How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences A Guide for School Marketers

With over 2.32 billion monthly active users, Facebook advertising offers a huge potential for school marketers. It’s so huge, in fact, that you need to laser-focus your ads to make sure you reach the Facebook users that will be interested in your school. This allows you to make the most of your Facebook ad spend budget.

Facebook Custom Audiences are one of the most essential tools for successful Facebook ad campaigns. If you’re not using them already, chances are you’re losing money and potential families. If Facebook ads are already working for you, Custom Audiences can make your return-on-investment (ROI) skyrocket to new heights.

In this blog post, you’ll discover what Custom Audiences are, how to start using them, and some of the best ideas to increase inquiries for your school.

Custom Audiences are a way you can target your Facebook ads with a list of email addresses, phone numbers, website visitors, Facebook Page members, Facebook user IDs, and even engagement! The best part of Custom Audiences is that you no longer have to guess your targets by gender or vague interests. Instead, you can target a very precise niche of highly-targeted users.

Since launching Custom Audiences in 2013, Facebook has continually made significant updates, making these features more powerful and flexible than ever.

Types of Facebook Custom Audiences

Here are the options for Custom Audiences:

  1. Standard Custom Audience

A standard custom audience uses a list you provide. The list could contain email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook User IDs you want to target, and Facebook will match them with the users. Facebook will usually match between 60-80 percent of the contacts on your list. This is a good option if you already have this information on people to whom you want to target your ads.

  1. Website Custom Audiences

With Website Custom Audiences, you don’t need to target a list of email addresses or phone numbers. You can insert the tracking code on your website and you’ll be able to target all users that have visited a specific page on your site during a set time period (up to 180 days). This is basically Retargeting on Facebook without the hassle and costs of the FBX program.

  1. App Activity Custom Audiences

You can create audiences based on actions people take on your app (if you have an app). You can create audiences of people who recently opened your app, completed a purchase or achieved a certain level in your game or platform. For example, you can create an audience of those who have used your app previously but have not used it in the last 30 days. Since most schools don’t have an app, this is not commonly used by school marketing teams.

  1. Engagement Custom Audiences

You can create audiences of those who engage with certain ad types or your Business Page. The duration of these types of ads is up to 365 days, although the more recent the better – it is engagement after all.

  1. Lookalike Audiences

Once you’ve created a Custom Audience (i.e. uploaded an email list), you can ask Facebook to create a lookalike audience to target your ads to similar users. Facebook will assess certain patterns and characteristics your users have in common – such as age, gender, or interests – and create a much bigger list of very similar users.

Lookalike Audiences are very powerful because you can immediately expand your list and target users that are likely to convert.

Since launching, Facebook has expanded Lookalike Audiences, allowing you to create audiences based on your Facebook Page fans, website visitors and user lists.

In my marketing efforts, I’ve found Website Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to be the most useful for school marketers. For this reason, the rest of this blog post will focus on these two types of custom audiences.

Exclusive FREE Bonus: Download the pdf How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences: A Guide for School Marketers to reference in the future and/or share with colleagues at your school.

How to Set Up Website Custom Audiences

  1. If you haven’t already, set up a Facebook Pixel and make sure it’s active. Click here to learn more…
  2. From your Facebook Ad Account, click on Audiences under Assets.
  3. If you already have audiences, click the Create Audiences drop down menu and select Custom Audiences.
  4. If you don’t have any audiences yet, you’ll see audience creation buttons, rather than a drop-down menu. Click Create a Custom Audience.
  5. Choose a pixel.
  6. Set a rule. You can have up to 5 rules. There are standard rules and pixel event rules. Add rules as desired. (You have to start with an inclusive rule like “all people who visit this page on my website during this time period.”) Learn more about Rules here…
  7. There are many different types of rules, such as:
  • All website visitors
  • All website visitors who visited during a specific time period (up to 180 days)
  • People who visited a specific web page with specific URL rules like people who looked at specific blog pages or not include people who looked at specific topics or people who visited the newsletter sign up page (but didn’t complete the form). You could target people who visited a page a certain number of times (i.e. more than once) or specify what type of device people are viewing your page from.
  • Visitors by time spent. You can write a rule depending on how long someone stayed on a certain page or your website.
  • Pixel event rules. You can write rules based on your Pixel events. You can write rules based on your URL/parameter (including or excluding people who visited a certain URL), based on the frequency (or lack thereof) of the times people visited your site or a device rule.
  • You can combine rules up to 5 rule sections and add filters to each event. Each event can have up to 10 parameters. At least one rule must be an inclusive rule, meaning “everyone that completed this action” but the other 4 can be either inclusive or exclusive.

As you can see, there are many ways to write rules depending on who you want to target, making this a very flexible way to create custom audiences.

How to Set Up Lookalike Audiences

The concept behind lookalike audiences is that Facebook will find new people who are likely to be interested in your ad because they’re similar to one of your existing audiences.

  1. Start by going to Audiences in your Assets tab.
  2. Click on Lookalike Audience.
  3. Choose a source audience (a Custom Audience you’ve already created with your pixel data, video viewers or your Business Page fans). Make sure you use lists you have permission to use. Also, you can’t keep people in a Facebook Custom Audience if they’ve unsubscribed from your list, so keep your custom audiences updated!
  4. You can choose the size of your Lookalike Audience. Smaller audiences are more likely to hit the target, so be careful to not choose too large of an audience. The recommended size is between 1,000 to 50,000 people.
  5. Your source audience must contain at least 100 people.
  6. You can create up to 500 Lookalike Audiences from a single source audience.
  7. You can target your ad to more than one Lookalike audience and Facebook will show the ad to people who are in any of your selected audiences.
  8. People in your source audience will be excluded unless you use a pixel as your source audience.
  9. Lookalike audiences are a great way to find new people in your target audience.

Custom Audiences have long been a defining feature for Facebook ads. They allow you to hit hyper-targeted subsets out of Facebook users based on their relationship to your school. Paired with the ad format, offer and copy, Custom Audiences are the school marketers’ best friend.

Have you used Custom Audiences for your Facebook Ad Campaigns? How well did they work for you? Please share with the rest of the school marketing community by commenting below.

Exclusive FREE Bonus: Download the pdf How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences: A Guide for School Marketers to reference in the future and/or share with colleagues at your school.

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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