What are Facebook Custom Audiences?

Facebook logoFacebook recently announced that by the end of November all advertisers will have the ability to target custom audiences with their ads.  This feature is available now in their Power Editor tool and has been available to larger advertisers. However, now any business, including small businesses and nonprofits can take advantage of this feature.

What are Facebook Custom Audiences exactly? Facebook is allowing you to integrate your customer list(s) into Facebook and then they will do a cross-reference to see if they are on Facebook and allow you to target them with ads for your site, Facebook Page or mobile app.  Facebook also integrated this new feature with MailChimp, which is a coo for small businesses since many use MailChimp because it is free email marketing (up to 2000 email addresses). You can also upload your own email list.

Benefits of doing this:

  1. Reaching prospects.
    All of the people on your email list are not necessarily your current customers. In that case it allows you to reach those folks with targeted ads that would be applicable to them and their interests.
  2. Re-engaging customers.
    Maybe Facebook’s new news feed algorithm has negatively impacted your engagement, now you can find a way to reconnect with fans who may have previously stopped engaging with your content because they weren’t seeing it anymore.
  3. Giving them relevant content.
    Lets face it, your ad isn’t going to be for everyone on your email list. But wouldn’t it be great to target your ad to those it would be applicable to? Now you can reach the right people with the right ad, giving them relevant content and making your brand more memorable and top of mind when they need your service.

The downside for brands:

For brands who create lead-gen (obtain email addresses and other information on a custom Facebook tab or via Facebook app/contest), they might see their lead-gen numbers drop because people may be apprehensive about giving up their email address moving forward, especially on Facebook.

The downside for consumers:

Facebook isn’t exactly transparent about how they match up the email addresses that a brand uploads to custom audience ads to a personal profile’s email address, but I suspect that there is some privacy organization out there just waiting to pounce on them for this if they screw up. In any Facebook personal profile, one can set their privacy settings for “Who can look you up using the email address you provided?

Now, one would make the assumption that Facebook wouldn’t match those email addresses uploaded by brands if your email address privacy setting is set to Friends.  But, I hate to assume anything when it comes to Facebook. I’ll leave that to the privacy watchdogs.

If you want to try to take steps to prohibit yourself from being marketed to via these new ad types from Facebook then you could try to set your two privacy settings under Who Can Look Me Up to just “Friends”. Based on what I found here:,

To make it easier for your friends to find you, we allow anyone with your contact information (such as email address or telephone number) to find you through the Facebook search bar at the top of most pages, as well as other tools we provide, such as contact importers – even if you have not shared your contact information with them on Facebook.
You can choose who can look up your timeline using the email address or telephone number you added to your timeline through your privacy settings.

I believe that this should/would prohibit your personal email address from being matched to a brand’s custom audience list.


So what do you think? Think this is a step in the right direction for brands? As a small business owner will you try them? 

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About Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is CEO and Chief blogger at Social Strand Media. She is also the author of Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field -- Social Media Fundamentals for Business.