5 Ways to Target People with Facebook Ads

5 Ways to Target People with Facebook Ads

Want to improve your Facebook ad performance? 

In this article, you’ll discover the top five ways you can target people with Facebook ads.  

Get ready to learn how to target your exact audience and find out if you are you maximising the full targeting capabilities of the Facebook ad platform.

Understanding Facebook ad targeting 

Before we delve into the world of creating specific audiences for the most effective ways to target people with Facebook ads and how best to use them, we need to first understand the three main categories of audience targeting. 

There are three types of audiences on Facebook: Cold, Warm and Hot. Let’s briefly look at each one in turn. 

Cold audiences contain people that don’t know your business or brand, and have yet to be exposed to your offer or service; this can be done by targeting people with Facebook ads. Within these audiences are your potential new customers whom have yet to be converted.

You can target these people as part of new customer acquisition to grow your business or brand, and subsequently increase your revenue. These audiences include Lookalike and Saved audiences. 

Next, we have Warm audiences which contain customers who have already interacted with your business or brand on Facebook or any Facebook-owned property including Instagram and Messenger and Whatsapp in 2020, and can be deemed as ‘pre-qualified’. 

three audience temperatures on Facebook are Cold, Warm and Hot.

Here, people already know your business or brand, having had been exposed through other marketing or organic means, have some familiarity and so have an established relationship with you, which is essential for growing trust between you and your customers.  

With this in mind, you can often see great results in a short period of time due to the foundation of trust already established from these types of audience. 

Finally, we have Hot audiences. These deliver the highest level of return, are highly qualified and generate the best results out of the three audience types.

Hot audiences contain people that have visited your website, are familiar with your brand or business and have shown considerable interest in your product or service but are yet to convert into customers.

The effectiveness of your Facebook ad campaigns will depend on which audience you are targeting. However, simply running ads to one audience type won’t deliver sustainable results, which is the end goal for any profitable business.  

Here’s why: 

If you only run ad campaigns to hot audiences but you aren’t running any other campaigns that are increasing your website traffic, there’s a high chance you’ll hit audience saturation where the same people are seeing the same ads again and again; this is also known as ‘ad fatigue’. 

Instead, you‘ll want to run Facebook ad campaigns that target each audience type. This strategy ensures audience saturation is limited as you are exposing your business to all three audience temperatures. 

Now let’s look at five types of audiences that you can use to target with Facebook ads.  

#1 Target ads at audiences built from your existing customers 

When built correctly, these audiences have the potential to consistently deliver outstanding results from cold audience group.

This targeting method involves creating a Lookalike audience from your existing customer base.  

There are two ways you can build this type of Lookalike: one is using customers that have triggered a purchase event action on your website and subsequently you use an event based website custom audience.

The second way is by using a source audience of your customer database created via a customer file custom audience

Why this audience is so effective is that you are giving Facebook the highest quality audience from your business, your already converted customers. 

Facebook can then use that data to find new people that share many of the same characteristics, through the collation and analyses of thousands of data points on each user, so you can essentially ‘clone’ your customer base.  

When creating all of the audience types listed in this article, start in your audience dashboard. To navigate to this, click on the Ads Manager main menu button in the top left corner and in All tools under the Assets column select audiences. 

Ads manager main menu audiences selected in assets

Next, we’ll walk through how to create this audience using pixeled purchase data. This audience type is highly successful also for businesses with the objective of generating leads through their Facebook ads. All you need to do is to change the event condition when building the custom audience. 

First, click on Create in the audience dashboard and from the drop-down lists, select custom audience.

Before you build the actual Lookalike audience, we first must build the source audience which Facebook will use as the foundation to build the Lookalike. 

When the custom audience menu appears select Website Traffic to open the website custom audience creation window. 

website audience as custom audience target people with facebook ads

Where it says “All Website Visitors” in the dropdown list, change the criteria to Purchase.

This results in all visitors that triggered the purchase event action that you installed on your website when you set up your Facebook pixel to be collectively grouped.  

NOTE: If you haven’t installed your Facebook pixel or conversions tracking yet, you won’t be able to create any website custom audiences. Click here to learn how to set up and install it. 

