Choosing The Best Facebook Custom Audience for Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

Businesses are starting to wake up to the fact that, often, organic posting and engagement just isn't driving the traffic to their Facebook pages and Instagram profiles that it once did and are turning to Facebook Ads as a cost-effective way to get in front of hundreds or even thousands of new potential customers.

Here at Starling Social we've used Facebook Ads to help our clients increase webinar registration, generate new B2B leads, drive inbound website traffic, and more. We love it because Facebook allows us to dig deep and create Custom Audiences which help us retarget people who have previously engaged with our client's business in some way. This helps us keep their advertising budget low while achieving a high return on investment (ROI) for our efforts on their behalf.

If you're new to the world of Facebook Ads, or if you're still trying to wrap your head around which types of Custom Audiences you should choose for your next Facebook Ad Campaign, then you've come to the right place.

This post is a comprehensive overview on what Facebook Custom Audiences are, and the various types you can choose from to increase brand awareness and generate new leads for your business.

Ready? Let's get started!

What's a Facebook Custom Audience?

Facebook Custom Audience is just that: a custom audience you can create in your Facebook Ads Manager (or Power Editor) that you can target with your ads. One of the options available is o target people who have an existing relationship with your business - say, fans of your Page - and create a campaign which retargets this audience. 

Facebook gives you six options to define the existing relationship between your ad audience and your business, which are:

  • Customer File. Upload a customer file (eg: list of individuals who have purchased from your e-commerce store within the past 365 days) to match your customers with people on Facebook to create an audience from the matches. 
  • Website Traffic. Create a list of people who visited your website or took a specific action which corresponds to your Facebook Pixel.*
  • App Activity. Creates a list of people who launches your game, app, or took specific actions based on the Facebook Pixel installed in your app.
  • Offline Activity. Upload a list of people who have interacted with your business in-store to create a custom audience based on phone numbers or other offline channels.
  • Engagement. Creates a list of people who have recently engaged with your content on Instagram or Facebook.

* A Facebook Pixel is a code you (or your developer) installs on your website or in your app to track conversions from Facebook Ads and collect data to do stuff like build the Custom Audiences we're discussing here.

Let's sink our teeth into the different Custom Audience types available, and how they differ from each other:

Customer File Audiences

Customer File Audiences are based on a list of existing contacts available to you, such as newsletter subscribers or customers who have purchased from your e-commerce site. Syncing your customer list can be done one of two ways:

  • Manually uploading your audience in a .csv or .txt file.
  • Syncing your email CRM to your Facebook Ad Account.

Important: you can't mix data types, so you'll need to upload separate files for emails vs. phone numbers, for example.

We recommend giving your Custom Audience a short, easy-to-identify name which describes the specific audience, such as "Email signups" or "Past Customers."

Website Traffic Custom Audiences

If your business doesn't have a large enough database of emails, phone numbers, or Facebook User IDs to create a Custom Audience based on the steps above, you can use Website Custom Audiences to retarget visitors who have already visited your website.

This is a big boon for many businesses who are in the process of building their newsletter lists, for example, because all you need to do is make sure your Facebook pixel is installed and wait for people to visit your website. When they do, Facebook will recognize the users and automatically add them to an Audience, ready to be retargeted. 

App Activity Audiences

With the explosion of mobile app popularity and Facebook mobile ads, it's no surprise that this option is becoming a popular solution for many app-based businesses.

The option allows you to target people who have previously used your app but haven't come back to use it within the last month (for example), or, you can target people who have abandoned their carts (added an item to their cart but never completed the purchase.)

There are lots of ways to retarget app audiences (currently there are 14 actions/non-actions you can target), but the most popular options are:

  • Achieved a certain level in your game.
  • Completed a large purchase.
  • Recently opened your app.
  • Recently completed a purchase.

By targeted users who have (or haven't) completed a specific action you can tailor your retargeting ads with copy and visual content which compels them to come back, such as new levels, discounts, or ads featuring new items for purchase.

Offline Activity Audiences

The Offline Activity option allows you to build Custom Audiences based on one or multiple offline events, such as Add Payment Info, Add to Wishlist, etc. 

When you choose "Offline Activity" as tour Custom Audience type in Ads Manager, you can add multiple filters to refine the audiences to your specific needs. You can select multiple offline events and filters such as People Interacted Offline, Add Payment Info, Initiate Checkout, and more from the drop-down menu to restrict your list.

If you want to get super-granular, you can refine your data even further using the Custom Value or Aggregated Value options, which allows you to add conditions or values which are specific to your business goals. For example, you can add "source equals to call" to track the number of calls your business has received.

Engagement Custom Audiences

The Engagement option is especially exciting because it means you can use your ads to retarget people who have already shown an interest in your business on social media, which increases the likelihood that they will convert by 70%, according to FetchProfits. 

If you click on "Engagement", a window will appear which will prompt you to define an Engagement Audience based on six different engagement types. They are:

  • Video. This will target users who have watched at least three seconds of your videos on your Facebook Page or Instagram business profile.
  • Lead Forms. If you already use Lead ads, you can get in front of people who have opened or completed your lead form.
  • Fullscreen Experience. This option relates to the Facebook Canvas Ad option, and will retarget users who have opened your Canvas collection ads.
  • Facebook Page. This is our favorite because it allows you to retarget anyone who has interacted with or visited you Facebook Page. 
  • Instagram Business Profile. This is similar to the Facebook Page option, but retargets to people who have interacted with your Instagram business profile.
  • Event. Event retargeting is the latest addition to the Facebook Engaged Audience family, and allows you to retarget people who have RSVP'd to an event on Facebook.*

* Events must originate from your business page. Facebook won't allow you to target people who have attended similar events, or events which weren't hosted from your page.

Bonus: Custom "Lookalike Audiences"

One of our favorite ways to leverage the power of Facebook Custom Audiences is to create custom lookalike audiences. These audiences are exactly what they sound like: audiences of hundreds or thousands of people who don't know about your brand yet, but are likely to become your customers.

Lookalike audiences can be created from:

  • Email Lists
  • Current or Past Customers
  • Page Fans
  • Website Custom Audiences
  • App Activity
  • Conversion or Standard Events
  • Engagement (App, Video, etc)

Want to learn more about the incredible benefits of creating and using Facebook Custom Lookalike Audiences? Stay tuned for our next post! If you're still struggling with Facebook Ads and would like some help elevating your brand and reaching new customers for your business, drop us a line, we're happy to help.

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