In digital marketing, targeting is the name of the game. Sure, effective copy and visuals are important to get your brand message across. But if the wrong audience sees your ads, even the most thorough and well-thought-out creative process will not lead to actual results.

That's why, for years, social networks like Facebook have prioritized a wide variety of targeting options. Custom audiences, and especially lookalike audiences, are among the most complex and most commonly misunderstood.

Let's change that. Consider this a comprehensive guide to Facebook ads through lookalikes, from their general benefits to specific tips and tricks on how to set them up.

The Benefits of Facebook Lookalikes

Newcomers can easily become confused by Facebook's targeting options, from user interests and behaviours to recent web visitors. At first glance, lookalikes only add to that complexity. Further investigation, however, reveals that the opposite is the case.

The Ease of Setting up Lookalikes

The ease of use with this type of targeting is immense. We'll get into the details of what it takes to set up an ad campaign with lookalikes. Ultimately, though, it comes down to two simple steps:

  1. Choose a custom audience list
  2. Choose 'lookalike' as your option.

That ease of use, in turn, tends to result in significant abilities for Facebook marketing. You can quickly set up multiple iterations of a campaign, testing them against each other for maximum success. More importantly, you can leverage the other benefits of this targeting type more easily.

Expand Your Audience Pool

Your target audience is likely to be complex. They share traits and interests that can result in a comprehensive persona with a multitude of data points. Finding all of those specific points, though, is challenging, and setting up a Facebook campaign based on them is even more difficult.

So why not automate the process? At its most basic level, that's exactly what lookalike audiences can provide. You upload a list of your choice (should it be custom or from the social platform's data), and Facebook matches that list to user profiles to find common characteristics. Now, it can dynamically target its ads to other users who share these characteristics.

The key to success here is the fact that some of these traits and interests might be unknown even to you. As a result, lookalikes significantly expand your audience pool. Rather than only focusing on a segment already known to you, you can expand your focus to others like them.

Goal Achievement Based on List Types

Finally, the type of list you choose to create a lookalike from can act as a customization tool for key metrics that you're looking to achieve with a given ad campaign. In other words, you can work to achieve a variety of marketing goals simply through the right setup.

That sounds complex, but is actually straightforward. Lookalikes from your most loyal customers, for instance, will likely result in increased conversions. Lookalikes from blog subscribers, on the other hand, may be more suitable for general brand awareness. No matter your goal, the way you set up this type of campaign can help you build towards achieving it.

How to Set up a Lookalike Audience in Facebook

The benefits above, of course, depend on how you set up the campaign. Naturally, and as is the case with any type of digital marketing, your setup will be a key determinant of success and failure. We already mentioned the ease of use in this case; here's what that means for your efforts in 6 steps:

  1. Go to the Audiences section in your Facebook Ads Manager.
  2. Choose Lookalike Audience from the Create Audience dropdown.
  3. Select your source, most likely a custom audience/list you have created previously. This might be an email list, recent web visitors, or more.
  4. Choose the country (or countries) in which you want to find your lookalikes.
  5. Use the slider to select your audience size, based on a percentage of the population in the country you've chosen.
  6. Click to Create the Audience.

From the moment you finish the process, Facebook needs up to 24 hours to create the audience. After that, it will refresh with new and updated matches every three to seven days to keep it relevant and current.

Alternatively, you can set up a lookalike audience directly in your ads manager while creating a new campaign. Either way, the setup is straightforward, allowing you to leverage the full benefits of this targeting tool.

4 Types of Lists Primed for Lookalike Ad Campaigns

A closer look at the above process reveals two areas with the most impact on your targeting efforts: the region and population percentage you choose, and the type of audience you want to create lookalikes from. The first depends on your budget and location, and should be pretty straightforward. The second deserves further consideration.

As mentioned above, lookalikes on Facebook work so well partially because they are so malleable depending on your marketing goals. The custom audience you choose for the campaign will have the biggest impact on that process.

The four audiences below are by no means comprehensive. Recent web visitors, Facebook fans, and other options are just as available. We choose the four below for closer focus precisely because they are so valuable in achieving a variety of marketing goals.  

1) Your Email List

Whether you engage in inbound or more traditional outbound marketing, chances are your business follows a relatively standard sales funnel. You generate leads, which you nurture over time to become customers. Once they are, you look for further outreach to increase repeat purchases and loyalty.

In other words, it all starts with your leads. Through lookalikes, you can increase that pool.

Especially early in the funnel, you probably collect leads with minimal information beyond name and email address. Thus, it's difficult to draw conclusions about this type of audience. By matching it to Facebook profiles, lookalikes allow for more comprehensive outreach to the type of user interested in your content. Through lead ads, you can then generate new contacts off this type of audience.

2) Engaged Facebook Users

Taking a step back, new leads usually don't convert until they engage with your content. Facebook makes it easy to send ads to users who look like Facebook fans that have recently interacted with your content.

You can either focus on general interaction rates, or go more specific in focusing on specific actions like website clicks or comments. Either way, you reach an audience interested enough in your Facebook presence to take an action. So why not find other users like them?

Lookalikes built in this fashion tend to be best for general brand awareness. You reach users who may or may not ever become customers, but at least share a profile with those who tend to like your Facebook page. If your marketing goals focus early in the funnel, this type of targeting may be your best bet.

3) Existing Customers

Finally, you can use this option to get to the most focused part of your audience. You likely already know quite a bit about your current customers. Now, you can use that information to build detailed Facebook ad campaigns, specifically designed to increase your revenue through customer acquisition.

Lookalikes from this type most closely resemble your audience persona or detailed profile. They allow you to run very targeted ads, aimed at converting others directly on your website or through a longer-term process. The fact that you already know about this audience converting to revenue makes this type of list the most commonly used for lookalike options.

Targeting based on existing customers tends to make your similar audiences smaller, but more focused. You cannot expect to reach a wide pool, which is why this is best used for late-funnel marketing goals. Within that context, though, it can be incredible effective.

4) Mobile App Users

Finally, don't underestimate the potential of users for relevant mobile apps. Used correctly, this might be the most powerful targeting method available on Facebook. Regardless if you are an app publisher, an app advertiser or not at all related to the mobile industry, you can benefit from the apps your audience loves. They can give you surprising insights into their demographic and psychographic profile. Then, build lookalikes off those app users to find others like them!

But, this is not a built-in Facebook Ads feature. You can't build audiences on installed-app from Facebook Ads' own data. Yet, for users of our tool, it is not an issue at all.

Our Audience Finder allows you to easily find Facebook users based on what apps they have (any apps) and then tailor relevant ads to them. It also includes a lookalike feature that expands your audience, increasing your reach and potential ROI. Want to learn more about this product? Discover our Audience Finder today to get started.

Should you have more questions about using lookalikes on Facebook, feel free to send us an email at as well!

Lookalike Audiences: bottom-line

We have seen it. Even though they may seem complex at first, the Facebook Ads lookalikes actually have a great potential should you try to expand your audience list or reach out to new qualified leads based on your current customers!

And with our Audience Finder, the lookalikes have never been so close to your core audience while being ready to be targeted!