10 Creative (and Sneaky) Ways To Use Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom AudiencesLooking for creative new ways to grow your success with Facebook Ads?

Today I want to share some new ideas for how you can use Facebook’s  Customer Audience feature to refine your ad targeting and get more bang for your marketing buck.

For those of you who still haven’t tried it, Custom Audiences is a powerful new tool which allows you to create lists of people you want to target Facebook ads at based on a list of email addresses, unique Facebook IDs or phone numbers.

Important Disclaimer: This article is intended to help you get your creative juices flowing and start thinking about what is now possible using Facebook ads audiences. Some of these ideas might be against the terms of service for using Custom Audiences.

I’m not recommending that you try all these techniques (but if you did, you’d probably get an awesome ROI. Just sayin.)

Custom Audiences are one of the most effective targeting techniques that I use for my consulting clients.

Here’s some creative ideas for you to consider…

1) Target Journalists and Bloggers

Start of by creating a list of all the influential journalists and bloggers that you want to target. Then locate each of these people’s individual Facebook profiles (you can pay somebody at Fiverr.com to do this work for you). Once you have a list of all their profile URLs, you can get their Facebook ID numbers by going to www.findmyfacebookid.com.

Or you can also find anybody’s ID by adding the word “graph” to their profile URL, like this http://graph.facebook.com/aaronzakowski

Add all these IDs to a list and you can now target all the influencers in your marketing.

(Update Oct. 2, 2014: This idea is clearly against Facebooks’s updated terms of service so use this strategy at your own risk)

2) Target Employees of a Specific Company or Organization.

Trying to grow your B2B leads?

Gather a list of emails, phone numbers or Facebook IDs of people that you want to do business with (yes, I know this is against Facebook’s rules. But this is just theoretical). You can often find emails or phone numbers on a company’s website. Throw this data into a new custom audience and hit them up with ads sending them to a targeted landing page.

3) Retargeting

Facebook RetargetingFor a larger company with the right resources, you can find customers who visited specific pages on your site (assuming they were signed in to your site and you have their emails) and hit them up with ads about the products they viewed. You can also use this technique to target people who abandon your shopping cart.

You can also use Facebook Exchange for retargeting.

As far as I can see, this technique is kosher.

4) Target Existing Customers To Get Them To Be Facebook Fans

Generally, I don’t recommend this technique for smaller business because you should probably be using Facebook to grow your email list (not the other way around).  However, if you think this is a good strategy for you, you can easily upload your email subscriber list into a custom audience and target your subscriber with Facebook ads.

5) Exclude Your Current Customer and/or Subscribers

You can also use custom audience to exclude people from seeing your ads. So, for example, if you are doing an email lead generation campaign, you can upload your current email list and use it as a negative list so that you don’t waste money advertising to people who are already subscribed to your list. (This technique is one of the first things that I implement for every lead gen campaign that I run for my clients)

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6) Target Prospects Who Never Open Your Emails

Do you have people on your list who don’t open your emails? Try uploading the unopened segment of your list as a custom audience to make sure that they are not missing your message.

7) Target Audiences With The Same First Name

I haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s really slick and you can probably get it to conform with Facebook’s rules if you have a large enough email list.

Here’s how it works…

Facebook Custom Audiences IdeasFirst, segment your email list in small sub-lists of people who all have the same first name (you probably only want to do this with people who have popular first names). Then, you can create small Facebook audiences of targets who all have the same name. Now, you can hit these people up with ads that call your audience by name. Can you imagine the CTR you would get on an ad like that?

Bonus: Send the traffic to a custom landing page that also welcomes them by their first name.

(Update: It is now against Facebook’s rules to target users based on their first names.)

8) Target Your LinkedIn Connections

Most people don’t know this, but you can download a list of all your LinkedIn connections as well as their email addresses. You can use this list to create a custom audience for your Facebook ads. This is a great, non-intrusive way to send your LinkedIn connections to your website or to grow your email list.

9) Target Your Top Customers

Every company or organization has a small number of brand evangelists or brand ambassadors (hopefully it’s not just your mother) and you should pay close attention to these people and treat them well. These are the people who share your content with their friends the most and really help spread the word about your company.

