The Complete Guide to Facebook Pixels & Custom Audiences for Personal Brands
Imagine if anytime someone visited your website, your Instagram page, your Facebook page, or even watched a video that you posted on Facebook, that the next time you created something you could push it directly to them?
No, I’m not talking about having that person bookmark your website, or follow you. I’m talking about installing Facebook pixels on your website and then creating custom audiences to retarget anyone who completes assigned actions. If you didn’t understand that last sentence, trust me, you did. Maybe not the nuts and bolts of it, but the application.
Remember when you visited that furniture store’s website last week, browsed the selection of outdoor furniture, didn’t buy anything and then two days later saw three sponsored posts from that company about their outdoor furniture when you were on Facebook and Instagram? Well, that’s because you, your online profile, is now part of their custom audience.
Before we begin, it’s important to define a few things.
What is the Facebook pixel? The Facebook pixel is code that you place on your website. It collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. Hootsuite, 2018
What is a custom audience? A Custom Audience is an ad targeting option that lets you find your existing audiences among people who are on Facebook or Instagram (a Facebook company). You can create up to 500 Custom Audiences per ad account, using varying source inputs. Facebook for business
Where do you manage these from? You manage these from your Facebook business manager, under audiences. Screenshot from Facebook, provided by author Definitions are important, but they’re taught only on the first day of school. To fully understand the Facebook pixel and custom audiences, the best way to learn is by doing. Here’s what I did.
Installing the Facebook Pixel and Creating Custom Audiences
For this review, the first thing I did was retrieve my Facebook pixel from my Facebook ads account, and then install it on my website. I host my website on Wix and for detailed instructions, I googled “Installing Facebook pixel on Wix.” You can do the same replacing Wix with where you host your site. Then I tested it to make sure it’s working. It worked.
From here, I returned to my Facebook business manager and navigated to “Audiences” where I began creating custom audiences. When you begin creating audiences you’ll be able to choose between Custom and Lookalike, for the purpose of this blog, select “Custom.” Here, you’ll see ten sources you can choose from:
Your sources: Website, Customer List, App Activity, Offline Activity
Facebook sources: Video, Lead Form, Instant Experience, Instagram Business Profile, Events, Facebook Page
I created 6 Custom audiences from these sources that best fit my needs.
At the moment I am not creating many videos, but I selected “people who have watched at least 3 seconds of my video” in the past 365 days. Over the past 365, I’ve released 20+ videos, from my cross-country bike ride, to brand partnerships, to one where I stripped my clothes off as I read a love letter to my body. I may not be creating many videos today, but this audience selection will pull the profiles of those who had watched my older videos, and capture anyone watching future releases.
Instagram business profile
I included people that meet any of the criteria selected and then selected “everyone who engaged with your business” in the past 365 days, the maximum length of time. When selecting everyone who engaged with my business this included everyone who visited my business on Instagram or engaged with my content or ads, either on my business profile or in their own feed. To properly use this, make sure your Instagram profile is a business account, mine says writer, and be sure to link your Instagram profile with your Facebook business profile. You do this in the app.
From time to time I’ll host events, so on the surface, this wouldn’t be the most useful source, but you can toggle settings which I did and select “people who have visited the page” in the last 365 days. This was useful because last summer, I rode my bike across America and hosted seven events during the ride, so extending the net to 365 days widened my reach.
I included people who meet any of the following criteria, then selected “everyone who engaged with your page” in the past 365 days, the maximum length of time. I select everyone who engaged with my page because this includes everyone who visited my page or engaged with my page’s content or ads on Facebook or Messenger. To properly use this, make sure you have created a Business page on Facebook. Link this with your IG business profile.
Here’s where the Facebook pixel comes in handy. I included people that meet any of the criteria selected and then selected “all website visitors in the past 180 days,” the maximum duration) So, since my website is in my Medium bio, on LinkedIn, in my email signature, and the link in my Instagram bio, I am capturing all who visit my website. A number that is increasing by the hundreds since deleting Linktree.
