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Facebook Custom Audiences & Lookalike Audiences: How to Use, Create and Share Them Easily

Don't let Facebook custom and lookalike audiences confuse you. In this guide, you'll learn why you need to use them to improve your ad performance, how to create them, and how to share them with whoever runs your ads. For agencies & freelancers...there's a little secret about how to reduce friction with getting access to your clients' custom & lookalike audiences. 🤫🔐

Ekta Swarnkar
November 28, 2023
Article Content
What are Facebook custom audiences & lookalikes? 
Why share access to Facebook custom audiences & lookalikes 
How to create a Facebook custom audience
How do you create a Facebook lookalike audience?
How to share Facebook custom & lookalike audiences
It doesn't have to be that painful! 
How to share all audiences by giving access to a Business Manager account
Share access to your Facebook audiences in 2 clicks

Here’s a little secret: You can share specific custom and lookalike audiences on Facebook with others.

Here’s why you should care: Sharing audiences with other businesses saves time and money and helps optimize your Facebook ad campaigns by targeting a high-intent audience — that is more likely to become a customer. 

Facebook offers one of the most accurate ad targeting tools, but few know how to leverage them to get the most out of their ad campaigns.

This post will teach you about Facebook custom audiences & lookalikes, specific scenarios when sharing them makes sense, and how to do it correctly.

What are Facebook custom audiences & lookalikes? 

To get the most out of Facebook custom audiences and lookalikes, you must first know what they are and how they work. 

Facebook custom audiences

Meta technologies give you a powerful marketing tool, called “custom audience,” to create and target a specific group of Meta audiences that are/will be highly interested in your product/services. 

Using Facebook custom audiences, you generally target two types of people: 

  • People who are present or past customers (to target and upsell more products.) 
  • People who know about your business but haven’t purchased from you yet (to convert them into paying customers.)

Since Meta's audience base is large (3 billion average of June 2023) and analyzes Facebook audience activity using 200+ factors to understand user behavior, leveraging this audience to identify potential customers makes a lot of sense. 

By creating a custom audience, you identify your (potential) customers from Meta’s large audience base and send them targeted ads for conversion.

Ads Manager gives you various options to hyper-target your ideal customers. You can define your Facebook custom audience by choosing: 

  • Specific sources like website traffic, app downloads or visits, and customer lists.
  • Engagement methods on Meta like views, likes, comments, and shares.
  • Filter options like demographics, age, gender, location-specific, and interest-based.

Let’s take an example of a footwear brand using custom audiences. Initially, it sold footwear to both men and women, but the newest launch is for only female audiences. 

By creating a custom audience using website traffic as a specific source and setting filter options (female between 18-55), the brand can only show targeted ads to highly interested audiences for better conversion rates.  

You can also leverage event targeting for more specific customization. 

For example, you can't target everyone if you’re selling a high-ticket online program. In that case, you create a custom audience by using a specific trigger as an event, like “placed the order but didn’t complete the purchase,” to show your ads to people who stopped the purchase.

But Facebook custom audiences can limit your reach to a few people, so you create a lookalike.

Facebook lookalike audiences

A lookalike is the extended version of a Facebook custom audience. As the name suggests, lookalikes are a set of audiences that share all (or some) characteristics with a custom audience.  

Facebook lookalike audience


Suppose your goal is to increase the membership subscriptions of a music streaming app. Then, using your existing customer base as a custom audience, you can create a lookalike to identify new people based on your customer’s favorite genre, artist, or music style.  

Once you set criteria, Facebook analyzes its audience base to identify all people who share key characteristics to give you a new audience you haven’t advertised to yet. 

You can create multiple lookalikes from all primary custom audiences: website traffic, app signups, customer lists, video engagement, lead form interaction, Instagram account activity, Facebook page activity, and trigger-based events. 

Why share access to Facebook custom & lookalike audiences?

Usually, you’d share or request access to Facebook custom audiences and lookalikes to save time and for more accurate targeting. In all these scenarios, you increase conversion rates and revenue by sharing/requesting access to audiences with more specific targeting. Here are some specific scenarios where sharing audiences can help:

1. Collaborations with influencers/content creators 

If a cosmetics brand wants to sell its new matte lipsticks, it can request access to an influencer’s female audience. Most brands target influencer audiences for better conversions. 

Want to learn more about levering influencer's audiences? Check out our post on influencer whitelisting here.

2. Partnerships with complementary businesses 

Two complementary businesses, lets say, tiles and furniture companies, can share audiences to get the highest value customers.

