Digital strategy

Why I’m obsessed with Facebook custom & lookalike audiences – and you should be too (if you are using Facebook ads in your business)

On Wednesday evening, I’m delivering my first ‘official’ training session on behalf of Facebook (it’s going to be at the British Library: tickets here).

So I’ve been preparing my content and thinking about, from everything I learned at Facebook HQ, what, given I’ve got just an hour, are the most important things to tell other people so they can use Facebook and Instagram more effectively in their marketing? What MUST I say!?

My talk is about achieving both organic reach on Facebook and also the paid side. And it’s the paid side of Facebook that gets me really excited because the ads can deliver such fantastic results and can also hurt so much when it goes wrong. Note the use of the word ‘can….’

Great results aren’t guaranteed and bad results can be avoided.

Me and the other Facebook trainers at FB HQ

So the main message I want to deliver on Wednesday to anyone considering the paid or advertising route on Facebook is this: Get Obsessed With Laying Good Foundations and Get Obsessed With Building Custom & Lookalike Audiences.

You see, when you first run ads on Facebook, it’s very easy to get really excited by all the targeting options. If I’m a luxury brand, I can start hopping around from side to side with glee saying to myself  ‘Look at all these people who like other luxury brands just like mine like Net A Porter and Matches, I can now target them, yippeeeeeeeee’.  
And that can work, but equally, you can easily spend a lot targeting these people because you think that they are your ideal person. And then you wake up one day and realise that person either wasn’t your ideal target person or no matter how much you wanted them to be, but they weren’t interested after all.
Custom and lookalike audiences remove the guess work and our own ideas about who we think is our ideal person from the equation.
Custom audiences include those who have already visited our websites or engaged with our content. They have one thing better than those we ‘think’ will be interested, they have shown us they are interested. And lookalikes are groups of people who are similar to these people but determined by an algorithm far clever and less emotional and idealistic than we ourselves are. 
So whereas I might say ‘Sally and Susie will get on so brilliantly and are so similar to each other because they both grew up in Portsmouth‘ (I mean seriously, there are plenty of people who grow up in Portsmouth who are NOT similar to each other) Facebook’s algorithm will say ‘Sally and Susie ARE similar as they are both exhibiting the same interests and behaviours over thousands of datapoints….‘ Who is more likely to be right? 
Generally, in the client campaigns I run, I see the lowest price per click and conversion from custom audiences, a middle price from lookalike audiences and those ‘core’ audiences where really I am guessing, even if these are educated guests. Well guess what, they end up costing the most and performing the least. So why spend on a hypothetical group who really are just guesses?  
So the question is, how do you get a great custom audience in the first place?
Well, if you have the Facebook pixel on your website and are actively building your email list, you might have one already (of website visitors) and can create one (of newsletter subscribers) easily. 

But it is with your custom audiences in mind that you must, before starting any paid campaign, planning and developing your content and traffic strategies. You wouldn’t build a house with drawing up a plan for it – well hopefully not. So don’t just launch blithely into Facebook ads and expect to see results without laying the foundations first and getting more traffic to your website, more subscribers to your email lists and engagement on your social channels! 

A piece of artwork from Facebook’s canteen

And then once you’ve done that, then you’ll see return from your Facebook ads.