How to Get the Most Out of Audience Targeting on Facebook Ads

How to Get the Most Out of Audience Targeting on Facebook Ads
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What are some tips for using targeted audiences to optimize a Facebook ad campaign? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Paulius Melkūnas, Digital advertising specialist at Oberlo, on Quora:

If you’ve already launched Facebook ad campaigns, and they’ve been running for a few weeks, it’s time to make data driven decisions to ensure that your ads are as effective as possible. Building your target audiences is the next important step to ensure that you’re running a successful Facebook ads campaign.

During this post, we’ll cover the different types of Facebook audiences, and we’ll give you an overview of the best ones for your ecommerce store. If you don’t know what a lookalike audience is — no problem! We’ll cover how and why you might create one too, along with some great strategies for targeting and retargeting your ads. Ultimately, these are all key aspects in learning how to direct your ads towards the audience who are most likely to make a purchase from your store. So, let’s get started!

Types of Facebook Audiences

There are 3 main types of Facebook audiences, Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, and Saved Audiences. It’s important that you understand the difference between each of these, so let’s start by diving into them:

Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences are used in two main ways — for retargeting purposes, or for building high relevance lookalike audiences. Custom Audiences are also comprised of four subtypes:

1. Customer File This subtype of custom audiences allows you to create an audience using customer information like emails or phone numbers. You can Mailchimp with your Facebook account and upload a list of your users, or you can import them manually with a csv or txt file. When you’re creating your Facebook ad, just click ‘Add customers from your own file’ and then ‘Upload File’. After uploading, name your audience, and press ‘Next.’ When uploading email lists, this audience will typically be a bit smaller than your actual list, as Facebook can’t match every single email with the ones which people use to log into Facebook. These audiences are usually used for creating lookalikes — your customer list is the perfect seed audience for doing so. You can also use this audience to upsell your existing customer, or segment email lists by the product which they bought, and show relevant ads to them based on this information.

2. Website Traffic This audience subtype allows you to create segmented audiences based on your web traffic — it’s great for identifying audiences for retargeting. You have several options when creating a Website Traffic audience. You could make a broad one by choosing ‘All website visitors.’ By doing this, Facebook will gather all of your web traffic to form one audience. This works best if you don’t have a lot of traffic, and segmentation isn’t available. Usually, I create several Website traffic audiences by default, including:

  • All visitors in the past 7 days (hot traffic)
  • All visitors in the past 30 days,
  • All visitors in the past 90 days (great for lookalikes — broad, but still relevant).

The option for ‘People who visited specific web pages’ is great for segmentation. You can create targeted remarketing campaigns to show your visitors super relevant products. Just copy the portion of your URL which is unique to each product, and Facebook will take care of the rest. Keep in mind that all audiences have the same timespan. You can choose from 1 - 180 days, just remember to tick the ‘Include past traffic’ box. By doing this, you can still create quite a large audience, even though you don’t have a lot of daily traffic. Bare in mind that people who visited your store 180 days ago might not be interested anymore, so it’s best not to waste money advertising to them. You can also define a Website traffic audience by ‘Time spent on your website’. If you get a lot of traffic to your site, you could create ‘5% of visitors who spent most time on your website’, which allows you to retarget high value traffic with a specific message that will resonate. If you don’t get that much traffic, 25% is the better choice, as your audience segment will be larger. When creating a Customer audience based on Website Traffic, click the dropdown menu which is set to ‘All website visitors by default. If you scroll down, you can select from the Conversion Events automatically generated by Facebook. Select the event you think is best for your audience (usually it’s complete registration or purchase) and choose the time span of your audience. You can even refine your audience by the type of device or operating system that they’re using. This is very important because you may discover that a particular segment purchases much more (e.g. iOS vs Android) than the other. However, it’s important to note that by choosing ‘All Mobile Devices’, you’ll also choose tablet users — it’s currently not possible to segment these separately.

3. Engagement Audience You can source data for your engagement audiences from both Facebook and Instagram using traffic and engagement data. Engagement audiences can also be broken down into six different types, including video, lead form, canvas, Facebook page, Instagram business profile, and event — these are all great for retargeting. Let’s take a quick look at each one individually.


There are several different options for creating an audience from video engagement. You can choose the number of views a video has, or go with a percentage of video viewed. To do so, navigate to one of your videos, and select your preferred options. Note that the maximum timespan for extracting this data is 365 days, not 180.

‘Percentage of video viewed’ tells you a lot about your audience. We recommend retargeting users who have watched 75% or more of your video — these people have shown significant interest in your product. Remember to always exclude existing customers when retargeting these audiences, as email is a better channel for reaching out to them.

Lead Form

A lead form is used to gather contact information from potential customers. These ads are automatically generated by Facebook. In other words, when someone clicks on a Lead Form ad, he or she won’t have to insert any information, as it’s automatically gathered from their Facebook account. The maximum time span for drawing on this engagement data is 90 days.

