When it comes to custom audiences, Facebook (Meta) is hands down the best. With almost 3 billion monthly active users, they have the user data that allows businesses to accurately target extremely specific custom audiences.

Creating and using custom audiences is a great way to decrease advertising spend while increasing your return on investment.

Facebook’s ad targeting platform is by far the most advanced out of any social media network. In fact, if you’re familiar with Facebook’s ad platform, you’ll easily be able to run ads on any other social media network.

So let’s get into it!

What is a Facebook Custom Audience?

Definition: A Facebook Custom Audience is a targeting option businesses can use to import customer data, like email addresses, for retargeting on the Meta platform.

Custom audiences are an effective way for businesses to reach their most valuable customers or followers while driving down media costs and increasing their ROI.

Essentially, a custom audience is a group of users that you’re identifying as valuable to your business.

Related: Facebook Ads Sizes: The Complete Guide 

How to Create Facebook Custom Audiences

Step1: The first thing you’ll need to do is sign into your Facebook account associated with your Facebook/Meta Business Manager. Once you’re logged in, you can access your custom audiences here: https://business.facebook.com/adsmanager/audiences

Step 2: Now that you’re logged in to your audience dashboard, you’ll see a button that says “Create Audience” Once you click that, you’ll get 3 options:

custom facebook audience

Custom Audience

The custom audience tab allows you to connect with people who have already shown some interest in your business. You can target these people by creating an audience from your customer list (email addresses), website traffic, or mobile app.

Related: User Generated Content For SEO

Lookalike Audience

Lookalike audiences are another type of custom audience that uses the algorithm to identify people similar to the ones you already care about. You can create lookalike audiences based on your conversion pixel, people who follow your page, engage with your content, or any of your existing custom audiences.

Note: Lookalike audiences are a great way to find new customers who are similar to your existing customers.

Related: Facebook Photo Sizes & Dimensions: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

Step 3: Creating your custom audience.

Depending on the existing data you’ve collected, you can choose the most relevant custom audience source. We’ve found that most businesses will use the following sources:

  • Website (tracking pixel)
  • Customer List (email addresses)
  • Video (users who watched your videos)
  • Lead Form (Users who filled out your lead form)
  • Instagram Account (Followers & people who engage with your content)
  • Facebook Page (Followers & people who engage with your content)
facebook audience sources

Step 4: Uploading & selecting your data

We’ll be showing you how to upload or select your data sources for each of the following custom audience types. You can use these links to jump down to each custom audience section where you’ll find a corresponding step by step guide.

  • Website (tracking pixel)
  • Customer List (email addresses)
  • Video (users who watched your videos)
  • Lead Form (Users who filled out your lead form)
  • Instagram Account (Followers & people who engage with your content)
  • Facebook Page (Followers & people who engage with your content)

Related: Instagram Maps: New Feature for Local Business

Create a website Facebook Custom Audience

Step 1: Using your Facebook Pixel, you’ll be able to target users who have completed specific actions on your website like: visited a certain page, purchased a product, added to cart, initiated checkout, spent a certain amount of time on your website, or all website visitors.

Step 2: You can also identify the period of time for each of those specific actions. For example, if you wanted to retarget visitors who added to cart but didn’t purchase, you can set a 7 day date range from when they took that action.

website audience filtering for facebook

Step 3: Choosing your events

Depending on your retargeting goals, you can choose one of the events from the drop down menu.

facebook ad audience

There are only two events you’ll need to configure further: Specific pages and visitors time spent.

People who visited specific web pages

You’ll need to identify which page(s) people have visited. This comes in handy if you’re retargeting users who visited a product category, individual products, a service, etc. The more relevant you can make your ad creative to your audience, the more likely you’ll convert that person into a customer.

Related: How to Set up a Facebook Pixel on Your Website

creating custom facebook audiences

Visitors by time spent

You can target visitors by percentile of time spent on your site. 25% is the top 25% of users who spent the most time on your site. 10% is even more specific which will target visitors who were in the 10% of time spent on your site. The top 5% of visitors who spent the most time on your site will be a much smaller pool, but those visitors are likely the best to target with Facebook ads.

facebook audiences by time spent

Step 4: Audience Name and Description

The last step of the process is naming your audience. You’ll want to name your custom audience in a way that you can identify it at a quick glance.

