Facebook Lookalike audiences are an advertising golden mine. They allow you to build new audiences from an already established source like a customer list or email newsletter. This powerful feature helps advertisers expand their ad reach to relevant audiences.

In this article we'll dive deep into the topic of How to Use Facebook Lookalike audiences.

What is a Facebook Lookalike audience?

A Facebook lookalike audience is a source audience used to find a new group of people that are characteristically similar to the source audience.

A lookalike audience can be created from sources. Below are a few common examples:

  • Customer List
  • User database
  • Pixeled Audience
  • Fan Page Audience
  • Custom List

When launching a campaign using a lookalike audience it's important to match the prospective audience with a solid objective.

For example, advertisers may use a smaller, more refined source audience to achieve granular targeting. In contrast, an advertiser may use a larger source audience to expand the campaign's reach.

Generally speaking, a recommended source audience should contain at least 50,000 users. Though keep in mind requirements will vary based on brand objectives.

Why are Lookalike audiences important?

Facebook lookalike audiences are important advertising control mechanisms. Standard interest-based campaigns offer a generic range of potential prospects. In contrast, a lookalike audience offers enhanced targeting based on the LLA source.

Reading between the lines, you can quickly see the different use cases that make LLA audiences such a powerful advertising feature. Apart from the obvious considerations like targeting people who share the same characteristics as your buyers or subscribers clever advertisers can implement psych-ops strategies to even further reach their ideal audience.

How to build a Lookalike audience?

The technical part of creating a Lookalike Audience is fairly easy and can be created via a Facebook ads manager account.

Below are the steps you can use to create a lookalike audience.

Go to the Facebook Ads Manager, click the hamburger menu (top-left screen corner), after it drops down select 'Audiences'.

You will see a blue button entitled "Create Audience", click on the button then select the "Lookalike Audience" option. Once selected a modal to create the audience will appear.

Understanding the Custom Lookalike Audience Interface

Initially the modal will allow you to select an existing audience or data source by typing in the existing source type name like a previous audience or the name of a Facebook page. For example, in the image below we've selected, "Buyer List - Sept 2020". If you are an avid advertiser it's likely that you have existing sources in place already in which case you can simply select the source and skip to audience location, size, and percentage lookalike.

Alternatively, you can create a new source using the new source dropdown. Facebook allows two different source type using the "Create New Source" option this includes: "custom audience" or "custom audience with customer value".  The distinction in these two source types is that custom audience with customer value must have a mapped value field. For the purposes of this article we will address the "custom audience" source.

In the "Create New Source" dropdown select "custom audience".

Once selected you will be directed to choose a custom audience source. Audience sources are broken down into 2 categories: "Your Sources" and "Facebook Sources".

The 'source' field is the base of your audience. Facebook sources are pretty self explanatory they reference internal data associated with your ads account. Examples of these sources include:

  • Videos - users who interacted with an existing video
  • Lead forms - existing data from previous ads that used lead forms.
  • Instagram account - users who interacted with the associated Instagram account.
  • Facebook Page - users who interacted with the existing Facebook page

In contrast, "your sources" are typically sources that are external to Facebook or Instagram.  These sources include:

  • Customer list - .CSV file containing contact information.
  • Website Traffic - users who took a specific action on your website.
  • App Activity - users who launched or performed an action within your app.
  • Offline Activity - people who had an interaction with your business through calls, visits, or any other offline form of interaction.

We will dive deeper into setting up LLAs using "Your sources" later in the article.

After selecting the appropriate audience source you will then be directed to create a custom audience. Each source will require unique inputs. For example, when selecting website traffic you'll be required to enter a pixel or URL. In contrast, if you select a customer list you'll be required to provided the associated file or authenticate the integration.

After providing the source type the next step is to provide 'Location' information. This will be the geographic base of your target audience. At the moment you can choose only countries or regions. State or city level is not available, but a way around this is to add geo-targeting after creating the lookalike audience.

Note, the 'Audience Size' slider determines how big your new audience will be. Also, you can create multiple seed audiences from a single source.

Different Methods for Creating a Facebook Lookalike Audience

Now that you understand the fundamental process of creating a FB Lookalike audience, let's dive deeper into the different methods you can use to create a lookalike audience.

Method #1 - E-mail Lookalike

Customer lists are typically a top choice for ad delivery. Bluntly speaking, an e-mail based lookalike audience clones the customer base. However, this method does have a requirement: "an existing customer list".

If you don't have an existing customer list take a step back and create a buyers list. Then you can continue making a new audience based on this source. Alternatively, advertisers often consider using a pre-built buyer's lists or lists from a similar brand or service. Though, you should be cautious when procuring these lists.

If you do have a customer list simply select "Customer List" option located beneath "Your sources". Then click the blue "Next" button on the bottom right corner.

There are two options for adding the email data:

  • File upload/copy-paste
  • MailChimp import

If you are uploading data be sure to check the formatting guidelines so that Facebook can recognize the input.  After this follow the other guidelines and steps to finish creating the Custom Audience. In the Create a Lookalike Audience you will see the custom email audience is the Source field. Select your target country, choose the audience size and click 'Create Audience'.

Method #2 - Website/Conversion Lookalike

Website lookalike audiences allow you to find a new target audience based on data from your website. This is a great option for e-commerce businesses that employ lead magnets on their website. For specific campaigns and discounts, you can create specific lookalike audiences for similar events on your page.

The requirement for this type of audience is installed conversion tracking. Before creating a lookalike audience you will need to create the source audience - from a website custom audience who have completed a specific event action.

