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Facebook Engagement Custom Audiences

General August 17th, 2017

Facebook’s newest targeting method is a game changer for advertisers

Facebook advertisers love the social media platform’s audience targeting capabilities. With the ability to build audiences based on detailed user data, page likes, uploaded CRM files and website activity, many advertisers thought they had all the targeting power they would ever need.

Then Facebook one-upped itself last year with its rollout of Engagement Custom Audiences. By making it possible to seek out people who have engaged with content from your page or ads over various time periods, advertisers can now target the people most interested in or familiar with them.

Advertisers can also layer on inclusions/exclusions and build lookalike audiences using engagement data to amplify the power of this new capability. Let’s take a closer look at Facebook’s best custom audience option to date.

What’s So Great about Engagement Custom Audiences?

From a targeting standpoint, these are users closest to the bullseye of your prospective customer. They are more likely to convert when shown a direct response ad (think: Shop Now or Sign Up) than a user who matches the characteristics of your customers but who has never heard of you before.

Also, for most businesses this is an easier audience to build at scale than a Facebook Pixel audience because users can become members of an engagement audience without leaving Facebook to visit your website. This is much like the reasoning behind lead ads, in most cases they’re more effective than links to lead forms on websites because users can complete them without leaving Facebook.

How to Create an Engagement Custom Audience

First, in Facebook Ads Manager, click the “Create Audience” dropdown under Assets > Audiences, then select “Custom Audience”.

Then, select Engagement from among the four Custom Audience types. The other three are Customer File (e.g. email list or other CRM data), Website Traffic (using Facebook Pixel; this is the classic retargeting list) and App Activity (only relevant for those with Apps loaded with Facebook SDK).


Here is where you can see the six different engagement types, as of mid-August, 2017. It is obvious from Facebook’s notations that these are constantly being updated as Facebook improves and expands this capability.

The six types are:

  • Video –People who have watched one or more specific videos you select. Better yet, you can base this off of the percentage of the video they actually watched.
  • Lead Form – Users who have opened, opened but did not submit, or submitted a Facebook lead form.
  • Full Screen Experience – People who opened or clicked a link in one of your Facebook Canvas or Collection ads. This option applied to Canvas only until Facebook combined this content types with its new Collection ads, which combine catalog items.
  • Facebook Page – Users who engaged with your Facebook page, posts or ads; we explore this in greater detail below.
  • Instagram Business Profile – And the newest variant, people who have interacted with your Instagram business profile (assuming you have one).
  • Event – This newest option addresses users who have engaged with an event you’ve created, which should be a highly-targeted group.

The options available for Facebook Page engagement are typical of all six. However, while most allow you to set a date range between 1 and 365 days, lead form targeting is limited to the last 90 days.

Here is the window you see upon clicking the “Facebook Page” option above:

You can select from five options under Facebook Page engagement including the page itself, any post or ad, any call to action (CTA) button, Facebook Messenger, and page or post saves. Note that unlike video engagement, Facebook does not offer the ability to target engagement with one or more specific posts or ads. In other words, your targeting here applies to all your content in general, not specific pieces of content.

How to Amp It Up

If you just take advantage of the basic capabilities explained thus far, you’ll be well on your way to leveraging Facebook’s most powerful custom audience targeting ability. Nevertheless, here are some ways to amplify the power of this targeting option.

  • Date range – the narrower the range, the more recent the interaction, the fresher you are in the user’s memory. Someone who ‘liked’ your ad 30 days ago is a better prospect than someone who did it nine months ago. Note that the date range is dynamic – for every day you add new users, you similarly lose the oldest members from the beginning of the period. Also, your audience size will increase or decrease as users engage more or less with your content.
  • Targeting layers – when you build out an ad campaign, at the ad set level you can select additional targeting options. For example, you can target specific geographies, interests or behaviors that indicate a demographic similar to your typical customer, or likelihood to buy online. You can also combine this custom audience with page connections, for example, users who like your page.
  • Exclusion layers – You can reduce campaign costs and improve conversion rates by excluding certain users. For example, if you’re promoting a certain opt-in form, you don’t want to target people who are already on your mailing list, so create a Custom Audience from this list and exclude it from your campaign. Similarly, if you’re selling a specific product, upload a list of customers who’ve already purchased it and exclude them.

Sustaining Momentum

The downside to all these targeting options is the possibility your audience is too small to generate any scale. If your ads don’t gain any traction or you see evidence that you are exhausting your audience (for example, your impressions start to decline), try:

  • Combinations – Combining audiences at the ad set level, for example, an engagement audience with a website traffic (Facebook Pixel) audience.
  • Content – Expanding your engagement audience by creating more, and more compelling, content on Facebook for users to engage with (as if you needed another reason to improve the quantity and quality of your Facebook content!). Video content has the greatest potential to earn engagement quickly. Paying to boost Facebook content will also expand your engagement audiences. For example, running a video views campaign can help you grow an engagement audience to target with a conversions campaign later.
  • Lookalikes – Using Facebook’s lookalike functionality to target a population of users similar to your engagement audience. Lookalike audiences are always more accurate than trying to use Facebook’s demographics, interests and behaviors to identify the same group of users. As always, the smaller the lookalike percentage (in the U.S., the smallest is 1% of Facebook’s user base, or 2.1 million people), the more likely these users are to resemble your customers.

Now Get to Work

Anyone for whom digital marketing is an important component of their business strategy will surely recognize this targeting option as a great way to reach mid-funnel prospects. By utilizing Engagement Custom Audiences you can build a list of Facebook users most familiar with you, your products or services and you can do it at scale by identifying them within the Facebook platform instead of your website.

Once you build the base audience, you can take advantage of more options like inclusions, exclusions and Facebook connections to further narrow your targeting. As you can imagine, any user who sees your ad after making it through these filters will offer a greater-than-average chance to convert.

If you advertise on Facebook, you owe it to yourself to at least test Engagement Custom Audiences. Like most Facebook audiences these are surprisingly easy to configure, the minimal investment of time required to do it is well worth it.

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