Free Consultation
Home > Blog > Facebook Ads > How Do Facebook Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences Differ in Ad Targeting?
custom vs lookalike audience Jul 05, 2024

How Do Facebook Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences Differ in Ad Targeting?

Did you know that Facebook has over 2.98 billion monthly active users? That’s a goldmine for digital marketers looking to nail targeted advertising. But here’s the kicker: not all targeting is the same, especially when you’re torn between Facebook custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

Both have their charm, but understanding their differences can crank up your ad game. If you’re scratching your head over which to choose for your next campaign, Infintech Design is here to guide you through the maze of Facebook Ads with top-notch services.

Key Takeaways

  • Custom audiences let you target ads to people you already know, while lookalike audiences help you find new people similar to your best customers.

  • To use custom audiences, you need data like email addresses or phone numbers. Lookalike audiences are created by Facebook using your custom audience’s traits.

  • Custom audiences are great for re-engaging past customers or website visitors. Lookalike audiences can expand your reach to new potential customers.

  • You can create various types of custom audiences, including those based on website traffic, app activity, or customer lists.

  • Using lookalike audiences can increase your ad’s relevance score, potentially lowering costs and improving ad performance.

  • Remember to keep your audience’s privacy in mind when creating custom audiences by using data responsibly and following Facebook’s guidelines.

What is a Custom Audience?

A Custom Audience lets advertisers target people who have already interacted with their brand. This could be through the Facebook platform, visiting a website, or using an app. They use sources like customer lists, website or app traffic tracked by the Facebook Pixel, and engagement on Facebook to create these audiences.

Advertisers upload a list of emails or phone numbers. Then, Facebook matches this information with its users. This method guarantees ads reach those with a known interest in the brand. It’s a powerful tool for re-engaging past customers or website visitors.

What is a Lookalike Audience?

On the other hand, a lookalike audience expands on the concept of custom audiences. It helps find new people who are similar to an existing customer base. Facebook analyzes the traits of your custom audience. These include interests, behaviors, and demographics. Then, it finds users with similar profiles.

Creating a lookalike audience involves selecting a source audience. You then choose a target location and specify the audience size. The goal is to reach new potential customers who are likely to be interested in your products or services. This strategy is key for growing your brand’s reach beyond existing contacts.

Distinguishing Features

Basis of Creation

Facebook custom audiences are built from an advertiser’s existing contacts. This includes email lists, website visitors, or app users. It focuses on people who already know the brand. Custom audiences aim to re-engage those familiar with the products or services.

Facebook lookalike audiences, however, expand on this foundation. They use the characteristics of custom audiences to find new people who share similar traits. The goal is to reach potential customers who have not interacted with the brand before. This method relies on Facebook’s algorithms to identify these similarities.

Targeting Precision

Custom audiences allow for highly precise targeting. Advertisers can direct their ads to a specific group of known contacts. This makes it easier to tailor messages that resonate with the audience’s known preferences and behaviors.

Lookalike audiences, while still targeted, operate on a broader scale. They are more about reaching new people who are likely to be interested in the brand based on their resemblance to existing customers. The precision here is in how closely these new audiences match the original Custom Audience’s profile.

Audience Expansion

Custom Audiences serve well in nurturing leads and encouraging repeat business within a funnel. They keep the brand in front of those already aware of it.

Lookalike Audiences help in expanding the top of the funnel. They bring attention to new individuals who might need a nudge to explore what the brand offers. This feature is crucial for businesses looking to grow their customer base beyond current horizons.

Benefits of Custom Audiences

1. Upselling Opportunities

Custom audiences allow businesses to target existing customers with ads for higher-tier products or services. This strategy works well because it targets people who are already familiar with the brand. It makes upselling more effective.

2. Attracting Qualified Leads

By using website custom audiences, companies can retarget visitors who showed interest in their products but did not make a purchase. This method ensures that ads reach individuals who are more likely to become customers, improving the quality of leads.

3. Enhancing Ad Relevance

Engagement custom audiences focus on users who have interacted with a brand’s content on Facebook. This targeting option increases the relevance of ads since they are shown to users who have already shown interest in similar content.

4. Improve Conversion Rates

Custom audiences often lead to higher conversion rates. This is because the ads are shown to a more specific group of people. These individuals have either previously engaged with the brand or visited the website, making them more likely to take action.

5. Expanding Reach

Lastly, custom audiences can help expand a business’s reach by targeting similar users through lookalike audiences.

While not directly a feature of custom audiences, creating a lookalike audience starts with a custom audience as its base, leveraging its data to find new potential customers with similar interests and behaviors.

Types of Custom Audiences

Facebook audience targeting allows you to reach users based on their interactions with your brand across Meta platforms. Here are the main types of custom audiences that Facebook offers:

Customer File Custom Audience

This type involves uploading a customer list that includes details such as email addresses, phone numbers, or other identifying information directly to Facebook. Facebook then matches this data with user profiles for targeted advertising.

