So, we all love email. For one, everyone already has it and knows how to use it. Also, when they are reading emails, customers are typically only a click away from doing what you want them to do.

And best of all, your email list belongs to you and no one else can target that exact group.

But emails do have their limitations:

  • Many are not opened, much less read. No matter how clever you make your subject line.
  • Your message may not appear as intended. Outlook, for one, blocks all images and responsive is hard to do, generally.
  • Also, emails are not generally shared. Sure, they can be forwarded – but rarely are.
  • And, finally, they all have the dreaded unsubscribe link at the bottom. Every email is an invitation for your customers to tell you that they don’t love you any more.

And, just to add to that anxiety, a study by Epilson reports that the main reason for unsubscribes was that the emails were irrelevant. So there is an increasing possibility you’re going to lose people with every mass email.

So what’s a marketer to do when the business is clamoring to send more email to your list?

The alternative: Facebook Custom Audiences

Well, thankfully now there is an alternative. You can put your email list to work for you with none of the downsides with one simple trick: Facebook Custom Audiences.

Late last year, Facebook rolled out Custom Audiences to everyone and the new functionality gives your email list a whole new lease on life.

No longer are email addresses only for email, they are also your gateway to effective advertising on Facebook.

So, what are Custom Audiences?

‘Audience’ is the term Facebook uses for a group of people you can target with your advertising.

For example, here are other Audiences you can target via Facebook:

  • Everyone in Singapore.
  • People who are in their final year of university.
  • Females aged 30-35 who like cars.

So when it is turned into a Custom Audience, your email list can be used in the same way as an advertising demographic.  You can create a Facebook ad and promote it to people who are on your email list, i.e. your Custom Audience.

How do Custom Audiences work?

You upload your emails into Facebook and Facebook finds the users who are associated with those emails. Then Facebook puts those users into a group which only you have access to.

Note that Facebook does not tell you what Facebook user matches what email. They just assemble all of the users into a group and tell you how many there are in the Audience.

How do you make a Custom Audience?

  1. First off, prepare your email list as a CSV or text file with one email per line.
  2. Then, in Facebook, go to Ads Manager and click on Audiences.
  3. At the top right, click on ‘Create Audience’  and select ‘Custom Audience.’

  1. Select Data File Custom Audience.

  1. Name and describe your Audience and select Data Type ‘Emails.”

  1. Choose the file you made earlier and upload your emails.
  2. Agree to the terms, and click on ‘Create Audience’.

And that’s it – you will soon have your Custom Audience ready to use in your Facebook advertising account.

Facebook can take some time to create Audiences, but for Custom Audiences they are normally finished within minutes.

How do I use a Custom Audience?

Once the Audience is ready, you can access it using the Facebook Advertising Tool as you would any demographic.  Facebook will complain if your audience is under 1,000 people, but still lets you launch your campaign.

And why would I go through all of this work to create a Custom Audience?

Well let’s look at the problems we have with email:

Email Custom Audiences
Many emails are not opened, much less read. Facebook ads appear automatically in your Audience’s News Feed.  No ‘open’ required.
Your message may not appear as intended. Facebook gives you guidance for how to create ads which look great on every platform.
Emails are not generally shared. Facebook ads are shared all of the time.  People will type in the name of their friend who may need your product or service and they get notified to click on the ad.  How great is that?
Subscribers become unsubscribers. You can’t ‘unsubscribe’ from the first Facebook ad – though they can from subsequent ones, so don’t be annoying

Some best practices

There are many ways you can use Custom Audiences and many things to avoid depending on your business.

One universally good idea is to create an audience periodically and use it for testing.  So, when you are asked to send out an email which is not crucial information for your customers, you can gauge reaction on Facebook first.

Is it getting clicks, likes, and shares?  If not, then you may want revisit the headline, the message, and the visual to see how you can make it more relevant for your email list.  That way, you’re not risking losing them forever by sending out something uncompelling and irrelevant.


With Facebook Custom Audiences, you can import your list of email subscribers into Facebook and, with advertising, guarantee timely message delivery, display quality, shareability – and no unsubscribes.

It’s a great way to test out messages without facing the risk of losing your subscribers through sending too many or irrelevant messages.