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Facebook Ads // How to Use Custom Audiences


Facebook reports that 1.95 billion people can be reached through their advertisements.

This whopping number is a clear indication of the huge potential that Facebook ads presents to businesses.

With such a high amount of users on the platform, it’s important that your brand is pin-pointing your ideal audience by using Facebook Custom Audiences.

Facebook Custom Audiences provide arguably the best targeting across all social media platforms. They are groups of people who already have a relationship with your business. These include; past customers, people who have visited your website, or users who’ve recently installed your app.

Custom Audiences can also be used to create lookalike audiences who share key characteristics with your existing customers and fans.

Different Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences from Customer Lists

A Custom Audience made from a customer list is an audience that helps to improve your reach.

It’s made of information – called “identifiers” – that you have collected about your customers (such as email, phone number and address) and provided to Facebook. Before use, Facebook hashes this info.

Facebook then matches the hashed information with other Facebook accounts so that you can reach new customers on Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network. The more information provided, the better the match rate is.

Want to see what advertiser lists you’re included in?

Go to your Facebook account and click Settings. Then click Ads in the left column and select Advertisers and Businesses.

Custom Audiences From Your Website

If the Facebook pixel is installed on your website, Facebook can match your website visitors to their Facebook profiles.

This information is used to create Custom Audiences that target all website visitors. This can also be used to retarget people who have visited a certain product page or product category on your website.

Custom Audiences From Your Brand’s Mobile App

A custom audience for your app lets you target ads toward specific groups of people who are most likely to take the action you want them to take on your app.

To create a Custom Audience from your mobile app, you need to set rules and define your audience through the Facebook SDK for the platform (such as iOS or Android) your app works on.

Facebook will automatically add people who use your mobile app if they match the rules you set. The rules you can set are based upon actions people take within your mobile app (app events).

To create a custom audience for your app:

  1. Register your app
  2. Set up the SDK and log app events on the Facebook for developers site
  3. Create your Custom Audience
  4. Start running mobile app engagements ads

Engagement Custom Audience

An Engagement Custom Audience is a Custom Audience comprised of people who have engaged with your content across the Facebook family of apps and services.

You can create an engagement custom audience from:

  • video views
  • lead form interactions
  • full screen experience engagement
  • page engagement
  • Instagram Business profile engagement

Creating Facebook Custom Audiences

First, you want to open the Facebook audiences page in Ads Manager and click Create Audience.

From the drop down menu, select Custom Audience.

You can choose to create your Custom Audience from your sources:

  • Website
  • Customer List
  • App activity
  • Offline activity

You can also use Facebook sources:

  • Video
  • Instagram Business profile
  • Lead form
  • Events
  • Instant experience
  • Facebook page

How to Create a Custom Audience From Your Website Visitors

Before starting, you need to install the Facebook Pixel. If you haven’t done this, check out our full guide to using the Facebook Pixel on your website.

1. Click Website, then choose the pixel you want to use to build your audience.

2. Choose who to target: all website visitors, people who visited specific pages, or people who spent a specific amount of time on your site. Then decide on your time frame – from 30 to 180 days.

You can also define your audience using rules, which allow you to specify the number of times someone has visited your website and the specific device that they use.

3. Name your audience and click Create Audience.

4. Facebook will prepare your Custom Audience, this usually takes between 30 – 60 minutes.

How to Create a Custom Audience From Your Customer List

Click Customer List and choose either Add customers from your own file or copy and paste data or Import from MailChimp.

We’ll focus on the first option because MailChimp isn’t used by every business.

1. First, you need to accept the Custom Audience terms of service. This states that you have permission from the people on your list to use and share their data.

Once you’ve read and understood the terms, click I Accept.

2. Next, you need to prepare your customer list.

Make sure you:

  • Include separate columns for first and last names
  • Always include the country code on phone numbers
  • Always include a country column (even if all your customers are form the same country)

Upload your customer data file in .CSV or .TXT format, or copy and paste it into the box provided.

Name your audience and wait for Facebook to prepare your custom audience.

How to Create a Custom Audience From Your App Activity

Select App Activity and click the events you want to target from the drop-down menu.

2. Choose the time frame: Between 30 to 180 days.

3. Further define your audience using details like in-app purchases and which device people use.

4. Name the audience and click Create Audience. You can use your audience right away, but it may take up to an hour to be fully populated with past app users.

Using Your Custom Audiences

Once you’ve set up one of more Custom Audiences, they’re simple to use.

1. Open Facebook Ads Manager and click Create Ad.

2. Follow the steps to set up your ad. If you’re new to Facebook marketing, be sure to check out our complete resource guide for Facebook Marketing for Business.

3. Set the ad to target your selected Custom Audience.

4. Refine your targeting options.

5. Set your budget and timing as usual and you’re ready to go.

Have you had success with Facebook custom audiences in your marketing campaigns? We would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!


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Sean Huxley

Sean graduated from Murdoch University in 2017 and went from intern to Account Manager with Coffey & Tea. He also contributes to Social Media Perth.

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