Facebook’s paid advertising has long been a favorite of businesses because of its deep targeting options. After all, almost everyone is on Facebook and provides (knowingly or not) plenty of information about themselves.

Facebook has a unique ability to make assumptions about its users, based on the limited information they provide and their activity on the platform. This might seem a bit invasive, but it also means that users are presented with customized experiences, tailored to their interests and preferences.

Perhaps the most powerful option is the ability to load your own custom audiences and then have Facebook create lookalike audiences for expanded (yet targeted) advertising opportunities. 

What is a Facebook Custom Audience?

A custom audience is a targeting option that allows you to advertise to a specific audience of people that have already engaged with you.

With this option, you’re able to market to people who’ve already interacted with you before, expressed interest, or have even purchased from you.

There are a few different types of custom audiences that you can create:

  • Customer List - Facebook allows you to upload a list of contacts with their information. These could be any list that you’ve created, such as leads, site visitors, or existing customers.
  • Website Visitors - By placing the tracking Meta Pixel on your website, Facebook can begin to match your visitors to their Facebook accounts. They’ll start seeing your ads without you having to upload a list.
  • Engagement Audience - You can target people who’ve interacted with you on Facebook, such as watching a video, interacting with a lead form, or visiting your Facebook Page.
  • App Activity - You can register your app and then retarget people who’ve taken specific actions, such as downloading the app or making a purchase.

In other words, you have nearly endless options for laser-targeted marketing!

Imagine a scenario where you show ads only to people who’ve visited your website's Pricing page—or, if you have enough volume, to people who visited your Checkout page but didn’t purchase!

How to Upload a Customer List to Facebook Ads

Perhaps the simplest way to create a custom audience is to upload your own list. Most companies have a CRM with their contacts’ data, so all you have to do is export a list and load it into your Facebook Ads Account.

1. In Facebook Ads Manager, click “Audiences” on the left-hand side of the screen.

2. Click on “Create a Custom Audience”

3. Select the type of custom audience you wish to create. In this example, let’s create a Customer list.

4. Add your ad account to a business. This option appears if you’re running ads for the first time.

5. Import your list! 

You can now upload your CSV or TXT file (usually you’ll get a CSV if you download it from a CRM). 

Facebook custom audience template

You must import the list in the correct format for Facebook to recognize it and match data with users.

Each column must have a specific Facebook-recognized header. For example, you’ll have a column with the contact’s email address, and the column header should be titled “email.” Other columns should have headers for “phone” or “country,” to name a few. 

Luckily, they have instructions for formatting your spreadsheet, as well as a template that you can download and use.

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Expand your marketing with Facebook lookalike audiences

In most cases, a custom audience simply won’t be enough. They’re useful for limited, specific retargeting campaigns.

However, using lookalike audiences allows you to expand your audience beyond the list you uploaded. Facebook will analyze your list and find more users who are similar to the ones already on it!

You can also add other targeting parameters. For example, you could advertise to users similar to your list who live in the state of Texas or are under the age of 45.

In other words, it’s a simple way to effortlessly expand your audience while still marketing to people likely to be interested in your product or service.

How to build a Facebook lookalike audience

Lookalike audiences are simple to set up. Here’s how you do it:

1. In Facebook Ads Manager, click “Audiences” on the left-hand side of the screen.

2. Click on “Create a lookalike audience.”

3. Choose the source, location, size, and similarity of the audience. If you’ve previously uploaded a list, you can select it here. You’ll also be able to select where in the world you want your audience to be located. Then, select how many lookalike audiences you want as well as how similar to your original list the users should be. Smaller percentages here means a smaller, more targeted audience.

That’s it! Now, you can begin running ads to your audience(s).

How to build a custom audience for better ad results

You might love the idea of uploading a custom audience and generating lookalike audiences in order to run Facebook ads. But what if you don’t have a list to work with?

Using a service like Coldlytics, you can generate incredibly specific lists of leads. You can choose from hundreds of parameters to find your ideal contacts who will likely be interested in your product or service.

Here’s a quick demo showing how to generate a list of leads for a business that sells to HVAC business owners:

Note: uploading a purchased list is technically against Facebook’s terms of service. We work hard to ensure that our lists are high quality so that you’re not spamming people who are unlikely to be your target audience. This helps both with your ad performance and keeping Facebook happy.

Ready to try your hand at building your own list of perfect leads? You can set up a Coldlytics account for free to see how well we can target your ideal customers. Don’t pay anything until you decide to purchase the list.

Quality data for cold email, phone, or direct mail. Researched on demand.

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