crowd of people customer list

Did you know that you can run ads targeting your clients on Facebook? By uploading your client email list into your ad manager, you can create advertising that is hyper-specific to these people. It’s another opportunity to reach this highly qualified group and it’s one you should know how to use. Run smarter ads by learning how to upload a customer list to Facebook.

Strategic Action

bar and line graph on a page with hand pointing at results customer listMeta owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Threads, Oculus and others. Ads created in the Facebook Business Suite Ad Manager can still reach their users even when they’re using the internet outside of those apps and services, they call this the Audience Network. Using their ad platform to your advantage is just smart business. You can create audiences on the spot as you make ads or you can do it ahead of time in order to be deliberate about how you target and spend your ad budget. It’s convenient, strategic, and helps with consistency. Check out my other blogs on social media strategy and how to identify your best customer to improve your performance.

3 Types of Audiences

You have the option of creating three different kinds of audiences – custom, saved, or lookalike.

  • Custom audiences allow you to target people who are already familiar with your organization or business such as customers, website visitors, or those that have engaged with your content.
  • Saved audiences let you target specific interests, behaviors, income levels, locations, and other criteria.
  • Lookalike audiences could be defined as a cold audience because it includes a target market that hasn’t interacted with your organization or doesn’t know that you exist. Lookalikes get their name because they mirror your custom audiences. This allows you to expand your reach using those very important custom audience qualities.

I want to show you how to create a custom audience based on your clients or any other data list you have at your disposal. I do have some concerns and warnings which you can find further down on this page. You can see in the screenshot that there are multiple ways you can import data for targeted ads but this blog only addresses the Custom Audience option using a customer list.

Facebook Custom Audience Customer List

Setup a Custom Audience

  • Visit the Ad Manager in Business Suite. You will need to have admin rights to the ad section in order to create audiences and run ads. It can be complicated to get this setup correctly so let me know if you need help.
  • Double-check that you’re using the correct ad account if you have access to multiple
  • Choose Create Audience
  • Choose Custom
  • Choose Customer List
  • woman holding laptop in data centerPrepare Your Customer List – This screen is informational only, it’s where you learn how to prepare the data you’re going to upload. You’ll see options teaching you how to prepare your data, how to limit data use (California Consumer Privacy information), Import from Mailchimp, Download file template, see formatting guidelines, see what identifiers you can choose, and add value information. Choose Next when you’re ready to move on.
  • Select List Type – You’ll be asked if you’re including a column for customer value. “Customer value is a value associated with your customers based on how much and how often they spend towards your business. Adding customer value as a column in your customer list allows you to create a value-based lookalike later on to find people similar to your most valuable customers.”
  • Add Customer List – upload your file in .csv or .txt format, and edit the name and/or description, if you like. I prefer naming and dating the file such as “Clients 2023-9”. This allows me to see the last time I uploaded a client list and I can make sure my data is up-to-date.
  • Check Columns Match – this is when Meta checks to make sure the column headers (identifiers) in your file match the information included. If you’ve formatted wrong, it’ll give you instructions on the actions you need to take. See info below on how I prepare my data. Choose Import & Create when you get green check marks.
  • Confirmation – here is where the progress of the uploading shows and you get options to Create a Lookalike Audience from the list you just uploaded, Create an Ad, or Create Another Custom Audience.
  • That’s it, you’re done!
  • Here is the Meta tech support page with instructions on how to do this. My instructions walk you through the actual screens and choices. Two different approaches to get to the same end-point.

hands drawing schematic on paperHow I Prepare My Data for Upload

Every organization holds their customer information in a different container. I recommend using a customer relationship management tool to hold your data (such as Salesforce or Zoho).

CRMs have many benefits but in this instance it’s the ability to export your data files. Exporting your data allows you to import it into a service that you need to market your organization. If you’re holding an event and use event management software like Eventbrite, you’ll upload your list in order to email invites, manage ticket sales, and even create seating arrangements. When you want to send an email to everyone using a tool like iContact, you’ll import your info into the service. Get comfortable with managing your data and moving it around when necessary.

Be diligent about using your CRM as your central hub. You may have services where some contact information is kept and it’s common for it to be forgotten or left out. It’s rich data, don’t waste it. I’ve discovered that some of my clients will use the email signup option in their email marketing service yet never merge that data into their CRM. Make it a standard practice to export the data you’re collecting in your MailChimp or Constant Contact into your main CRM.

fingers pushing buttons on a tech wallWhen I export my client lists (I use Google Contacts – here’s how to export data), I edit out all information except for email addresses. The only piece of data that’s absolutely necessary is the email address and I don’t truly trust outside vendors to keep my client’s data safe (that’s ultimately my job) so I don’t even give them the chance to see it. You can be more advanced and include as much data as is necessary for you to achieve your goals.

In addition to creating custom audiences using customer lists, I’ve created audiences that match my targets and labelled them so anytime I run an ad, they’re all ready to go. This has saved me so much time and helps me stay focused on who I’m trying to reach. My blog “Who Is Your Customer?” can be very helpful in identifying your target audiences.

Target Audiences and Customer Lists on Facebook

Concerns & Warnings

In the past, I’ve experienced a hiccup when my list was longer than 500 names. My solution was to break up the information into multiple spreadsheets and upload to the designated custom audience as many times as necessary to get all the names on there. You may or may not experience that limitation but I wanted to mention it.

Additionally, make sure you’re following best practices around permission based marketing. You need to get the person’s consent before you market to them which is called “express permission marketing.” Your client list is “implied permission marketing” because there’s an expectation that, due to your previous relationship, they can expect to hear from you. This means that they’re auto opted-in to your marketing.

caution triangle signDo not engage in “non-permission based marketing.” This is when you scoop up business cards from a conference table, when you buy a mailing list, or harvest data in other potentially unethical ways. Don’t do it, they don’t convert anyway and it damages your brand’s reputation when you spam people. Use compliant marketing practices that allow people to opt-out. If you don’t give people this option, you are in violation of the CAN Spam Act (U.S.) and will potentially be fined a lot of money.

I highly encourage you to become familiar with privacy laws in your state and country. They vary by location and change yearly. Do not be loose with consumer information. The consequences can be costly. I recommend using compliance software on your website to ensure you’re compliant when you collect website visitors’ information. I recommend iubenda (affiliate link) which I use for my own website.

Last note, when you upload your customer list to Facebook, it will only target those email addresses. That means if someone on your list uses a different email address to log-in to Facebook tools, they won’t be reached using this tactic.

Being strategic about your time and resources is always a smart move. Good on you for wanting to learn more. Ask me any questions you have in the comments or tell me what you’d like me to write about next.

Need help? Just ask.


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