How to Leverage your Email List with Facebook Lookalike Audiences

Social Targeting 27th, Mar 2013


On March 19, Facebook announced a new targeting feature that automatically generates an advertising audience based on similarities (demographics, location, interests) to an existing email list. According to Facebook, beta users of this feature got a much better conversion rate than they did by just selecting their targeting criteria.

Lookalike Audiences are worthwhile if you have already built a solid email list of your client base through other marketing sources.  They may be problematic if you’re B2B however, as most of the emails in your lists may be business addresses without associated Facebook accounts.

Using a lead management tool like AdLuge is excellent for building email lists, as the software collects lead data through forms on landing pages or newsletter opt-ins. What’s valuable is that the email list created from AdLuge leads will be highly targeted, as everyone within that email list showed an interest in learning more about your products or services. Targeting a lookalike audience based on your companies leads or existing clients is an excellent place to start.

Here’s some food for thought on Lookalike Audiences:


Facebook is quick to point out that Lookalike Audiences give better results than other types of ad targeting. However, they’re less quick to compare it to building custom audiences from your email list, likely because remarketing to your existing client or lead base will almost always yield higher conversion rates due to previous brand exposure.

Lasting Impact

Also, most marketing processes that we like best are cumulative: every dollar spent should have value that lasts down the road. We like content that is evergreen and ad campaigns that return lots of data.  Unfortunately, due to Facebook’s privacy policy, they provide no data on the Lookalike audience you’re targeting, other than its size.  This makes it very difficult to gather data on potential customers and improve your strategy.


A custom audience built from an email list is necessary to pull a good Lookalike Audience.  This is because Facebook calculates Lookalike Audiences based on your existing custom audience list.

The larger and more detailed your custom audience is, the more chance Facebook will provide a relevant Lookalike Audience.  This is based of how Facebook Lookalike Audiences are calculated.  Here is a quick summary:

  1. Facebook looks for similarities among your existing audience, and ranks those similarities in order of how many audience profiles share them.

  2. Facebook calculates a Lookalike Audience of either 1% (narrow match) or 5% (broad match) of a given country’s profiles.  It does this by first looking for profiles with multiple high-rank similarities to your existing custom audience.  However, if it can’t fill out enough, it uses lower-rank similarities to make the numbers add up to 1% or 5%.

With a small data set however, Facebook may draw on the lower-ranked/rarely occurring similarities that could just be random outliers. The more detailed the Facebook profiles are that exist within your list, the higher amount of real similarities that Facebook will find and use, and decrease the amount of random data noise that they could mistakenly flag as important.

Before you invest in buying an email list for Lookalike Audience, invest as much as possible into building your email list.

Luckily, in the last year, building and using an email list has gotten a lot easier. Facebook rolled out custom audiences last fall to automatically generate ad audiences out of email lists. Tools like AdLuge also make it a lot easier to collect and compile the contact information of your customers or leads.  Through good site design, SEO, and data collection, you can build detailed email lists that can serve as the bedrock foundation of Lookalike advertising!

Image source: Mashable

By: Tyler Shannon

5 thoughts on “How to Leverage your Email List with Facebook Lookalike Audiences”

  1. I still have to see more studies and actual reviews on the ROI of this investment. Facebook has introduced a lot of programs, intended to help internet marketers. However, we also have to be picky and careful or else, these will be an investment in vain.

  2. Lookalike sounds promising but only if you have a stellar email list, as Tyler pointed out. I agree with Vida_llevares there needs to be more reviews from companies that have actually used Lookalike. I will be interested in seeing some studies later down the road on how well this Facebook service does. Until then I will keep working on building my email list.

  3. I am also wait and see to measure to overall effectiveness of this.

    Leveraging it with an existing list definitely seems to be the best return of investment with this technology and there needs to be more information out there with case studies for the Lookalike audience effectiveness overall.

    I’m sure by the end of the year there will be thorough methods on how to use this to maximum effectiveness or it still can be tweaked to maximize conversions. Its wait and see for now.

  4. I am not really sure about this one, I also think Facebook has began to increasingly be after money and they are bound to flood themselves with features and programs that would not really see investors get back their money. I think people are a bit picky nowadays and I will be surprised if it ever takes of. Just saying 🙂

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