You may have heard the term “lookalike audience”, most likely in connection with Facebook. Over the past few years, marketers have found this to be such a useful tool that Twitter has established a similar tool and Google has one ready to launch this year. So let’s talk about what this tool really looks like, how it works, and whether it deserves the hype. I also want to touch on some best practices and a possible concern, privacy.
Whether you are using a lookalike tool through Facebook or Twitter (or soon Google), the process remains the same. You provide the original “seed group” through email addresses, phone numbers, or some other identifier. You are not told which specific people have an account on the social site, but you are told how many people have an account. The social network runs its algorithm and decides who in their member pool “looks like” your seed group. You do not know why the lookalike group matches your seed group and you are not given the names of the people in the lookalike group. However, you know that the lookalike group has something in common with your seed group and you can advertise to the group as a whole. If you are using Facebook, you can also use their “Custom Audience” feature to create your seed group. You can probably see why Google is jumping on this bandwagon. Given the extremely large database available to Google, they have the ability to match seed groups using even more options.
So what are some best practices to rely on when you are using a lookalike tool? First, for the social network to match the seed group, the seed group must have at least 100 members who are also members of the social network you are leveraging. Therefore, it is best to include over 100 members in your seed group since some of these may not also be members of the social network. You have the ability to optimize for greater similarity or reach, and it is a good idea to create multiple lookalike audiences with different levels of similarity. Last, but possibly most important, make sure the members of your seed groups are as similar as possible (think age, location, product preferences, etc.). The more similarities, the better idea you have of what the lookalike audience prefers, leading to better targeted advertising.
So lookalike audiences seems like a great tool to use and it seems that it would be an easy way to grow your advertising base in a very short time. Have I raised any red flags yet? I hope I have. In order to utilize this tool, you are uploading one of your most valuable assets, your customer list. Granted, if you are a small business without confidential clients, this doesn’t really matter. But what if you have numerous clients that won’t even let you mention their names? Can you still upload them as part of the list? Does this fall under a NDA? I would err on the side of caution. If you have clients like this, don’t use them as a part of a seed group. It is not worth gaining a new advertising audience, only to lose some of your best clients for violating their NDA.
All in all, I think a lookalike audience tool is worth a try. Like any other tool, it won’t work miracles, but it may add a nice boost.