How to Target Facebook Ads with Your Email List

Leverage your email list to create custom Facebook Ads audiences so you can precisely target those most likely to convert.

How to Target Facebook Ads with Your Email List

Behold, the casual websurfer in their native habitat: following a Google web search to your website. A mere wisp of the Internet’s pool of souls seeking enlightenment, they are drawn to your savvy SEO keyword content like a moth to a porch light. After grazing around in your pastures of knowledge, the websurfer, ever distracted, restlessly gazes towards the border of your web domain, always wondering what else is out there.

You’ve captured their email address. Now, what do you do with it? We’ll show you how to make the most of your email list using Facebook Ads custom audiences.

Wait! At the last minute when the websurfer is heading for the navigation buttons, that’s when your email capture net swings into action! Popping up a friendly, non-threatening dialog box before the user, your form seeks to collect the user’s email address before they leave. Thus having tagged the surfer before releasing them back into the wild, you will now be able to reach out to the wild websurfer wherever they roam. Your siren song of marketing will be calling to them out in the mist, beseeching them to return should they be in the market for whatever it is you’re selling.

It’s like Pokemon for people. Except instead of creatures, you’re collecting email addresses for your digital marketing program. Sure you can email them your latest blog article or newsletter, but there are other ways to put that long list of email addresses to work.

There are many ways to refine your Facebook ad audiences, but in this article, we’re going to explore how to use your email list to create custom audiences and why it can be extremely effective.


From Email List to Facebook Marketing

Facebook, we don’t have to tell you, is the behemoth of social media. Starting as a humble little project born out of a student’s desire to stay in touch with his Ivy League friends, it was eventually expanded in the early 2000s to allow anyone in. And everyone came!

Monthly active users of Facebook currently total 2.6 billion. The world population is only ~7.6 billion, so roughly a third of all the people on Earth are on Facebook. That is what we call a successful platform. This is beyond the success of most businesses in history.

Facebook offers an advertising setup that frankly out-clocks even Google for sheer efficiency. Facebook allows advertisers to grind down to fine details about their targeted ads, letting you reach any kind of niche market. Professional married home-owners in the construction trade who are interested in outdoor recreation and have a birthday coming up, you say? Just press a few buttons, you have their attention.

Besides this ability to target advertising by exotic categories, Facebook lets you create custom audiences. You feed Facebook your list of identifiers, those email addresses you captured with your pop-up blog subscription form. Facebook will match those emails to its user base, and create from that a custom list. This list of Facebook users can then be targeted with ads by you.


Disclaimers About Facebook Audiences Before We Start

NOTE: You can only legally do this if the visitors opted in to receive messages from you. Facebook is forced to make this concession because of various laws in the different countries where it operates. Honestly, Facebook takes enough heat as it is, they have to show some restraint. Consent can be as simple as including a checkmark box next to the email sign-up form, with a message along the lines of “I agree to be contacted further about products and services…”

You need a Facebook Business Manager account to do all these neat tricks. Just in case that didn’t go without saying.

Facebook’s Custom Audience feature does not work on pools of fewer than 20 members. Try pumping those numbers up and come back later. To be fair, you’re not going to see impressive results marketing to just 20 people anyways.

Your custom audience may be smaller than your email list. That’s because some of the cagier web users either bother to log out of Facebook before gallivanting about the web, or use separate email addresses for Facebook and subscribing to websites.

Once you have these audiences loaded up, they don’t stay automatically refreshed. If you did this when your email list was at 900 people and then next year your email list was up to 1200, your Facebook email-audience list will stay at 900 until you upload the new list.


What Can You Do With A Custom Facebook Audience?

So you are now displaying a special category of ads only shown to people who have signed up to your website’s newsletter or mailing list, and have opted in for advertising. They might not know you have a Facebook account or they may have not thought of you since your last transaction. So now that you have some pixel real estate in front of them, what do you say?

You can encourage them to follow you on Facebook. If they’re fans of your business at all and liked you enough to sign up for an email newsletter, then following your Facebook account will not be a huge step.

