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The Anatomy of Facebook Audiences: Why Audience Matters

Everything about Facebook Audiences and how to best leverage them in your marketing campaigns.

5 min read

Marketing Strategy

The Anatomy of Facebook Audiences: Why Audience Matters

Welcome back to the third installment on the Facebook Pixel. If you haven’t read the previous two, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2. Because the information in these articles build upon each other, I highly recommend you give the other parts a quick look to ensure we’re on the same page.

What is a Facebook Audience?

Facebook Audiences are groups of user profiles that are available for you to use via Facebook Ads Manager in marketing campaigns. They come in roughly 11 different types, but we’ll cover the most basic here:

  1. Website Traffic (Pixel)
  2. Customer List
  3. Facebook Source(s)
  4. Lookalike

A Website Traffic audience is comprised of Facebook profiles captured by the Pixel associated with your Ads Manager  account. We discussed implementation/value of the pixel in both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, so I won’t reiterate here.

Customer List audiences are created by uploading an excel or .txt file of your contacts into Facebook Ads Manager. You can use several available parameters (Email, Name, Phone Number, etc.) to help Facebook try and match your data with its user profiles.

If your company has a wealth of sensitive first-party data, it is highly recommended that you hash your list before uploading it to Facebook. Not sure what MD5 hashing is? Here’s a quick overview.

Audiences created from Facebook Sources include interactions that users have had on-platform with your brand. This can be a video view, brand or event page view, lead form completion, etc.

Lastly, lookalike audiences use one of your existing audiences to find other Facebook users that match prevailing common interests from the source group. 

For example, if Adidas created a lookalike audience based on pixel data from users that had viewed a pair of men’s running shoes, Facebook would try to find other users (men, interested in running & online shopping) who are likely to take that same action. 

Campaign Creation: The Thinking Process

When launching your Facebook Ads campaign, there are several factors you should consider when determining what kind of audience to use. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who is my campaign trying to reach?
  2. How fresh/extensive is my first-party data?
  3. How high is my customer list match rate?
  4. Does my Facebook Pixel capture a high or low volume of traffic data?
  5. Do any of my Facebook pages or events receive a high volume of traffic?

As we discussed in previous installments, the power of retargeting via Facebook ads revolves around the concept of brand familiarity. If you’re looking to reach people that have already interacted with your brand, the obvious choice would be to use a Website Traffic, Customer List or Facebook Source audience. 

The audience type you choose should correspond with where your previous campaign strengths have been to-date.

For those trying to grow their audiences or put their brand in front of new consumers, a lookalike audience is a great option that will additionally provide more specific audience demographic insights as your campaigns begin hitting their marks. Facebook Ads Manager will display the ages, genders, platform preferences and locations of everyone taking your ad’s desired action. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that when creating lookalike audiences, Facebook will ask if you want users to be between 1% – 10% in similarity. A 1% lookalike audience is smaller in size and more closely resembles users in your source list, while a 10% lookalike audience is larger and loosely resembles users in your source list. The more broadly appealing your campaign is, the higher the similarity percentage can be.

Why Audience Matters

Audience Development positions have become increasingly important over the past several years for one simple reason: a cultivated digital audience improves every client-facing and client-adjacent aspect of your business.

While the fantastic article “A Step-By-Step guide to Audience Development” by Clare McDermott via The Content Marketing Institute touches upon most aspects of why audiences matter, taking the time to evaluate the engagement and loyalty of your current digital audience is always a worthwhile exercise for a marketing refocus.

If you haven’t established audience trust and/or a loyal contingent of users who frequently interact with your organic content, then finding success in paid campaigns may prove more difficult.

You could have most optimal ad copy and creatives for your target demographic, but all the ads in the world will never be as successful as trust built through continuous brand value demonstration. 

Though the bottom of your funnel is where sales are made, cultivating an audience at the top of your funnel is arguably just as important. An engaged audience that frequently interacts with your content has many benefits, such as increasing your SEO ranking through regular site visits or giving new company/product announcements more fanfare. 

Without a quality audience to begin with, your Website Traffic, Customer List, Facebook Source and Lookalike audiences will also have quality issues when used in ad campaigns. 


To summarize, Facebook Audiences and ad campaigns that effectively use said Audiences can be a powerful marketing tool for reaching your target demographics. 

When setting up campaigns in Facebook Ads Manager, take care to choose audiences that will be receptive to your creatives and choose creatives that your audiences will be receptive to.

Lastly, working internally with other audience-facing team members can also serve to enhance the quality of your audience and success of your campaigns before any ads start running.

For more useful digital marketing resources, sign up for SmartBrief on Social Business today, free.

Evan Lauterborn is manager of audience development at SmartBrief. He focuses on subscriber growth, subscriber retention, partnerships and managing the @SmartBrief Twitter account. Connect with him on LinkedIn.