Now you see it, now you don’t (but maybe you do)! – What Facebook Custom Audience sizes mean for small business

Facebook Custom Audiences are created from lists of people who are already in your database.  These can range from your current customers, past purchasers, high value customers, loyalty program members, sales leads or anyone who has visited, browsed, bought from or interacted with your website.  Basically it can include anyone who is on you customer database or has interacted with your business and whose email or mobile phone number you have.

If you have email addresses, phone numbers, user IDs and mobile advertiser IDs, you can upload them to Facebook to find those people and create your custom audience.  Once you have created your custom audience you can use the Facebook Custom Audiences targeting tool to set up a campaign and reach them with ads.

You may well be asking ‘why would I use Facebook to target customers I already own?’ – The answer is simple, people check their Facebook accounts up to 15 times per day, so it works well as an alternative channel to engage with your audience in perhaps a more discrete and less disruptive way than sending them an email.  Furthermore, once you have developed your custom audience, the next logical step is to use Facebook Lookalike Audiences to target potential new customers who might have the same interests and buying behaviours as your existing Custom audience.


Custom Audience sizes

Earlier this year, Facebook removed the ability to view audience reach estimates in any campaign using Custom Audience targeting[1].  The official Facebook response stated that Custom Audience size data would simply no longer be available, leaving many small businesses frustrated and questioning the long term viability of Facebook Custom Audiences for their business.

“We wanted to call out a unique bug that we recently uncovered; a potential issue with custom audience reach estimates. The issue could have let potential advertisers infer targeting attributes (like gender, or country) of the people in the audiences they upload. As a precaution, we have removed reach estimates for all types of custom audiences.”[2]

Facebook official announcement, Bug Bounty program page.


Custom Audience size may be returning in certain scenarios

In contrast to the above announcement, recent research and testing[3] has found some instances where Custom Audience size seem to be returning.  The research focuses on a number of scenarios, however it’s not clear why some sizing data is returning and others not.

Advertisers are currently not seeing Custom Audience size for Website Audiences, but they are populating for certain engagement audiences, which are detailed below:

·         Customer Audience – Customer list

·         Customer Audience – Engagement  – Video

·         Customer Audience – Engagement – Instagram

Whether the return of these sizings is set to continue is unknown, however given the privacy issues and responsibility Facebook has to its users, it’s unlikely that the platform will revert back to displaying audience size as standard.


Custom Audiences is still an important tool

Whilst there may be some frustrations with Custom Audience sizing, it’s important to remember the reasons why this is occurring.  Privacy is a hot topic for Facebook, which will continue to be a focus area, demonstrating that they are committed to ensuring that user data is of paramount importance – including your own!  The important thing to remember is that Facebook remains the platform of choice for small businesses.  Custom Audiences is a great tool within this, offering a cost effective way to interact with both existing and new customers and even with the removal of audience size, it still provides a massive opportunity to target large numbers of people and grow your business exponentially.