Before you create a Facebook audience from past customer email addresses, determine if your customers are likely to purchase again. This approach is not effective for every business model.

You can upsell or re-market existing customers. Provided, that is, you have the kind of business where that makes sense. You can enhance the deal by offering them special discounts. After all, the customer saved you a bit of money, since they made themselves so easy to find and stay in touch with. Many email harvesters begin with the promise of future discounts for returning customers, or other perks, in exchange for a sign-up.

You can target people who set up an account, filled a shopping cart on your site, and then left it there without completing the purchase. We’ve all done this, there’s no reason to feel singled out. Real life happens, and sometimes people need a reminder to finish a purchase that they started. An ad offering a discount can be enough to nudge them towards the checkout.


facebook ad using a custom email audience
Perhaps someone signed up to learn more about your product, but they weren’t quite ready to buy that day. Show your email subscribers unique promotions to persuade them to purchase.

You can harvest customer feedback if you want to bolster your online reputation. If they’ve done business with you, then you can leverage that into a good review. Make this quick, easy, and convenient. Just pop up, “How about a high five?” Then let them go on their merry way.


Using Email Lists to Create Lookalike Facebook Audiences

Facebook also allows you to create a “Lookalike Audience.” You see, when your email list matches with Facebook users, Facebook has all of the metrics and demographics of those people as well. You can then expand your reach past your original email list by telling Facebook to find you more users just like the ones on your list.

Say you run a business that’s like Bass Pro Shops, and your email list is mostly males aged 25-45 who live within a 30-mile radius, etc. Using your email list to create a lookalike audience, Facebook will then take your ad and show it to every other 25-45 male within a 30-mile radius who hasn’t signed up for your mailing list yet.

Lookalike audiences are incredibly useful and help you reach people that are most likely to purchase from you.

How to Use Lookalike Facebook Audiences

Since this will be a group of people unfamiliar with your business, you can market to them just like they were fresh-faced members of the public at large. The difference is, you have the advantage of limiting your reach only to select members that match a profile of your previous customers and contacts. This saves you advertising revenue as well as the effort of coming up with new ads. Your existing ad campaigns were good enough to get people just like this to sign up, so then, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Since you can also market to the cloned audience list separately from the other groups, you can pick an ad campaign tailored just for them. You can entice them with Facebook ads that offer an exclusive discount for first-time buyers. Or run ad campaigns that alert them to upcoming sales and promotions.

Instead of blasting your ad to everyone on Facebook, this is a great way to expand your customer base and reach the people who are most likely to do business with you.


From Email List To Custom Facebook Audience: Step-by-Step Instructions

Starting from Facebook’s ad management dashboard, find “Audiences,” then “Create Audiences,” and select “Custom Audience.”

Then choose Customer File:

You can upload in either plain text format or CSV (comma separated values, usually exported from a spreadsheet). Facebook will digest the list and produce a custom audience, which you must name. Give them a memorable name so they’re easy to track.

That’s it, you’re done! From here, you can select your custom audience for any action you could normally do in advertising or promotion. You can choose to exclude your regular Facebook posse and just rope in the email listers.

Whenever you create a new ad set, you’ll see the option to target a “saved audience” with that campaign:

Now to create a lookalike audience. We like to refer to this as a “cloned” audience because then it sounds like you’re a mad scientist (we like to have fun). Under the custom audience you’ve already created, select “new audience.”

You choose (lookalike) clone audience, which gets you to this dialog:

In the “source,” you want to enter the memorable name of the custom audience you created before. Once you have cloned (made into lookalikes) them, give them a separate memorable name so you know this is a tailor-fitted audience composed of people who fit the same demographic as (deep breath) the people who signed up for your email on your site and opted in to be contacted later.


What About Referral Traffic From Facebook?

Tracking this is a completely different matter. Referral traffic is the visitor stream entering your site from another site, in this case from Facebook. There is a way to track that traffic as well once it gets to your site, but you have to install a pixel on your website. Namely, Facebook’s Pixel, which works like a site cookie. It’s like a little camera eye so Facebook can watch the activity on your site for you and report back to you.

