How to Create Look-Alike Audiences for Facebook and Instagram Targeting

Instructions for use: who needs it, how to build and use

From the Editor: It is a pleasure to present a graduate of the Academy and her first article. Moreover, it wonderfully complements the publication of Pavel Beskhitrov.

LAL, lookalike, similar audiences are all names for the best targeting tool on Facebook and Instagram. It works with Custom Audiences for remarketing. These audiences are collected based on a number of criteria from different sources.

What are audience selection criteria for? Customized and similar audiences allow you to work with a hot and warm, potentially engaging audience. Maximum hit on target ( English target ).

  • Custom Audiences are remarketing audiences that gather your past, current, or potential customers: visitors to a business page or website; people who interacted with your content and / or took targeted actions.
  • Similar are audiences created from a specific source (custom audience). People on such a list are as similar as possible to the source according to many criteria, for example: gender, age, geo, interests, online behavior. Lookalike audiences are an effective targeting tool, they allow you to show your ad to the exact audience for which the offer is most likely to be relevant.

How do I create custom audiences?

Custom audiences are created from a variety of sources: website, Instagram business profile or Facebook page, your personal customer data files, and so on. Based on such audiences, similar audiences are created, which correspond as closely as possible to those people who have already interacted with you.


You can start working with audiences by going to Ads manager – Facebook ad manager. The “Resources” tab requires the “Audiences” item.


Then, click “Create Audience” → “Custom Audience”.


Select the collection criterion we need:

1. Client data file.

2. Site traffic.

3. Actions in applications.

4. Engagement (Both Facebook and Instagram since the last RK update).

Method 1: Client data file


This option is ideal for those who have enough raw data on existing customers.

customer data file

1.1 There are 15 different identifiers available. Often they use several at once, for example: name, email, phone number, city / country.

IMPORTANT: Don’t be lazy to read the tips that Facebook has to offer! The screenshot below shows important points that you need to familiarize yourself with before creating an audience based on your customers’ data. Check out the guidelines and download the file template. By the way, a common mistake is the wrong format of the downloaded file, you need CSV (Excel) or TXT (plain text file).


1.2 Users of the mail marketing service MailChimp can log in to download their customers’ addresses and match them to Facebook users.


1.3 New to working with customer data: customer file with lifecycle value (LTV). Facebook strives to ensure that you target your ads as accurately and effectively as possible.



Don’t forget to read the tips! The link highlighted in the screenshot above explains how to properly format customer data: all 15 identifiers (see 1.1) and Value are values.


Facebook recommends creating a similar audience based on such an individualized audience. It is suitable for trade-related businesses and for long-term business purposes where the return on advertising costs is important.

Method 2: Traffic from the site

An ideal way to “catch up” people who have visited your site on a social network. Remarketing (retargeting) in this case allows you to return your current or potential customers who have visited any or specified page of the site / blog within a certain time.


Option 1 involves collecting each user who has visited ANY page of the site. It is recommended to use the 2nd option and manually enter the site URL:


Depending on your product / service, you need to select the time period for which the collection will take place. The maximum possible value is 180 days. You can create multiple audiences. For example, if you assume that your product may be needed again by a customer in a week (dog food, for example), the period will be 7 days. In a few months – from 60 days and more.

Option 3 helps you gather an audience that visits certain pages. In doing so, you can exclude people who have visited other URl. For example, you want to show your ad only to people who have added an item to their cart but haven’t finished their purchase. Thus, “thank you page” will be included in the exceptions.


The 4th option collects an audience of people who have not visited the site for up to six months + those who have been, but have not returned.


In all 4 variants, the minimum time period is 1 day, and the maximum is 180 days.

IMPORTANT: Create a structure for audience names to remember them accurately and easily understand. If you create many audiences, then it will be inconvenient to find the ad you need when setting up. It helps to search by name, which should clearly describe it.

Method 3: Actions in applications


Everything is extremely simple here: create audiences of people who have installed your application or game. By making a similar audience (more on that later), ad performance can improve dramatically.

