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Playing the Facebook Advertising Game: Lookalike Audiences

Playing the Facebook Advertising Game: Lookalike Audiences




Ever felt overwhelmed when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of Facebook advertising? We’ve got you covered. If you’ve ever played a video game, we’re sure you’ll be familiar with the introduction tutorials that can get you out of some sticky situations and help guide you through the levels.

Then, you take off your headset and enter the real world of digital advertising where you begin to wish you could retain that trusty narrative character to help you along the way. Well, never fear, we’re going to give you a virtual crash course in one of Facebook’s best advertising tools: lookalike audiences.

Player One: Ready?

Introducing player two:

Lookalikes are one of the most efficient and effective methods of targeting your ads towards prospective customers. You present a ‘source audience’ to Facebook and, in turn, the algorithm identifies the common qualities shared among this audience (such as demographic information, interests etc.). Then, Facebook will deliver your ad to people who are most like your source audience – hence the term, ‘lookalike’.

Think of the Facebook algorithm as your BOT: it’s a part of the game and, if you use it correctly, you can win. You can still use your controller – the ads manager – to guide the algorithm in its targeting. For example, dictating the country, age, gender, interests etc. of the people who will see the ad but the technology will do the heavy lifting for you.

Level up:

While Facebook’s algorithm is a clever-clogs, it still can’t win the game on its own. It needs you to teach it who you want to see your ads. First things first: you need to choose your source audience. This is the group of people you think best exemplify the qualities you want the algorithm to hone in on.

There are tonnes of different source audiences you can choose from: you can use data from the Facebook pixel. For example, app information, customer/email lists, organic social media engagements and even custom audiences of your own creation!

Different source materials will invariably focus on different attributes within the lookalike audience and subsequently produce different results. For example, with Facebook advertising, some source audiences dynamically update, while others will need to be kept manually up to date. Therefore, they risk holding outdated information.

Ultimately, the stronger the source audience is, the stronger the results are likely to be. You can’t expect to win the game without developing a secure character first, can you? So, what is the best way to find out which is the strongest source audience to use? Test, test and…oh yeah, test!

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on the pixel data with the mission objective of driving sales. So, in this case, you’re probably going to want to make a source audience out of existing customers. Or you could even segment your audience into who you believe your ‘best customers’. Sounds easy, right? Well, this is where it gets a little trickier. Just as you have to start a game on level one, you also need to build up the strength of your audience. In a game, you need to defeat the boss before moving onto the next level. Facebook advertising is no different.

The Objectives:

Before you can unlock a stronger source audience, you first need to hit a couple of mission objectives when it comes to Facebook advertising:

  • Your source audience needs to have at least 100 unique users
  • The unique users need to be within the same country
  • These all to have fired the event in question at least once within the past 60 days

To put this into context: if you want to unlock a purchase lookalike, your pixel needs to have tracked at least 100 individuals within the same country who have purchased within the last 60 days. The first level then might need to start with a lookalike of people who have viewed content on your website.

Some of the people in this group may have gone on to purchase, but the main denominator between them will be that they were engaged enough to view products and that is what the algorithm will look for when delivering the ad to new people.

Once your efforts have generated enough interest, you can unlock a lookalike of people who have added products to their cart. This will continue until you have unlocked all of the different source materials and can create lookalikes of any and all of them.

How you play the game:

As mentioned earlier, the beauty of lookalike audiences is that the algorithm will use the data to make the best possible decisions, but you can control the shape this comes in. One of the most important elements of manual input is size selection. This is presented as a percentage between 1 and 10. The smaller the percentage, the closer the people targeted will match your source material. If you make the audience larger, you can increase your proposed reach. But, at the cost of potentially reducing the similarity between the lookalike and source audiences. Yes, size matters (👀) but like most things, we advise quality over quantity.

For example, if your source audience is made up of your best customers, a slightly smaller lookalike will be stronger and will most likely lead to better results. Remember: advertising is all about testing and finding the ‘sweet spot’ that works for your company. What works well for one brand might not do well for another. If you test a percentage/custom audience combination and it doesn’t give you the desired results then this isn’t game over. It just means you need to take a different approach to win.


There you have it, your crash course in the lookalike feature within the game of Facebook advertising! Honestly, if this hasn’t enticed you to start utilising lookalike audiences in your targeting, there must be a glitch in the system. As long as you pass each level and find the controller combination that works for you, you’ll win in no time!

And, if you do want to speak to the gaming gurus, feel free to contact us via our contact page to find out more about what our paid social, PPC, design and content services can do for you.