The Content Imperative
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Jennifer Warren
Client Partner

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Custom v Lookalike: Knowing your Audiences

| 16 February 2017

Advertising on Facebook isn’t as simple as it used to be. With new ad products and functionalities being introduced on an almost monthly basis, the days of simply boosting a post are long gone. Instead of promoting posts straight from the brand’s timeline, most social marketers are using Facebook’s audience tools to enhance their messaging, gain cut through and make sure that the right content is being seen by the right people at the right time.

But Facebook targeting can be a bit confusing, so in this article, we’ll be shedding a bit of light on the differences between Custom and Lookalike Audiences.

Custom Audiences

These audiences are generated using a brand’s own list of customers/subscribers or Facebook users that have already engaged with branded content on the platform. Depending on how owned data has been segmented, marketers can even create custom audiences for consumers based on recent purchases, birthdays, etc.

Lookalike Audiences

These audiences are created from  a cross-reference of owned data and Facebook’s user data.  Facebook examines demographics like age, gender and employment status, as well as particular interests of a brand’s Custom Audience. Then, within Facebook’s algorithm,  these demographic details are matched up with existing Facebook users, to create a highly relevant audience of users who aren’t already engaging with your brand.  

When to use Custom Audiences

The primary reason for using a custom audience is simply to target users who already have a relationship with your brand.  This could include:

  • Upselling to existing customers
  • Re-targeting users with abandoned shopping carts
  • Promoted exclusive offers to active subscribers
  • Getting feedback on recent purchases

But custom audiences aren’t just about sales. In fact, using custom audiences to drive engagement is a great way to transform customers into advocates.

Custom audiences can also be used to exclude certain groups from your paid social activity. For example, if an ad is designed to gain new subscribers for a brand email list, it’s typically a good idea to exclude a custom audience of existing subscribers. 

When to use Lookalike Audiences

While the main use for custom audiences is targeting users who already have an established relationship with your brand, lookalike audiences are designed to help you reach new, highly relevant users.  In theory, lookalike audiences are identical to your custom audiences aside from the brand connection. This means that lookalike audiences are great for:

  • New customer acquisition
  • Driving brand awareness
  • Generating site registrations / signups

As more brands are utilising paid social on Facebook it’s vital that you’re using audience tools strategically to maximise efficiency and, as a result, ROI.

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