An example of a name for Website Custom Audience could be: Purchased_30Days. (That audience would be people who purchased any product within the last 30 days.

Related: How to Add and Remove Users from Meta Business Suite

Create a Customer List (Facebook Custom Audience)

By uploading a list of your customers you’ll be able to target them with ads.. but you already have their email address, so why spend money on ads? One of the biggest benefits of creating a customer list is to use it as a basis for a lookalike audience. Basically you’re telling Facebook you want more people like your customers to see your ads.

custom facebook audience list

Step 1: Before you upload your customer list you may need to reformat your spreadsheet to comply with Facebook’s formatting guidelines. If you’re impatient, like me, you can try uploading the list you have without formatting it- it might just work!

If you need help formatting your list, Facebook provides you with a file template that you can download and reference (or use) for your customer list.

preparing a customer list

Step 2: If you know the value of each of your customers, you can upload them, but you don’t absolutely need to provide Facebook with that information.

custom value from customer list

Step 3: Upload your customer list. You’ll be able to upload a .csv file or paste your list.. we highly recommend uploading a .csv file. If you don’t know how to do get a .csv file, you can use your spreadsheet software to save or export as a .csv.

This step of the process also allows you to name your audience.

uploading your customer list

Step 4: Help Facebook understand your customer list by identifying your columns. Most of the columns should self identify, but if they don’t you’ll need to tell Facebook what the column identifier is using the dropdown provided. Don’t worry, the customer data in the screenshot below is from their template! We do not share or publish any sensitive data.

Related: Facebook users in Canada

audience list map identifiers

Step 5: You’re all done! Facebook is now organizing and finding your contacts in their database. Your new audience should be available to use within a few hours (at the most!)

customer list confirmation

Create a Video Engagement Facebook Custom Audience

Using the video custom audience is a great way to target individuals who have already engaged with your brand by watching one of your videos. The videos you’re targeting can be organic and/or ads.

choosing a custom audience source

Step 1: Before you even choose the video(s) in this audience creation, you’ll be able to choose the length of time a user has watched any video.

If you’re looking for a catchall solution here, choose the first option (viewed at least 3 seconds of your video)

If you’re looking to target really engaged users, you can choose users who have watched 75% or 95% of your videos. This works really great for longer form educational videos.

Related: How to create shareable content on Facebook

video engagement custom audiences

Step 2: Choosing your video sources.

Once you choose the length of time, you’ll be prompted to choose the videos from your exiting library.

You’ll have the option to select videos posted on your Facebook Page, Instagram Business Profile, from an existing ad campaign, or by inputting the video ID directly.

facebook page video audiences

Step 3: Choose your videos.

To add your videos to your custom audience, simply click the box on the left of the video. If you do that, it will add the videos in the “selected videos” section on the right.

facebook video titles

Step 4: Choosing your retention time frame

Depending on your campaign, you may want to target users for a certain amount of days after they’ve engaged with one of your videos. Your screen should match the screenshot below. In this step you simply need to add the number of days under “retention.” We recommend no more than 30 days unless you have a Facebook Ads Agency helping you.

facebook video retention time frame

Step 5: Give your audience a name that is clear and concise. Using the example above, I would name this audience “FB Video_ 50% Engagement_365 Days”

Create a lead form Facebook Custom Audience

Using lead form custom audiences on Facebook is a great way to target qualified leads with follow up ads to build trust with your brand. It’s also a great audience to use to create a lookalike audience.

facebook lead forms

Step 1: Choosing your event.

You have 3 events to choose from: Anyone who opened the form, anyone who submitted the form, and anyone who opened but didn’t complete the form.

If you’re using the lead form custom audience to create a lookalike, we highly recommend using the “anyone who submitted the form” event.

facebook lead form audiences

Step 2: Choosing your lead form for your custom audience.

You can choose all of your forms, or specific ones to add to your audience. If all of your forms are relevant, choose all of them. If you’ve been running one lead form that has a higher conversion rate, use that one for your lookalike audiences.

creating lead form for custom audiences

Step 3: Choosing your time frame.

