The Beginner Guide To Facebook Custom Audiences [in 2021]

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Facebook custom audience targeting is the most powerful targeting option you have in the Facebook advertising tool. However, for new Facebook advertisers, some aspects of custom audiences can be confusing or seem to be complicated. 

With this guide, we aim to kill this confusion and explain the most important thing you have to know about Facebook custom audiences, such as:

  • What exactly a custom audience is?
  • From what sources can you make a custom audience on Facebook?
  • How to create a custom audience on Facebook – step by step?
  • How you can take advantage of Facebook Custom Audiences?
  • and many more.

At the end of the article, we will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions related to Facebook Custom Audiences.

If you prefer a video tutorial, check out out this one:

What is a Facebook Custom Audience?

Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom Audience is a Facebook ad targeting option that allows you to find your existing audiences among people who are on Facebook. You can create Facebook Custom Audiences out of your website visitors, your own customer lists, from your mobile app users and even from certain Facebook users who engaged with one of your Facebook or Instagram contents.

But as we will show, Facebook Custom audiences are not just important for retargeting people who are already familiar with your company but also to scale your Facebook advertising campaigns.

Whether you want to start a retargeting campaign to convert the Facebook users that are the closest to become customers or you want to scale your campaigns with Facebook Lookalike Audiences, you first have to create Facebook Custom audiences.

Currently, you can create up to 500 Facebook custom audiences per ad accounts. As you can create many Facebook Ad accounts, there is basically no limit on how many custom audiences you can make on Facebook.

In the next paragraphs, we will go deeper into Facebook Custom Audiences, so definitely keep reading. You can also check out this detailed tutorial for beginners about Custom Audiences, it is more than 30 minutes long:

Sources of Facebook Custom audiences

Currently, there are four types of sources of Facebook custom audiences:

  • Website Custom Audiences from Facebook Pixel Data
  • Custom Audience created from Customer List
  • Engagement Custom Audiences
  • Custom Audiences created from you app data

As they are fairly different in terms of setting them up and using them, we will overview the most important things you have to know about each type of Facebook custom audiences.

Website Custom Audiences from Facebook Pixel Data

Creating custom audiences from your website visitors is the most common and maybe the most effective way to create custom audiences.

You first have to create and install the Facebook Retargeting Pixel on your website and set up standard and custom events and custom conversions to be able to track important website actions on your website. (If you are not familiar with Facebook Pixel, you can read our Facebook Pixel Beginner guide here).

There are countless possibilities for creating custom audiences from Facebook Pixel data, we have a comprehensive article where we share all possible Website Custom Audiences you can create from Facebook Pixel data.

But just to give a taste of what is possible, you can build out website custom audiences not just from basic website visitors, but also from:

  • People who visited specific pages only (with custom conversions)
  • People who viewed a product but did not add  that product to the cart
  • People who viewed a service page but they not submitted a contact us form or asked for a  free consultation
  • You can also create website visitors custom audience by time spent
  • People who added to cart or checked out with products but they have not completed their purchase
  • You can create dynamic product ads to show laser-focused retargeting ads
  • You can also create Custom Events for any user actions that are not covered by the predefined Stanard Events and create Custom Audiences from them

For the complete list of available Facebook custom audiences from website Pixel data, check out our comprehensive list of Facebook Custom Audiences.

If you need help with setting up Facebook Custom audiences from your website visitors, you can also contact us here to get professional help.

Custom Audience Created From a Customer List

Creating Facebook custom audiences from your customer lists might be the most underutilized way of creating custom audiences. 

This customer list method works in the following way.

First, you have to upload a list of customers. The customer list has to have at least one identifier that will enable Facebook to match that with the information of their user list. (which is more than 2.7 billion people which is about one-third of the world’s population).

You can upload anything as a customer list ranging from subscriber lists, to a list of leads you have acquired on your website, and you can also upload the complete list of your past customers.

If you want to learn more about this method, you can read our full guide on how you can upload customer lists to Facebook and create a Facebook custom audience from customer lists.

Custom Audience from Engagement Data

Creating custom audiences from the engagement of your Facebook and Instagram content is also a surprisingly underutilized way of creating Facebook Custom audiences. 

Engagement Custom Audiences are used rarely even though besides creating the custom audiences you don’t have to anything else as Facebook collects the engagement data by default. 

You can create customs audiences from users who:

  • Viewed, interacted or attended the events of your Facebook Page
  • Watched one of your Instagram or Facebook videos
  • People who have interacted with your Facebook or Instagram Page
  • Users who have engaged with one of your Instant Experience Ad (previously known as Canvas ad)
  • Facebook users who have viewed or submitted one of your Lead forms

To check out all the possible options you can create Facebook Custom Audiences from Facebook and Instagram engagement data, check out this article where we share the comprehensive list of all Facebook Custom audiences.

Custom Audiences created from your app data

Facebook custom audiences created from mobile app data is the least relevant custom audience type for most advertisers as most businesses do not have a mobile app. 

On the contrary, it can be very valuable for businesses that run mobile app businesses or where the mobile app plays a crucial role in their business.

Just like with the Facebook Pixel sending data of your website users to Facebook, with Facebook SDK you can track all user interactions, app downloads within your iOS and Android app and send that data back to Facebook.

Once you set up the Facebook SDK, you can create custom audiences from such events as:

  • users who logged in to the mobile app
  • viewed a product or
  • purchased a product in the app, etc.

