Facebook’s ad targeting options are truly astonishing these days.
You can reach people based on their location, age, gender, birthdays, and interests ranging from French food to furniture.
You can reach people based on their behaviors and target people whom Facebook has observed watching historical dramas, using a travel app, or donating to an environmental charities.
I recently noticed you can even target people by the kind of network connection they’re using on their mobile device when they see your ad. (2G? No ad linking to a data-guzzling splash page for you—or maybe, conversely, you get an ad suggesting you switch to a better phone provider.)
And all of that’s great if you’re advertising tickets to eco-friendly tours of historic French furniture factories (lunch included).
But what if the niche your business fills isn’t strongly defined by demographics or predicted by the way that people spend their free time? What if you simply don’t know a lot (yet) about what your ideal audience is up to online … other than visiting your site, joining your email list, and buying your products?
Now, you can retarget the heck out of those people (especially if you use Center’s Facebook Ads integration) but when it comes to reaching people who don’t know about you yet, you might find yourself in uncharted waters, grabbing randomly at targeting options that seem like maybe they’ll sort of work.
There is a middle path, however: Facebook Lookalike Audiences.
Facebook Lookalike Audiences 101
As Facebook puts it, to create a Lookalike Audience:
“We look at the common qualities of the people in your source audience (ex: demographics and interests) and then find the people who “look like” your source audience in the country you choose.
“You can choose the size of the Lookalike Audience during the creation process. Smaller audiences more closely match your source audience. Creating a larger audience increases your potential reach, but reduces the level of similarity to your source audience.”
One other note on size: your custom lookalike audience needs to contain at least 100 people. So if you don’t have at least 100 contacts to work with, you’ll want to wait to use this strategy for down the road. (The good news: with this size of list, you can use Drip to grow your email list for just $1 a month.)
“Lookalike audiences tend to be a more effective way to advertise than constructing audiences based on interests or demographics,” observes Leadpages paid media manager Brett Middleton. Plus, they save you a lot of time and brainpower you might otherwise have to spend digging through customer data to find hidden patterns you can use to expand your reach. You can let Facebook find those patterns for you and display your ads automatically.
Normally, to create a lookalike audience, you’d choose a set of contacts to mimic from a single source, such as your business page, an email list you upload, or a CSV file of contacts exported from your CRM.
That works, but it’s kind of a blunt tool. Not all your Facebook fans, email subscribers, or customers are of equal value. And to get the most out of Facebook custom audiences, you want to “clone” the best and most promising of your contacts.
You could segment out those top-quality audience members manually, but Center gives you a better way: simply integrate Center with your Facebook Ads account and write a Center rule indicating which contacts you’d like to send into your source audience.
Activate the rule to start sending them into a special custom audience, and then choose that custom audience as your source audience to create a new lookalike audience.
This isn’t just a time-saver. Using Center to create lookalike audiences means you can create audiences segmented by actions people have taken across multiple marketing channels—to identify the ideal lookalikes for any given ad offer.
Let’s look at five ways this can play out in your business, each resulting in a top-quality lookalike audience.
Create a Facebook Lookalike Audience Based on …
1. Your most valuable customers: Any business can benefit from this kind of custom audience, but it’s especially good for businesses that are vulnerable to customer churn. Think subscription-based businesses, membership sites, or, especially, businesses with generous free trials.
At a certain point, acquisition and support costs may dictate that businesses like these need to stop trying to grab anyone who’s vaguely interested in a trial and start focusing more on the kind of customers who’ll stick around month after month after month. This custom audience rule can help you find more of those people to target.
Here’s one example of a Center rule you could create to identify your highest-value customers:
- When a contact … has been created in Infusionsoft
- Before … September 1, 2015
- And … is tagged “Customer”
- And … has been charged (your highest-priced product amount) in Stripe,
- Add contact to … High-Value Facebook Custom Source Audience.
Of course, you can substitute in other platforms for Infusionsoft and Stripe and add and remove conditions as needed. The only two things you really need to have are a way to identify your customers and a way to separate out the most valuable ones, whether it’s by longevity, price, or something else.
This kind of rule also comes in handy when it’s time to promote something that’s a little more expensive than the norm for your business, allowing you to get targeted without guessing at a household-income cutoff point.
