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how B2b Brands Can Create Targeted Audience Lists For Facebook Ads

By Beth HendersonComments

How B2B brands can create targeted audience lists for Facebook ads

“No, we’re a B2B business… our customers aren’t on Facebook!”

If you’re a B2B business and currently using this as an excuse to not use the world’s biggest social media platform in your marketing strategy, please take a moment to peruse these stats: 

In 2016, Facebook’s monthly active users hit a record 1.86 billion. (Facebook, 2016)

And you’re telling me that your audience aren’t using this platform? Really?

On average, users spend 50 minutes on Facebook per day. (Facebook, 2016)

This might not sound like a lot, but let’s break it down. I loved James B. Stewart’s analogy, so I’m going to borrow it:

“There are 24 hours in a day, and the average person sleeps for 8.8 of them. So more than one-sixteenth of the average user’s waking time is spent on Facebook. It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).” 

Over 90% of all content sharing occurs on Facebook, compared to just 2.5% on LinkedIn. (Contently, 2017)

Facebook drives over 40% of all traffic to publisher sites... cya Google. It’s a content hub for each and every one of us. Whether we’re consumers or business owners, we know that our feed is going to be full of content we actually want to consume. And this is because… 

“We’re in the golden era of Facebook marketing” - Gary Vaynerchuck

Wake up and smell the coffee

Gary couldn’t be more right. We really are in the golden era of B2B Facebook marketing.

It’s quickly transforming the B2B space, and those already doing it are positioning themselves well for the future. But those who leave it another 5 years need to be ready to play one of the hardest games of catch up yet…

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If you’re still not convinced, consider this:

  • Are you trying to target specific buyer personas and increase awareness of your product or service?
  • Are you looking to connect with the decision-makers in an organisation?
  • Do you want to collect contact information for each lead?
  • Do you want to nurture these leads through a sales funnel?
  • Do you want to generate sales from strong leads?

Yeah? Then move over and make space for Facebook… It can do all of this, and more!

Paid vs. organic

Organic activity is great, and should definitely be a part of your content marketing strategy. You can use it to connect with your followers and share content you know they’ll love - but your guaranteed audience is just the people following you.

Sure, when your followers engage with your page then their friends might see it etc. - but that’s never a promise.

The paid platform breaks down these barriers. You have 1.86 billion active monthly users at your fingertips - you just have to know what to do with them. And this is where this blog post comes in…

Over the next few months, we’re going to be cosying up to this platform to help launch some of our clients’ recent campaigns… and even our own eBook! So what better time to put together a step by step guide to creating targeted audiences!

But before you start playing around in the Ads Manager, answer these three questions:

  • What are the goals of the campaign?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What content do you have?

Everything you do needs to help you achieve your goals, target your ideal audience, and get the most out of your content as possible!

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Step 1: Adapt your buyer personas

(Buyer persona police here!)

Following my recent blog post The Context of Buyer Personas in Inbound Marketing, you should already know who your ideal customers are; their responsibilities, buying behaviour patterns, challenges and issues, motivations, and goals.

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They are a crucial tool in your marketing strategy and will help get your paid Facebook efforts out of the blocks.

Now you just have to adapt them for Facebook, making sure you include all the juicy information. Think important interests, job function, job title and education.  

This usually starts by looking at who already follows you on Facebook. Although your buyer personas might be Marketing Directors aged 35-65, Marketing Directors aged 50-65 could be the only ones following your page.

Which might suggest Marketing Directors aged 35-50 are not actively using Facebook for business and are therefore not worth targeting...

Obviously, it’s not as cut and dry as that… your business might not have been very active on Facebook in the past, or this could be a new page. In which case, I would recommend creating a “custom audience” rather than a “new audience”…

Step 2: Create your audience

Your current (organic) Facebook strategy won’t be targeting everyone you want it to. It just won’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t, with the help of paid ads.

You just need to create some audience lists first.

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First, revisit the goals of your campaign you established earlier. And choose the marketing objective that best suits this, such as brand awareness.

As soon as you have chosen your campaign objective, you can navigate to ‘Audience’ under ‘Ad Set’ in the left hand column which will bring up a form.

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And this is where the magic happens.

But first, you have to decide:

  • Create a new audience, or
  • Create a custom audience

Or ‘use a saved audience’, but for the sake of this post let’s pretend you haven’t created any lists yet.

Creating a new audience allows you to input information into different categories, such as location and gender. You can also add further ‘Detailed Targeting’ with categories like education, behaviours, and life events. (I look at this in further detail here!)

But like I said, unless you know who out of your buyer personas are actively using Facebook, it’s difficult to get this right straight away.

Alternatively, you can create a custom audience. This is exciting stuff. And you can do this in one of four ways...

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1. Customer File

This allows you to upload your own list of email addresses. Whether this is exported from LinkedIn, HubSpot, MailChimp etc. - Facebook will use it to build an audience.

The only drawback of this tool is that your database may not use the same email for business and Facebook.

But, depending on the size of your database, this could be a really valuable tool to build a targeted custom audience. You will build a list of people who have already shown interest in your content on different platforms - gold dust!