We have detailed instructions on how to install Facebook Pixel on your website. Be advised, just like setting up Google Analytics, setting up Facebook Pixel requires copy and pasting a block of code into your website’s code. It’s easy enough to hire outsourced help for this step if you find the sight of raw angle brackets and Javascript variables unpleasant.

Once again, when you have the Pixel setup installed on your website, you can re-target Facebook users who’ve been to your website. You use the same method for creating an audience that we detail above. The point here is that this audience saw enough pull towards your site to visit there from Facebook, but didn’t stick around long enough to commit. So you target them with a different Facebook ad, perhaps a special offer, temporary promotion, or another hook to drag them back. If they were interested enough to visit, they might have been right on the edge of tipping over into a conversion, so all it might take is that one last nudge.

Remember that Facebook also allows you to exclude users by audience as well as include them. So you actually have twice as many audiences, being the inversion of the ones we created. You can mix and match parameters to display a special message for people who visited your site for the first time from Facebook and signed up for your email list, or any other crazy combination you can think of.


Are You Sure All This Is Legal?

Yes, it’s legal. And it’s 100% allowed by Facebook policy and all of the laws in every major country that Facebook operates in, to our most recent knowledge. However, there are exceptions that you should be aware of–namely in the healthcare industry. HIPAA laws prevent businesses from targeting individuals based on private health information.

If you’re not comfortable tracking customers to this level, that’s fine too. Remember, not every business needs to do this. You don’t see McDonald’s keeping track of every time you bought a shake last summer multiplied times how many Happy Meal toys you collected as a child. They don’t need all that; all hamburgers sell the same. Some businesses benefit from going through all this fuss, such as:

  • Technology companies: you sold them a printer, now sell them some ink.
  • Video game companies: they liked this game, maybe they’ll like the sequel.
  • Household décor: people tend to gravitate to a few trusted providers here and also buy multiple items for a room. Buy a rug, then buy a couch and some pillows.
  • Restaurants: If they loved your coffee shop enough to sign up for your mailing list, show them ads to bring them back for your new pumpkin spice latte.
  • Fashion: people have favorite designers and shops and look to them for the latest trends and fashion advice.
Purchasing decisions are often interrelated. It’s likely that someone buying a chair for their patio, might also be interested in an outdoor rug or pillow. Wayfair knows this and runs campaigns displaying complementary products.

Let’s remember that even though you have a list of email addresses and told Facebook to show ad A instead of ad B to the people with matching accounts, it’s not like you’re following individual people by name and peeping at their timeline. Need we remind you, these are people who opted in.

Some people are concerned about privacy. They’ll use three email addresses, have two separate browsers installed, turn on incognito mode from behind a VPN, and probably wear a mask to check their mailbox. That’s fine too. Leave people alone if they want to be left alone. But honestly, you won’t find anybody in marketing who is the least concerned about being targeted by marketing tactics themselves. On Facebook, a site counting a third of the world’s population as a subscriber, you can only track people by groups using algorithms. When you’re watching everybody, you’re watching nobody.

You should have a privacy policy listed somewhere on your website already. This is especially true if you are collecting emails and performing any kind of transaction. Do be sure to update your privacy policy to reflect any changes you make that you feel your visitors should see addressed.

At some point in time in the future, if new privacy concerns prod governments to take action against Facebook, and that causes them to shut down custom audiences, then we’ll update this. It’s a slim chance, but not impossible.

In the meantime, if you think Facebook tracking is intrusive, wait until you get a load of your activity from Google’s point of view. Marketing and customer metrics go hand and hand and always have, even before Facebook. You might as well put some of those methods to work for your own business. When you do, you’ll get more qualified leads and ultimately conversions.

Using your email list is just one way to create custom audiences. Learn more about Facebook’s capabilities in our “Definitive Guide to Facebook Custom Audience Targeting.”

Navigating Facebook’s Business Manager is essential to the success of any Facebook campaign. As experts in Facebook advertising and PPC management, Cardinal Digital Marketing knows how to get the most out of the platform. If you are interested in a free consultation to discuss your digital advertising goals or questions you may have, feel free to contact us.

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