Facebook Custom Audiences: Target Facebook Ads by Email List

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Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list.

The new feature is called Custom Audiences and is available through Power Editor and the Facebook advertising API.

What does this mean and how can you use it? Let me do my best to explain…

What Are Facebook Custom Audiences?


You have been building an email list away from Facebook. You likely use AWeber, MailChimp or another tool to do this. Not all of these people Like your Facebook Page.

You can now export that email list into a one column CSV file and upload it into a Custom Audience within Power Editor. Then, Facebook will match up the email addresses with current Facebook users to serve your ads to only those people.

You can still layer on other targeting as well. So you could target only those users in your email list who aren’t currently a Facebook Fan, live in the US and are female.

You could also use a phone list or Facebook UID list that would be gathered with a Facebook application. For those worrying about privacy, the email addresses and phone numbers are “hashed” (or encrypted) before being sent to Facebook.

There are rules that you need to follow when targeting ads at Custom Audiences. And to be honest, I’m still digesting exactly what the rules mean, what would be allowable and what would be a violation.

I’ll cover that in more detail later. Until then, you should certainly be careful about how it is you use your customer data. If you’ve determined that you can use that data for Facebook advertising, this has significant potential for you since you’ll be reaching people who are already close to your brand.

How to Create a Facebook Custom Audience


First, you need to use Power Editor, a Chrome plugin, or a third party application that utilizes the Facebook advertising API. If you haven’t used Power Editor before, read this blog post: How to Use Facebook Power Editor.

Within Power Editor, you will now see a new main navigation item for Custom Audiences. Click on that and then click Create Audience.

custom audiences fb Facebook Custom Audiences: Target Facebook Ads by Email List

First, name your audience. Then select whether you are uploading a file of email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook ID’s. In each case, make sure that it is a CSV or TXT file with only one column and no header row. Then upload the file.

Next, highlight that Custom Audience you created and click the Create Ad Using Audience button. You will now create an ad the way you normally would, but the Custom Audience is now automatically added within the new Custom Audiences ad creation step.

facebook custom audience ad creation 600x291 Facebook Custom Audiences: Target Facebook Ads by Email List

As you can see, you can also exclude targeted users by Custom Audience. If you have very segmented email lists, this could come in handy.

Topics to Cover Later


I could spend another 2,000 words covering this new feature, but I’ll instead break this up into separate posts. Following are some topics that will be covered at another time:

Privacy Concerns?


Whenever I read a Facebook or blog post about Custom Audiences when it was first announced, the majority of comments voiced concern over privacy. I don’t think that privacy is a problem, but Facebook will need to explain why that’s the case. People will need to be educated on exactly what is happening with this data.

Effectiveness of Custom Audiences


So far, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the impact of using Custom Audiences for Facebook ads among the big brands that previously had access. But what about the little guys, now that they can use it? My guess: No ads will be more effective than those using Custom Audiences. It’s possible that such ads will be even more effective than those targeted at your current Fans.

Strategies for Using Custom Audiences


Sure, this is a great new tool. So what are some ways that you can apply it? I have a few ideas.

Will Custom Audiences remain free?


I have strong suspicions that Facebook plans to eventually charge for this feature, just as they are now with Offers. There’s a not-so-subtle clue in the Facebook Help Center, under “What does it cost to use this feature?”

There’s currently no charge for making a data match and building your custom audiences on Facebook…

Yes, currently. And if it’s as effective as I expect it to be, Facebook will certainly charge for it and many advertisers will be willing to buck up.

How About You?


Have you started using Custom Audiences yet? In what ways do you plan to use them?

Let me know in the comments below!

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

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  • Lenny

    Jon, you are saying that this feature is to only target your own list? I don’t know why I pictured this as an uber feature that would auto generate interests based on that list to target new prospects. That would have been something juicy! LOL

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Target your own list, Lenny. So, look at it this way… Maybe you have an email list of 50,000 people, but only 5,000 Facebook Fans (and maybe only 2,000 of the Fans are on your email list). Now you can target those 50,000 people (many of whom weren’t previously fans) a product or something else. This way, you’re reaching many more relevant people as opposed to hoping you’ve captured everyone with your Facebook Page. It’s still juicy!