Method 4: Engagement

Lists of people who have interacted with your content on Facebook and Instagram (as of July 2017, not all advertising accounts have received this update, which allows collecting audiences from Instagram business profiles, so be patient).


The easiest to use are: 4.1 (video), 4.5 (Facebook page), 4.6 (Instagram business profile). They allow you to collect the largest audiences, since, in principle, fewer advertisers use the lead generation tool and canvas.

IMPORTANT: some points can be used for both social networks, some for only one of them.

But first things first.

The future of video content has already arrived. It’s no secret that Facebook prefers this kind of content in its algorithms. In addition, many have already understood the importance of live broadcasts as a way of communicating with the audience.

How to use it for your own purposes?


This method allows you to create audiences of people who viewed your videos. The most inappropriate will be 1 list, in which the degree of viewing is only 3 seconds. Because of the autoplay of the video, the assembled audience will be the least interested. The most targeted list will be 6, in which the video has been viewed almost completely. Who will watch the video 95%? Anyone who was interested in it.

At this point, it is recommended that you create multiple audiences with different viewing depths to test the size of the original audience. Also, you can separately choose which video (one or more) and from which social network the data will be collected.

The time period for which views can be analyzed is limited to 1 year (365 days).


4.2 Lead generation form (Facebook and Instagram) Lead generation is one of the goals in the RK, which allows you to collect user contact information (this is how landing pages work). Since all actions take place inside Facebook, you can track everyone who interacted with the form.


You can include some forms in an audience and exclude others. The maximum period is 90 days.


There are 3 options to choose from:

  • everyone who opened the form;
  • those who opened but did not submit;
  • those who opened and submitted the form.

4.3 Canvas (Facebook only)

What is canvas and where to create it?


Go to your Facebook business page and select Share a photo or video ( see screenshot ).

Select “Create Canvas” from the list that appears.


Canvas can also be created in Ads Manager or Power Editor. For those new to this format, it is recommended to use templates.


  • Choose a canvas;
  • Include the audience that opened the canvas or clicked on any links in it;
  • The required time period is a maximum of 365 days;
  • Re-run ads on them or create a similar audience.

4.4 Facebook page (actually, only Facebook)

This option is ideal for those types of businesses or people who do not have their own website / blog, but are represented only on Facebook. Remarketing, as a tool, can return not only site visitors, but also people who have visited a page on a social network. Data from these custom audiences is well suited for creating and targeting similar audiences.


First, you need to select the page (if you have several of them), from which the collection will be carried out. What are the parameters? For everyone!

  • Everyone who interacted with the page: was on the page and interacted in some way with it or the ad;
  • Any visitor: everyone who was on the page, even if he did not interact with it in any way;
  • Clicks on the call to action, for example: more details, call, write a message;
  • Only those who wrote the posts to the page;
  • Only those who saved the page or any publication (the most quiet ones who prefer not to give themselves away, but keep the materials they like).

The maximum period is 365 days.

Example :


An individualized audience of the Facebook page has been created, and based on it, a similar one.

4.5 Instagram Business Profile (Instagram only)

I see that many entrepreneurs prefer to be active only in one social network. When business profiles appeared on Instagram, many preferred them because of the statistics. Because of this, there are many “blank” pages on Facebook that are simply tied to Instagram, but no activity is taking place.

The ability to collect an audience of people who visited the Instagram profile and / or interacted with it appeared relatively recently and is not yet available in all advertising accounts. One tip is to wait for the update to reach you.


A little more about laziness: Facebook wants you to invest in ads. The more successful your campaign is, the more money you will be willing to give in order to get results. For this, Facebook leaves hints everywhere. In the screenshot above, arrows point to them.

All of the above custom audiences can be used for remarketing on both Instagram and Facebook. And it’s a really cool way to target Instagram ads to those most likely to follow you. Question: “Is it possible to target advertising on Instagram at your subscribers?” is one of the most common among people who decide on paid methods of promotion on Instagram.


Exceptions can be made when creating an audience. For example, you do not want to show ads to those who wrote to you in Direct in the last 60 days, because most of them became your client, and you want to reach everyone else who visited your business profile and did not place an order.