The most useful targeting audience is often ‘People who opened but didn’t submit the form’, because you can retarget them. We advise against the segment ‘People who have opened and submitted form’ — you already have their emails, so you don’t need to spend marketing funds advertising to them. Instead, use your email list to target them.


Canvas ads are only available on mobile — it’s a full screen ad which loads quickly after a user clicks on a typical ad display in their Mobile News Feed. Canvas audiences are usually used by larger brands when they’re searching for new opportunities to promote their offers.

Facebook Page

This is one of the main audience categories to test out when choosing Engagement-based targeting. You can choose from a variety of options, or you create create an audience without any segmentation just by targeting somebody who has engaged with your store’s Facebook page or posts. Alternatively, you can use more specific targeting options like ‘People who sent a message to your Page’, or ‘People who saved your Page or any post.’ These users have already indicated interest in your products, so there is a high possibility that Lookalike audiences will also be useful here.

The maximum time span for Facebook page engagement is 365 days, but don’t get too carried away, as people who engaged with your page several months ago may not interested with your product or brand anymore. Usually going with a 90 day time span is sufficient with this audience. Also, keep in mind that Facebook page engagement audiences are only using data from your Facebook page and messenger.


Similar to Facebook page audiences, except they draw upon Instagram account data instead. The only major difference here is that you won’t have the ‘People who clicked any call-to-action button’ audience. The time span, however, is the same: 365 days. That said, Instagram data is only available from June 2017 onwards.

Lookalike Audiences

You may have noticed that I mentioned the term ‘lookalike audiences’ previously — lookalike audiences are a powerful tool that you can use for your ad targeting. This is perhaps the most sophisticated targeting tool available on Facebook.

Lookalike audiences allows you to reach people who are similar to your seed audience. This means that you won’t need to do tons of research every time you want to target a relevant audience, or identify a group of individuals who are most similar to your paying customers.

To create a Lookalike audience, go to your ‘Asset Library’ and press ‘Create Audience.’ From here, choose ‘Lookalike audience.’ First, you’ll need to choose the source — this refers to the list of all eligible custom audiences that you’ve created. I recommend starting from your existing customer list or use your website visitors within the last 90 days, as these seed audiences are highly relevant.

You can also create a custom audience based on the monetary value that a given user brings your business. To do so, click ‘Create New’ and then choose ‘Custom Audience With LTV’. A Custom Audience creation window will pop up — this window is nearly identical to the Customer Files audience, but this time the customer’s email won’t be the only information that’s required. You should also include customer value. If you want to learn more about this, follow this link: (

Once you’ve chosen a custom audience, you’ll need to define the country / countries that you want your audience to live in. You can do this by selecting a country from the dropdown menu. Also, you can go broader by choosing an entire continent, or use one of Facebook’s provided regions.

The next step is to choose the Audience Size. You can choose from 1% to 10% of your seed audience. This means that an audience of 1% will be the smallest proportion possible, but it’ll be filled with people who are closest to your Custom audience. As the percentage rises, you’ll reach more people, but they may not always match the parameters you set in your custom audience. We recommend starting narrower,and expanding later. You can also create up to 6 lookalike audiences at once by clicking on ‘Show Advanced Options.’

Excluding Audiences

When targeting multiple lookalike audiences and running retargeting campaigns, it’s very important to make sure that you’re not competing with yourself in Facebook auctions. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, you need to exclude your audiences from each other. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive entirely, but it’s important to be mindful of this issue.

The smaller the percentage of your lookalike audience, the closer in similarity this group will be to your original target audience. Therefore, always exclude the narrower audience from the larger one. In order to do this, simply hit the ‘Exclude’ button under the Custom Audience section when creating an ad set.

It’s also important that you exclude every retargeting list that you’re already using. I suggest that you exclude ‘All Visitors’ as well as ‘All Customers’ from your audiences. This ensures that you’re only reaching new people when targeting with a Lookalike audience.

And that just about covers everything you need to know about targeting and creating the right audiences for your products and your brand.

Let’s do a quick recap, and then you’re ready to go ahead and crush Facebook advertising:

  • There are 3 audience types available on Facebook: Custom, Lookalike, and Saved.
  • When creating a Lookalike Audience, the perfect custom audiences are simply your existing customers list, and your website traffic from up to the last 90 days.
  • All ‘Engagement’ type audiences are best for retargeting.
  • ‘Lookalike audience’ is the most powerful tool to use for your targeting.
  • Always start with narrow Lookalike audiences of between 1% and 2% similarity to your intended audience.
  • Finally, remember that when targeting multiple audiences and running retargeting campaigns, you need to exclude your audiences one from another.

We’ve created a video tutorial here at Oberlo to help you learn these techniques in conjunction with this answer.

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