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Custom Audiences + Lookalike Audiences: A Social Media Advertiser’s One-Two Punch

This article originally appeared on Social Media Today.

Over the past few years, direct response has overtaken branding to become the dominant objective of online advertisers — and the percentage continues to climb. What does this mean for social media marketers in 2015?

Now more than ever, the ability to drive user acquisition and boost customer retention is key to business growth — and being able to point to data-supported results is crucial; not just for marketers themselves, but for the social media networks that host ads. Major players like Facebook have been paying close attention to what brands need and ask for, adapting features and ad units to fit marketing demand. For example – as consumers began to migrate from desktop to mobile, and apps shot up in usage, Facebook launched its (now wildly popular) mobile app install ads. More recently, Facebook has been staying ahead of the video marketing curve by pioneering autoplay and premium video ads for brands.

New ad units are an exciting prospect for social media advertisers looking to test out different ways of pushing creative. However, while the look and feel of a campaign may change over time, there is an underlying formula for success that we strongly advocate social media marketers adhere to, and it takes two simple actions:

Custom Audiences

Facebook’s Custom Audiences functionality allows social media advertisers to retarget shoppers, gamers, browsers, and other people who have previously shown an interest in their brand’s products or services. The ability to upload first-party data — such as email addresses and phone numbers, or pixel-tracked website visitor IDs — to social media networks is powerful; it enables custom audience segmentation, which in turns boosts the relevancy and effectiveness of ad campaigns. Whether the goal is to follow up with website visitors who failed to purchase after an add to cart action, or to regain the attention of someone who downloaded a mobile app but never completed the tutorial, Custom Audiences have been shown to drive real results in terms of lower costs and increased click-through rates.

Lookalike Audiences

Facebook offers social media marketers the chance to expand their reach from the Custom Audiences mentioned above to people who “look” like them online; the theory being that someone with a similar age, gender, location, and set of interests as one of your best customers is more likely to shop online or install a gaming app than your average Internet citizen. Whether you’re modeling Lookalikes after repeat in-app purchasers, shopper loyalty program members, or fans of your business page on social media, this approach takes the guesswork out of targeting for user acquisition, leading to increased revenue. In fact, wine ecommerce company Club W saw a 5X increase in revenue when they “paired” their video ads with Lookalike Audience targeting.

While the concepts behind these two social media targeting tools are simple to understand and implement, they enable extremely sophisticated audience segmentation and deliver tangible return on investment; something any advertiser will be glad to have in their corner.

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