If reducing your cost per acquisition and bringing higher-quality leads into your funnel are part of your advertising goals, lookalike audiences (LAL audiences) are a must-have.
Rather than using a set of demographic and interest-based filters based on assumptions about your audience, lookalike audiences allow you to create a new segment of potential leads based on what your existing audience looks like. By targeting people who look like your existing audience, you’ll be more likely to drive conversions or bring higher-quality leads into the funnel.
In this article, we’ll explain what lookalike audiences are, how to build audience segments in Ortto and share them with Facebook, Google, and Twitter to build lookalike audiences and best practices for lookalikes. Plus, we’re sharing 5 examples of lookalike audiences to test, according to your goals.
Let’s get into it.
Lookalike audience definition
Lookalike audiences are an advertising targeting option available on platforms like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tiktok. They give you the power to target an audience that shares characteristics with your existing audience.
On most platforms, you can create a lookalike audience based on:
An existing custom audience that is uploaded via CSV or synced via a customer database like Ortto
Conversion pixels you’ve created in that platform in the past
People who like and follow your business page
Within each of these categories, you can choose an audience size, which will give you control over how ‘alike’ your lookalike audience really is. If you are looking for a very similar audience, you will have a smaller audience available and will likely pay more to reach that audience.
Lookalike audience benefits
There are a whole host of benefits to using lookalike audiences, including:
Simplify your targeting Lookalike audiences may seem like an advanced tactic, but they’re actually quite simple to use. Platforms like Facebook give you endless targeting capabilities, and lookalike audiences can help you hone in on a specific, proven set of audience characteristics without having to do the difficult work of building an audience from scratch.
Save time With your Ortto account and your ads manager account integrated, you can sync existing audience segments (like 'customers' or 'users') and use them to build your lookalike audience. This will save you hours that would otherwise be spent analyzing your audience to identify similar characteristics and building specific audiences in your ad platforms. More precision with less time? Yes, please.
Higher quality leads By targeting a lookalike audience, you’ll bring in higher-quality leads that are more likely to convert. Simple as that.
Share relevant content It’s easy to share relevant content when you are targeting a group of people who have similar attributes to your existing audience. For example, custom testimonials and case studies will be more relevant, as they are likely to be about similar brands or brands in the same industry.
Avoid inaccurate assumptions Maybe you’re an online store for people navigating parenthood for the first time and you sell a gadget that helps new moms through the “fourth trimester”. If you were to use demographic and interest-based targeting, it’s likely you’d assume your target was women aged 20-40 who are interested in pregnancy and childbirth. But, in fact, you could find that it’s not the mothers-to-be themselves who think to purchase this product, but close friends and family members who have older children and your target should look something more like women 30 - 70 who have older children. With a lookalike audience, you would create a more accurate target audience that takes these unexpected commonalities into account.
How do the platforms build their lookalike audience?
Like many things, Facebook and friends (or, perhaps more accurately, frenemies) are hush-hush when it comes to exactly how they build their lookalike audiences, but many experts agree that the platforms take the source data provided and look at things like:
Interactions with content (likes, comments, shares)
Profile data including age, gender, and location
Activity in groups
With this information, the platforms are able to take a handful of recurring data points and use them to create a similar, lookalike audience.
Creating and syncing audience segments for lookalike audiences with Ortto
The first step is to make sure your Facebook, Google, and Twitter business accounts are integrated with your Ortto account. Follow the instructions below to do this.
Next, create your desired audience. You can do this in two ways, by filtering your audience in the People section of the platform, or by creating from the audiences page. In both scenarios, you’ll be using Ortto’s sophisticated filters to build your audience before syncing it to your ad platforms. Here’s how it works:
Use filters to find the segment of people you want to save as an audience. In the next section, we’ve shared some examples of audiences based on specific goals to help you start. Note that people who meet these criteria now are added immediately, and anyone who matches in the future will also automatically enter.
Click next. Give the audience a name and select an icon, then scroll down and check the boxes to sync the audience with Facebook ads, Twitter ads, and/or Google ads.
Click create to complete the audience setup
It’s important to know that your source audience will need to include at least 100 people from a single country, and it is recommended that your source audience contain 1,000 people, and can include up to 50,000 people. You can create up to 500 lookalike audiences from a single source audience (i.e. the audience you sync or upload to your ad account), so this effort will not be wasted.
In Facebook, Google, and Twitter ad accounts, the Ortto audience will show with ‘Synced with Ortto audience’ sub-text so you can quickly and easily identify your audience segments in the platform.
On Facebook, your audience will be viewable in the audience section of your ads account (look under the ‘all tools’ hamburger menu).
On Google, navigate to Google Ads account, go to tools, then settings and you will see your audience manager where your Ortto synced audiences live.
On Twitter, go to your Ads and head to the Audiences tab to view details about the audience, you’ll see the ‘Synced with Ortto audience’ text on all of your Ortto audiences.
Now, you can set up your lookalike audiences by following the instructions below.