I don’t sell anything but when you select the customer list source, you’ll see there is direct integration with Mailchimp. I host my newsletter on Mailchimp and as it grows, this audience size will grow. How it works is that Mailchimp's contact list email addresses from your MailChimp list will be matched with people on Facebook to create an audience.
With each of these audiences, you’ll see that I aim to go as wide as possible. When building a brand, this is important. Especially if that brand is a personal one, and that person is a writer or an artist. I can’t confidently tell you who my audience is. Anyone who reads? Too vague. So, with Custom audiences, going wide will mean I grow the largest audience possible, which is useful to me and the applications I reserve for custom audiences.
How I Use Custom Audiences as a Personal Brand?
My business relies on the growth of my personal brand. My personal brand is that of a creator and a writer. With my work, my leads for new work come from the distribution of previous work. When I write something, sharing it brings new readers. When I create something, sharing it brings new clients. And on and on this goes. So, the obvious use case for custom audiences is in the distribution of my work. But that’s only part.
I also use this data during the pitch process for new clients and new sponsorships and as a proof of concept.
I am often pitching new clients, brands, and individuals so the knowledge and strategy of how to grow a brand and how to operate digital marketing tools come in handy. Additionally, I have my own newsletter and as I expand, I will be selling ad space for brands I use and trust. Similar to pre-roll ads on a podcast, these ads will be camouflaged as endorsements. But, in order to get them, I need to be able to quantify reach. In Facebook’s Business Manager you can see exactly how wide your work reaches, a figure measured by your custom audience size. So, beyond list size, open and click rates, sharing the complete size of my digital audience allows me to get creative in what we package together.
Proof of concept
The management of custom audiences is useful as I position myself as a thought leader. If I can manage and grow these for myself, and there are 500 combinations to use, before even arriving at Lookalike audiences, that shows brand managers I have wide capabilities. To then be able to open up Facebook Business Manager and a blog like this so that I can speak to the subject at a deeper level provides distance between me and competing, candidates or contractors.
What Does Custom Audience Growth Look Like?
For this review, I want to take you through a month of growth for me from February 26th to March 26th. As I shared, I created six audiences for this piece. On day one, these audiences were at this level: (Mailchimp: Below 1000, Events: 2,1000, Videos: Below 1000, Facebook: Below 1000, Instagram: 17,000, Website: Below 1000)
Queued up over the course of the next month were: 11 writings, one newsletter, several Instagram and Facebook posts, and one Instagram takeover of a brand.
The expectation wasn’t that each of my audiences would increase; Mailchimp, maybe a handful since I have it in the signature of my writings; events and videos, no; RICKiRICKi, maybe; FB and IG was where I wanted it to grow.
This is what it looked like one month later: (Mailchimp: Below 1000, Events: 2,1000, Videos: Below 1000, Facebook: Below 1000, Instagram: 19,000, Website: Below 1000)
The only noticeable milestone reached was a growth of 2,000 in the size of my custom audience with the source of Instagram. This would make sense because I was active on Instagram and several of my stories were shared by brands and individuals with high followings that returned curious users to my Instagram page, adding them to my profile.
A one month snapshot is a great look, but this is a lifelong growth strategy, aiming to always be a little bit larger than before. So what’s that look like?
How I Grow My Custom Audiences
When growing your custom audience sizes, think of where your nets are positioned. Your nets are the sources you’ve selected your custom audiences to collect profiles from. Now, lead people to them.
Cross share your work
I can not stress this enough. I’ve shared my distribution strategy a lot here in Better Marketing, and it’s deeply rooted in cross-sharing. Share your work on Twitter, share your work on LinkedIn, share your work on Youtube, and direct audiences back to either your writing or your website. Think of where your net is. I distribute my writings through Facebook and Instagram, which is an attempt to increase internal reads and then convert external reads but also to slowly morph my audience of friends and followers into readers, all the while adding anyone who visits my Facebook or Instagram pages to my audiences.
