Custom Audiences

Custom audiences are target groups that social network advertisers can create in Facebook to more effectively target advertising on Facebook. In addition to these special targeting capabilities, additional features such as lookalike audiences can be controlled.


The social network Facebook was initially not very interesting to advertisers because the advertising forms and targeting options were limited to the network itself. However, with the increasing expansion of the advertising platform, there are increasing opportunities for advertisers. Since Facebook Ads was launched in 2009, the company has finally created an additional option for delivering ads to granular target groups with the Custom Audiences function in 2013. This is done by means of data that the advertiser themself provides or collects.

Types of Custom Audiences[edit]

Facebook offers its customers four different types of Custom Audiences, which can be managed with the Power Editor or the Advertising Ad Manager.

  • Upload of data: Users of Custom Audiences can upload email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs, or Mobile Advertiser IDs directly to the advertising account using a CSV or TXT file. Using this data, ads can specifically target Facebook users who use one of the uploaded email addresses or have stored one of the phone numbers in the file in their Facebook profile.

The uploaded records are first encrypted and provided with footprints that correspond to the footprints in Facebook’s user files. In this way, Facebook determines the appropriate recipient of the Custom Audience to whom the booked advertising is supposed to be delivered.

  • Use of MailChimp data: If an advertiser uses the MailChimp program to send their newsletters, the email addresses can be defined directly via the program as a Custom Audience.
  • Mobile app: If you have integrated the Facebook Service Developer Kit into an app for iOS or Android, you can initially define events. These include, for example, the completion of certain forms or the achievement of a certain user level. This data is then used to create a specific Custom Audience for Facebook.
  • Website: If a Custom Audience pixel is implemented on your website, you can specifically include users who visit the website in a Custom Audience. It does not matter whether the user accesses the website with a mobile device or a desktop PC. Visitors can be further segmented with the tracking pixel. In this way, target groups can be defined based on pages visited by them or even parts of pages. Separate advertising media can then be displayed for each of these individual custom audiences.

Custom Audiences are created dynamically with this type of audience. As soon as the website receives new visitors, they are marked by the tracking pixel and automatically assigned to the corresponding Custom Audience. The maximum length of time a person remains in a target group is 180 days.

Lookalike audience[edit]

Custom Audiences can be combined with each other for an even more precise target group definition or individual custom audiences can be used as an exclusion criterion. “Lookalike Audiences” provides a second option to define target groups.

These are twin target groups. Facebook creates the Lookalike Audience by means of defined Custom Audiences, or based on the fans of a Facebook page by recognizing certain patterns. Using these patterns, the software determines additional users to be associated with the Lookalike Audience. If such a twin target group is created, it can be managed as a Custom Audience and combined with other Custom Audiences.


Custom Audiences on Facebook are frequently criticized with regard to data protection. The fact that it is possible when uploading data into the advertising tool that this information can be hacked is particularly concerning. On the other hand, users should be informed about the use of their data. Therefore, if you want to advertise with Custom Audiences or Lookalike Audiences, you should first make sure you’re informed about the precautions to be taken to ensure that all requirements according to local data protection laws are met. If the use of Custom Audiences violates valid data protection regulations, you run the risk of being sued by competitors, or fined.

Benefits for online marketing[edit]

By using Custom Audiences, advertisers have the ability to minimize scatter losses. The target groups can be defined very granularly in advance. In addition, different target groups can be combined or even excluded. When the tracking pixel is integrated into your website, new users can be automatically added to existing Custom Audiences, and then approached via Facebook very precisely based on their interests. Due to the very precise target group approach, it is to be assumed that these targeting forms are very suitable for various purposes such as branding, expansion of reach or increasing conversions.