      • Lenny

        I’m def interested in the long term stats of this :) One would def get more return targeting specific subjects “statistically” but what about vs the extra costs in advertising? Is it worth it vs just sending out an offer email. Interesting.

        On a side note, one thing that I have noticed about some retargeting providers, the people using exchange services, is that the urls look spammy. I wonder how that impacts credibility.

        Thanks again for your interesting topics and discussion!

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          Lenny — Cost doesn’t seem out of line from my limited test. Email may be cheaper (though don’t quote me on that), but I’d consider these two to work together in an integrated strategy.

          For the record, the recipients of the targeting wouldn’t know that you are targeting them in this way. It would appear as any other ad would.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allison.schubert Allison Kaplan Schubert

    Hi Jon. I’m very excited to use this feature, but I can’t yet. The “Custom Audiences” tab has yet to appear for me in the Power Editor. Any ideas?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.risley Ashley Risley

    Does this allow you to upload more than 5000 contacts? I know that facebook only allows you to upload 5k because of the friends limit but is this different for the Like/Fan pages?

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  • Karolos

    Hello Everybody!
    john thank for the great tips. I have a question. I upload the audience and it says… 50.000. OK thats great!

    I create my ad and target this audience and then the ad shows that it target only 160 fans!!!!!!!!!!!!

    How is that possible….?

    On the other hand when i create a look alike audience i have normal numbers!

    • Leigh

      I am having exactly the same issue – did you resolve this Karolos?

      • Dan

        Um really? It’s because it matches the email to the email being used with facebook, not everyone uses the same email for everything. Also, when you start changing the targeting and get specific with those emails you start reducing the size of the audience.

    • davemiz

      I have same EXACT problem.

      mine shows like 50k out of about 90k emails uploaded.

      (i’m thinking great!)

      when i do an ad, it shows the reach of 4,200

      WTH?

      wondering if you have to break up your list into 5k groups and upload that way… so you’d have 10 custom audiences of your own list (email list1, 2, etc)

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  • Cyril Grillet

    Hi !

    Do you know if it’s possible to target only friends of a custom audience ? I can’t find a way to do it in power editor.

    Thanks :)

  • vc

    It would be nice to see a post on how to easily create a file with FB IDs. Do you think you can do something like that? Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hammad Iqbal

    Great info Jon. I’m still a newbie at facebook marketing and I could not understand how my email list is an effective method to target those people. Because, many of them are not at all relevant and/or even interested in my product or service. I also don’t understand how will my facebook ad be shown to people from my email list that do not even have a facebook account. As I mentioned earlier, I am new to this so please let me get the idea. What have I missed or failed to understand?

  • Ron

    Jon, I have a list of 27,000 emails in Icontact, and a new list of 700 fresh emails I gathered from fans, I uploaded them into the custom audience interface and both lists say only 20 people – how is that possible? the 700 emails were from facebook fans, and out of 27,000 emails only 20? I cant figure out what is up, and because of that, this feature is useless to me now, any advice sir? thanks

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Are you sure it’s complete? It can take a while for Facebook to generate the list and may show an incomplete number.

      • Ron

        yes its been days – still at 20 names only – could there be a glitch? have you tried it with a list and seen it work recently?

        • Brittany

          Same thing is happening to me! I don’t get it… I’ve tried uploading through MailChimp multiple times, and when I created a CSV in excel it uploaded only 30 recipients… ten more, but still not the 100s that it should be.

  • Gery

    How can you get the Facebook UIDs of my fans? Once I have that i can run a lookalike audience? Thanks!

  • Agnieszka Lekszycka

    Hey Jon!

    Do you happen to know whether it’s possible to target an ad with custom audience (created from IDs) that has around 2-3 records?
    Does need to be more than 20?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Coco

      Same question here, would be great to get an answer for this!

  • nix

    Hi Jon and everyone else.

    Would you all know how a client could send a hashed list of their emails to us? The client doesn’t want to reveal their database. How would they do it?

  • Joanne DelBalso

    I have noticed that when i am setting up my custom audiences that they seem to be limiting them to 600 people. Is this the case?

  • Cinthia

    Hi Jon, Where do find the facebook application to find a Facebook UID list as you mention in your post?

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