Phew. You’ve moved your small business online, either with some landing pages or an ecommerce store. You’ve started building an email list of customers that want to hear about your latest offers. Maybe you’ve even set up Google Ads to advertise to people who are searching for what you’re selling.
Nice job! You’re well on your way to transforming your brick-and-mortar shop into a thriving digital business. But you don’t just want to “get online”—you want to get your products or services in front of all the people who might want ’em. Like a kid who isn’t quite tall enough to ride the rollercoaster, you wanna grow fast.
Fortunately, there’s an advertising tool that lets you use the customer data you already have to find more high-converting prospects: Facebook lookalike audiences. Keep reading to learn what they are and how you can use them to ramp up your digital business.
What’s a Facebook Lookalike Audience?
A Facebook lookalike audience is a segment of users who share characteristics (like their age or hobbies) with people who’ve already engaged with you, meaning they’re much more likely to be interested in your business. It’s as simple as telling Facebook who’s already bought something from you or interacted with you positively. Facebook then identifies similar people and targets your ads at them, letting you reach a larger audience of probable buyers.
If you’re just getting started with digital marketing, lookalike audiences are a great way to use customer information that you’ve got (like an email list from a past promotion) to grow your online presence super quick. And if you’ve got details on what those customers have purchased or how they’ve previously engaged with you, you can create subset lookalike audiences to get even more precise in your targeting.
Sound like something you wanna try? Well, first things first. Let’s make sure you’ve got everything you need to start advertising on Facebook.
Getting Started with Facebook Ads
Lookalike audiences are a feature of Facebook Ads, so you’ve gotta have a Facebook account. (If you’ve held out this long, wow—kudos.) You’ll also need a Facebook page for your business linked to Facebook Business Manager. It’s all pretty straightforward, and Facebook’s got a handy resource center that explains how to get everything set up.
Once you’re in Facebook Business Manager, you’ll need to create an ad account for your business. You’ll be asked to assign administrative permissions to any other users, set up the payment method you’ll be using for your ads—that sorta thing.
After, make your way to Facebook Ads Manager, which will look something like this:
Okay, now on to the good stuff. You’re ready to use your customer list to advertise to lookalike audiences on Facebook.
Creating a Facebook Lookalike Audience
To create a Facebook lookalike audience, navigate to the Audiences section of Ads Manager. There, you’ll have the option to create one of three different audience types:
- A custom audience targets people who’ve already interacted with your brand. This could be a list of website visitors, customer email addresses, or even people who’ve bought something from you in-person.
- A lookalike audience is a group of users that Facebook has identified as being similar to one of your existing audiences, like a custom audience. This is what we’re gonna create.
- A saved audience lets you manually set up targeting parameters based on things like gender, location, and interests. This is what you’d use if you wanted to display your ads to a very specific kind of person, or if you didn’t have existing audience data to work with.
In this post, we’re focusing on using your existing customer data to find more high-converting prospects. You could use a list of all your customers, repeat customers, ones that engaged with a particular promotion, or some other subset. (Of course, you’ll also want to ensure that you’re complying with GDPR and other online privacy regulations.)
First, Create a Custom Audience with Your Existing Customer Data
The first thing we need to do is upload our customer list to Facebook as a custom audience. You can do that by clicking “Create a Custom Audience” and selecting “Customer List” as your source.
Your customer list needs to have at least 100 people from the same country (though Facebook recommends using between 1,000 and 50,000). Ensure that your list includes one of Facebook’s main identifiers (like an email address or phone number), plus as many additional identifiers as you’ve got. Also, check that your list is formatted according to Facebook’s guidelines, or download and use their example template.
Upload your customer list, then follow the remaining steps to finish creating your custom audience.
Next, Use the Custom Audience to Create Your Lookalike
Now we’re going to use our custom audience to build a lookalike audience. In your (newly populated) Audience section, click “Create Audience” and select “Lookalike Audience.”
First, you’ll need to choose the lookalike source. Click the source field and choose the “Other Sources” tab, then select the custom audience you just created.
Next, choose the audience location. This is where you want Facebook to look for similar people. It’s done at a national level, but you’ll be able to layer on more precise geotargeting when you create your ads.
Finally, set the audience size. You can scale this option from 1% to 10%, with a lower number representing precise matches and a higher number extending the lookalike search more broadly. We’d stick to 1% at first to target the people most like your existing customers. You can always widen the range if you feel like you’re not getting enough hits.
And that’s it! You’ll be able to see your lookalike audience in the Audience section, and you can select it when you go to create a Facebook ad. (Though depending on the size of your lookalike audience, it could take a few hours for Facebook to fully process.)
Different Ways to Use Lookalike Audiences
In the example above, we created a lookalike audience using an existing customer list, but there are lots of other ways to use lookalikes. You could also:
- Embed the Facebook pixel on your website to track and target visitors
- Use a list of users who’ve engaged with you on Facebook or Instagram
- Import data from a custom app and target people who’ve taken a particular action
That said, using a list of people who’ve bought something from you is likely to produce a more valuable lookalike audience. And if you assign values to individual customers in your list (like average order value or lifetime value), Facebook can even prioritize finding the people most like your highest-performing customers.
Examples of Lookalike Audiences in Action
Here are some examples of how our customers have used Facebook lookalike audiences and Unbounce landing pages to grow their online presence.
1. Love Child Organics
Love Child Organics is an all-natural baby food brand available at a bunch of Canadian retail chains. The (traditionally brick-and-mortar) company was interested in starting to sell their products online, so they turned to marketing agency Banan for help.
The first priority was to create an email list and establish a direct line of communication with probable ecommerce buyers. To do that, Love Child launched a gated coupon campaign targeting their followers on Facebook and Instagram. When someone clicked an ad to claim the coupon offer, they’d be sent to a landing page that asked for their email address.
Love Child’s campaign netted a ton of email addresses from people with clear purchase intent—but they weren’t done yet. Next, the brand used those collected emails to create a Facebook lookalike audience, allowing them to target the coupon ads at similar users.
In less than a year, Love Child used this technique to grow their email list from 2,000 to 16,000 subscribers. And since they were targeting higher-converting prospects, they also cut their cost-per-lead from $2.00 to $1.30.
Want the scoop on how Love Child Organics took their brick-and-mortar products online? Check out the full customer story and learn how to turn more of your social followers into valuable leads.
2. Fat Stone Farm
The elderberry merchants at Fat Stone Farm were using digital ads to get the word out about their line of organic products, but they weren’t having much luck with their targeting. Search volume for ‘elderberry’ isn’t high, and people don’t exactly gush about Sambacus nigra in their social media profiles.
Working with Webistry, Fat Stone Farm decided to start targeting Facebook users with adjacent interests: things like natural remedies and alternative medicine. They ran ads for weekly sweepstakes, giving people a chance to win some maple syrup or elderberry apple shots in exchange for their email address.
The beauty was that Fat Stone Farm could confidently say anyone who entered the sweepstakes was interested in the products, and Facebook lookalike audiences let them use that email list to find similar people.
Combined with their other targeting techniques, Fat Stone Farm increased their return on ad spend from 1.66X to upwards of 33.12X—not to mention dramatically reducing their cost-per-acquisition.
Turn More Followers Into Customers with Lookalike Audiences & Unbounce
Facebook lookalike audiences are a great way for you to find and target the people who’re most likely to want what you’re selling. It’s a way you can tell Facebook, “hey, more folks like these ones, please!” And by pairing your newfound audiences with high-converting landing pages built in Unbounce, you can get more conversions from your social ads and grow faster online.