Once Purchase is selected as your event action, change the duration from 30 days to 180 days, allowing for the maximisation of our source audience, resulting in a higher quality Lookalike audience.   

purchase event selected in past 180 duration for website traffic custom audience target people with facebook ads

After having clicked on create audience, the following pop-up window will show a “next steps” section with two options. Click on “Find new people similar to your existing users”.

This will bring up the Lookalike creation window with the source audience that you just created, already selected.  

With the source audience already selected, you can now move to the next section in the Lookalike creation process: choosing your target country. This is the country in which you want to run ads, so in this example, our market is in the UK so we are choosing United Kingdom from the location field. 

Finally, when building Lookalikes you set your audience size. This is determined by the total available market size on Facebook in your chosen country. In this example with the UK a 1% Lookalike would be 1% of the 41.9 million active users so is 419k people.  

create lookalike from purchase source audience with set location and 1% audience size target people with facebook ads

For any Lookalike audience that you create, start by building the 1% size. This will be the most similar and closest matched to your source audience.  

TIP: If your 1% audience isn’t delivering results then you should consider improving your source audience quality. Don’t test a 2% and waste time or advertising budget as the problem is with the source audience, not the size.  

For a walk-through on how to create this type of Lookalike audience using your customer database, instead of pixeled event data click here.  

#2 Use Lookalikes built from your website traffic 

If you don’t have any pixeled data or a large enough customer data base to build a Lookalike audience from, the next best way you can target people with Facebook ads is to create an audeince from your website traffic.  

This audience type is often overlooked but can be a very effective strategy. The volume of  website traffic and number of visitors your website receives each month will determine what audience duration you set for your source audience. You want to build a source audience of at least 5-10k people that have visited your website.  

For example, if your website receives 10k visitors per month, then your audience duration would be 30 days.

However, if your website receives 30k visitors per month using a shorter duration of 10 days can generate better results, as the total number of visitors your source audience is built from is the same, but the quality is much higher as the audience is now based off of much more up-to-date data.   

To create this audience follow the steps outlined earlier in targeting option. However, make the following adjustments when creating your website custom audience. 

create lookalike from purchase source audience with location selected with 1% audience size

Instead of selecting purchase from the criteria field, select All website visitors when targeting people with Facebook ads. You can now set your duration based on the volume of website traffic covered above. In this example, we have 90k visitors per month so the audience duration is 3 days. You can adjust the duration accordingly to your audience size. 

Once you have created your source audience of website traffic, the second way to build a Lookalike on Facebook is to do so from the main audiences dashboard.  

Select the check box next to the source audience you have just created and then in the top line navigation click on the button with three dots on it. From the dropdown, you should select Create Lookalike. This will take you to the familiar Lookalike creation window that we covered earlier in the article. 

select website custom audience and choose create lookalike from dropdown

When using either of the Lookalikes we’ve created, two types of ads can be used to market at these audiences.

The first is content: start warming the audience up by providing value and building recognition in the newsfeed, which also works to establish a sense of trust.

The second ad type is to position some kind of irresistible offer to drive sales or leads for your business, preferably posed around the theme of urgency and scarcity to invoke immediate action by the audience.   

#3 Show ads to people that have watched at least one of your Facebook or Instagram videos in the last 7 days 

If you are publishing video content on Facebook or Instagram, either organically on your page or through advertising, this next audience definitely should be used to reach targeted people using Facebook ads. 

You can target people with Facebook and Instagram ads that have watched your native video content on the relevant platforms.

You can choose what specific videos they need to have watched as well as how much of the videos.

This audience allows you to group those people into a warm audience based on the level of engagement with your video ads, and is best used to target product or service ads and drive website traffic. 

To create this audience type, in the audience dashboard click on Create and then Custom audience. From the custom audience main menu click on Video to open the video creation window.  

video selected as custom audience in custom audience creation

In the video custom audience creation window,  choose your criteria in the engagement section. The options are 3 seconds, 10 seconds, 25%, 50%, 75% and 95% view rate.  

I’d recommend at least 25% viewed or 10 seconds, whichever is longer depending on the length of your video, as the audience is showing a higher level of engagement.

Next, click on choose videos and select the video or multiple videos you want people to have watched to be included in this audience you are now creating.  

