How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

  • Using Facebook Custom Audiences builds a closer relationship between you and the specific audience you want to target, leading to a more efficient sales funnel.
  • There are four categories of Facebook Custom Audiences: customer file, website traffic, app activity, and engagement on Facebook.
  • Learn to set up your Facebook Custom Audiences like a pro.

Facebook Custom Audiences



In our 3-part series on Facebook Advertising, we’re covering how you can start from scratch and build a defined strategy that underpins your Facebook advertising. Last week, we covered how to find the right audiences for Facebook Advertising.

In Part 2, we’re delving into how you can set up and manage Facebook Custom Audiences to help drive your customers closer to the point of conversion.

A strategic Facebook Advertising strategy should always aim to move the potential or current customer closer to the point of conversion. The reason why most businesses fail to make a positive return from Facebook Ads, is they try to skip steps the customer needs to take before they convert.

Facebook allows businesses to tell a story that builds trust, creates a relationship, and solves the problems of the customer before they consider converting. It’s what makes Facebook different than any other medium of online advertising.

To help drive a closer relationship with your customers, you can utilise built-in tracking features that Facebook has established in their advertising infrastructure. Each of these audiences is designed to gradually get the user to commit to performing different behaviours that create a closer relationship with the business.

What are Custom Audiences?

Put simply, there are a range of different behaviours users perform that are tracked by Facebook. When one of these behaviours is triggered, they are placed into a custom audience with other users that have performed the same behaviour.

Custom Audiences are predetermined by advertisers and allow them to show specific advertisements to people within each of those audiences.

Why should you use Custom Audiences?

Progress the sales funnel: When users perform a behaviour that places them in a custom audience, they’re progressively getting closer to the point of conversion.  

Specificity: Because you know the type, time, and level of behaviour the user has performed, you can show more specific advertisements that help move that user to the next step in the sales funnel.

Build a closer relationship: Showing the right ads to the right people at the right time helps disguise the fact that you’re advertising to them at all. Users are acutely aware of when an advertisement is overly "salesy". But if it’s adding value to a particular pain point based on what behaviours they have already performed, it helps reduce the likelihood of being seen as an advertisement.

What type of Facebook Custom Audiences are there?

Custom Audiences are grouped into four different categories:

  1. Customer File
  2. Website Traffic
  3. App Activity
  4. Engagement On Facebook

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Within each of these categories, there are subcategories based on different micro-behaviours. When a behaviour is triggered, they are placed into a group that allows you to advertise directly to them.

Customer File

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

If you have an existing email, sales, or buyers list of data from your business, you can upload this directly to Facebook, and it will attempt to match that data to Facebook users. There are up to 16 different identifiers, and you can select as little or as many as you like when you upload your list (the more you have, the more likely Facebook will find them).

The identifiers include:

  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • First Name
  • Surname
  • ZIP/Postcode
  • City
  • County/Region
  • Country
  • Date of Birth
  • Year of Birth
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Mobile Advertiser ID
  • Facebook App User ID
  • Facebook Page User ID
  • User Lifetime Value (NEW)

Website Traffic

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Website Traffic creates what are known as Website Custom Audiences (WCA) and are populated through the Facebook Pixel installed on your website. You can target users that have performed many different actions, such as:

  • Anyone who visits your website
  • People who visited specific web pages
  • People who visited specific web pages but not others
  • People who haven’t visited in a certain amount of time
  • Based on time spent on your website
  • Any custom combination of the above
  • Specific website events in the conversion funnel (e.g. view product, add to cart, initiate checkout, confirm purchase/registration)

You can also control how recent these audiences will be populated up to a total of 180 days prior.

App Activity 

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Similar to website activity, you can track users that perform particular behaviours within your mobile or Facebook App. This includes third party apps that connect directly with Facebook including Messenger bots.

Depending on the type of app you have installed, you can group users into your predetermined behaviour.

Engagement On Facebook

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook Engagement audiences allow you to group people that perform certain behaviours within the Facebook platform.

These include behaviours such as:

Video viewing: Watching a certain percentage of the overall length of a video triggered at 10 seconds, 25%, 50%, 75% and 95% of your video.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Engaged with a Facebook Lead Advert: These are forms that users can submit while still within the Facebook Mobile experience and can pre-populate information directly from the user’s Facebook Profile. They can be triggered when someone opens the form and can include whether they submitted their details or not.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Engaged with a Facebook Canvas: These are dynamic mobile sites that sit within the Facebook environment and deliver a range of interactive content to the user. Audiences can be triggered when people open or click on any link within the Canvas.

Engaged with a Facebook Page: Facebook Engagement audiences allow you to build audiences based on engagements with a Facebook Page, including:

  • Anyone who visited your page
  • People who engaged with any post or advert
  • People who clicked on any call-to-action button
  • People who sent a message to your page
  • People who saved your Page or any post

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

How do I set up Facebook Custom Audiences and advertise to them?

You can start the setup process of Facebook Custom Audiences under the "Audiences" menu within the "Assets" header in the Facebook Megamenu.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

You can setup Custom Audiences by selecting the option under the "Create Audience" drop-down.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

From the popup, you are presented with the four categories to begin the process.

Once set up, Facebook can take up to 24 hours to completely populate the audience depending on its complexity. Often it’s much faster and allows you to start creating ads to target to that audience straight away.

All Facebook Custom Audiences require at least 20 individuals to be within the audience to allow an advertisement to run.

It's recommended that you have several hundred individuals in your audience before running an advert (depending on your budget, of course) to prevent the cost per result being much higher than expected. This is due to Facebook not having enough data to optimise your ad properly to achieve the lowest price per result possible.

To show an advertisement to a Custom Audience, select the relevant Custom Audience when setting up the Adset in your campaign. You can select your Custom Audience by looking for the field in the Audience section.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Where should I start with Facebook Custom Audiences?

In week 1 of our Facebook Advertising series, we showed a funnel of audiences that gradually moved closer to the point of conversion.

Each of the Custom Audiences listed above, are included in this diagram and represent a hierarchy or progression of behaviours that drive a closer relationship with the user.

How to Set Up and Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Depending on how established your business is and what data it has available will determine where in this hierarchy you need to begin. As you begin to advertise and grow larger audience bases at each of these levels, you will gradually get to the point where you can continuously drive a steady stream of leads through the funnel to the point of conversion.

In the final part of this series, we’ll look at how to set up and execute an example of a Facebook Ads funnel so you can implement one within your own business.

Daniel Pinne

Organik Digital at Organik Digital

A creative, hardworking and innovative young professional focused on progressive experience in the Digital Marketing Industry. With an aim to become a leading resource and person of influence in the Online Marketing industry, I constantly look for ways to connect businesses, startups and individuals with their customers. My experience in organisations (both in Australia and abroad) has helped me see the bigger picture organisations connect, relate and interact with their customers.

Comments (1)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Thanks for sharing this information. It is really making the process clearer to me.