2. Your happiest customers: Who doesn’t want more happy customers? The kind who sing your company’s praises to the world and—on the rare occasion they have to contact customer service—come away totally satisfied with the interaction.
Customers like these can make an excellent source audience for just about any Facebook ad you run. To find more of them, use Center to identify them and Facebook to base a lookalike audience around them.
Here’s one kind of rule you could use to do this:
- When a contact … has been created in Infusionsoft
- And … is tagged “Customer”
- And … is subscribed to “Affiliate Email List”
- And … has submitted “Positive Feedback Form” in Leadpages,
- Add contact to … Happy Customers Facebook Custom Source Audience.
Remove the affiliate condition if you don’t have an affiliate program, of course. Really, you just need to have a way to identify happy customers, which can be as simple as asking all your customers to take a quick survey on a Leadpage like this one:
Link each button to a different Leadbox, and you’ll have an easy way to see who feels good about your company. (Add a comment field and this becomes a great way to gather testimonials and address concerns, too.)
3. Your most engaged leads: Especially if you’re early on in your business, you might not have a big enough pool of customers to segment with precision. But if you have leads or email subscribers, you can still get a lot out of the combination of Center and Facebook lookalike audiences. Just adapt the first rule on this list to focus on all contacts, instead of just customers.
That could look something like this:
- When a contact … is subscribed to “Blog List” in MailChimp
- And … has registered for “Intro Webinar” in WebinarJam
- And … has viewed “Top Resources Page” and “Services Page” on your website,
- Add contact to … Engaged Leads Audience in Facebook.
A rule like this is a good way to find other people who’ll be super engaged with your content—and probably more likely to click on your ad in the first place.
4. Contacts with strong interest in one topic: If you have several products or services, you might find yourself speaking to two or more fairly different audiences on a regular basis. Harnessing Center to a Facebook custom audience can help you expand each of those audiences with distinct offers without wasting ad spend on people who won’t ultimately be interested in one product or the other.
For instance, say you’re advertising a new course on efficient hiring practices for hiring managers (though most of your business involves coaching HR professionals). You could create a rule like the following to identify ideal people to base a lookalike audience on:
- When a contact … has downloaded (any free course) from Leadpages
- And … has registered for “How Hiring Managers Can Get the Most Out of Working with Recruiters” in GoToWebinar
- And … has viewed “For Hiring Managers” page on your website,
- Add contact to … Hiring Manager Course Interest Audience in Facebook.
5. Webinar and video fans: A few weeks back, one of our video creators sent out a simple poll asking a small group of our users what kind of format they prefered to learn a new skill or software feature from: watching videos, reading written tutorials, attending a live webinar, or something else.
Videos were far and away the most popular learning format—but those who didn’t like them (and there were a couple) really didn’t like them. Some people just aren’t audiovisual learners. They want to read and research on their own, or maybe talk to someone experienced in person. Learning at the presenter’s pace feels like torture.
All that goes to say, if your Facebook Ads budget is limited and you’ve got a webinar or video course to promote, you can create a special lookalike audience to try to target only people who are likely to watch a video.
There are several ways to set this up. If you post videos on your business’s Facebook page, you can create a custom audience in the Engagement on Facebook section, select the videos you want to include, and choose to select people who watched a certain percentage of those videos. Once you’ve created this custom audience, you can use it as the source for a lookalike audience.
Center gives you some extra possibilities to gather intel from beyond your Facebook page videos. Try a rule like the following to create a source audience of all people who consume your info in video form:
- When a contact … attends “Sales Webinar” in your webinar platform
- And … watches “Sales Video” in Wistia
- For at least … 75% of running time
- Add contact to … Video-Interested Facebook Custom Source Audience.
If you’re launching a totally new video-based product, it might also be worth adding another action to send these same contacts an invitation to check it out via email.
There are dozens more rules you could write to create your own lookalike audiences depending on the apps and content your business has. The nice thing about all of these rules is that they allow you to rely on marketing assets and messaging you’ve already developed. If your ads and offers were strong enough to engage your source audience, they’ll probably be strong enough to engage other people who are a lot like that source audience.
In fact, you can start up a flywheel effect using this technique: take note of your most successful campaigns, use the leads and customers they get to create custom audiences—and repeat. Looks like marketing success to me.