For a complete list of custom audiences that can be created from app data, have a look at the complete list of Facebook custom audiences.

We also have a complete tutorial on how you can create custom audiences on Facebook from mobile app events and interactions that you can check out by clicking here.

How to create a Facebook custom audience? (an example)

We have a separate comprehensive article on how you can create different types of Facebook custom audiences as the process is different based on the type of the custom audience you want to set up. Just click on the link in which you are interested in:

  • Create a Facebook Custom audience from Facebook Pixel data
  • Generate a Facebook Custom Audience from Customer Lists
  • Set up Facebook Custom Audiences from mobile app data
  • Create Facebook Custom Audiences from Engagement data

In this guide, we will only show the most basic type of custom audience creation that will be relevant to most Facebook advertisers so you can get an idea of how the general process looks like. If you want to get the details of how this is done step by step, you should read our articles on creating the custom audiences from Facebook Pixel data. 

In this example, we will show how to set up a simple website visitor custom audience:

  1. Create the Facebook Pixel code and install it into the head section of your website
  2. Go to Facebook Ads Manager Audiences page

Facebook Business Manager Audiences

  1. Click on Create Audience
  2. Click on Custom Audience

Create Custom Audience Button in Business Manager

3. A window will pop where you can specify from which sources of audience you want to create the custom audience. Click on the ‘Website’ in the upper right corner

Create Facebook Custom Audience - Choose source

4. In this window, you can exactly specify which users you want to include and or exclude from the custom audience list. As this is the most basic example, leave it as website visitors and 30 days, give a descriptive name to the audience and click on ‘Create’

Create a Website Custom Audience on Facebook

5. The Facebook Custom audience has been created. It might take a couple of hours for Facebook to populate the audience with users. 

Your Facebook Custom Audience was created

In the next paragraphs, we will show the next steps you have to take so you can start running advertising to this audience.

The great thing about this method is that it doesn’t require any kind of maintenance. The users that are now in the custom audience will automatically get out from the custom audience as time passes and new users will get in based on the event data.

How can you use Facebook Custom audiences?

Facebook custom audiences are the foundations of two types of advertising campaign types: retargeting and lookalike campaigns. 

Facebook retargeting campaigns are essential to convert your warm and hot audiences. Lookalike audiences are great for targeting new cold audiences and for scaling your FB ad campaigns.

Custom Audiences for retargeting campaigns

Once you create a Facebook custom audience, usually it takes a couple of minutes or hours for Facebook to populate it with data but once it is populated with users, you can start running retargeting campaigns right away. 

All you have to do is to add the custom audience you want to target in the ad set section of creating the new Facebook campaign.

If you want to know more about Facebook retargeting campaigns, check out our article on it.

Custom Audiences for Lookalike Campaigns

One of the most powerful features or techniques you can apply with Facebook is creating Lookalike Audiences. 

You can make Lookalike audiences out of Facebook custom audiences when you have at least 500 hundred people in a Custom Audiences, but the more people you have in a custom audience the better quality the lookalike audience will be.

When you create a Lookalike Audience, Facebook will try to find the most similar people (in interest, demographics and behavior data) to the people who are in your source audience.

Once you have a good custom audience then you can create a Lookalike Audience from the Audience Manager where you also created your Custom audiences. 

If you are interested in more details, we have a comprehensive beginner guide on Facebook Lookalike Audiences.

Excluding Custom Audiences from other audiences

A third way how you can take advantage of custom audiences is to make custom audience exclusions. 

This can be very useful when for example you don’t want to annoy with new ads your active customer or customers who have just purchased from you. 

In that case, you would create a Custom Audience that includes anyone who has made a purchase in the last 7 days and add them as an excluded audience. 

Although this is not a best practice that you have to follow always, as sometimes new customers are actually the most likely to buy again (especially if you sell a lot of products, or upsell offers.)

Other useful info on Facebook Custom Audiences

Before wrapping up this beginner guide, we have collected some more information about Facebook Custom Audiences.

Sharing Facebook Custom Audiences

You can share your Facebook Custom Audiences on Facebook with other users who have Facebook Business Manager. You can learn about the step by step process here.

Facebook Custom Audience API

You can also manipulate your Facebook Custom audiences through code thanks to the Facebook Custom Audience API. With the API, you can create new custom audiences, add new members without using the Facebook Audience User Interface and also delete Custom Audiences.

You can learn more about how you can use the Facebook Custom Audiences API here.

Facebook Custom Audience terms

Facebook has made stricter Custom Audience terms since the Cambridge Analytica case and other data scandals have shocked the company. You have to make sure to comply with the Terms, otherwise, not compliant behavior in radical cases can lead to even the suspension of your Ad account.

When you upload a Customer List, you have to explicitly accept these Terms.

Make sure to go through the Terms here.

Facebook Custom Audiences – Frequently Asked Questions

How many Facebook Custom Audiences can you create?

You can create up to 500 Facebook Custom audiences per ad account. So, if you ran into the 500 limit, you can easily increase your custom audience limit by creating a new Facebook ad account.

Can you create a Facebook Custom audience from a Facebook ad or organic post impressions?

No, currently it is not yet possible to create a custom audience from these impressions. This works only with video formats and the user has to watch at least 25 or 3 seconds from a specific video. (so impression of the video post or ad is not enough)

What is the minimum size of Facebook Custom Audiences?

The minimum size of a Facebook Custom Audience is 20 users.

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