3 Ways To Optimise Your Audiences In Facebook Ads Manager

Banner image for a blog post about optimising custom audiences in Facebook Ads Manager.

Between my full-time and freelance roles, I’ve had quite a bit of experience working with Facebook Ads Manager. The ad platform is by far my favourite, as its capabilities truly exceeds those of any other social platforms. The interface is intuitive and the level of custom targeting is industry-leading. Even despite the recent merger of Power Editor and Ads Manager, I still enjoy experimenting with the platform to find new ways to continually optimise campaigns.

In this post, I wanted to cover three audience targeting practices I’ve found most effective when looking to drive campaign conversions. I also wanted to showcase how you can implement these tips and tricks immediately into your own Facebook campaigns.

I could genuinely ramble on for hours about strategies to get the most out of Ads Manager as a whole, but for the sake of this post, I wanted to focus on a few quick wins I’ve recently been loving on an ad set level.


Custom and lookalike audiences:

Custom Audiences:

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but the value that these audiences can possess is exponential. If you’re new to Ads Manager, a custom audience is essentially an audience that you generate outside of the platforms basic targeting inclusions. Traditionally users could be targeted through interest, demographic or behavioural attributes, however, as Facebooks targeting occurs within a black box, there isn’t a great ordeal of transparency when trying to identify who exactly is included in your audiences.

A custom audience can be created in several different ways, but in this instance, I wanted to focus on generating an audience from your existing user data. This can be created from something as simple as a current CRM or mailing list. In this case, your custom audience would generally see higher ad engagement as users are already familiar with your brand or product. By leveraging an audience of this calibre, you could tailor your ads towards a bottom-of-funnel purchase event.

To set up a custom audience, head to the asset library in your Facebook Business Manager account and select the audiences tab.

A screenshot of Facebook Ads Manager selecting the audiences tab.

Once you’re in the audience manager, select: create audience – custom audience.

Creating a custom audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

You’ll then be able to select from multiple custom audience sources – which I plan to delve into later on throughout this post – however, what I’d like to highlight at this point are the customer file and web traffic audiences. 

Selecting a customer file and website retargeting audience in Facebook Ads Manager

If you’d like to follow my example from earlier and upload your current user database, select the customer file option and upload your CSV from there. It should be noted that your user base will need to have a minimum of 100 users in order to generate the custom audience – this is to help protect user privacy.

You can also create a custom audience that retargets users who have visited your website. Provided you have a Facebook pixel installed, you’ll be able to retarget users who have visit select pages of your website within the last 30, 60 or 90 day period. I will note that it’s good practice to keep your retargeting period to a reasonable time frame, as you won’t want to waste your ad spend on targeting users who are no longer relevant.

Creating a Facebook retargeting audience in Ads Manager.

Lookalike Audiences:

Lookalike audiences are by far one of my favourite tools in Ads Manager. They allow you to target a list of users who look like your existing audience. You can easily create a lookalike audience from users who simply like your page, or even generate a lookalike audience from the users within your new custom audience. The best way to leverage lookalike audiences is to export a list of your top converting customers, then generate an audience from this. This list will give you access to a new pool of users who have similar profiles or behaviours to your best customers.

When you generate a lookalike audience, you’ll be given the option to create an audience based on both size and similarity to your existing users. The smaller the audience, the more symmetric the targeting will be. I’d recommend selecting a 1% lookalike audience as that will generally reach an additional 160,000 users, which is often an adequate amount for your campaign.

Creating a Facebook lookalike audience in Ads Manager.

Once you’ve created your new audiences, it’s time to put them to the test. To implement both custom and lookalike audiences into your targeting, simply select from your generated audiences on the ad set level.

Inserting a custom audience into a Facebook ad set.

The only downside to generating a lookalike audience through Facebook, is as I mentioned earlier, the way in which the targeting actually takes place. Your new audiences are generated through the same black box style approach, leaving you no other option but to trust Facebooks audience matching. This is where it can become useful to leverage a third-party data supplier like Data Republic. The data suppliers can create tailored audiences and provide de-identified insights into why users fit certain audience criteria.


User journey retargeting:

While we’re delving into custom audiences, I’d also like to touch base on the useful method of creating a custom retargeting journey. The concept is to create multiple sets of ads that cater to each level of the user journey throughout your sales funnel.