If you’re using the lead form custom audience to create a lookalike audience, we recommend using 90 or 180 days retention.

If you’re using your lead form to target users with ads to build trust with your brand, we recommend using a shorter time frame.

Step 4: Creating your audience.

That’s it! You’re done. All you need to do is click “Create Audience” and give it a few hours to fully populate before you run any campaigns!

Create an Instagram Account Custom Audience

Using an Instagram account custom audience is a great way to show your content or ads to users who are already engaging with your brand. We have found that using this type of audience to retarget these users is a great way to lower cost per conversion and reach interested individuals with your ads.

Related: How To Use Instagram To Grow Your Business

instagram custom audiences

Step 1: Choosing the type of engagement.

We recommend using “Everyone who engaged with this professional account” when creating an Instagram Custom Audience. This covers anyone who engaged with your organic content and ads. Unless you have millions of followers, this is your best option.

creating custom instagram audiences

Step 2: Choosing your time frame.

Depending on your advertising goals, your time frame/retention may vary. If you’re using this custom audience to create a lookalike audience, we recommend using a longer time period (90 – 180 days)

If you’re using this audience to lead engaged users further down your funnel, you can go as short as 2, 4, or 7 days.

Step 3: Naming your Audience.

Remember, when naming your audience, make sure it’s easy to understand at a quick glance. For this audience we might name it something like “IG_Engaged_30Days”

Create a Facebook Page Custom Audience

Using a Facebook Page custom audience is the best way to retarget users who engaged with your posts on Facebook. This includes both organic content and paid ads.

facebook page custom audiences

Step 1: Choosing your events.

Similarly to the IG custom audience, we recommend choosing “Everyone who engaged with your page” or “People who currently like or follow your page” depending on how big of a following you have. These events are great to use to build lookalike audiences.

creating a facebook page custom audience

Step 2: Choosing your time frame.

If you’re building lookalike audiences, you’ll want to use a longer time frame like 90 to 180 days. If you’re using this audience to lead people through your marketing funnel or to build trust with your brand, you can use shorter time frames (2,4,7,10 days)

Step 3: Naming your custom audience.

Make sure to use a naming convention that is easy to understand at a glance; remember there may be other team members using these audience in the future and it needs to be obvious.

How can I create a lookalike audience?

Lookalike audiences allow you to reach new people who are similar to audiences that you’ve already created. You can create lookalike audiences based on customer emails, followers, engaged users, and more!

facebook lookalike audiences

Step 1: Select your lookalike source.

In this step you’ll simply choose one of the custom Facebook audiences that you’ve already created. Your list will look a lot different than ours, so make sure you choose the source you’d like to use to create your lookalike audience.

creating a facebook look alike audience

Step 2: Selecting audience locations.

You’ll need to choose your audience location depending on where your customers live, where you sell, and whether you’re looking to break into a new market.

Step 3: Number of lookalike audiences.

We recommend starting with 2 lookalike audiences from every source. By default Facebook will create 1% and 2% lookalike audiences.

A 1% lookalike consists of the people most similar to your lookalike audience source. Increasing the percentage creates a bigger, broader audience.

Try starting with the 1% lookalike audience to reach your custom audience’s most similar users.

creating look alike audiences

Step 4: Creating your custom audience.

You’re all done! Now sit back and relax as Facebook’s algorithm populates your lookalike audiences! We recommend waiting a few hours for this list to populate before using it in a campaign.

Excluding your current customers and/or subscribers

When running any type of campaign, there are going to be users that you’ll want to exclude from your targeting. For example, if someone has purchased the product or service you’re advertising, you’ll want to exclude them from seeing those ads after purchase.

Excluding audience segments will lower your advertising costs and decrease your cost per conversion.

How often do Facebook Custom Audiences update?

Your audiences will be continually refreshed with events collected throughout the corresponding time period.

How long does it take for custom audiences to populate?

After creating your Facebook audience, it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to populate.

Are lookalike audiences automatically updated?

Yes. As you run your campaigns, that data is fed into Facebook’s algorithm, which helps it further refine and identify the most qualified individuals.

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