And you can even cross-match this list to ensure you get the most out of the ads as possible…

If you want to attract new Facebook followers, there’s no point advertising to contacts who already follow your page. Instead, cross-match your exported list with a list of existing customers who already like your page, and save time and resources!

2. Web Traffic

Using the Facebook Pixel, you can create a list of people who have visited your website or viewed a specific web page.

It not only makes conversion tracking and ad optimisation easier, but makes the perfect remarketing tool. Using this list, you can flip your marketing efforts on their head:

  • Track conversions across multiple devices; mobile, tablet, desktops
  • Optimise your bids for website conversions and Facebook Pixels will ensure your ad is only shown to those most likely to convert
  • Retarget to people who have visited your website, and even a specific page, but haven’t completed the actions you wanted them too.
  • Create a lookalike audience of people similar to your website visitors

To create a Pixel, go to Ads Manager - Menu - Assets - Pixels…

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Which will take you to the following page…

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From here, click ‘Create a Pixel’ and follow the steps to creating and adding a pixel to your site.

3. App Activity

If you hadn’t already guessed, building a custom audience under ‘App Activity’ requires your business to have an app. So if you don’t have one, skip over this and jump onto number 4!

For those of you who do have an app, this is perfect for retargeting. You can create and target an audience based on the specific actions people are taking within your app! For example, target your ads to people who haven’t used your app in 30 days.

4. Engagement on Facebook

This is a relatively new addition to the platform’s custom audience platform. But it’s a really useful tool as it allows you to target people who have already engaged with your content on this social media channel.

And I’m not talking just likes and shares…

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Knowing you, knowing me

And then there’s Lookalike Audiences. Yep, they do what they say on the tin - build an audience that looks like one of your existing audiences.

Facebook helps you find people who are likely to be interested in your business based on similarities to those who already like and engage with your page. To do this, the platform uses an audience list you’ve already created (a source list) to find people with similar qualities e.g. location, interests or job role.  

Depending on your marketing objective, you can also adjust the size of this audience. Go smaller if you want a more targeted list, or larger if you want to reach more people with less similarities.

Make sure you add good quality people into your Lookalike Audience by choosing a relevant source list. A Lookalike list of your most engaged customers will probably find more valuable prospects than a list of all your customers.

It doesn’t stop there...

So those are the four ways you can create custom audiences. Easy enough?

But it doesn’t stop there. You can dig deeper and segment your lists further by adding in different demographics. And you can use this to split the database and target each group differently depending on their needs.

This is incredible, and truly encompasses what inbound marketing is all about; getting the right stuff in front of the right people. Tailor the style of your ads, the ad copy, and the content on offer The object you want to link to.so it is valuable for your audience.

Step 3: Refine your targeting

This is the good stuff, right here. If this doesn’t convert every B2B business to Facebook Ads, I don’t know what will!

“Targeting to a specific segment using creative that is specifically built for that target is something I am incredibly passionate about. And I think Facebook delivers on it tremendously.” - Gary Vaynerchuck

So, as mentioned earlier, Facebook targeting doesn’t stop at location, gender and age. You can get under the skin of your audience, and reach them using all the information displayed on their social profile!

Their job, their education, their interests, recent life events… the list goes on!

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A great tool if you want to reach out to new prospects in a targeted way. Here are some examples:

Job Role

Depending on your industry, and your buyer personas, there might be people with specific job titles that you’d love to target; CEOs, Marketing Directors, Content Marketers etc. And you can do this in the Ads Manager.

Be clever and tailor your ads to the different roles you’re trying to target… they might both be getting the same content at the end of it, but will respond to different CTAs and visuals depending on their needs.

And don’t worry, you can keep this as general or specific as you like!


Some B2B brands know exactly who they want as their next client. And social media is a great way to go after them.

Target employees of a specific company with personalised ads, and make them take notice of your brand. Or, you can expand it to include specific industries if you want a more general approach to targeting.

The devil’s in the detail

With this step by step guide to creating targeted Facebook audiences, you’ll (hopefully) have one or - even better - multiple audiences that you can start creating campaigns for. But before you start creating and launching your ads, check these final details…

Is your audience defined?

As you’re creating each list, Facebook will let you know how ‘defined’ it is using spectrum; specific, defined, or broad.

Your goal is to be defined.

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Can you refine it further?

Yes - even from refinement options...


Using Audience Overlap, you can select two audiences you have already created and create a new list of people who fit into both.

Have you named it?


This might sound obvious, but it’s so easy to spend time tweaking your audience lists that you forget to give it a recognisable name. But if an ad does particularly well, you’re going to want to know why… and this could fall into who you targeted.

So, when naming your audience, pick out all the key information and use it to craft the name e.g. Technology-London-25to60-CEO’

And breathe…

If this is your first time looking at Facebook Ads for your B2B brand, then this might be a lot to consume. But I would just suggest jumping in and playing around…

Using this guide, start by creating some audience lists.

Once you feel comfortable doing this, you can challenge yourself by setting up your first campaign. I’ll be creating another guide for this soon, so stay tuned.

Make sure you don’t miss it, and sign up to our newsletter down below!
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