facebook custom audiences

Facebook’s Custom Audiences are an amazingly powerful tool. As an app publisher, you can leverage them to buy super cheap app installs, bring existing users back into your app, and boost sales. Since they were introduced in late 2013 they have been a game changer for smart advertisers and marketers. I’m going to explain exactly what they are, why they are so effective, and how you can get started with Facebook Custom Audiences today.

You may have read about out how powerful Facebook ads can be as a tool for your app business in a previous post. That was nothing compared to what I’m about to show you. This takes ad targeting to a whole new level.

What is a ‘Custom Audience’?

To put it simply, a custom audience is just a group of Facebook users. What makes the group special is that you, the advertiser determine which users form that group. You can set parameters that determine who gets placed into the custom audience. Custom audiences can be defined in several ways, but only 2 of them are really relevant for an app publisher so I’ll stick to those 2.

To put it simply, a custom audience is just a group of Facebook users. What makes the group special is that you, the advertiser determine which users form that group.

Here are 2 ways to build your custom audiences if you’re a mobile app developer:

  1. By uploading a customer list. This can be email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook User ID’s or mobile advertiser ID’s. You upload the list to Facebook and they match those ID’s to Facebook users to pull together a custom audience consisting of those users. It’s great if you’ve got an existing customer database, but the reality is that only applies to a minority of app publishers.


  1. The second method is by far the most valuable from an app publisher’s perspective. You can actually create a custom audience consisting of people who have taken a specific action within your app. These actions are defined by you, the app owner.


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Lets look at a few examples to see what’s possible. These are just a few ideas for events you can use to create custom audiences:

  • Users who installed the app in the last 30 days
  • Users who have opened the app in the last 14 days
  • Users who have made an In-App Purchase
  • Users who have completed a specific achievement


The list is endless; it purely depends on the events you define and use to form the custom audience.

How Are Custom Audiences Used?

When you target a custom audience, you are making sure that your ads only appear in front of the select group of people that you want to see it.

The whole point of creating custom audiences is to allow you to create highly targeted advertising. Instead of targeting users based on demographics or interests, you can target ads towards a specific custom audience.

When you target a custom audience, you are making sure that your ads appear in front of a custom curated group of people. You know these people have performed a specific action in the past, and based on that you can target them with intelligent advertising campaigns that have a specific goal.

Here are 2 ways you can use custom audiences as an app publisher. Each of these achieves a different goal. One is achieving new, cheap installs for an app. The second is re-engaging existing users.


  1. Advertise your new app to users of an existing, similar app.

Here’s how you can use custom audiences to get cheap installs for a new app.

Imagine you’ve got a custom audience containing people who have used a fitness app that you own in the last 30 days.

You are about to release a new fitness app that will complement the existing one and want to use paid installs as a user acquisition channel.

The first step is to set up a Facebook App Install Ad campaign for the new app. When you are doing this, you want to set up the campaign to target a custom audience that contains users of your existing app.

What this will do is show ads for your new app to users of the existing app through their Facebook feed and in Facebook’s partner apps.

This is really powerful stuff! You are exclusively targeting an audience who are very likely to be interested in your new app. By putting ads only in front of an audience who is highly likely to engage with them, you can significantly reduce your Cost Per Install (CPI).


  1. Re-engage Existing Users

Custom audiences are also a powerful tool for re-engaging existing users and bringing them back to your app.

Often we see our users download an app, use it for a period of time and then stop using it. There could be many reasons for this, but often it’s just because people forget about it and move on to other things.

What if you could reach out to just these people and encourage them to take another look at your app? Well that’s exactly what custom audiences allow you to do.


Example 1 – Bring back disengaged users:

First, you need to set up a custom audience containing users who have installed your app but not used it for a set period of time. For this example we will say that’s 14 days.

Now you can create a new Facebook Ad with the goal of app engagement, and target your custom audience containing people who haven’t opened your app for 14 days or more. In the ad you might mention the latest changes you’ve made to the app to encourage them to come check it out. It’s a great low-cost way to bring people back into your app and avoid losing them completely.


Example 2 – Reach out to high-value users to sell them more stuff

Custom Audiences also give you the ability to identify your high-value users (those who spend money in your app), and directly target them with specific ad campaigns.

People who have already made an In-App Purchase are MUCH more likely to do it again. Using Custom Audiences to target them with ads about discounts and new IAP’s you’ve added to your app can be a great way to drive sales.

Here is how you would do it:

First, you need to set up an event for when a user completes an IAP. Then you would create a custom audience containing users who have completed an in-app purchase.

Once you’ve got this custom audience in place, it’s as simple as creating a new FB ad for your IAP discount or new IAP, and targeting that custom audience. Boom! You’re reaching out to people that you know have spent money in your app in the past and are therefore likely to do it again. An extremely effective way to increase sales. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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How You Can Get Started With Custom Audiences Today

I hope I’ve convinced you that Facebook Custom Audiences are a powerful revenue-generating tool for your app business. If you’re ready to get started, here is a summary of the steps you need to take right now.

1. Set up a Facebook Developer account. You can do that here.

2. In the Facebook developer portal, set up your app.

3. Get the Facebook SDK integrated into your app.

4. Set up some additional events if you want to create custom audiences based on more than just Installs and App Launches.

5. Use the Facebook Power Editor to set up your new custom audiences.

6. Wait until those custom audiences are populated with users. They are populated as events occur, so this may take a few days or even weeks depending on how many users your app has.

7. Set up your ads and start targeting your new custom audiences.

8. Let me know how it worked for you! I really want to hear from other people and find out if this works as well for them as it does for me. So please, either send me and email or leave a comment here and tell me how it went.