Since it was first rolled out in 2013, Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool has been a godsend for those looking to advertise on the social media platform. If there’s one thing to be said about Facebook’s rampant harvesting of user data, it’s that it really gives you a great way to find the best possible people for your advertising message.
How do they work?
Let’s say you have a sampling of your audience that tends to engage more with your posts – liking them, sharing them, commenting on them, etc. – and this audience also happens to be your most loyal customers. What Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool does is allow you to hand-select a sampling of those elite customers and find more just like them.
You can start with a group of at least 100 people based on things like lifetime value, transaction value, total order size or engagement (although the bigger the better – Facebook recommends somewhere between 1,000 to 50,000), then fine-tune the results to include things like location. Then, the hard-working bots at Facebook comb through those users’ data, delivering you an audience that fits that same description based on shared interests and demographics. This allows you to target them with ads knowing that this group is a target-rich environment. You can even create up to 500 audiences from a single sample set.
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Now, the trick is narrowing down the audience size. When you create a Facebook Lookalike Audience, you’re given a slider that allows you to choose the audience size, between 1% and 10% of the country you selected as the location. Choosing a larger percentage will give you a larger audience, but narrowing it down to just 1% will give you an audience that more closely matches the profile of your sample. Basically, it’s a question of quality or quantity.
For years, most marketers never strayed too far from that 1% mark – however, it’s worth noting that in recent years they’ve started seeing diminishing returns. Speaking to Marketing Land, social media marketing agency Digidus CEO Pierre-Olivier Carles said of the 1% standard, “We don’t feel it works anymore unless you can build that audience on the Pixel — but in that case, your website has to provide enough traffic to make it accurate, especially as you don’t want to base that Lookalike Audience on older visits to keep pace with your market.”
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Part of the downturn has come with Facebook’s increasingly tight grip on user privacy, spurred on by consumer advocacy and government oversight. Another part of it has been that the tool is simply a victim of its own popularity. As more and more marketers began using Lookalike Audiences, the pool of 1% began getting inundated with ads. There’s only so much real estate in the feed, leaving ad messages fighting for attention even among those users who match their criteria completely.
While some marketers have begun widening the field of their lookalike audiences, trying to reach a broader group that may not be their ideal target but may be less fatigued at seeing ads, some are seeing this as a sign that the halcyon days of targeted ads may be drawing to a close. Between growing consumer dissatisfaction with the way their data is used for ad targeting and new tools like the “clear history” tool that will let users wipe their data from sources outside Facebook, it will be harder to target ads with any kind of accuracy.
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So do Lookalike Audiences work? The short answer is they do. But only for now, and nowhere near as well as they did when they first launched.
That’s why it’s important to consider a multichannel strategy that places your ads in the channels that promise to deliver the best ROI, including a combination of search and display ads, retargeting ads, social media, print ads and more!
At Times-Union Media, we have a variety of marketing solutions and advertising packages that deliver maximum online and print impressions to your local audience to help drive real leads for your business.
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