In the same way, you can target Facebook remarketing to those who most closely interacted with the Instagram business profile: wrote messages or saved any posts. Why exactly these parameters? It’s simple: due to mass-liking and mass-following, the statistics of interactions with the profile and its visits may be violated. But automation services do not bookmark posts and for the most part direct people write to interested parties, so individualized audiences on these indicators will be the most targeted.


When creating an audience, a red indicator lights up in the “Availability” column, because the audience has not yet been filled. It takes a minimum of 20 people to turn green and allow you to continue working with the created audience.


Like this: 1,100 Instagram profile visitors were found. Now it is possible to run ads on them or create the most similar audience, much larger in size. So how do you create a similar audience? Go back to the “Create an audience” section and select the item we need:


Then everything is very simple:


In the “Source” column select any of the individually created audiences described above.

For example, you are an online store selling your products through Instagram. All purchase questions are resolved through Direct. This means that these people are not just interested in your product, they are solvent and some of them are already your customers.


In the “Location” column select the country in which we want to find a similar group. For example, Ukraine.


In the “Audience size” column , select from 1% to 10% of the total population of the country. At the same time, 1% is the audience closest to the source.


IMPORTANT: Once you create a Lookalike Audience, you cannot resize it, so it is recommended to create multiple audiences at once. To do this, open the advanced options and make the appropriate settings:


Example, 3 audiences at once;

  • 1% – an audience of about 100 thousand people will be collected;
  • 3% – about 200 thousand more;
  • 6% – the total audience size is approximately 600 thousand potentially interested users.

The higher the%, the more blurry the audience gets.

Below is an example of scaling audiences for a sportswear brand account:


Customized audience from point 4.5 (Engagement – Instagram) gathered 2,400 people – account visitors.

Similar audience: Ukraine, 1% of the population. The predicted audience size was 99.9 thousand people, in fact it turned out to be 103.3 thousand. There is no sense in increasing this audience yet.

IMPORTANT: to use an audience as a source for creating a similar one, it must have at least 100 people from the same country. BUT, this source does not have to contain people from the country we have chosen for targeting.

For example, our sports brand is a domestic manufacturer. Most of the buyers are from Ukraine. We want to choose Belarus as a targeting country. It will look like this:


The estimated coverage at 1% is just over 10 thousand people. In this case, it is advisable to increase the audience size:


The difference is obvious.

What happened at all? We have collected an audience interested in a product in one country and created a similar audience in another.

How will they be similar? For sports topics, at least:

  • Gender – mostly women buy in Ukraine;
  • Age – the most active segment for this brand: 25-34. This means that in Belarus the age indicator will not change the vector towards 50+. The audience will also be young.
  • Interests : it’s more complicated here. Of course, “sports” can be the main one, but besides that, Facebook will analyze what other interests this group of people had in common. For example, they may have a crush on rock music or cooking. These patterns will also be monitored in Belarus.

The above are very general and rough indicators, Facebook analyzes many connections and patterns, on the basis of which it creates the coveted “Similar” audience. This is already the work of algorithms based on artificial intelligence.

INTERESTING: by creating several similar audiences, you can see the degree of their intersection.


To do this, check the box up to 5 audiences of interest to us, with a size of more than 1000 people. For the example, 2 similar audiences were selected: one based on all interactions, the other based on direct messages. Both audiences are about the same size.

Then select the “Actions” item.


Show Audience Overlay:

customer data file0

Conclusion: ⅓ some of these similar audiences overlap.


  • Create custom audiences for Instagram and / or Facebook remarketing;
  • Reach new customers with similar audiences. Such ads for a “warm” audience are often much more effective than manually tuned campaigns that shoot the unknown.
  • Open up new markets around the world with similar audiences.
  • Compare the created audiences for their overlap and merge them if necessary.

Experiment and test! And the target will be successful.

The Targeted Advertising course is designed for those who want to independently launch effective advertising campaigns on Facebook and Instagram. Analyzing the results, building sales funnels in social networks – you will become an excellent targeting expert.


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