Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

Don’t what is the difference between custom audience and lookalike audience? That’s fine, because many new digital marketers tend to confuse these two. So here in this guide of custom audience vs facebook audience, you will learn –

  • The general definition of custom audience and lookalike audience
  • Custom and lookalike audience in context of Facebook
  • How to build and use custom audience on Facebook
  • How to leverage lookalike audience on Facebook
  • Types of custom audience
  • Why lookalike audience is important

In short, you will find here everything you need to know about custom audiences and facebook audiences. So let’s start with the basics.

What is Custom Audience in Facebook?

According to Meta helpcenter, a custom audience is an ad targeting tool that lets you find your existing audience amongst all the people on Facebook.

In easy terms, Custom audience is simply a Facebook tool. But what does this term custom audience actually mean?

Well custom audience means that group of audience that is custom-made for a particular business based on its current customer demographics.

This means, when you run an ad campaign on Facebook, this tool can help you reach the right audience that might already have interest in your product or service.

You can use your existing customer list data, website or app traffic, or data of the people who engage with you on Facebook, to create your custom audience.

Types of Custom Audience

A Facebook custom audience is based on various type of audience depending on which group or from which source you want to target for your ad campaign.

Like if you want to target the people who visited your website in the last 30 days, you have to build a custom audience based on your website visitors data so that Facebook can match them with people there and show your ad to those people.

Similarly, keeping the different business needs in mind Facebook provides you to build mainly 4 types of custom audience which are:

  • Website Custom Audiences: You can create this type of audience based on the data of the audience who visit your website. And Facebook matches those people with the people on Facebook and targets them to show your ad.
  • App activity Custom Audience: Similar to website custom audience you can create app custom audience which is based on your app data.
  • Customer list Custom Audience: It is another custom audience option by Facebook that you can use to target people with the data of your existing customer list.
  • Engagement Custom Audiences: It is a type of custom audience that you can create with people who engage with your content across all the Meta apps.

What is Lookalike Audience in Facebook

In general terms, A lookalike audience is a set of people who have similar traits, interests, and behavior to another group of audience.

In the context of Facebook, lookalike audience is another targeting option that allows you to target those people for your ad campaign who share similar properties to your custom audience.

So basically, you can say, you create a lookalike audience on the basis of your custom audience. However, the group of people used to create a lookalike audience on Facebook is called source audience.

But that source audience can be any type of custom audience.

For example, if you want your ad to be shown to people who have similar traits to your Facebook page’s fans then you will create a lookalike audience taking your page’s custom audience as a source audience.

And Facebook will find people who fall in the same age group, have the same interests, and behave in a certain same manner to your described source audience.

Facebook tracks such people with the help of Facebook pixels

Difference Between Facebook Custom Audience and Lookalike Audience

Here are some key differences between Facebook’s two targeting options – custom audience and lookalike audience.

With the help of these points you can understand the two better and create a better Facebook target audience list.

  1. Custom audience is the one that you create on the basis of audience data from your website, app, customer list, or engaging audience on Facebook. While on the other hand lookalike audiences use any of your custom audience that you want to target as a source audience.
  1. Lookalike audience shares similar interest, demographics or behavior with your source custom audience and custom audience, on the other takes its source data from a specific group of people you define, like your website visitors, people who perform a certain action on your app, or people who engage with your content on Facebook.
  1. You can create up to 500 custom audiences with one ad account. And to create a 500 lookalike audience, you will need a well defined custom audience to use as a source audience with at least 100 people of the same geographical location so that FB can track a more alike audience to that.

How to Build Custom Audience in Facebook


You can create a Custom Audience from a customer list or based on people who’ve engaged with your Facebook Page or website, people who’ve downloaded your app and so on.

To create your custom audience, go to your Facebook ads manager and click on ‘Audiences’

Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

There are 4 numbers of sources that you can use to create a Custom Audience. Learn more about each one below.

  1. From Data File
  2. From Your Website
  3. From MailChimp Account
  4. From Your Mobile App
Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

Data File Customer Audience

Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

You can upload onto Data File to create a custom audience. To create custom audiences from a Data File, you need to get that data. Get the data from your customers, whether it is emails or user IDs.

You can upload the data in CSV or text format, so make sure you only have one record per row and only one type of data per file. Only use emails, user IDs, phone numbers or mobile advertiser IDs. You can upload this to Facebook.

Be sure to read through the Facebook Custom Audiences terms. Make sure you’ve gotten all the data legally and with the consent of the user. You can get penalized if you are scraping data.

If it all looks good, you then just upload the CSV or text file. Unfortunately, this is a manual upload, so every time you want to update it, you have to export the data, put it into .csv and upload it to create a new custom audience.

Website Custom Audience

Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

(Now let’s look at website custom audiences. In order to use a website custom audience, you will need to have a custom audience pixel, which is a snippet of code you put into your website source code.

You can customize this code to track any action. This can be a visit to your page, adding an item to the shopping cart, adding an item to a wish list, etc. You can get very creative with this. When you have the pixel installed on your website, it triggers every time someone does any of the actions you specify.

Here, you can create rules for different custom audiences. In the past, you could only create website custom audiences from URLs. Now you can do a custom combination for whatever you want. 

This way, you can show really targeted ads for people who come to your website. In Facebook Custom Audiences, you can say how long you want to track the data with a maximum of 180 days.

Mailchimp Custom Audience

With Mailchimp custom audience option, you can link your Mailchimp account to your Facebook business account and get data from your mailing list.

Custom Audience from your Mobile App

By using the Mobile App Custom Audience option, you put in your mobile app ID and create custom audiences.

Some Important Points To Remember:

  • Custom Audiences can take up to 36 hours to fully process.
  • Facebook doesn’t deliver ads to audiences of less than 20 people.
  • Audience size is not always accurate on Facebook. When you look at the list of custom audiences, it will tell you the name and the estimated audience size. The numbers never add up.

How to Build Lookalike Audience in Facebook

Custom Audience vs Lookalike Audience

Let’s take a look at how you can create a Lookalike Audience.

  1. In the Audience section, below Custom Audiences, select Create new.
  2. Choose Lookalike Audience from the drop-down audience.
  3. Choose your source.
  4. A source can be a Custom Audience that was created using your pixel data, mobile app data or fans of your Page.
  5. Consider using a group of 1,000 to 50,000 of your best customers based on lifetime value, transaction value, total order size or engagement.
  6. Choose the country or countries where you’d like to find a similar set of people.
  7. Choose your desired audience size using the slider.
  8. Select Create audience.
  9. Select Done.

It may take 6 to 24 hours for your Lookalike Audience to be created. After that, it will refresh every three to seven days as long as it’s being used in an active ad set. To check the status of your Lookalike Audience go to Audience Manager.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a custom audience? Facebook Custom Audiences are lists of people who are already part of your audience. These are your current customers/users, past purchasers, high-value customers, loyalty program members, warm lead, etc.
2. Does lookalike audience include custom audience? No, a lookalike audience doesn’t include a custom audience but it is built on the basis of an existing custom audience that is taken as Source audience.
3. What is meant by lookalike audience and custom audience in Facebook ? Lookalike audience and custom audience are two targeting options that you can use in Facebook to create a highly targeted list of your potential customers.
4. Is a lookalike audience better than a custom audience? A smaller lookalike audience is more targeted. Your ad will be seen by fewer people, but they’ll also be more closely aligned to the characteristics of your current customers or fans. Target specific demographics. But you always need a custom audience to create a lookalike audience.

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