Facebook lookalike audiences
Open up Meta Business Suite and follow these steps:
Go to Create Audience and select Lookalike Audience
Select the custom audience you would like to base your lookalike audience on by choosing the synced audience from your Ortto platform
Choose the country or countries you’d like to target
Select your audience size by dragging the lever. A 1% audience size range will target people who are very similar to your lookalike source. As you increase the percentage, you increase the audience size, but the matching details become less precise. Different audiences will have different specificity requirements, it’s all about finding a large enough audience size without going too far from your source data
Click Create Audience and wait for your lookalike audience to be created. This could take up to a day, but it will refresh every 3-7 days if you are continuously running ads targeting your lookalike audience.
Google Ads lookalike audiences
In Google, lookalike audiences are called Similar Audiences and they can be used across the display network, search network, YouTube, Gmail, App and Discovery ads. To set up your campaign, sign in to your Google Ads account and follow the instructions below:
From the navigation bar on the left, click on any campaign you want to add Similar Audience targeting to
From the page menu to the right, click Audiences
Click the pencil icon
In the Edit audiences section, click Select an ad group or the pencil icon
In the All audiences box, click Remarketing and similar audiences
Find the Ortto synced audience segment you wish to base your lookalike audinece on
Once this is set up, you can select to use smart bidding (tCPA or tROAS) to show your ads to the likeliest buyers.
Twitter lookalike audiences
Open your Twitter ads account and follow these steps:
Go to Create campaign
Choose your objective and click Next
Name your campaign, choose your funding source, and set any other advanced campaign details and click next
Complete your ad group details as required
When you get to the Custom audiences section, look under List for your Ortto synced lists and select the relevant list
Check the box ‘Include look-alikes of your selected custom audience’
After finishing setting up your campaign, click next and you’ll be ready to start.
5 goals-based lookalike audiences worth testing
Lookalike audiences can be used for any campaign type. It’s all about feeding your advertising platform the right first-party audience for the right goal.
With Ortto’s robust filtering capabilities, there are infinite possibilities available when it comes to building segments. It’s all about identifying your goals and creating an audience segment that fits.
Below, we’ve outlined some examples of lookalike audiences worth testing, based on specific campaign goals. We’ve also provided examples of how these audiences could be built in Ortto and some tips for creative and messaging.
These should be viewed as a starting point — you’ll be able to layer on additional data points according to your business and soon enough you’ll be finding new opportunities to use lookalikes to grow.
1. Expanding your footprint
If you’re expanding your footprint to a new region, using lookalike targeting can be a great way to build awareness with potential customers. If your target audience is large enough, you can select which country or countries you target in your campaigns, meaning your source data just needs to represent your top-performing customers.
If you don’t already have a segment of your top-performing customers, head over to your Ortto account and select some filters that represent high-performance to your business. This could be:
MRR is above $X
AOV is above $X
Once you have a segment you’re happy with, you can head over to your ad platforms and select the geographic region you’re expanding to when you’re selecting your targeting options.
Tips for creative and messaging: When you’re expanding your footprint, you’ll be reaching a lot of people who have never heard of your brand before. Use your creative and messaging to educate them on who you are, and call out things like free and fast shipping to their region or customer support availability in their timezone to overcome any hesitations.
If you need to translate your advertising copy to another language, bring a translation service on board rather than relying on automatic online translations to ensure your message matches your intention.
2. Increasing customer lifetime value
Let’s say you’re an ecommerce company that sells artisanal grocery items and hampers online. You have noticed that your top 10% of customers are bringing in 80% of your total revenue, and you want to target an audience of people who are more likely to become loyal, high-value customers in the long term.
First, you will want to head to your Ortto account and build a high-CLV audience using filters like:
Total orders is greater than 10
Engagement score is 4 stars or above
Lifetime value is greater than $1,000
Average order is greater than $100
Select to sync this audience to Facebook, Google and/or Twitter, save, and you’ll be ready to use it when building lookalike audiences in the platform.
Tips for creative and messaging: Loyal, high-value customers are less swayed by discount-driven creative and messaging, and more focused on quality, an incredible customer experience, and a strong brand story.
In our example, rather than offering a first-time customer discount, our gourmet grocer could share beautiful food photography, their mission to give small batch, artisanal food suppliers another avenue of exposure, and perks like fast shipping or eco-friendly gift wrapping.
3. Growing your email list
Maybe you’re a B2B SaaS with a social listening tool and each week you send a newsletter that shares trend predictions, spotlights creators and does teardowns of different company’s social media presence. You’ve already got a subscriber database, and you’ve noticed that a segment of these subscribers are highly engaged, opening and clicking on almost every email you send.
You have two options:
If the subscriber database is on the smaller size, use your ‘Newsletter subscribers’ audience segment as it is to target people who are similar to your subscribers.