Once you identify who your ambassadors are, it could be a great idea to create target ad campaigns to make sure that these people are seeing all your best content. You can even use ads to target special offers just for them.

10) Buy An Email List

OK, yes, this is definitely against Facebook’s rules. But I still wanted to throw this idea out there and let you decide for yourself if you want to risk it.

Normally, I would never suggest buying a list and sending them unsolicited emails. However, in the case of Facebook ads, your targets won’t know how they are being targeted. So, as long as your ads are relevant to them, there’s no reason that anybody should complain. This is a great way to build a very targeted audience.

One Extra Idea For Non-Profits…

Here’s one last idea for my non-profit readers out there…

You can target all your past donors with ads to encourage them to come back and donate again. You can also compile a list of top donors to other similar organizations, find their Facebook profile IDs and target them for these big donors for donations.

Bonus Tip:

If you’ve got a large email list, try using RapLeaf.com to segment your list to use in small custom audiences for more targeted Facebook ad campaigns. RapLeaf can give you all types of data about your subscribers such as home owner status, baby product buyers, high-end brand buyers, travelers, and much more. This data can really be helpful when trying to micro target your Facebook ads at niche audiences.

Here’s What To Do Next…

Hopefully, this list has stimulated your imagination about the limitless possibilities of Custom Audiences.

Do you know somebody who is running a Facebook campaign who might be able to benefit from some of these ideas? Send them this article and help them start making more money from their Facebook marketing.

Have you tried using custom audiences yet? Tell us what methods are working best for you in the comments below.

78 thoughts on “10 Creative (and Sneaky) Ways To Use Facebook Custom Audiences”

  1. Are the emails going to land in the spam folder of the audience’s emails or in their inbox, since these are unsolicited emails.

    1. Hi Paul,

      Spam isn’t a concern with these techniques because we are not actually sending them emails. We’re just using their emails to target ads at them on Facebook.

        1. Same question here… actually people open a different email id for their fb account… as facebook send too many mails..

          1. Hey Faisal and Mauricio just to answer your question, when you upload an email list to your Facebook custom audience, what Facebook does is it goes ahead and matches up the emails with an existing Facebook account.If someone opts into your email list with a different email from what they used to open their Facebook account then they will not see your ad, Facebook kind off skips that email. Most marketers would tell you that about 30 percent of the emails they upload to their custom audience are not attached to a Facebook account. That means that if you upload an email list with 1000 emails,only about 700 people will have a chance to see your ad (This just an estimate depending on the quality of your email list). That means that the larger the email list the more the chances of reaching a larger audience. I hope it helps.

          2. Thanks for the great answer Brian. I agree. Accept that usually I see match rates in the 40%-60% range depending on industry. B2C tends to get higher match rates and B2B gets lower rates.

  2. Thanks Aaron for the tips and
    I have a software tool that
    I can use for this purpose.
    Hopefully, with your advise
    I can start seeing GREAT ROI.


    1. Hey Billy,

      I hope these ideas help you to get some real ROI.

      Please let me know if you have any more ideas for applying these techniques.



  3. Hi, that was an awesome article about custom audience.
    I did liked especially the part with “Name” segmentation ;o)
    I am also using a tool, which can export FB user ID’s from yours competitors web site – http://www.sndm.sk/.
    Very use-full think.

  4. ADVANCED social media, indeed! Aaron, these techniques are LEGEND… (wait for it…) -DARY.

    I’ve used email in an ‘advanced’ way, segmenting lists down to who responded in what way to which message, et cetera. But these applications are very impressive. An ad calling them out by first name, which stays in front of ’em til they click it…
    …grabbing LinkedIn contacts and creating a custom audience…
    …targeting the prospects that don’t open emails (this one by itSELF was worth 10X the time investment of reading this post).

    Pret-ty impressive. Thanks for this post, she goes on Twitter right now.

    Keep Stepping,


    1. Hey Kurt,

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope some of these tips will have an impact on helping your to grow your business.

  5. Hello Aaron!

    You’re post is just great.

    I am working on a campaign in Hungary, and I thought I am a genius, ’cause I had the same idea on my own about extracting the User ID’s and creating audiences with them 🙂

    But, as far as it seems, I am not the (first) genius.

