If you buy pay-per-click ads (PPC) ads on social media platforms, you may know about creating audiences.
This is where the platform allows you to define your audience, the people in front of whom your ad will appear. You can either use one they've defined (based on your criteria) or create a “custom audience” based on data you or the platform captures.
One of the most utilized tools in the world of pay-per-click and online advertising is something called affinity, similar, or lookalike audiences.
According to Facebook, they are “people who are likely to be interested in your business because they're similar to your best existing customers.”
Using lookalike or affinity audiences is a powerful way to target potentially ideal clients through the power of these PPC platforms and their algorithms' ability to make educated guesses, without having to know more about your audience.
But I think that's misleading.
You should start by knowing your audience first. The more you do, even before you decide to use these types of tools, will give you three huge benefits when do use them and a huge headstart.
1. Improves Conversion Rates
You can craft a more compelling marketing message that appeals to your market right from the start. You're not buying ads as if you're throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.
Even when you do use tools like custom audiences or lookalike audiences to target your message, your ad will connect and resonate with them far more effectively — which will convert far more effectively, too.
2. Shortens The Learning Curve
Having a better understanding of your market will help you particularly at the beginning since these platforms rely on your initial input to find your audience.
Custom audiences rely on data from your existing audience. A piece of code added to your site (i.e., a “pixel”) will tag, follow, and learn about your users, which will help isolate your ideal clients. But you need enough time, traffic, and engagement to learn about them.
That's why, when ads are first launched, they tend to go into a “learning phase.” If enough respond or buy within a shorter timeframe, the platform learns about your audience faster and will refine their targeting to improve your results more efficiently, too.
But the better you are at defining your audience from the start, the better the initial traffic, the less traffic you will need to create enough engagement or conversions, and therefore the cheaper (or better said, the higher the return on ad spend or ROAS) your ads will be.
3. Creates a Domino Effect
When you define a better initial audience, the traffic you generate will be more qualified from the start, which will improve the platform's learning algorithm. But this, in turn, will allow you to create better custom audiences.
Lookalike audiences are similar to the people currently engaging with your business. The more people you have engaging with your business, the better the input. The better the input, the more accurate the targeting.
The platform makes educated guesses as to who would be ideal for your ad. I'm not privy to how this works, but I do know that the better the traffic and results that your ad generates, the closer the affinity to your ideal clients the campaign will be able to target.
Stated simply, the more educated the guesses the platform will make.
Bottom line, you can use these tools to effectively target your customer. But the more equipped you are before you use them, the more productive your ads and the more effective your results will be.
Whether you choose to use paid ads or not, knowing who your buyer is and creating a buyer persona are going to positively influence all your marketing efforts.
As a sidenote, since more browsers are becoming privacy-focused and cookieless, and laws like GDPR and CCPA changing the digital advertising landscape, targeting your ideal audience will be a little tougher.
So get to know your audience in spite of these platforms, which will prove useful whether you choose to buy paid ads or not. Especially in a post-cookie world.