Facebook Lookalike Audiences 101

Getting started

So what exactly is a “Lookalike Audience?”
Lookalike audiences are Facebook’s way of matching you up with people who aren’t currently aware of your brand, but strongly match your current customer avatar.

A Lookalike Audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers.” – Facebook Blueprint

The only thing Facebook loves better than creating happy advertisers is creating happy users. So they use the monolithic repository of user data they have stored to create algorithms that predict your potential behavior.

“I want you to want me!”

All of that is just a fancy way of saying, Facebook wants you to want the products in the ads they show you. And the best way for them to arrange that, is to create a profile for each user behind the scenes that forecasts (with a very high degree of predictability) the kind of things you’ll like as a user of the platform.

According to Facebook, when you create a custom audience based on your specified parameters (Pixel data, Page Fans, etc.) they identify the commonalities across the audience to create a custom avatar of your most likely customers.

Then, when you launch your ad to a Lookalike audience, Facebook scours its user base for Avatar profiles that meet the unique characteristics of your most likely customers. In other words, an audience that “looks like” them.

The algorithm will predict that if your product is, for example, a Disney-themed Princess Party package, and your last 50 customers have all been, “Moms – with daughters under the age of 10 – with upcoming birthdays” that it can assume with a very high degree of predictability that showing your ad to other moms of tweens with birthdays this month is a pretty safe bet for finding you a buyer.

Although that’s obviously a gross oversimplification of the process, you get the idea. Facebook finds people whose interests align with those of your current audience of customers and creates a group that looks like them (both demographically and characteristically) and shows your ad to them.

Creating your first Lookalike Audience

Size matters:

Facebook allows you to determine the size for your Lookalike audience. But be warned, not all audiences are created equal! Facebook recommends creating a Lookalike audience between 1,000 and 50,000 people. Any bigger, and the potential for finding your perfect match start to decrease. Any smaller, and there’s just not enough data for them to draw from to create your ideal customer avatar.

Another best practice they offer is for you to try creating a Lookalike audience based on your best customer profile. This basically shortcuts the discovery process and helps dramatically increase the chances of your ad being shown to someone who has a high likelihood of being interested in your product or service!

Pro Tips:
Facebook offers the following informational tips to consider as “best practices” for creating your own Lookalike Audiences.

  • Your Lookalike Audience will only include people from the country/countries you select during creation.
  • Your source audience must contain at least 100 people from a single country in order for us to use it as the basis for a Lookalike Audience.
  • You can create up to 500 Lookalike Audiences from a single source audience.
  • People in your source audience will be excluded from your Lookalike Audience unless you use a pixel as your source audience.
  • You can use multiple Lookalike Audiences at the same time for a single ad set. The ad set will target your ads to people who are in any of the selected Lookalike Audiences.

Creating a Lookalike Audience

Now that you know what a Lookalike audience is and what it does, it’s time to create your own!

It’s important to remember before getting started, that in order to create a Lookalike audience you’ll need to be the admin of the Page or Pixel that you are pulling the data from to create it.

If you are using a Custom Audience to create your Lookalike Audience, you need to have one of the following roles on the Ad Account: Admin, Advertiser or Analysis.

However, if you’re planning to create a Lookalike Audience from mobile app installs information, you’ll need to have the role of either “Administrator” or “Developer” on the app.

Step-by-Step Instructions for creating a Facebook Lookalike Audience

  1. First, go to “Audiences.”
  2. Then click the “Create Audience” dropdown and choose “Lookalike Audience”
  3. Now select your source.

    • Your source can be any of the following: A “Custom Audience” not created with your pixel data. Your mobile app data. Or even fans of your Page.
    • Note: Size matters! Best practice is to create a group of 1,000 to 50,000 of your best customers. Use the following data to define this avatar: Lifetime value, transaction value, and total order size (or engagement).
  4. Location: Choose the country where you’d like to target your reach.
  5. Select your desired audience size using the slider. (Remember to stay between 1,000 and 50,000 for best results).
  6. Finally, click “Create Audience.”

NOTE: Lookalike Audience creation is an available option in Ads Manager during the ad setup process.

A few FAQs that Facebook says to keep in mind when creating Lookalike Audiences:

  • Be patient. The process may take some time to complete. Facebook says the process should take no less than 6 hours initially (but can take up to 24 hours, or more). So patience is a virtue while your Lookalike Audience is being created. After the initial creation process, it should dynamically refresh every 3 to 7 days based on incoming data (as long as ads are still actively targeting it.)
  • But not too patient: Facebook states that you don’t have to wait for your Lookalike Audience to update to use it for ad targeting.
  • Updates: Keep an eye on Lookalike Audience updates by visiting your “Audience Manager” page. From there, you can find the date under the “Availability” column.

Well, that about wraps up our basic overview on Lookalike Audiences. In the past, customer acquisition with a cold audience traffic could be a slow, painstaking process, which required a lot of trial and error. But now, leveraging the power of Facebook’s user data we can find those “needle in a haystack” perfectly targeted customers and send our ads right to them. The ability to hone in on high-probability buyers makes Lookalike audiences a great tool to add your arsenal!