In the past, I’ve had great success with a client who was selling an online education course. With a campaign timeline of a month, we initially prepared a video asset that was promoted for one week. This was leveraged as our first user touch point in the sales journey. The video asset was a brief 60 second snippet of the course, designed to simply introduce the online program and educate users. This campaign was optimised for 10 second video views, allowing us to pay a lower cost per engagement when compared to optimising the video for conversions right away. By paying less for initial user interactions, it allowed me to garner a larger top-of-funnel audience with our budget. 

I then followed on from this initial engagement by creating a middle-of-funnel campaign optimised to drive traffic to the clients website. On the ad set level, I created a custom retargeting audience based on users who had engaged with the first video ad. Setting this up is similar to creating a custom audience. 

Head into audience manager and create a custom audience based on past user engagements.

Creating a custom engagement audience in Ads Manager.

You’ll then be able to select a previous post that will identify your audience, as well as target a specific level of engagement. 

Selecting custom audience engagement rates in Facebook Ads Manager.

Creating a custom audience based off content engagement in Facebook Ads Manager.

As this ad was aimed towards users within the middle of the sales funnel, I optimised the ad set for traffic/link clicks and drove users to a longer-form blog post related to the original video they’d engaged with. The blog post aimed to not only further educate the user, but also help form the next ad set within the user journey – a website retargeting audience.

In the lower end of the sales funnel, I created a final campaign that focussed on retargeting users who had visited the blog post on the website. The ad set within the campaign was optimised for conversions, and was accompanied by a single image ad with a strong CTA.

Creating this audience is much the same as before, but in this case you’ll select from the website traffic option and then choose your retargeting period.

Setting up a custom website retargeting audience in Facebook Ads Manager.

Facebook custom retargeting audience targeting period.

If you’ve ran conversion-based campaigns in the past, you’ll know that it can often take days, if not weeks for Facebooks audience algorithm to optimise it’s user targeting. By creating custom ad sets for each stage of the user journey, it helps refine the total audience size of the bottom-of-funnel campaign. This not only provides a more relevant user base, but will ultimately lower your end CPA.


Audience overlap:

When you’re running a Facebook campaign with multiple audiences, it’s more than likely that each of these ad sets will feature the same ads. Amongst your different audiences, there’s no definitive way to identify those individual users who lie across multiple ad sets. 

Imagine you have one ad set targeting users who like your page, and another which is a custom lookalike audience of your CRM user base. Let’s say Facebook user John Smith has previously liked your Facebook page, making him a part of the page likes audience. As John is yet to convert as a user, he also fits into the lookalike audience – meaning that he associates with both of your ad sets. This would mean that throughout your campaign, John would be exposed to the same ad from both ad sets. This would then lead to attribution discrepancies when interpreting your ad frequency rates and audience conversions rates.

By adding audience exclusions to your ad sets, it can eliminate the scenario of a user being targeted twice. It can also help ensure your ad reaches a larger pool of unique users. 

You can easily exclude users from your ad set by simply removing those with a connection to your Facebook page. 

Excluding users who like your Facebook page from your custom targeting.

To leverage more advanced exclusions, you can also create a custom audience of users you wish to remove. When working with clients, I’ll often create a custom audience of users who have converted within the past month, ensuring they’re not shown an ad for a product they’ve recently purchased.

Adding a Facebook excluded audience of users ho have already converted.

The best way to view audience exclusions is in the form of a Venn diagram, where both unique audiences share a middle ground of the same user pool. By removing one audience, you allow the other to maintain its full user base.

A Venn diagram explaining Facebook custom audience overlap.

Throughout my experience with paid Facebook ads, I’ve found these ad set optimisations to be the most effective in getting quick wins on the board. My advice for creating and optimising Facebook audiences is to continually monitor performance data to ensure any changes you make are informed and accurate.

I’d love to know what methods you’re using to optimise the performance of your paid Facebook campaigns. Feel free to connect with me on LinkekdIn, or tweet me to get the conversation rolling! 

If you’d like to learn more about optimising your social strategies, I’d also recommend subscribing to my mailing list to stay up to date with my latest content.

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About me: 

I’m a twenty-two year old Digital Marketing & Conversions Specialist based in Brisbane, Australia. With a passion for all things digital and tech, I aim to connect and learn from as many like-minded digital enthusiasts as possible. If you have a passion for emerging technologies and digital practices, I’d love to connect and hear your story.