How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences

By the end of this month (September 2018) Facebook will have removed all of the third-party demographic data from their advertising targeting system. Now, more than ever, creating custom audiences based on user behavior is crucial.

What is a Custom Audience?

I feel I should define this as business owners I talk to are not sure of the difference between the options you can choose when you boost a post and actual custom audiences. In Facebook’s case, a custom audience is created using existing data. So, you’re not advertising to people that have never heard of you, which makes them far more likely to buy from you.

Types of Facebook Custom Audiences

Currently, Facebook offers five different types of custom audiences for you to choose from: Customer File, Website Traffic, App Activity, Offline Activity, and Engagement. Let’s learn more about each one.

Customer File
One of the most effective custom audiences is one that contains your current customers. We already know they like your brand, so let Facebook’s ad system find them for you. To use this audience, you upload your own mailing list and Facebook will match their users with your list. Then you can set up ads that speak directly to existing customers.

Website Traffic
Once you have the Facebook pixel installed, you can link your site to you ad account. Once that’s linked, you can set up ads that only go to users who went to your site already but didn’t make a purchase. This method is called retargeting and has a very high conversion rate.

App Activity
Much like targeting website traffic, you can retarget users that take action on your app or game. Actions can include launching the app, making purchases or any in-app action you can add tracking to.

Offline Activity
If you run Facebook’s offline event campaigns that offer online deals for in-store use, you can create a custom audience from it. Essentially, you use the data captured offline to retarget those customers online.

Lastly, there are custom audiences based on engagement with your Facebook page and posts. You can target based on video views, page interaction and more. As you can see, there are a good amount of targeting options and since Facebook wants to remain one of the top advertising platforms, it’s only going to get better from here!

How to Create a Custom Audience

Next, I’ll walk you through creating your own audiences and expanding them. First, open Ads Manager. Then click All Tools (1) and then click Audiences (2).


Once you are there, click on the blue Create Audience button, then select Custom Audience. The next screen that comes up will ask you what type of audience you want to create. Once you click on the one you want, the instructions are pretty clear. However, I want to give you an example based on engagement.


After I choose Engagement, a new screen comes up asking which type of engagement I want to use.


I’ve used the video one more than the others because it helps me gain social proof for my ads at a very low cost per thousand impressions (CPM). After you choose video, a new window will come up to choose the type of engagement you want to base the audience on. I personally like the 50% video views if my videos are 60+ seconds and 95% if they’re around 30 seconds. But remember, what works for me may not work for you, so experiment with A/B testing!


Give your custom audience a name and let Facebook do its thing. Now, when you run ads, you can use this audience as a target knowing they’ve already shown some interest.

Expand Custom Audiences with Lookalike Audiences

One more thing you want to do with your custom audience is expand it. You can do that with lookalike audiences, which uses a kind of profiling system to find users with similar demographics and interests as the people on your custom audience list. They’re very easy to create and should be used right along side of initial audience. Back on the main Ads Manager screen, click the blue button that says Create Audience, then select lookalike audience. Choose your custom audience from the source list, then choose the expansion you want to create. It goes by percentage of the population of the area specified. My go-to is a 1%, then I also create a 2-4% option, too. If I find I have a bigger budget, I’ll include all three options (original, 1% and 2-4%). Now that you know how to set up custom audiences in Facebook, don’t be worried about all the demographic targeting that they’re removing from the system. You now have the best targeting you can get! And if you need a little extra help, check out my top 3 Facebook ads secrets.

Until next time…