Create an ‘Engaged newsletter subscriber’ audience by using the filters ‘Subscribed to newsletter’ and ‘Opened newsletter in the last 30 days’ and/or ‘Clicked newsletter in the last 30 days’ to create an audience of engaged subscribers to use as your source data. This will help you narrow in on the people who are more likely to both subscribe and engage with your emails.
Tips for creative and messaging: Reach out to a few highly-engaged subscribers and ask them for a short quote on why they love your newsletter, you can use this social proof to convince more subscribers to sign up.
If you don’t have social proof available, focus on what your newsletter subscribers will get from their subscription and be specific! Rather than, ‘trend predictions’ say ‘We accurately predicted 12 of the biggest social media trends in 2021. Don’t miss out on our predictions for 2022.’
4. Moving a specific product
Maybe you’re a DTC food company and you have a product that is nearing its expiration date. Or you’re a clothing retailer and you’ve still got large numbers of bikinis in stock when winter is just a month away.
Whatever product you’re looking to move, creating an audience of repeat customers who purchased (for example) a bikini and using it as the custom audience for a lookalike campaign will help you get it out the door.
Your filters could look something like this:
Ordered product has occurred where the URL starts with www.example.com/bikinis
# total orders is greater than 2
Tips for creative and messaging: This campaign is all about moving product, while bringing in new customers who may be more likely to repeat purchase. In other words, your primary goal is conversions.
Offer a discount and shout about things like free shipping and returns to help nudge this audience to purchase, and focus on what makes this one product superior. Once they convert, then you can do the work of nurturing and retargeting to entice them to buy again.
5. Releasing a new product or feature
Naturally, you will want to advertise your new product to your existing customers using, initially, organic tactics like email and social media announcements and, later, retargeting campaigns.
But your new product release is also an opportunity to reach an entirely new audience. You’ve got something to shout about and you’ve probably invested in some creative to explain the product or feature. It’s the perfect opportunity to get in front of a new audience.
Let’s say you’re a project management tool and you’ve just launched a new feature that helps your customers find freelance creative talent. You have had a landing page announcing the new app live for a while, and have some beta testers in your audience base. You might apply filters like:
Now you have a segment of existing customers who are more likely to be interested in the new offering, and you can use it to target a completely new audience set with similar attributes.
Tips for creative and messaging: Unlike your existing audience, your lookalikes will not be familiar with your brand or product, so you will need to add some more context around the new feature release.
Since it is new, a testimonial from a beta tester will help demonstrate that new does not mean full of bugs. The added benefit here is your beta tester will have experience with the rest of your product and can hint at the power of the full suite.
Lookalike audiences best practice
Before you send your lookalike-targeting campaigns off to the races, make sure you’re following these best practice guidelines.
Use the right custom audience for your goals If you skipped ahead, the section above will help you create audience segments that will give your ad platforms the right information for building a lookalike audience. The trick here is to use high-quality data and use filters to drill down on the metrics that determine your best customers or audience members.
Test your audience size on Facebook A 1% match will be closely aligned to your first-party audience, whereas a 10% match will be less accurate but will increase your potential reach exponentially. Your choice here will largely depend on how specific your product or offering is, how long your campaign is running, your overall budget, and your goals. For example, if you are an ecommerce company like Bombas, you have a product (socks) that everyone needs, it’s just about finding the people who are willing to pay more for a higher quality product. If your budget is large and your campaign period long, optimize for reach. If you are a B2B that only services SaaS companies, optimize for similarity.
In Facebook’s advanced options, you can create up to 500 lookalike audiences from one custom audience, meaning you could use a ‘nesting’ strategy whereby you create a few segments (e.g. 1% most similar, 3% less similar) and optimize your bids. You’ll just want to make sure to exclude your 1% audience from your 3% group. This gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to target a highly-similar audience with a higher bid, and a less-similar audience with a lower bid.
Keep your audiences up to date Ortto customers will benefit from dynamic audience syncing, meaning there’s no need to manually keep your lists up-to-date. If you’re not an Ortto customer, you’ll want to ensure that the source audience you’ve uploaded (for example, as a CSV) has been refreshed recently. In both cases, your lookalike audience will be updated dynamically every three to seven days.
Watch for audience overlap Perhaps you built one audience segment of customers with a high CLV and another of customers who are subscribed to your newsletter. There’s a strong likelihood these two audiences will have some overlap, which means the same people could be seeing your ads multiple times. Facebook has a tool that will show you the audience overlap for your different audiences to help avoid this. In Ortto, you could also add a filter to one of your audiences. For example, you could add the filter ‘Is a member of audience, is not newsletter subscriber.’
The final word
Lookalike audiences make targeting ads easy, so long as you have the right data to feed into your ad platform. With Ortto, building custom audience segments is as simple as filtering for a specific set of variables. From there, your Facebook, Twitter, and Google integrations will allow you to automatically sync your audiences to your ad accounts so they are always up to date. Plus, the new leads that come through will go directly into your CDP and can be entered into relevant customer journeys.
Sign up to Ortto for free today to start building more powerful audience segments.