Thanks to its treasure trove of data, in little more than a decade, Facebook has fast become one of the most important marketing channels for many businesses.

But for many marketers, Facebook's most productive targeting functionality is Custom Audiences, which allows marketers to deliver Facebook ads to users they're already interacting with.

Here's a look at the different Custom Audiences that Facebook allows marketers to create and some tips to get the most out of Custom Audiences.

Custom Audiences from your Customer File

As the name suggests, a Custom Audience from your Customer File allows marketers to target their existing customers by uploading a list of its customers. This list typically contains unique customer contact information, such as an email address or phone number, but can also include other attributes, such as name, ZIP code, age and date of birth.

With this information, Facebook attempts to identify customers who have Facebook accounts so that they can be targeted.

Custom Audiences from your Website

Custom Audiences from your Website allow marketers to retarget Facebook ads to Facebook users who have visited and interacted with their websites. 

To start, the Facebook Pixel is added to a website, which allows Facebook to track users and match them to their Facebook accounts. To assist with matching, marketers have the option of configuring the Facebook Pixel to have access to information like the user's email address, where available.

Once the Facebook Pixel is in place, marketers can create one or more Custom Audiences based on rules (and combinations of rules) that look at users' behavior on the website. For example, marketers can target users who have visited the website within the past X days, who have visited at a certain frequency or who visited specific pages.

Marketers can also target users based on events that were tracked by the Facebook Pixel. For example, a Custom Audience could be built for users who added a product to cart, abandoned their cart or completed a purchase.

Custom Audiences from your Website is one of the most powerful tools in the Facebook marketer's toolbox. Retailers frequently use it to retarget users who previously demonstrated interest in specific products. Real estate agents use it to retarget to users whose website behavior suggests they might be interested in a specific property. Professional sports teams use it to target previous ticket buyers. And so on and so forth.

Custom Audiences from your Mobile App

Lots of companies have developed mobile apps, but mobile apps present numerous challenges for marketers. Specifically, acquiring app users can be a costly proposition and retention is notoriously difficult.

To help marketers address these challenges, Facebook offers marketers the ability to retarget users of their mobile apps through Custom Audiences from your Mobile App. 

This functions a lot like Custom Audiences from your Website except that these Custom Audiences consist of users who have interacted with a marketer's native mobile app.

Custom Audiences from your Mobile App takes advantage of Apple's IDFA (“identifier for advertisers”), Google's Android Advertising ID or Facebook's App User ID to match mobile app users to Facebook accounts.

To help marketers create Custom Audiences that are meaningful, Facebook offers a set of standard app events that can be used to target users who have engaged with an app in a particular fashion. For example, standard app events offered to retailers include Search, Add to Cart and Initiate Checkout, while standard app events offered to game developers include Completed Tutorial, Level Achieved and Achievement Unlocked.

custom audiences

Engagement Custom Audiences

While off-Facebook engagement is obviously important to many if not most marketers, many marketers are highly active on the world's largest social network and therefore might have reasons to target users based on how they interact with them on Facebook.

To do that, Facebook offers Engagement Custom Audiences, which allows marketers to build Custom Audiences around on-Facebook interactions related to videos, lead forms, Pages, Canvases, events and Instagram business profile.

Depending on the interaction type, Facebook offers marketers the ability to target users who have taken or haven't taken specific actions. For instance, when creating a Custom Audience for users who have interacted with a lead form, marketers can specify a specific lead form. They can also choose to specifically target users who interacted with it in the past X days and either submitted or didn't submit the form.

Custom Audiences from your Store Visits

Facebook's latest Custom Audience offering could prove to be one of its most interesting for businesses that have physical locations.

As the name suggests, Custom Audiences from your Store Visits allows marketers to create Custom Audiences consisting of Facebook users who visited one or more of their physical locations. 

Facebook appears to automatically identify users based on its ability to track their physical movements through the Facebook App. As MarketingLand notes, this is “the same method that Facebook has employed when targeting ads to people near an advertiser’s chosen location and when estimating how many store visits were driven by a brand’s Facebook campaign.”

If eventually rolled out widely, Custom Audiences from your Store Visits will give lots of businesses – from local mom-and-pop shops to large, national retailers – the ability to connect the online and offline worlds and reach out to the people who have engaged with them in the real world.

store visits custom audiences

Custom Audience Tips and Tricks

While Custom Audiences in all their forms have great potential, there are a number of ways that marketers can maximize the value they get from creating Custom Audiences. These include the use of:

  • Lookalike Audiences. Perhaps the biggest bonus to using Custom Audiences is that Facebook can use them to create audiences of users who are similar to the Custom Audiences. This gives marketers the ability to target ads to users who might be more interested in their products and services.
  • Household Audiences. In addition to Lookalike Audiences, Facebook also gives marketers the ability to target individuals who it determines are members of the same household as Custom Audience users. This feature, which was unveiled this year, is pitched by Facebook as a means to “[influence] across the family.”
  • Targeting. When creating an ad campaign for a Custom Audience, Facebook offers the ability to further target members of the Custom Audience based on characteristics such as location, age, gender and interests. While marketers should be wary of over-targeting, highly-segmented campaigns based on Custom Audiences can be very powerful when used wisely.

There are also a number of potential gotchas marketers employing Custom Audiences should be aware of. 

One of the biggest is the potential for overlap when targeting ads to multiple Custom Audiences. Fortunately, Facebook offers an Audience Overlap Tool for determining how much overlap there is between multiple audiences. Armed with this knowledge, marketers can make adjustments to ensure their campaigns aren't being negatively impacted.

Another caveat, particularly for smaller businesses, is that it can be more difficult to achieve the best results when dealing with very small Custom Audiences. In this case, it's important for marketers using Custom Audiences from your Customer File to ensure that they're uploading refreshed customer files frequently as their customer numbers grow. 

It can often be advantageous for marketers working with smaller Custom Audiences to look at using Lookalike and Household Audiences.

For more on paid social media, subscribers can download our Paid Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide.

Patricio Robles

Published 9 October, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

To get most benefit from facebook custom audiences, segment your customers first and load them into several audiences - not just one. However much facebook knows about people, you have more data about which product categories appeal to each person. By segmenting them, you can personalize your marketing with different facebook adverts. More here:
https://www.freshrelevance.com/blog/segmentation-using-behavioural-data-simplified#facebook_custom_audiences

about 1 month ago

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