Getting Started with Facebook Remarketing and Custom Audiences

The ever-shortening attention span of consumers, coupled with increasing competition, makes marketing more challenging than ever for companies doing business online. In first quarter of 2015, 77.5% of retail website shoppers abandoned their cart. It’s even more dire in travel, where over 82% of carts are abandoned. Across all sectors, the cart abandonment rate in the first quarter of this year was 75.6%.

If you invested in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, paid social ads, banners and other channels to get people to your website, all while spending time and effort on targeting, you wouldn’t just let your customers walk away after they put items in the cart.

Creating Custom Audiences and remarketing to them with Facebook Ads is a fantastic opportunity to recapture your lost traffic and convert more site visitors to buyers, but also to amplify your content and automate some of your public relations. In this introductory guide, you’ll:

  • Get to Know Social Remarketing
  • Learn How Custom Audiences on Facebook Really Works
  • Create Your First Custom Audience
  • See the Power of Facebook Remarketing in Action

Get to Know Social Remarketing

Here’s how remarketing typically works, in a perfect world:

      1. Consumer is driven to your website (or increasingly, into your app) from search, paid search, social, email or some other channel.
      2. Upon landing on your site, that person is tagged or cookied.
      3. You target your audience of tagged users with remarketing ads.
      4. They respond by returning to your website.
      5. They make a purchase. Hallelujah.
example of remarketing campaign

Of course, it’s slightly more complicated than that. With display remarketing on an ad network like Google, you can segment your audience according to certain behaviors. For example, you might want to show your blog readers a different ad than people who visited your product pages. As they browse YouTube, navigate websites and even check their email, they may be exposed to your ads over and over again.

Here’s why social remarketing is so different and exciting: we have access to so much more information about each tagged visitor.

Think about all the extremely informative things people tell Facebook: “We just bought a house!” “I’m moving to a new city!” “I love lobster dinners!” “I’m getting married!”

In addition, Facebook and Twitter both partner with companies like Acxiom and Datalogix to gain additional insight into user behavior. These companies gather information from loyalty programs and credit cards, and then match it to social media user IDs. The data is anonymized so advertisers can’t specifically see which user makes over $100,000, for example, but marketers can use that information to target them with ads.

Social remarketing lets you get back in front of people who expressed an interest in your business. It also enables you to slice those audiences into thin segments, so you can use more precise messaging and offers to convert them to customers.

Learn How Custom Audiences on Facebook Really Work

Remarketing on Facebook is similar to remarketing across the Web, but the power really lies in how people use Facebook itself.

A few of the key differences between remarketing in social vs. search include:

Paid Search Remarketing

This is based on display ads, which have a few inherent challenges including display ad viewability and ad blockers. Facebook ads are native and appear in-stream; they’re more compelling and harder to ignore.
jon loomer

Interactive Facebook Remarketing

Facebook remarketing is interactive and therefore better for ad sequencing, a critical storytelling strategy for marketers with longer sales cycles. Digital marketer and trainer Jon Loomer is fantastic at this.

He uses Facebook remarketing to nurture leads by targeting people who have already visited a specific landing page. Loomer then engages visitors to help them convert, which is directly on the ad itself. Search ads simply can’t do anything like this.

More Data on Facebook Users

We know so much more about Facebook users than searchers. Facebook’s 1.44 billion users spend more than 20 minutes a day browsing, liking, commenting and poking around the social network. Facebook has come a long way since the beginning and is now recognized as a data powerhouse. All of the information Facebook collects has translated well for advertisers.

Of course, Facebook for social and Google for search and display remarketing are far from your only options in the remarketing arena. KissMetrics has a fairly comprehensive guide to the most popular remarketing and retargeting services.

Even with all those choices, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to continue on with Facebook Custom Audiences because it’s one of the best and most popular tools you should know about.