Writing signatures on your writing.
Your website, your newsletter contact list, your Facebook page, and your Instagram page all are opportunities to introduce your brand and attract new clients, but these four are also opportunity nets that add profiles to your audiences. In each piece of writing you produce, include a brief sign off that links back to each of these locations so that any visitor is added to your audience.
Open your own splash page
Not only is your splash page an opportunity for you to introduce your brand, it’s a secondary place for people to join your newsletter, visit your website, and visit your socials, which are all also your nets. The link to your splash page is also visible in your Instagram bio since deleting your Linktree, making for a better user experience, and to top it off you can be cross-sharing the link to your splash page in writings, email signatures, and other places around the web.
Tease your work
I tease my writings and I tease my newsletters. I’ve even teased posts on Facebook and Instagram. Where I see the most growth from this, is with newsletter sign-ups. Teasing a piece of work is to share a note about what’s coming with your audience a day or two in advance of your piece going live, in an attempt to get them excited for it, or to join your newsletter. Remember, any new person that joins your newsletter is added to your custom audience as well as being on your newsletter which grants you direct access to them.
Update your email signature
This is a really low hanging fruit, but there is no reason not to have icons and backlinks leading any person you email with to your website, your social profiles, or your newsletter. Here’s mine. The Let Me Know! is a direct link to my newsletter landing page. The obvious way to increase an audience size with the source of events is to host more events. This can be overwhelming. So, co-host them. Join forces with brands, and existing large scale events, and have the event owner add you as an admin or host for the Facebook event. This is a way to hijack growth.
Produce more content
Saving the best for last here. The best way to grow a following, anywhere, is to produce more great content. I’m not much for growth-hacking as it’s often a short-term play. When you consistently produce great content, you satisfy your existing audience and invite new members in.
As you reflect and strategize about implementing custom audiences, think of what your nets are, and the places you can place them around the web. If your Facebook page is a net, why just rely on people swimming into it on Facebook? The action to take is to guide people to your Facebook page using backlinks in all the work you create.
I can tell you’re thinking, and maybe even thinking big. My examples may not directly relate to your brand or audience, so here are a few more useful applications for personal brands and brand managers.
I’m in the process of pitching a book deck to publishers so I don’t have to self publish and they want to know how I can sell the book. In my book proposal I have a thoughtful go to market strategy and now adding these audiences, with the hope I continue to grow them, offers a complexity to my strategy that shows my knowledge, and presents new levers to pull.
Securing & managing brand partnerships
When I aim to recruit a brand to join me in a project or even compensate me to produce one, I need to offer an ROI for the brand, which is often satisfied by detailing the number of eyes that will see the campaign. Being able to share audience sizes, and month over month growth during the campaign is leverage to secure the partnership and increase my fee.
Managing brand ambassadors
From a brand’s perspective, when activating a new ambassador the only publicly available info on your ambassadors reach is their follower size and main page engagement. Brand managers can’t see how many views an Instagram story receives. With proper custom audiences set up, a brand manager can request a current data pull to determine the value of this partnership, as well as request monthly data pulls to justify continuing or terminating a partnership.
Creating your own targeted ad campaigns
For Writers: Medium updated their policy to incentivize users to be affiliate partners and be lead-gen for them. So, a great way to do it that I’ve experimented with is the moment a story goes live run a three-day campaign via FB and IG to get people to read it.
For Brand Managers: Many consumers don’t buy the first time they visit your e-commerce site, so you need to drip on them. Some brands do this with shitty ads, but the real opportunity is to make these work for you and communicate who you are as a brand and make good content to spread across all these places.
There is a lot of info here, but trust this isn’t a complicated process. You can set this up, and manage it in under 30 minutes. My hope is that as a personal brand or a brand manager, you’ve registered the importance of having these metrics at your disposal.
I may stop running ads since the ROI isn’t obvious, but that doesn’t mean I will ever stop managing and growing these audiences. The opportunity is too big.
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