    Aaron, what is your opinion, what are the consequences of using this method on creating custom audiences – theoritecally?

    Thanks, Zsolt

    1. @Zsolt

      Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.

      I think that theoretically FB can shut down your page and/or access to running ads if you break the rules. However, practically, I don’t think they will punish anyone doing this on a small scale. Certainly not on a first offense.

  6. Hey Aaron.

    Great Post mate I got some useful tips and I will definitely start to market to the “unopened” segment.

    My problem is that sometimes the targeted audience is too small so the ad can barely get any momentum and stay on very low clicks (& CTR), which automatically brings up the CPC.

    Thanks again

  7. Hi Aaron,

    I’m a little confused about this. You talk about using email list gathered from various places outside of Facebook, and creating a custom audience with them. How then does Facebook deliver ads on these peoples’ timelines? (for instance, how does Facebook take an @yahoo.com email address and relate it to a specific Facebook user to show ads to?). Don’t you have to use either Facebook UIDs or Facebook emails in order for running Facebook ads with custom audiences to work?


    1. Hi Michael,

      Facebook will match up the emails that you upload with the emails of it’s users. Anybody who’s emails match will see your ads. However, that also means that emails you upload that don’t have a registered Facebook account connected to them won’t see your ads. Hope that makes sense.

      1. Thanks for the lightning fast reply!! haha
        Yeah, ok, that’s exactly what I thought. I wonder, then, what percentage of these real-world emails would match up with email addresses that people used to create their Facebook accounts. My feeling is that it would probably be pretty low, and your custom audience would be only a fraction of your original list size.
        What has been your experience? Could you give us a rough average percentage of how many make it to your custom audience from your original lists? 60%? 10%?

        Thanks again for the great tips!

          1. Actually, I’ve tried many (but not all) of these ideas.

            The number of matches that you find will often depend on the type contacts that you upload. If most of the contact emails you upload are work emails (like from LinkedIn), then you probably won’t have a very high match rate. If you have lots of people’s personal emails in the Gmail contacts, then you probably will have more matches.

            My experiences is that about 25% – 40% of the emails that I upload are connected to an active FB account.

  8. Aaron,

    What an amazing article. I’m actually working with Perfect Audience my retargeting campaigns. And I have had noted that those ads are not able to look like a normal “news feed” article.

    They still use the old size and its pretty obvious that it is an advertise.

    How can I create my own retargeting list from those who visited my page an then set that file to be an specific public in a Facebook ad?


    1. Hi Amaury,

      Unfortunately, you currently can’t retarget people who visit your website without using a third party service like Perfect Audience. However, by using custom audiences you can retarget anybody who anybody whose email you have collected (i.e. customers, leads or subscribers).

  9. Hey, This is an awesome article brother!
    Even though it may be against Facebook’s terms of service, it’s still being done daily. We have been teaching how to do custom audiences since last January – before people even thought about it. 🙂

    We just release a really cool tool that can help you with custom audiences check it out http://socialspy.co

  10. Hi! Thanks so much for a great article! I don’t really understand what the legal difference is between uploading FB UIDs (for example from people who have joined certain groups) and using Precise Interests… I mean Precise Interests is based on people who have liked a certain page… so what’s the difference between targeting ads to people who have joined a certain group?

  11. Hello Aron,

    I have been trying to master Facebook PPC for sometime now.. With loads of money down the drain, I now have a better understanding.

    The most amazing Facebook tips I have come across on the Internet till now.

    I can even surprise my girlfriend with this 😀

    Thanks a lot. Great work:)

    1. Hey Ravi,

      I’m glad you learned something new and hopefully helpful. Now, just remember to always use your new found powers for only good… don’t harass your girlfriend too much 🙂

  12. Hi Aaron,

    Great tips! I was trying to figure out how the hashing works for upload list. Do you have to hash the emais, FB IDs, phone numbers before uploading and how do I do this?


  13. What format do you use to upload the FB user ids? Is it a csv file like for the email addresses? I follow what to do but not how to format it for upload.


  14. Thanks, this is great. Do you know if there’s a way to target ONLY those who “like” your FB page? Or send them a private message? Obviously without email addresses. Seems crazy that this is not an option on FB. Thanks!