Create Your First Custom Audience

First, try setting up your first Custom Audience.

account – audiences

Start at the Ads interface and choose “Audiences” from the “Tools” dropdown menu.

create audiences tab

Next, choose “Custom Audience” from the “Create Audience” dropdown menu:

Now, you can choose the type of Custom Audience you want to create, whether you’re using:

  • An existing list of emails, phone numbers, Facebook IDs or mobile advertisers IDs
  • A list of people who visited your website or certain pages of it
  • A list of people who used your app and exhibited specific behaviors

If you’re using a customer list, you can either copy and paste your list into the feature, upload a .txt or .csv file, or import your list from MailChimp.

To track and remarket your website audience, you’ll need to set up a tracking pixel. Thankfully, it’s pretty painless. A few clicks will produce the code you’ll need to place between the and code on your site.

view custom audience pixel

Once you create that Custom Audience of people who visit your website or use your app, you need to configure your audience rules. If you don’t get a lot of website traffic and/or just want to use this remarketing power to reinforce your brand, you can probably get away with remarketing generalized branding messages to everyone who visits your site.

Most marketers, however, want to slice their website visitors into smaller audience segments.

Facebook lets you segment your website audience according to:

  • The specific pages they visit on your site
  • Pages they visit, but not others
  • Length of time since last visit

You can use a combination of these by choosing “Custom Combination.”

create audience

For example, it would make sense for a shoe retailer to create an audience for men’s shoes that excludes visitors to women’s shoes pages, and vice versa. Exclusion helps you narrow your audience down to ensure your ads are as relevant and engaging as possible.

Once your audience is set up, it’s easy to choose that audience as you’re creating new Facebook ads.

See the Power of Facebook Remarketing in Action

The real power lies in your ability to layer other targeting options over your Custom Audience as well. This allows you to get very specific with your ad copy and imagery that people will think you’re speaking directly to them.

Say you’re that shoe retailer again and you’ve made a Custom Audience of people who visited pages on your site that have the term “mens” in the URL. These are your category and product pages showcasing men’s shoes.

You’re running a limited time promotion on a specific brand of men’s shoe–a really sporty, trendy shoe. You don’t want to reach every single person who visited your website and looked at your 500 types of shoes for men. You don’t even want to reach a huge pool of guys who might like sporty, trendy shoes. You want to create content around that shoe to appeal to different segments, one of which is high earning and single men in urban areas.

Now, you’re going to narrow the field in a big and meaningful way by extra targeting features. You can set an age range (in this case, 18-40), specify different interests and behaviors (which could include income), and even target based on household composition, relationship status and more.

new campaign

You can then upload images or video and write ad copy that appeals to that very small segment of your audience. With this, you’re not just sending a picture of a shoe out to men who at some point expressed an interest in shoes. Instead, you’re creating a video featuring a trendy single man in a club with his stylish new shoes.

Your targeting allows you to do so without blasting this video out to your entire audience, most of whom would find it irrelevant or even distasteful. Your engagement rates will be higher, resulting in lower costs-per-click and more impressions. In fact, Facebook rewards awesome ads with more exposure and reduced costs, which WordStream’s Larry Kim explains incredibly well.

Imagine how precise you can get using Custom Audiences to target segments of your website visitor audience with newer formats like Multi-Product Ads, then layering on qualifying demographics and behavioral data.


Sure, you could remarket your three hottest selling ads in a specific category to the site visitors who viewed that category recently. But it’s way more powerful to get in front of only those who are within your ideal target market, reducing budget spent on browsing and wasted clicks. The power of Custom Audiences goes far beyond recapturing Web traffic. You can set up your list of journalist and industry influencer email addresses as a Custom Audience and target them with your news and great content.

You can use Facebook as a backup for your email as well by creating a Custom Audience consisting of those on your email list who aren’t opening them. Don’t forget you can exclude Custom Audiences from your ads too. For example, this could prevent wasted clicks from existing customers while running an acquisition promotion.

Custom Audiences is worth experimenting with regardless of the size of your business or existing lists/audiences. Questions? Fire them off in the comments and I’ll do my best. If you have any creative ideas for using Custom Audiences, share those here for other Sprout Social readers too.