3. Event promotions

If a brand organizes a massive music event, it can request access to audiences from music brands like Shopify, Netflix, etc. 

4. Agencies onboarding a new Meta client

After onboarding new clients, agencies need to request access to their client’s assets including custom audiences and lookalikes.

To get all audiences that exist in a Meta ad account, the agency can get access to the ad account directly using Leadsie, it's super simple: 

How to create a Facebook custom audience

Facebook allows you to create custom audiences based on different sources: 

  • Website: people who visited specific pages on your website.
  • Customer list: your past or current customers who purchased from you.
  • App activity: people who interacted with your app, such as downloads, usage, etc.
  • Offline activity: people who interacted with your business offline, for example, phone calls, store visits, etc.
  • Catalogue: people who interacted with items on your product catalogue.
  • Video: people who interacted with your videos (views, likes, comments, and shares.)
  • Instagram account: people who’ve interacted with your business Instagram account, posts, ads, or campaigns.
  • Lead form: people who opened or filled your lead generation form from one of your ad campaigns.
  • Facebook page: people who follow or interact with your Facebook page.
  • Events: people who followed a specific trigger you set as a Facebook event.
  • Instant experience: people who opened instant experience on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Shopping: people who viewed or shopped your products on Instagram or Facebook.
  • On-Facebook listings: people who interacted with your on-Facebook products. 
  • AR experience: people who interacted with AR experience on Facebook or Instagram.

Creating custom audiences is easy but let’s cover the main ways you would build custom audiences:

Website custom audience

1. Go to your Facebook Ads Manager dashboard, navigate to the “Audiences” tab, and create a custom audience.

Website custom audience

2. Choose “Website” as the source to capture all Facebook audiences who browsed your website.

How to choose a custom audience source

3. Make sure you have installed Facebook Pixel on your website to allow Meta to track activity. 

4. Choose the Meta Pixel source, pick the longest retention period (to capture a larger audience,) name your audience, and click “Create Audience.”     

Creating a website custom audience

That’s it. You’ll see the website custom audience you created on the dashboard. 

Customers list custom audience

1. To build a custom audience based on your existing customers, choose the “Customer list” option.

Customer list audience source

2. Import customer list to give Facebook customer data to build an audience. You can directly import from Mailchimp or add a CSV or Txt file.

How to prepare your customer list

3. Identify columns, map the data to help Facebook analyze information, and click “Create Audience.”

Video engagement custom audience

If you want to create a custom audience of people who interacted with your videos:
1. choose “Video.”

Video engagement custom audience

2. Choose the Engagement option (how long the audience interacted), videos you’d like to track, retention period, and name your audience.

Choose retention on video view audience

Instagram custom audience

If you want to capture your Instagram audience,

1. Choose “Instagram.” Your account will be automatically populated as a source.

2. Choose an Event as a trigger option, retention period, name your audience, and create audience.

Choose Instagram audience

Similarly, you can create Facebook page audiences and other types. 

Remember: Earlier, your sources, like website visitors and customer lists, used to be highly effective because there weren’t any restrictions on data tracking for Facebook. 

However, tracking audience data became limited after the new Apple privacy control options. According to the new policy, iPhone users can now turn off data sharing and reject cookies by Facebook.

And if they turn off data sharing, Facebook can’t track their browser activity. It can only collect data when they’re using Facebook or other Meta applications. Some Facebook users can also decline optional cookies when using a browser or other websites. 

Therefore, after the new privacy control settings and and users controlling cookies with browser, using Facebook engagement sources like video engagement, lead form, and Facebook and Instagram page activity is a much more effective method — as there’s no restriction to collect audience data.

How do you create a Facebook lookalike audience?

As a lookalike is based on the characteristics of a custom audience, you’ll always pick a custom audience as a base audience. 

1. Navigate to the “Audiences” tab and pick a custom audience.

2. Click on it and then on “Actions.” Choose “Create Lookalike.”

how to create a lookalike audience

3. Select the area you want to target (it helps Facebook identify all people sharing characteristics of your base custom audience.)

4. Select audience size (keep it as high as possible when you’re starting to increase your audience size.)

A 1% radius means the lookalike size is 3.1M in Canada, that shares characteristics with my custom audience. You can increase/decrease the parameter to alter the audience size.

4. Once you’ve set the filters, click “Create Audience.”

How to create lookalike audience

And that’s how you create lookalikes.

How to share Facebook custom & lookalike audiences

If you’d like to give access to your custom & lookalike audiences to a partner, you can do it in three ways:

  • Sharing one specific audience
  • Sharing all audiences by sharing access to an ad account
  • Sharing all audiences by giving access to a business manager account

Let’s discuss each in detail.

