How To Create & Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Finding offline customers online is one of the Holy Grails of online marketing, and that’s what Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” advertising product is designed to do. As Facebook puts it, “Custom audiences let marketers find their offline audiences among Facebook users.”

The feature allows you to match phone numbers, email address, or user IDs gathered offline to actual Facebook users. That contact information might come from customer loyalty programs, applications on Facebook, prospective customers or elsewhere. Any contact list that you have is usable.

Custom Audiences is the same basic form of retargeting available on many other ad serving platforms, but it’s relatively new on Facebook, where concerns about the privacy of its users has often outweighed its desire to keep up with ad serving competitors. This new foray has certainly caused a buzz among major advertisers.

Finally, they are able to connect online and offline behaviors, addressing many marketers’ concerns that the people they interact with on Facebook are not the same individuals who are coming in their stores or purchasing their products.

How To Create A Custom Audience

Implementing the Custom Audiences feature is free and easy for Facebook advertisers. Simply take your list of email address or phone numbers and input into Power Editor. Facebook will encrypt the data and look for matches among real Facebook users. Thus, your Custom Audience is created.


According to Facebook, match rates for these lists range from 50 to 95 percent, further demonstrating and validating just how large the social network’s reach is. So, it’s likely that the majority of your list will also be active on Facebook.

Once the Audience has been created in Power Editor, it is accessible for use in any future advertising campaigns.

What Are The Benefits?

Custom Audiences can be used in any type of Facebook campaign, from fan acquisition to direct response.

Fan Acquisition: For a fan campaign, think about using the Custom Audience as a qualified group of people who have already expressed interest in your brand. They are part of your loyalty program, or they’ve given you their email address to receive communication about your product.

If they aren’t already fans on Facebook, they should be! They will likely be very interested and engaged in the content you share on your page, so go after them. Create fan acquisition ads targeting this group that exclude current fans of your page, so you’re not reaching folks who have already “liked” your brand. Acquiring these fans may be cheaper and, in the long run, more beneficial for your brand, than going after the general Facebook population.

You can also use that opportunity to learn more about your consumer base and how it aligns with your Facebook fans. Use granular targeting techniques against the Custom Audiences to give you a better idea of who this audience is.

Layer Facebook’s highly specific targeting capabilities on top of the Custom Audience to find out if your Custom Audience is male or female, where they live, and if they are interested in sports or shopping, for example. Is this population similar to your existing Facebook fans? This exercise could also potentially highlight targeting parameters that you haven’t thought of before, useful for informing future campaigns.

Direct Response: The most obvious situation in which to use Custom Audiences is for direct response campaigns. Again, the Custom Audience you’ve created is a population of people who are pre-disposed to be interested in your content. You have a built-in audience of potential customers, and their potential for purchase is certainly higher than that of the general Facebook population. Take advantage of that!

If your Custom Audience is created from a list of prospective customers, create an ad campaign that exclusively targets those users. Craft copy that calls out to this specific group. If it’s a list from a loyalty program, offer additional rewards for purchases by a certain date.

There’s also no limit on the number of Audiences you can create. Make Audiences for all types of consumers, and then make more that are additionally geo-targeted. You can be as precise as you like.

It’s Free, So Use It!

On a very basic level, Custom Audiences are just another facet of Facebook’s insane targeting, and as such, you should be using it to your advantage. Initial results from SocialCode’s campaigns have shown that Custom Audiences are extremely valuable targeting groups, both from a cost and engagement perspective. And, don’t forget that using this feature is free, so go try it!

About The Author

Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson is Advertising Team Lead at SocialCode, a full-service social media agency. She has two years of experience in social media marketing and is responsible for the development, implementation, management, and optimization of ad campaigns for leading global brands on both Facebook and Twitter.