    1. Hi Cassandra,

      There’s no problem targeting ads at only your page’s fans on FB. However, you can’t send them messages using only the standard FB ad platform.

  15. Hi Aaron,

    These are quite innovative ideas to increase traffic
    To our website through facebook marketing.
    I was curious to know regarding the TIP you mentioned for non-profits.
    “How can we find out who already donated to non-profits on facebook?”
    Is this possible through facebook graph search

    Off lately, facebook had started rejecting custome audience
    Ads targeting specific names and DOB’s…


  16. Great idea on number 7. I have never tried it but will definitely give it a shot (CTR must be insane) if it is still possible…

    As for buying email lists- as unethical it can be (and illegal in most places) this is a widely used practice in many industries.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  17. Wow…so I could potentially create a Job Seeker ad for myself, create a custom audience containing the name and email addy of potential employers, and a click on the ad could link to my LinkedIn profile or a personal website. Genius.

  18. Do you have to use a custom audience with an advert (and pay) or can I use a custom audience with targeted posts but not an advert?

  19. Thans Aaron, I heard about this technique a while ago in reference to scraping the facebook user ID’s of people who like your competitors page and advertising to them with an offer. So i’ll be trying this out and will let you know of the results.

  20. These are fantastic ideas for facebook advertising using custom audiences. It is just past midnight here and my brain is all wired up thinking how to create and ad and monetize. Gracias Aaron!

  21. Hey Aaron, Nice blog. I checked out uploading FB UIDs today and it says:

    You can only upload IDs for people that download or use your Facebook app. You can find the ID for your Facebook apps in App Dashboard.

    So, it seems that if you have the UID’s from outside of the Facebook App – meaning you have the UID from other methods, you are no longer able to upload them. Have you seen this? Any thoughts on a workaround?

  22. Hello,

    I tried exactly this with FB IDs. However, it is said that I can only use the FB IDs of people who use my Apps?? How does it work for you without having them to use ur Apps. For me it doesnt.

    E-Mail Adresses however dont really work since the Bloggers dont share their primary FB email adress but usually only their business e-mail adress. I do find them on FB but I dont know how to find out whats their FB email adress.

  23. Aaron,

    I just came across this post, very helpful tips so thank you! I was wondering if these tactics have changed since the time of the post? I am trying to use the Facebook ID to create a custom Audience but when I select that option instead of “Email” then is asks for the Mobile App ID and does not allow me to upload the Facebook ID’s that I have collected.

    thanks in advance!

    1. Keith,

      Facebook has recently tightened their rules about scrapping lists of user IDs. I suggest that advertisers be careful about creating Custom Audiences that did not come from a legitimate source.

  24. Hi Aaron,
    Interesting article you wrote. Thank you for sharing tips and helping out new FB ads beginner here. I have a question, I hope you can help out. Is there any way for me to retarget ads to the clients in page inbox? You know, I received many inbox messages but no purchase from them. So I want to setup an ads to follow up on them and create brand awareness.

    Thank you,

  25. Just an FYI – I’ve tried No. 10 before. I had a 100,000+ list of emails I bought for another purpose, so I uploaded it to Facebook to create a custom audience. The yield was about 12 percent. In other words, Facebook could only find enough information in the list I uploaded to identify around 12,000 of the names. However this was a list of people in a certain career field, so their email addresses are probably business and not personal. This may have made it harder for Facebook to find them. A list of consumers might fare better.

    1. So, I take it you didn’t get your account suspended?

      I understand it’s against the Facebook TOS to upload a purchased email list. But hypothetically, how does Facebook know whether a .csv of email addresses was bought or came from your company’s private CRM? Aaron, have you heard of folks getting their ad account suspended because of this?

  26. I have a customer list but they’re all B2B names (these are thousands of names). We want to target them in FB, but don’t have their Facebook IDs. Is there a service which will match their names to their FB IDs?

    1. Hey Alex,

      If you have their emails, then you can upload the emails directly to Facebook and they will match as many profiles as possible. However, keep in mind that business emails won’t have a very high match rate.

      Hope this helps.

  27. I have a list of facebook ID’s which I collected from facebook business pages which I want to target. If I create a custom audience from the business page ID who will see my ads while inside facebook? Will the owner or manager of the business page see the ads?