Sharing a specific audience

On the Audiences tab:

1. Click on a specific audience you want to share. Click “Actions” and then “Share.”

Share a specific custom audience

2. Enter the Ad Manager ID of the person you want to share the audience with and click share.

Enter ad account ID

Remember: As mentioned above, the recipient account can’t share, edit, or create lookalikes of the audience they get access to. 

If you are the receiver and want access to a lookalike audience, ask your partner to create a lookalike of a custom audience you received and share access using the same process. 

Sharing all audiences by sharing access to an ad account

Another way to share all audiences is to share access to your entire ad account. 

By sharing access to your ad account, you also share access to other assets related to that ad account, such as creatives, audiences, campaigns, etc.

This method is perfect for business owners who outsourced ads management to an agency/freelancer and can be done in a few simple clicks with Leadsie. Your freelancer or agency sends you a Leadsie link, you log in to your Facebook account and boom, they have instant access! Tell your agency or freelancer to set up a Leadsie account today.

Sharing access to an ad account the manual (aka the slow) way

1. Go to your Business Manager account, navigate to “Ad accounts,” and click “Assign Partners.”

Manual ad account assigning

2. Enter their Business Manager ID, assign permissions, and click “Next.”

enter business manager ID

3. Review the permissions and confirm. 

Requesting access to an ad account the manual way

If you’re an agency/freelancer requesting access to an ad account, go to your Business Manager dashboard and navigate to “Ad accounts.”

1. Click “Add” and “Request access to an ad account.”

requesting ad account access

2. Enter the ad account ID of the partner you’d like to request access to and click “Confirm.”

request ad account access

It doesn't have to be that painful! 

You can request access to ALL your client's Facebook, Instagram and Google assets with one link when you use Leadsie.

You send your Leadsie link to your client, we take care of everything in the backend, they log in and grant you the permissions you need. It speedy, secure and you don't have to go through the painful process listed above.

how to use Leadsie

How to share all audiences by giving access to a Business Manager account

The third method is perfect if you’ve outsourced the entire Meta marketing to an agency or freelancer. If they look after your Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp marketing, ad account, audiences, and other assets, add them as a Partner to grant access to all (or select) assets.

Sharing access to a Meta Business Manager account

1. Go to your Business Manager account and navigate to Users > Partners.

2. Click “Add” and “Give a partner access to your assets.”

Meta business manager

3. Enter your partner’s Business Manager ID, click "Next."

Add a new partner Meta

4. Assign assets and permissions. Choose the ad account too, if you want to share access to your custom and lookalike audiences. Click “Save Changes.”

Assign assets and permissions

5. Accept permissions, and it’s done. 

accept permissions for business manager

Requesting access to a Business Manager account

If you’re a freelancer/agency who wants to request access to your client’s business assets, custom and lookalike audiences, go to your Business Manager dashboard. 

1. Navigate Users > Partners.

2. Click “Add” and “Ask a partner to share their assets.”

request access to Meta business manager

3. Add client’s details like name, Business Manager ID, and email. Choose your and your client’s role and click “Request Asset Types.”

add partner info

4. Choose assets to request permissions. REMEMBER to select assets from the ad account if you want to request access to your client’s custom and lookalike audiences. 

Request permissions

5. Review everything and confirm send.

Your request will be emailed to your client and they'll also be notified on their Business Manager dashboard. You only need to wait until they accept your request and grant access. 

Share access to your Facebook audiences in 2 clicks

To be able to share Facebook audiences: 

  • Your partner must have a Business Manager account set up.
  • You need to have their Business Manager ID.
  • You need to have their Ad Manager ID. 
  • You need their email address and full name.
  • And when you share the assets, they must confirm the request by email to access them.

Too many things to remember and too many back and forth emails and Slack messages!

Leadsie makes share and requesting Facebook assets painless and wows your customers. If you share or request access to a Facebook Ad account, you automatically share or get access to audiences — isn’t that amazing?

Leadsie dashboard

You simply create a Leadsie link based on “Manage” and “View-Only” based on the permissions, share it, and your client grants you access. Leadsie saves you the headache of back-and-forth emails to onboard new clients.  

It’s more secure for everyone and saves a ton of time! Give it a try with our 14-day free trial…just enter your email in the box below

Here’s a quick recap on how simple it is to use Leadsie:

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Ekta Swarnkar

Ekta Swarnkar is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing brands. She's helped various companies to grow their visibility, authority, and revenue with long-form, actionable content.