If you’re using Facebook or Instagram to publish paid ads, you may be familiar with custom audiences. Custom audiences allow you to preemptively identify more specific users to target with your ads. These ads are targeted on distinctive parameters, not just general user interests.

When creating a targeted audience (also known as an ad set), you can select targeting parameters listed in the audience builder.

The audiences you create here will leverage Facebook’s knowledge graph to identify which users depict specific interests, demographics, or behaviours.

If your brand is new to paid social ads, this is a great starting point for building your customer base.



There are, however, more granular forms of targeting users on Facebook. This form of targeting is known as custom audiences.

In order to use custom audiences, you’ll need to first develop your user segments in the audience tab of Facebook Ads Manager.



So what are custom audiences?

Custom audiences are a way to target more specific users who already have a connection with your brand. When targeting users based on interests, you’re unfortunately unable to identify who those users are that engage with your ads.

Custom audience targeting will often help drive more conversions at a lower CPA.

If you’re a brand who has structured data on your existing users (typically stored in a CRM), custom audiences are perfect for you.


Customer File Audience:

A standalone custom audience allows you to upload a list of existing users for ad targeting. These could be users who have previously purchased your product or service and have supplied you with their details – email address, first and last name, and even their phone number.

When you upload a custom audience into Facebook, it will hash the data, meaning it’s protected from plain sight. Following this process, it will then match the uploaded data with users on the platform.

It’s also possible to segment user data in a CRM, then upload this as a custom audience of its own.

As an example, it’s possible to target a custom audience of users who have already purchased a particular product or service. You could target these users with an ad to upsell them with another similar product.


Lookalike Audiences:

Lookalike audiences are a powerful way for your brand to reach new users who are similar to your existing user base. Facebook allows you to create lookalike audiences from any custom audiences you own.

Lookalike audiences are a great example of how powerful Facebook’s knowledge graph is. When you create a lookalike audience, Facebook will identify the common traits between the users of your original audience, then source new users who share similar characteristics.

Unfortunately, lookalike audiences operate as a black box, meaning there’s no way to attribute why a particular user within the ad set has been targeted.

Lookalike audiences enable you to source new users who may not be aware of your product or service, but are more than likely to engage with your content.



Retargeting is a renowned way to target paid ads. By integrating a Facebook tracking pixel on your website, it will identify when a user visits your sites.

Retargeting audiences allow you to be more personalised, specific, and targeted with your ads. Once a user has visited your website, they’re more likely to convert than someone who hasn’t.

It’s even possible to develop retargeting audiences for users who visit a particular page of your website.

If a user visits a particular product page, it’s possible to easily target them with an ad about that specific product. This ad could include an offer or more information.

It’s also possible to retarget someone by how much time they spend on your website e.g. a user who is within the top 10% of users to have spent time on your website.


Content Engagement:

Similar to website retargeting, Ads Manager allows you to create a custom audience targeting users who have engaged with your branded content.

You can retarget users who have:

  • Visited your brand profile
  • Engaged with a post or ad
  • Messaged your brand
  • Saved any post or ad
  • Clicked a CTA button

This type of custom audience can be powerful in creating unique segments of users. As an example, you could target users who have clicked on a CTA button across your ads in the past month. By targeting this particular segment of users with an offer, you could increase your end conversion rate.


Event Targeting:

Facebook’s platform makes it easy for brands to easily host real-world events. Event pages allow users to engage with pre-event content and even finalise registration natively on the platform.

If you plan on promoting your event through Facebook or Instagram ads, there’s plenty of fantastic custom audiences that can help you target potential attendees.

Through the custom event audiences, you can target:

  • Users who have registered as going or interested in your event
  • Users who have visited the event page
  • Users who have purchased tickets
  • Users who have the intention to purchase tickets (identified as someone who abandons the ticket purchasing process)

These custom audiences can allow you to easily target new users, or re-engage those who are already aware of the event – ultimately driving more ticket conversions.

Targeting custom audiences are a valuable part of social media marketing. It is, however, just as important to strategically exclude audiences to help avoid targeting overlap and skewed attribution.


If you’d like to learn how your brand can leverage custom audiences within your social media strategy, drop us a line and get in touch.

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Lachlan Kirkwood

Author Lachlan Kirkwood

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