-learning portal for marketers and entrepreneurs. Her award-winning Master's Dissertation was the culmination of three years' academic research into Facebook that resulted in a book (and companion online course) 'Winning at Facebook Marketing with Zero Budget' that became an Amazon bestseller. Marie's work on the Facebook News Feed algorithm was featured in The Huffington Post. A recognised thought leader on social media, Marie is often approached by journalists for comment in articles such as this Telegraph article. She was also interviewed for ITV's Tonight show on Facebook privacy issues in relation to advertising. Marie is a regular guest on digital marketing blogs and podcasts including Social Media Examiner and Smart Insights. In 2018 she is speaking at Brighton SEO, Europe's biggest search and marketing conference. Marie is also author of two Smart Insights books: 'Smarter Guide to Facebook Marketing', now in its fourth edition, and 'Facebook Ads Guide', both edited by Dr Dave Chaffey. Marie is also a part time yoga teacher.


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