The creator’s guide to Facebook Custom Audiences

Social Media Marketing
13 min read
In this Article

I’m not much of a gambler.

The last time I went to Vegas, I hastily put $20 into the slot machine and *poof*—it was gone faster than the time it took me to pull it out of my wallet. I called it a day and decided my money was better spent on places where I knew I’d get a good return—like the Sugar Factory.

As a creator, you also don’t want to take chances with your hard-earned dollars. Which is why promoting your business using Facebook ads might feel intimidating at first. Because while advertising on Facebook can help grow your biz, it’s difficult to know for sure whether your ads will turn a profit.

Enter Facebook Custom Audiences. By linking your email list with a custom audience on Facebook, you can be sure you’re always landing your ads in front of the right people at the right time.

Today, I want to share a bit more about what Facebook Custom Audiences are, why you should consider using them, and how to create your own using ConvertKit!

What is a Facebook Custom Audience?

A Facebook Custom Audience is a group of people who have previously engaged with your business. Think your email list subscribers, people who have visited your website, or people who have purchased something from you.

Facebook Custom Audiences versus Facebook Lookalike audiences

Facebook gives you two options for creating an audience: Custom audiences or Lookalike audiences.

Facebook Custom Audiences let you collect people who interact with your website or content in one place, so you can target them with ads for your products and services. Because they’re a warm audience, you can promote your offerings to them without taking the time to introduce yourself. They already know, like, and trust you!

A Lookalike audience is an audience that “looks like”—or shares similar characteristics—to your Custom Audience. They’re suitable when you want to advertise to a new segment of people.

For example, say you’re a classical musician with an email list of classical music fans. You could create a Facebook Lookalike audience from your email list to reach even more people interested in classical music and grow your fanbase.

3 reasons why Facebook Custom Audiences are invaluable

1. Custom Audiences let you reach the right people

I spoke to Charley T., a Facebook ads specialist who's driven over $100 million in revenue for his clients. When I asked him about the benefits of using your email list for a Customer Audience, he said this:

charley tBuilding a custom audience with your email list can provide three tremendous values:

  1. As a source for Lookalike audience
  2. As a target audience to focus on for retention efforts of attention, and to increase frequency of messaging to opted-in users
  3. As an audience to exclude during promotional periods, so that your marketing brings incremental users.

-Charley T.

Charley mentions some excellent points. First, your Custom Audience provides you with a source for your Lookalike audience. Using Lookalike audiences, you can reach a whole new segment of people passionate about your niche.

Next, you can use Custom Audiences to show ads to people already on your email list, to help build loyalty and retention to your brand.

Here’s an example: Meagan Williamson is a Pinterest Expert and I’m on her email list. I recently saw this ad promoting her upcoming Pinterest challenge:

Facebook custom audience
Meagan Williamson’s ad promotes her Pinterest challenge using Facebook ads. Image via Meagan Williamson.

My inbox is a bit of a zoo, so I didn’t see her email blast announcing her challenge. I did see her ad on Facebook, though! Use your Custom Audience to promote time-sensitive items like product launches so nobody on your list misses out (even if they happen to miss your emails).

Lastly, I loved Charley’s third point, since it was something I hadn’t thought of: excluding your Custom Audience from certain ads. A helpful feature when you don’t want your email list to see something.

For example, I have a free SEO workshop. If I were to run ads for it, I wouldn’t want people who have taken the workshop to see those ads—that’s dollars wasted. Instead, I can create a Custom Audience and tell Facebook not to include that segment in my targeting. Doing this lets you grow your email list with brand new leads.

With Custom Audiences, you get to specify exactly who sees your ads so you can reach the right people depending on your advertising goals.

2. Custom Audiences are the future of digital advertising

With the removal of third party cookies, creators must start thinking about how they can use first-party data—like your email list—to reach your audience via ads.

To catch you up, here’s what you need to know about the removal of third-party cookies:

  • Cookies are bits of code that track you around the web and collect data about who you are
  • Advertisers use this data to create targeted ads—like Facebook’s interest-based ad targeting
  • Firefox and Safari have already phased out third-party cookies
  • Google is working on phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome (the most widely-used browser)

Without third-party data, you cannot build interest-based audiences for Facebook, making first-party data essential.

While we don’t yet know what the future of advertising looks like without third-party cookies, the best way to prepare for it is by building an audience you own.

3. Custom Audiences are profitable

Without Facebook Custom Audiences or Lookalikes, you need to build an audience manually based on demographics (like age, gender, or location) and psychographics (likes and dislikes).

Unless you really understand your audience, you’ll have to take time researching them thoroughly to figure out who they are. Not only is this time-consuming, but the information can be tricky to find, and even more expensive to test.

But Custom Audiences often give you a profitable starting point!

When I first started selling Lightroom Mobile Presets, I wanted to use Facebook ads to grow sales. But I didn’t know enough information about my potential customers to build an interest-based audience.

Facebook custom audience
My Lightroom Presets are digital products my customers download after purchasing. Image via Dana Nicole Designs.

So I took to Facebook ads to build a Custom Audience using my ConvertKit email list paired with my Facebook Pixel.

Facebook custom audience
One of the ads I created to share my presets. Image via Facebook.

At first, I was nervous. I hadn’t had much success with interest-based audiences in the past, so I decided to start small with only $10 a day for my Custom Audience.

But my $10 budget brought in sales to cover my ad spend, plus a nice profit! I slowly increased the ad spend until I was selling thousands of presets every month. And when I tested an interest-based audience against my Custom Audience, the Custom Audience outperformed in all key metrics, likely because these people were already familiar with my brand.

How to create your own Facebook Custom Audience

With a smidge of preparation, you can start creating your own Custom Audiences on Facebook using ConvertKit.

