There seems to be some misconceptions about what options advertisers (or agents) have for targeting their ideal audience on Facebook. Everyone seems to know about the basic targeting options: age, income, location, interests, behaviors, etc.

  • There are more effective ways to target people on Facebook than demographics, location, interests and behaviors.

There seems to be some misconceptions about what options advertisers (or agents) have for targeting their ideal audience on Facebook.

Everyone seems to know about the basic targeting options: age, income, location, interests, behaviors, etc.

Although these are pretty powerful targeting options, they often aren’t the most effective in terms of cost and lead generation.

In this article, I’m going to break down all three of the audience types that Facebook lets advertisers target.

You’re probably familiar with one of them, but I doubt you’ve taken advantage of all of them.

The three audiences are core audiences, custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

Most people are familiar with core audiences, but custom audiences and lookalike audiences are often overlooked (or undiscovered).

That’s a shame because they often produce better results at a lower cost.

Let’s walk through each of the three audiences in more detail.

Core audiences: Target people based on their demographics, location, interests and behaviors

Like I said earlier, this is the type of targeting most people are familiar with.

Core audiences are often called “cold” audiences because they’re typically made up of people who’ve never heard of you or your business.

Unfortunately, that means these audiences are less likely to respond to your advertisements on Facebook.

For that reason, targeting core audiences is generally more expensive and less effective than the other two types of audiences.

Nonetheless, core audiences can still be effective if you create a great ad that speaks to the audience you’re targeting.

Let’s walk through just a few options for targeting core audiences that are relevant to agents.


  • Age
  • Income
  • Net worth
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Language
  • Active military
  • Veterans
  • Separated
  • Divorced


  • ZIP codes (you can also exclude ZIP codes)
  • City radius
  • Specific address radius
  • People traveling in a location


  • Zillow
  • Trulia
  • Redfin
  • For sale by owner
  • Real Estate Agent Directory


  • Likely to move
  • Recent mortgage borrower
  • First-time homebuyer
  • Visiting from out of town
  • Recently married
  • Recently engaged

Custom audiences: Target people who have interacted with you in the past

I recently wrote about how to create a custom audience of your past website visitors (you can check that article out here), but there are many other types of custom audiences you can create.

Unlike core audiences, custom audiences are often called “warm” audiences because they’re generally made up of people who are already familiar with you or your business.

What this means is that custom audiences often outperform core audiences when it comes to lead generation (and at a lower cost).

Agents have three options for creating custom audiences:

  1. Upload your own list of people, and let Facebook find them on Facebook
  2. Install the Facebook pixel on your website, and automatically add visitors to a custom audience
  3. Create a custom audience based on how people interact with your Facebook page or Instagram profile

Let’s say you have a list of previous leads in your CRM — or even a list of past clients.

With custom audiences, you can take that list, upload it to Facebook, and Facebook will find everyone on that list who has a Facebook account.

You might be asking, “Why would I want to advertise to past clients?”

That’s a great question, and I’ll answer it when we get to lookalike audiences.

It’s important to note that Facebook has spent a whole lot of time improving and enhancing the features that are available to advertisers for creating custom audiences.

That means custom audiences are becoming more and more effective every day.

In fact, as of this writing, Facebook has just released a new feature that lets advertisers create a custom audience of people who have responded to a Facebook event in the past.

That’s pretty powerful for anyone who organizes events and promotes them using Facebook.

Let’s look at an example of how an agent might take advantage of this new feature.

Let’s say you hosted an open house and created an event on Facebook to get the word out.

Inevitably, not every person who responded as “Going” or “Interested” will show up in person — even though they’re likely to be in the market for a home.

Normally, you’d miss out on the opportunity to meet these people.

But with this new feature, you can create a custom audience of everyone who responded to your event as “Going” or “Interested” and show them hyper-relevant ads on Facebook.

In this case, your ad might say something like: “Did you make it to the open house? If not, I’d still love to show you what’s on the market!”

Tip: You can also use this feature to remind people about your event before it happens to increase the number of people who show up.

With custom audiences, you can show your ads to people that have:

  • Visited your website in the past X days
  • Visited your Facebook page in the past X days
  • Liked your Facebook page
  • Watched a certain percentage of a video on your Facebook page
  • Engaged with any of your posts over the past X days
  • Messaged you on Facebook
  • Visited your Instagram Page over the past X days
  • Engaged with your Instagram posts over the past X days
  • Messaged you on Instagram
  • Been leads or clients in the past (by uploading your own list)

Lookalike audiences: Target people who “look like” your custom audiences (a.k.a. a game changer)

Real-life example of a Slim Shady Facebook lookalike audience | via GIPHY

This is where you can take your Facebook advertising to the next level (and it might freak you out a little).

Remember when I said I’d answer your question about creating a custom audience of past leads or clients?

Well, get ready.

With lookalike audiences, you can choose any of your custom audiences (your “seed audience” in this case) and tell Facebook to go find millions of other people on Facebook that “look like” those people.

To be a little more specific, Facebook will carefully analyze everyone in a particular custom audience and find attributes that they have in common (based on hundreds of thousands of attributes Facebook has collected for each user).

Then, it’ll search the entire U.S. for people who also have those attributes in common.

From there, you can constrain that lookalike audience so that it only includes people in your market.

So let’s say you have a list of clients that have either purchased or listed homes with you in the past.

If you create a custom audience using that list, you can then use it to create a lookalike audience of new people who are extremely similar to those who have purchased or listed a home with you before.

That means Facebook will find the people in your market who are the most likely to work with you.

You’re blowing my mind right now, Nate! | via GIPHY

Keep in mind that you can create a lookalike audience using any of your custom audiences as a “seed audience.”

For instance, you could easily create lookalike audiences based on people who like your Facebook page or Instagram profile.

Unlike core audiences and custom audiences, lookalike audience are neither “warm” nor “cold.”

They’re sort of a hybrid between the two — because, though they’re made up of people who probably haven’t heard of you, they’re also made up of people who are extremely similar to people of have heard of you.

That means lookalike audiences are much more likely to engage with your ads compared to core audiences (and often at a lower cost).

Lookalike audiences are probably the most underutilized of the three audiences we’ve covered — which is a shame because they’re often the most effective.

Tip: Facebook recommends using a custom audience with at least 1,000 people to create a lookalike audience, but the minimum is 100.

Have a question? Leave a comment below, or reach out to me using the email address in my author bio.

Let me know if there is something specific you want me to cover that relates to Facebook advertising!

Nate Dadosky is the owner of Nate Dadosky Marketing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Email Nate Dadosky

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