Website Custom Audience

Utilize Facebook Pixel to track visitors to your website and create audiences based on specific actions taken on the site, such as visiting a particular page, making a purchase, or abandoning a shopping cart. This allows for retargeting individuals who have shown interest in specific products or services.

App Activity Custom Audience

Target users based on the actions they’ve taken within your mobile app. This can include events like app installs, in-app purchases, or reaching a certain level in a game. You’ll need to use the Facebook SDK to track these interactions.

Engagement Custom Audience

This audience is created from people who have engaged with your content across the Facebook family of apps and services, including Instagram. Engagement can include actions like spending time viewing your videos, interacting with a lead form, or actions on your Facebook page or Instagram business profile.

Offline Activity Custom Audience

This type targets people who have interacted with your business offline. It can include customers who made in-store purchases, attended an event, or any other offline interaction. You can track this by uploading data collected offline to Facebook.

Each of these custom audiences can be further segmented and refined to target specific subsets of users, providing a powerful tool for personalized marketing campaigns on Facebook.

Facebook also enables marketers to establish a “look-back window” for creating custom audiences from engagement data. This tool allows advertisers to specify a time frame during which user interactions are relevant for audience creation.

For instance, setting a 30-day look-back window means that only interactions from the past 30 days are considered. Any activities beyond this period are excluded, allowing marketers to focus on users with recent engagement, which is often more pertinent for specific campaigns.

Using Lookalike Audiences

Creating Lookalike Audiences

  • Selecting a Source Audience: The process begins with choosing a source audience from your existing custom audiences. This could be based on customers who have purchased your products or engaged with your content.

  • Analyzing and Identifying Similarities: Facebook’s algorithms analyze the source audience to find key characteristics and behaviors. This analysis helps in identifying a broader group of potential customers who have similar attributes.

  • Expanding Market Reach: Lookalike Audiences help you reach individuals who have not yet interacted with your brand but are likely to be interested in your offerings due to their similarities to your existing customers.

Strategy Implementation for Lookalike Audiences

  • Defining Audience Size: Decide on the size of your lookalike audience. A smaller size usually means the audience will more closely resemble your source audience, leading to higher relevance but smaller reach. Conversely, a larger audience size boosts reach but may include less closely aligned individuals.

  • Tailoring Ad Content: Develop ad content that appeals to the characteristics and preferences of the new target audience. Utilize insights from successful past campaigns aimed at your source audience to write compelling messages.

  • Monitoring and Optimization: Continuously track the performance of your campaigns targeted at Lookalike Audiences. Use metrics such as engagement rates, conversion rates, and ROI to assess effectiveness. Based on these insights, adjust your ads, refine the audience size, or update your source audience to improve alignment and performance.

Using lookalike audiences is an effective strategy to extend your marketing efforts to new potential customers who are likely to be interested in your products.

By carefully selecting your source audience, customizing your messaging, and continuously optimizing based on performance data, you can maximize the impact of your advertising campaigns.


In Facebook ad targeting, custom and lookalike audiences are game-changers. Custom audiences are your core supporters, already familiar with your brand and consistently engaging with your content. Lookalike audiences, on the other hand, are potential new fans; they haven’t interacted with you yet but share traits with your current audience, making them promising targets for your ads.

Both strategies are effective and, if used wisely, can enhance your marketing efforts significantly.

What’s your next step? Whether targeting your loyal fans or expanding your reach, the goal is to connect with people who value what you offer. Begin experimenting with these audiences to increase the impact of your campaigns. Ready to start? Let’s make some noise together!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do Facebook custom audiences and lookalike audiences differ in targeting?

Custom audiences let you target ads to people you already know, using info like email addresses. Lookalike audiences help find new folks similar to your existing customers, expanding your reach.

What are the main benefits of using custom audiences?

Custom audiences offer precision targeting by reaching out directly to people familiar with your brand. This can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates since you’re preaching to the choir.

Can anyone create a Facebook lookalike audience?

Yes, if you have an existing audience (like customer lists, website visitors), you can create a lookalike audience to find similar users on Facebook. It’s a powerful way to discover new leads that resemble your best customers.

What types of custom audiences can I create on Facebook?

You can craft custom audiences from customer files, website or app activity, and engagement on Facebook. Each type allows for tailored strategies to reconnect with different segments of your audience.

How does using Lookalike Audiences benefit my ad campaign?

Lookalike audiences widen your net by identifying and targeting new users who share characteristics with your best existing customers. It’s like telling Facebook, “Find more people who’ll likely dig my stuff.”

Is it complicated to set up a Facebook custom audience?

Not really. If you’ve got a list of customer emails or phone numbers, or data from your website traffic, setting up a custom audience is pretty straightforward. Just follow the steps in your Facebook Ads Manager.

Do I need a large customer base to use lookalike audiences effectively?

Nope! Even with a small but solid base of customers, Facebook can work its magic to find others just like them. It’s all about quality over quantity.

Review Widget