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The pros and cons of Facebook’s custom audiences

Stephanie Bissonnette
Stephanie Bissonnette
4 min read
12 November 2014

Facebook has a lot of different targeting features (some of which can be used in conjunction with each other), and understanding each of them thoroughly often takes a lot of time, research, and split testing. Facebook’s Custom Audiences is a great tool, one a lot of people have raved about because of its frequently high conversion rates, but it has its drawbacks as well.

While yes, Custom Audiences often mean high conversion rates, they also have low reach and don’t allow you to get your message out to a lot of people at once or to connect to new users who aren’t yet familiar with your brand.

Why custom audiences means high conversion rates

Facebook’s Custom Audiences feature allows you to upload a list of specific individuals (not just generate a list based on targeting) by their names and e-mails, or names and phone numbers. You can also create custom audiences out of those who have visited your website.

Since you have their personal information, these are individuals likely already familiar with your business or product, whether they are current or past clients, have made a purchase, or have opted-in to your e-mail list.

These users are most likely already interested in your business and have expressed that interest.

People who are already familiar with your business—and have expressed interest in it—are more likely to click on your ad and take whatever action you’re hoping that they take. You can also craft a message just for that exact audience, knowing what will work best with your niche.

Because you know exactly whom you are targeting, and they know who you are and what you do, this makes conversions easier than ever to get with the right ad, one catered perfectly to them.

It is because of being able to target users whom you know will be perhaps more interested than any other audience with a highly targeted message that these ad campaigns convert like crazy, often at fairly significantly higher proportions than the rest of your ad campaigns if executed well.

Why custom audiences also often means low reach

There has to be a drawback, right? Finding the holy grail of high-converting Facebook Ads would just be too easy.

That drawback comes in the form of reach.

Unless you’re a mega-corporation (or any kind of incredibly talented, super-power-like business), then the Custom Audiences you’re creating and uploading probably don’t have the same kind of numbers as Facebook’s massive database of users.

A Custom Audience is a list of a certain number of specific individuals. That number can be 50, or it could be 1,000, or more. It still won’t touch Facebook’s number of untapped, potential users for you to access. This is a big part of the reason Custom Audiences make up only about 10% of the ads we run, despite the fact that they convert so highly.

Custom Audiences don’t allow for new reach and new connections. You aren’t exposing new potential clients to your business, your Page, and your products. By targeting with other targeting options, like location, demographics, and interests, you’re taking your potential reach from numbers likely around 1,000 to at least 10 times that, often much more depending on the niche.

Custom Audiences aren’t the way to expand your business long-term. It can be great for sales or engagement, but not for growing your audience and your business over the long haul.

Custom Audiences are fantastic for what they are. You can show your ad to a highly targeted group—one you likely have a rapport with—that is full of your target audience that will be most receptive to your message.

While they frequently boast high conversion rates and great results, using them consistently will limit you from finding new users quickly.


Using Custom Audiences sparingly when you’re looking to get a boost from your current clients is perfect (around 10% of the time), and relying on Facebook’s other incredible targeting features the last 90% of the time, can help you connect with new users and expand your business further.

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Stephanie Bissonnette