Method#3 - Pages Lookalike

This type of lookalike audience is a breeze because you build them directly from your Facebook page. Consider using this construct if you have a large number of people who actively engaged with your posts. In this case, there is no need to create a new custom audience, you can simply use an existing source.

Go to the Audiences dashboard in the Facebook Ads Manager, click Create Audience, and then Lookalike Audience. Select your page name from the Source drop-down list.

Chose your target country and audience size (include at least 1000 people) and you are good to go.

How to use Facebook Lookalike Audiences?

Facebook Lookalike Audiences are a great tool to reach new customers. It enhances Facebook ad targeting based on the previous experience gathered from real customers.

Creatively this feature can be presented as a matchmaker between the audience and marketers. You tell the matchmaker what you want, and he delivers all prospective candidates. Go over the previous section, and click around the Audience section in the Ads Manager until you feel certain you understand what is going on where before continuing.

Use the right source audience for your goals

Among the different custom audiences and methods, you can achieve different goals. For example, let's compare the two goals:

  • increase in sales
  • increase in views

An increase in sales should be based on the website visitors because these users have already made a purchase. On the other hand, an increase in views equates to the desire for increased brand visibility.  In this case, a FB Page or Instagram account would be a better LLA source for the goal.

Get creative with Facebook Custom Audiences

Depending on your campaign goals there are many different parameters you can use to create a custom audience. Ideas for Custom Audiences can be:

  • Video audiences if you are preparing a video-based campaign
  • Website visitors with the fact that you should focus on the visitors who were on your website in the past 30 days, or visitors who have finalized a purchase
  • Email audiences (all subscribers) should be used to double the number of people who are directly exposed to your content via email.

Test your Lookalike Audience Size

Different sizes of audiences can be more efficient in a specific campaign (depending on its type). Smaller audiences (1-5 scale) share the most resemblance and excel for increasing sales. Larger audiences, on the other hand, (6-10 scale) have a bigger reach and a decrease in similarity with your custom audience.

Choose high-quality data

To put it simply, 250 loyal customers will have a better performance than 25000 followers among which you have a small percentage of loyal customers. Large audiences are for increasing post reach and should be done when you have nothing else better to do. Go through the metrics focusing on the smaller in number, but greater in quality, for the best customers.

Keep your audience list up-to-date

Updating your parameters is the only way to get the best out of Facebook Lookalike Audiences as they are updated every few days. This means that anyone who visits during that period will be added to your Lookalike Audience. It may seem like another obligation, but making it a routine will significantly support prosperous advancements online for your brand.

Use Lookalike Audiences in combination with other features

Enhancing audience targeting by adding the parameters of age, gender or interest, can greatly impact the development of the new audience. For example, if you have an existing custom list consider enriching custom data to provide more targeting granularity.

Optimize bids with a set of Lookalike Audiences

You must use segmentation for your audiences with non-overlapping tiers.

You need to click Advanced Options when selecting audience size and can create up to 500 Lookalike Audiences from a single source. This means you can segment an audience based on similarity.

Pinpoint right locations

It is important to determine the geographical scope of influence because Facebook will always prioritize similarity over the location. This can result in uneven distribution between locations, meaning that you need to be careful and outgoing to have an end-goal idea.  

Advanced FB LLA tips

Facebook Lookalike Audiences prioritize users who are most likely to convert toward our brand or service based on the custom audience. However, the practice has shown that even Lookalike Audiences wear over time. They require instant updating and monitoring but can be worth the investment, and even provide some additional engagement.

Tip #1 Use Automatic CRM Uploads

Depending on the CRM system you are using, there may be automatic integrations from the platform to Facebook.

According to Facebook, MailChimp is the only shown option, but Marketo and similar platforms also have direct integrations. The strategy is to leverage the direct integrations to save time on manual list building and uploading in the Facebook system.

Tip # 2 Use Dynamic Audiences for Lookalike Modeling

Dynamic lists have the most recent content and insight into the activity and engagements of users. Because of this, it is a great implementation strategy to keep Lookalike Audiences fresh.

Now, as much as they do have an advantage of the insight, there is still a period of stagnancy, depending on the type of advertisement, approach among colleagues, budget, and most importantly patience.

A great example is any type of re-marketing list of people who bought steak knives from your kitchenware site. Instead of broad groups interested in cooking, your modeling lookalike audiences will tend to people who were interested in 'steak preparation' and 'quality knives' before coming to your site and making a purchase.

A Facebook pixel is a requirement to be able to create audiences based on the way people interact on the company's site. As the demographic of users is constantly changing based on user behavior it refreshes the model of the Lookalike Audience.

Tip #3 Pixel Customization

Similar to customer lists, and type of dynamic lists can be done through simple audience segmentation. Facebook pixel set up can help identify those categories.

Facebook provides standard events that are likely to cover and anticipate your needs, but if it doesn’t, you can create your own. The usual 'events' are: Add To Cart, Add Payment Info, Complete Registration, Lead, Page View, Purchase, Subscribe, View Content, etc.

There are updates on Facebook almost every day, and new functions are constantly available. Like the new method which does not require you to create an audience, but can generate a Lookalike Audience from users who have triggered the pixel.

Final Thoughts on Facebook Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences are a powerful tool for advertising on Facebook. However, it is important to keep in mind the core of a good Lookalike Audience is organic and real users. This extension is only an upgrade for businesses big and small that already have a good firm strategy and loyal customers.

As a social media platform, Facebook allows business profiles to reach and build their audiences in many different ways. Take advantage of this powerful feature, there are many different ways you can use lookalike audiences to drive better campaign results.