Facebook is perhaps the greatest traffic driver on the modern web, with over a billion active users providing rich hunting grounds for online marketers. Carefully crafted Facebook advertising campaigns can be extraordinarily effective, but there often comes a time when no matter how much spend you can devote to it, a campaign will start to see diminishing returns.

Two of the most important aspects of a successful campaign are targeting and reach. Without targeting, your spend won't show a good return. Without a large reach, your campaign won't have the volume to generate the results you're looking for. Because of a limited reach, many campaigns seem to hit a brick wall, with further growth simply not happening.

What if there were a quick and efficient way to increase your reach, and place your message in front of a whole new range of potential customers? Facebook's "Lookalike Audience" feature provides exactly that.

What is the Lookalike Audience Feature?

Traditional advertising targeting relies on selecting demographic features which are likely to result in high conversion rates, based on past experience, commercial logic, or even guesswork. While this clearly works well if skillfully done, it relies on the marketer accurately isolating the factors which are important in reaching the right audience.

Lookalike Audience targeting takes this a step further by introducing an element of data mining into the process. The basic method is to choose a seed group of Facebook users that you know to have been highly converting, and then ask the system to find similar users based on this list. The great advantage is that this automatic process can uncover common factors that may never have been thought of during manual targeting. These patterns can then be extrapolated to find a new, highly qualified audience.

Which Facebook Users Can You Use as Seed Groups?

The Lookalike system allows you to find new users based on several actions taken. If your analytics shows that a high percentage of your customers "liked" a certain page on their way to converting, you can find other users who also liked that page but didn't complete the process for whatever reason. Likewise, you can reach a list of Facebook users who watched one of your videos, played a game, or otherwise engaged with your Facebook content.

However, perhaps the most powerful way of using the feature is by providing a simple list of email addresses of your existing customers. If these customers have an active Facebook account, the system can then scan their historical activity and unearth possibly unsuspected common factors, which can then be used to find new prospects who may have never interacted with your site or Facebook account at all. Clearly, this is a powerful way of reaching new potential customers.

If you're providing such a list, it's best to use as large a sample as possible to provide the most comprehensive data set for the system to work with. You can then narrow your results to a highly targeted audience at the expense of volume, or loosen the targeting scope a little to provide greater reach. Most experts recommend starting with a highly restricted reach to test how well the new prospects convert, before widening out the audience if results merit the extra spend. Of course, the results of your new campaign can be fed back into the system to further refine the targeting.

A Powerful Way to Scale - but Use with Care

Lookalike Audiences is a fairly complicated feature which requires care if you're not to burn through your budget in no time, and for this reason it may be wise to hire an experienced marketer to get the most out of the system. However, if you're already running a successful campaign and want to quickly and profitably scale it up, it's an ideal way of tapping into Facebook's huge data resources to discover prospective customers from demographics you may never have considered targeting.

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