This is a blog post about making more money. Specifically, it’s about e-commerce sites and how they can sell more, but some of these same principles can be carried over to just about any type of business or organizational goal. Lookalike audiences are a powerful idea.

The gist of the lookalike audience is to create a set of people who bear similarities on a demographic and psychographic level to those who already engage with or buy from your business; because this audience set is similar to your existing customers, they’re more likely to accept your marketing message or have a desire for your product.

A Facebook lookalike audience can be built from one of four sources:

  • A .csv file of your current customers or subscribers.
  • The people who already like your Facebook page.
  • People who visit your website or use your app, as recorded by Facebook’s pixel code.
  • People who engage with your content on Facebook.

What’s the best method for building a lookalike audience for an e-commerce site?

Your most valuable audience is people who have already given you money.

Depending on your campaign goal, it may make sense to create a lookalike audience of your social followers, your website visitors or your email subscribers, but a better place to start than any is to create a lookalike audience of your existing customers.

In order to get there, first you need to create your source audience—and you’ll need at least 100 people in your source audience before creating a lookalike audience.

How to build a lookalike audience

  1. Track down your customer database and export a .csv. Here’s a template if you need one. The more data types (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.), the higher likelihood you’ll find a match in Facebook.
  2. Navigate to the Audiences section of Facebook Ads Manager
  3. Click Create Audience and select Custom Audience. Drag your .csv file into the upload file area. Name your audience and move on to the next step.
  4. Map as many columns as possible. Then, select Upload and Create.
    Now that you have a custom audience, you’re ready to create a lookalike audience.
  5. Select your newly-created Custom Audience as the source for the Lookalike audience.
  6. Choose a country. You can only create Lookalike Audiences on a country level, but not to worry, you can drill down to specific states or regions with your ad sets.
  7. Choose Create Audience. You’re all set and ready to move on to creating your campaign.

Should I be worried about the data I’m uploading to Facebook?

What happens when you upload your customer data to Facebook?

Facebook says it hashes your data—meaning it’s turned into short fingerprints that can’t be reversed—and that it happens in the user’s browser before your data is sent to Facebook. Then it’s matched against their existing list of hashed user IDs to create the audience.

You can read a little more about Facebook’s explanation here.  Once you do, have a conversation about whether you feel it’s safe sharing your customer data with Facebook. It’s a question your organization needs to ask and answer to ensure it aligns with your existing privacy policies.

I have a lookalike audience, now what?

Now you have a valuable tool at your disposal: An audience of Facebook users who are just like the people who have already purchased from you.

Keep in mind: Even though they bear similarities to your customers, it’s possible, even likely, that your lookalike audience is unfamiliar with your brand and that this could be their first touchpoint with your business.

You may be selling a product that needs no introduction, or it may be a high-value item that requires a longer sales cycle. Regardless, think about what resonated with your existing customers. Why did they purchase? What was the message that triggered them into action? What do they care about?

Align the answers to those questions with the content you create in your next campaign and you can start to replicate the success of past sales.

Now that you have a lookalike audience, it’s time to create your campaign, ad set and ad – just like you would for any other Facebook or Instagram campaign.