Finally, set your audience duration. As video views aren’t as hot an audience temperature compared with website traffic, choose a shorter duration for maximum relevancy and recognition, such as 7 days. 

The finished audience settings should look similar to the screenshot below. 

engagement condition selected for videos with set audience duration for video custom audience target people with facebook ads

#4 Target people that have visited your website but not decided to become a customer…yet. 

A Hot audience is the next audience you can use when targeting people using Facebook ads and is regarded as the most qualified audience type as it contains not just people that are aware of your business or brand but also those that have specifically visited your website. 

This type of website remarketing delivers the best overall results you’ll see when you target people with Facebook ads and Instagram ads due to the level of qualification of members within this audience, and it is not uncommon to see double-digit Facebook Return on Ad Spend.  

When targeting these audiences, creating ads that contain social proof and build trust, such as customer reviews or testimonials, are most definitely going to benefit your bottom line and should be included.

Ensure the offer or product promotion in the ad is relevant to what your audience has viewed previously on your website or Level 1 remarketing ads. 

testimonial ads to build social prood for remarketing website visitors

There are two ways to do this:

The first is through the use dynamic product ads if you are an eCommerce business and you sell lots of different products; dynamic ads are highly effective at showing an array of products you sell, all complementary and within a single ad display so as to remain relevant and consistent to your audience and branding. 

The second is by refining your audience targeting based on specific page views to niche down what products or services they have viewed.  

TIP: Refining your audience by page views only works if you have a large amount of website traffic, over 5k visitors to that certain page. If your website doesn’t have enough traffic you can build a generic website custom audience for all website visitors.  

In the audience dropdown, click on custom audience and in the main menu click on website traffic. Change the engagement condition from All website visitors to “People who visited specific web pages”. 

Set the URL extension in the contains field under the page visitors engagement criteria.  target people with facebook ads

In the URL field which now appears, enter the URL that you want to group people by. In this example, we have selected our contact page, allowing us to target people that visited but did not enquire. 

Just like with the website traffic Lookalike source audience we created earlier, the duration you set on this audience will depend on the volume of traffic.

Including an exclusion principle is also something you’ll want to add, in this case the exclusion of the event action in which someone becomes a customer via the purchase or lead event. Again, back to our example, we want to exclude existing leads, so we select Leads from the event actions in the engagement section.  

This time with our audience duration, we want as many people in the exclusion as possible, so set it at the maximum of 180 days. 

exclusion principle of existing leads target people with facebook ads

#5 Increase revenue by targeting your existing customers with Facebook ads 

The fith way you can target people with Facebook and Instagram ads is by showing your ads to your existing customers. These are known as existing customer retention campaigns or ECR for short

One of the big misconceptions that marketers and business owners often hold is that a customer will just come back and buy again off their own accord, with no prompting.  

Online, this just isn’t the case and one of the best ways to encourage another purchase from your existing customers is to put an ad in front of them.

These audiences are considered super hot by definition, the highest level of a qualified audience, as they have already bought from you so have built up trust and established relationship with your business. 

These audiences are the only type that will delive even better results than your website remarketing campaigns.  

existing customer retention campaign with high roas facebook ads

After you have followed the audience creation for the Lookalike from customers in point #1, you’ve actually already created this audience in your dashboard.  

Instead of building a Lookalike from it, create a new campaign and select it at the ad set level in the audience section in the custom audience field. 

You can now target this audience with additional product or service ads to drive new revenue from your existing customer base and increase their lifetime value, and consequently, your bottom line. 


Now you’re armed with the knowledge of five different ways to target people with Facebook ads, as well as how to create each of the audiences in Ads Manager… what are you waiting for? 

From cold Lookalike audiences to warm audiences of video consumers, not forgetting hot audiences of website traffic and super hot audiences of existing customers, you can use Facebook and Instagram advertising to reach new and existing people to grow your business.  

What do you think?

Are you running these types of Facebook ad campaign?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

About Charlie Lawrance

Charlie is an advertising strategist, writer, speaker, and agency owner. He’s the Founder and CEO of Gecko Squared, a Facebook and Instagram advertising agency that specialises in working with high growth clients from around the world including eCommerce, software and professional service businesses. He’s been planning and buying digital media for over 9 years since he started his first business aged just 18. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Charlie Lawrance).

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