Lookalike audiences are one of the most powerful features available for Facebook advertising. Basically, instead of relying on your own marketing smarts to determine and target your ideal demographic, you leave the work to a fancy computer algorithm. You give Facebook a list of your customers (or access to your website customers), and Facebook generates a group of people who “look like” your customers. Because Facebook has access to huge amounts of information for each user, the audiences it generates can be rather sophisticated.
At Ideas Money Art, we have had great results with lookalike audiences. Compared to other methods of targeting, ads using lookalike audiences gain the best click-through rates and the most conversions.
How to Create a Lookalike Audience on Facebook (from a mailing list)
This tutorial will focus on making lookalike audiences based on mailing lists that you already have. You can also make lookalike audiences based on the group of people who visit your website. In order to do so, you’ll need to grab a conversion pixel from Facebook (Tools > Pixels > (Make sure you’re in the “Custom Audience Pixel” tab) > Create a Pixel) and place it in the <head> section of a webpage on your website.
One other way to make a lookalike audience is to make it based on your Page followers. I wouldn’t recommend this, since they’re likely not as good a representation of your real customers as a website audience or a mailing list.
Step 1: Go to Audiences in Facebook Ads Manager.
Step 2: If you haven’t already created a custom audience, create a custom audience. Facebook bases lookalike audiences on pre-existing audiences.
Step 3: Create a custom audience based on your customer list.
This means you have a list of emails, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs, or mobile advertiser IDs that you can give to Facebook. Facebook will then try to match the information you give it to Facebook accounts.
Step 4: Give Facebook your list. You can either upload a data file (like a spreadsheet) or just copy and paste your list.
If you do have a spreadsheet, you may need to get rid of extra data in that spreadsheet so that Facebook can read it. My suggestion? Go into your spreadsheet and select the column that has the info you need (like emails, for example). Then copy and paste that column of data into a new file to upload to Facebook. Make sure that you “Save As” a .csv or a .txt file. These are the only file types that Facebook accepts.
If you happen to have a MailChimp customer list, you can easily import that list directly from MailChimp.
Although it will upload immediately, your list may not be ready to advertise with for several hours. BUT, you can go ahead and make a lookalike audience with it.
Step 5: Now that your custom audience is uploaded, make a lookalike audience.
After you upload a custom audience, Facebook will ask you about “next steps” (see image below). This is where you can go ahead and create a lookalike audience. Click “Expand your Audience.”
If you decide later that you want to go back and create a lookalike audience, just click “Create Lookalike Audience” from the drop-down bar on the Audiences tab and proceed from there.
Step 6: Choose a country and size for your lookalike audience.
If you want to target people in multiple countries, you’ll need to make more than one lookalike audience.
The “size” of the audience tells you how strict Facebook will be when it goes about trying to find people who are “similar” to your list. To find people who are more similar, choose a smaller audience. If you care more about quantity, choose a larger audience.
Some experimentation is good here. I test audiences of various sizes against each other to see how they perform. If you’re really unsure, I suggest start with a smaller audience.
Step 7: You’ve created a lookalike audience! Take a break while it populates.
It may take several hours before your lookalike audience is ready to use. You can check the status of your audience in the Audiences tab. You can now use those audiences either by…
- selecting that audience under the “Audiences” tab and clicking “Create Ad”, or
- clicking “Create Ad” in the top right hand corner of any page in the business manager, and then, in the targeting section, click the text bar next to “Custom Audiences.” This will give you a drop-down menu of all your custom audiences, including lookalike audiences.
Remember that your lookalike audience is based on the entire national population for the country you selected. So if you want to make sure you’re only targeting local customers or customers over a particular age, you’ll need to specify those measures on top of using the lookalike audience.
That being said, I find that lookalike audiences tend to work better when left to their own devices. You can run an A/B test to verify this for your own company, of course, but I find that when I try to add target demographics to the lookalike audiences, they do not perform as well as when I let the lookalike audience run without additional parameters.