    Thanks for your great article.

    1. Hey Scott,
      You won’t be able to target anybody with page IDs from business pages.
      You might still be able to target people with you have a list of the personal profile IDs. However, if you scrapped that data, then you will be going against FB’s terms of service. So be careful.

  28. Hi Aaron,
    How to solve the ‘low match rate’ issue when building a target audience on facebook.
    I have a massive email list but just 16% match and FB is not allowing me to use it.

    1. Hi there,

      I am interested in the response aswell, because I have a massive list, but the match rate is low. It still means few thousand matches, however I cannot run ads, because of the low match rate

    2. Hey Art, if your list is large try to segment out only the emails without custom domains. So then you would have a list of primarily personal emails (gmail, yahoo, aol, etc) that will most likely have a higher match rate. Hope this helps.

  29. Great Article Aarron,

    Is it possible to target individuals without their email address?

    The contact details i have are limited to first name, last name, adderess, postcode, date of birth.

    Is email a must have? or is the above details enough, for a targeted campaign.

  30. Hello,

    Very well written article. Here i have one query. If i want to target custom audience and interests together in same campaign then my Ad will show to both the audience or single audience?

    For example if my custom audience size is 10k and interests audience size is 5k so my ad will show both audience separately? Or it will show only those custom audience who falls into targeted interests?

    Please let me know.

  31. Hi aaron,

    i have 50k user in last 90 days in my FB Audience. This come from my Games in Google PlayStore. Do you have any idea, how to monetize/get money from this ?


    1. I definitely don’t recommend that people scrap FB IDs anymore. I don’t even think that you can upload them.

      Scraping emails is a different story though. Still technically against FB’s terms of use, but should be pretty effective if you have a good list.

      1. I just brought that product and got real emails (@hotmail and @gmail format). But the problem is i can very low email id’s from a page. They saying that they could scrape emails of people who set email as public in FB. Technically i get only 70 emails from 1000 user profiles 🙁

  32. Hey Aaron,

    How about your prospect’s number? What kind of format do we use for this?

    (000)-000-0000 or 000000000(no dash)


  33. What about allowing a third party to use the list to create a custom audience?

    Against the terms and conditions?

    Where can I find what should be in the privacy policy to cover us.


  34. If one send an ad to his/her custom audience will they ad appear on his timeline or his email inbox

    1. Ads would be delivered to their FB news feed (or whichever placement you select when setting up the ads). There is no option to send FB ads to an email inbox.

  35. Hi,

    I was wondering, is there a option which i add manually potential customer directly from their profiles, then add to customer list? which field required?

    I tried your tip using “http://graph.facebook.com/first.last”
    but the “fbtrace_id”: isn’t usefull cause facebook having trouble using that id.

    You wrote about it on the 1st tip, but for some reason facebook won’t let me to forwards creating that list.

  36. thank you for the great article,… i wanna ask : how many emails or phone numbers which is good for creating custom audience ? it’s 1000 – 2000 good enough ??



  37. Hi Aaron, nice article!

    Fetching FB user ID, first-, last names with Facebook Graph API in my iOS app, so no email or phone number is available in my case. Anyway I could create from 20 item long list the custom audience, created ad for it, and started the advertisement, but daily ballance not get charged, and no ad appears. Do you know why?

  38. Great article! I tried to target my competitor’s audience. I found a tool LeadEnforce.com and created a custom list from my competitor. It gave its results, I even think about a trial period extension. I suggest emails aren’t that effective nowadays.

  39. I have a question for you. It has long been my assumption that the delivery of an organic post will depend on the engagement of the previous post. When we have an organic post that “does well” in terms of engagement, the next few do well too.

    Do you think this also applies to ads? Thus, will an ad with a low Relevance Score impact the Relevance Score of the next ad (start is a bit lower?)

    Wondering your data suggests this is true?

    1. Yes, uploading email list as a custom audience is still a great strategy on Facebook. Unfortunately, FB doesn’t share much data about audience size anymore though.

  40. How much $$ do you recommend spending on a FB ad on a custom list of 1000 people? I’m assuming there is a daily ad spend option same as regular fb ads?

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