Let’s go over three different ways: using your email list, syncing Facebook with Creator Pro, and adding a Facebook pixel to your ConvertKit landing pages.

1. Using your email list

Before uploading your email list to Facebook Ads Manager, you must export your subscribers.

In ConvertKit, click Grow > Subscribers to pull up your current email list. Click the checkbox to select your subscribers and select the confirmation link in the blue bar to select all your subscribers.

Then click Bulk Actions > Export.

Facebook custom audience

This process takes a few minutes depending on your list size, after which ConvertKit will email you a CSV file listing your exported subscribers.

Next, head to your Facebook Ads Manager and click the hamburger icon to open the All Tools menu, then click Audiences.

Facebook custom audience
Image via Facebook.

Next, click Custom Audience.

Facebook custom audience
Image via Facebook.

Since you’re uploading your email list, choose Customer list and press Next.

Facebook custom audience
Image via Facebook.

On the screen that pops up, click Next.

Facebook custom audience
Image via Facebook.

Select No to specify that your list does not have a column for customer value.

Facebook custom audience
Unless you manually assign a customer lifetime value to your email subscribers, you can choose ‘No’. Image via Facebook.

Upload the file ConvertKit emailed to you and name your Custom Audience. Be descriptive, so if you create another Custom Audience in the future, you don’t get the two mixed up.

Facebook custom audience
Name your audience with a unique identifier. Image via Facebook.

Next, double-check that there are email addresses listed for the email identifier.

Facebook custom audience
Make sure emails are listed in the ‘email’ column. Image via Facebook.

You might also need to click into the Action Needed tab. Mark anything except emails as Do Not Upload as this information isn't relevant for your Custom Audience.

Facebook custom audience
I’ve instructed Facebook not to upload things like my subscribers’ first name, the date they subscribed, and their status on my email list. Image via Facebook.

Then click Import & Create, wait for Facebook to upload your email list, and click Done.

And that’s all! You can now create Facebook ads for your Custom Audience!

2. Syncing Facebook with your Creator Pro account

When you upload your email list to create a Custom Audience, you’re only targeting those on your email list at that specific point in time.

But in a week—or even a few days—your Facebook Custom Audience is outdated.

For dynamic audiences, sync Facebook with your Creator Pro account.

When you sync the two together, Facebook creates a dynamic audience based on your email list as it gains—and loses—subscribers, so you’re always targeting your ads to the most relevant people.

To get started, make sure you have a Creator Pro account. Along with Facebook syncing, you also get access to things like our newsletter referral system, subscriber scoring, and advanced reporting.

Once logged into your Creator Pro account, head to Automations > Integrations and click on Facebook.

Facebook custom audience

Authorize ConvertKit to access Facebook.

Facebook custom audience

Make sure to toggle the Manage your ads permission. This allows you to sync your email list with your Facebook Custom Audiences.

Facebook custom audience

After clicking Done, you’ll get confirmation that Facebook and your ConvertKit Pro account are connected.

Facebook custom audience

Next, you need to create a Facebook Custom Audience within your Ads Manager. For this step, make sure you’ve already created a Facebook Custom Audience from your email list. (Follow the steps from the previous section if you haven’t done that yet.)

Then, go to Grow > Subscribers and + Create a Segment. You can choose all your subscribers or segment them based on their interests, forms they’ve signed up for, or tags they have.

Facebook custom audience
Create a segment for your Facebook Custom Audience.

Name your segment, select your ad account, and choose the Facebook Custom Audience you’d like to sync up with your email list.

And that’s it! You now have a dynamic Facebook Custom Audience that will stay synced with your email list, ready to use for your ads.

3. Through your Facebook Pixel

The last way to create Facebook Custom Audiences with ConvertKit is to add your Facebook pixel to your landing pages.

A Facebook pixel is a first-party cookie—also known as a tracking code—you place on your website to track anyone who visits.

Tip: For this method, you need a Facebook Pixel. If you don’t have one, follow this guide from Facebook to set one up.

Keep in mind that with this method, you can only track pageviews and not conversions on your ConvertKit landing page.

Here’s how to easily add your Facebook pixel to your landing page.

First, head into your ConvertKit account and click Grow > Landing Pages & Forms.

Facebook custom audience

Click into your landing page and then click Settings.

Facebook custom audience

Once in settings, select SEO & Analytics.

Facebook custom audience

Select Facebook Business and enter your Pixel ID.

Facebook custom audience

After saving, your ConvertKit landing page will have your Facebook Pixel! Repeat this step if you need to add your Pixel to multiple landing pages.

To check whether your Facebook Pixel is firing properly, install the Facebook Pixel Helper Chrome extension and visit your landing page. Click on the extension in your browser bar, and if it’s working, you should see something like this:

Facebook custom audience
Use the Facebook Pixel Helper to confirm your Pixel is working. Your Pixel will just say “PageView” for your ConvertKit landing pages.

You can use your Pixel to create a Custom Audience in Facebook by choosing Website.

Facebook custom audience
Image via Facebook.

Make sure to select your Pixel, give your audience a name, and set the retention—the number of days someone remains in your audience after visiting your landing page. The maximum retention you can set is 180 days.

Facebook custom audience
Fill out the information for your Pixel Custom Audience. Image via Facebook.

Scale your business with your Custom Audiences

Armed with your email list, it’s easy to advertise to people who truly care about your offerings. And when you can land your ad in front of the right people at the right time, they’ll be more likely to convert into subscribers, customers, clients, or lifelong fans!

Using ConvertKit, you can create dynamic Custom Audiences from your email list and Pixel to help you grow and scale your biz.

Start using ConvertKit’s Creator Pro account and create your first Facebook Custom Audience!

Take the next step on your creator journey

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Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at

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