Facebook Lookalike Audiences: What Are They and How to Use Them

Published March 1, 2018
Imagine two people, one who is a loyal customer with a high lifetime value and another who has never heard of your brand. Now imagine these two people have a great deal in common in terms of interests, behaviors, age, and location. What if you could use the profile of your customer to connect with the relative stranger?
That’s what Facebook Lookalike Audiences are all about.
In this post, we will look at one of Facebook’s specific advertising capabilities: Lookalike Audiences. We’ll cover what they are, how they’re built, and how to use them.

What are Lookalike Audiences?

Lookalike Audiences are a feature within Facebook’s Ads Manager that was first rolled out in 2013. You can use Lookalike Audiences to create a new group of Facebook Marketing prospects who share similar characteristics with your existing, engaged, audiences.

What do you need to create one?

To create a Lookalike Audience, you will need a way to generate an original Source Audience. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as a Facebook Pixel on your website, a list of your existing customers, people who Like your Facebook page or people who use an app that’s integrated with Facebook’s Software Development Kit (SDK).

How can you create Source Audiences?

Lookalike Audiences are generated within Facebook’s audience dashboard, which is a feature of Ads Manager.


Create a Facebook Lookalike Audience


You will first need to create a Custom Audience that you will later use as the Source Audience for the Lookalike Audience. There are several ways to create a Custom Audience:

  • From a customer file, (which can include name, email, phone, or Facebook user IDs)
  • From segments of your website traffic (if you have a Facebook Pixel on the site’s pages)
  • From users of an app that’s integrated with the Facebook SDK
  • From Facebook users who like your business or organization’s Page


Facebook Lookalikes


How do you create Lookalike Audiences?

Once you have created a Custom Audience you can choose it as the source of the Lookalike Audience. Next, you will choose a Target Country. You can choose the one that most closely matches your existing audience or a different country. Finally, you choose an Audience Size, which ranges from 1% to 10%. The 1% audience represents the top 1% of users that most closely match the Source Audience. It’s the smallest possible audience, but it’s also the most similar. The 10% audience size is the largest possible targeting option, but it’s the broadest match of all audience sizes.

What can you use them for?

Lookalike Audiences are best suited for identifying new individuals that you hope to engage. If you’re looking to drive top of funnel leads, experimenting with Lookalike Audiences may be a great way to begin reaching new prospects who share similar traits with your existing audiences.

Even businesses that are effectively drawing leads from other marketing channels may still find that Lookalike Audiences are an excellent complement to other efforts and an opportunity to make use of your customer data. Lookalike Audiences can also help grow brand awareness by increasing your exposure to new potential customers. Multi-channel attribution for conversions and sales are becoming more commonplace. Customer conversion cycles are often long and may cross multiple channels. Forward-thinking marketing strategies involve engaging potential leads at every possible touch-point and on multiple platforms.

Finally, Lookalike Audiences are for the bold and creative: the sheer range of options for the Custom Audiences you can create from a source should intrigue marketers who love experimentation and testing. For example, you can even test very similar Lookalike Audiences against each other. You can determine which scenario produces a better ROI, the 1% or 10% audience size. Or for a geographically based test, you can look at ad performance in two different Spanish speaking countries.

What size are they?

Facebook Lookalike Audiences have to be comprised of at least 100 people. That's usually not going to be a problem unless you have a very restrictive Source Audience or choose a very small country. For a populous nation, the 1% size setting (i.e., the 1% of Facebook users in that country who most closely match the Source Audience) can be quite large. In the United States, it might be over 1 million people. And the 10% audience size setting might be over 10 million.

What Metrics would you use to measure campaigns using Lookalike Audiences?

Since Lookalike Audiences are best suited for generating new leads, if the campaign is going “broad”, then visibility metrics are likely going to be the most relevant to measure and apply to optimize campaigns. For example, Reach would be an important metric if you are are trying to widen the top of the funnel as much as you can.

However, the Source Audience source is equally important in selecting metrics. Because of the range of options, you can identify the lookalikes for:

  • Your most profitable or loyal existing customers
  • Users who’ve watched at least 30 seconds of a video
  • Users who added items to a cart but didn’t checkout

Refining your targeting to look for action-based attributes can result in warmer and narrower audiences. These interaction and engagement metrics will be useful complements to pure visibility metrics. You can align the metrics to the original Source Audience, but always keep in mind that Lookalikes will be entirely new people, who may be getting an introduction to your brand for the first time.

How to use them effectively

The most important aspect of generating effective Lookalike Audiences is using a high-quality Source Audience. The old maxim “garbage in, garbage out” definitely applies here. In the setup process, most of your time should be dedicated to setting a well-defined Source Audience for building your Lookalike Audience.

Once you have a Source Audience, choose your target country. For most organizations, staying within the country of your Source Audience is going to be a natural choice. However, for organizations looking to expand into new, international markets, Lookalike Audiences allow you to match similar demographics and behaviors within an entirely new country.


Geographic Locations for Lookalike Audiences


If you’re tasked with initial market penetration in a new country, you should absolutely consider Lookalike Audiences. It will allow for maximum reach within a new and unfamiliar area, while still having some internal structure and logic so you aren’t flying blind in new territory.

Next, choose an audience size. If you are just getting started using a Lookalike Audience, we recommend you choose one end of the spectrum and adjust over time, optimizing for engagement, conversions and lifetime value of a customer. If you start at 10%, you will be maximizing the possible Reach, as the audience size will be much larger. However, because the 10% size will be the broadest match to the Source Audience, you may find engagement and conversion rates are lower than you’d like. A 1% audience size is going to be the closest match to the Source Audience, but it will have the smallest reach as well.

Choosing the initial audience size depends a lot on the organization and its potential customer base. Big brands and medium-sized businesses with a nationwide customer base are probably going to want to set the size at 10% for the widest Reach and then dial down the audience size based on performance until the optimal balance has been found. Smaller and regional businesses may want to start with a 1% audience and dial it up as Reach needs to be expanded.


Digital marketers are on a perpetual quest to use data to understand their customers. Better understanding customers helps to improve conversion funnels and identify new audiences. Lookalike Audiences are a helpful way to leverage what you know about your engaged audiences to find new prospects.

With lists of people who have traits in common with your existing customers, you can also combine Lookalike Audiences and apply normal Facebook Advertising targeting options. Layering your targeting options will help you continue to refine your potential audience, making it smaller, but more focused, further improving the overall lead matching and quality.

One last reminder: always be measuring and reporting. Identify the right metrics for the right campaign, make sure that you are properly tracking them and then adjust your campaigns as needed.



When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.