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Understanding Lookalike Audiences and How They Can Help Your Ads Reach New Heights

Shae Henrie

Content Strategist @ AdRoll

Social media platforms have become powerful tools for businesses and advertisers to connect with their target audiences. One way they facilitate this is by offering a feature called “lookalike audiences” within their respective ad managers. Lookalike audiences are essentially groups of users who share similar characteristics, behaviors, or interests with your existing customer base or another target audience you’ve defined. By utilizing this feature, you can effectively expand your reach and target individuals who are likely to be interested in your products or services. 

Choosing to expand your audience via lookalike audiences lets you skip the extra research to figure out who else fits in your target audience and leads to more conversions. However, if you expand your audience too broadly, your ads become less targeted and your ROI decreases. Let’s dive into lookalike audiences and why it’s a helpful approach to your ad strategy.

What is a Lookalike Audience and How Does it Work?

Expanding your ads to reach lookalikes is quite easy if you have a solid source audience. Having a strong understanding of who your best audience is and having all these attributes in your ad management system will make the process of creating lookalike audiences efficient and effective. However, if your current audience is too large or includes many general characteristics, the ad will be shown to individuals who aren’t ideal. Start off small and niche with your most substantial customer base.

Let’s say a brand sells jigsaw puzzles and their target audience is set to women aged 18-60 in the U.S.; lookalike audiences will find many similar groups who might not have any interest in puzzles. On the other hand, if the brand targets its ad to young women on the West Coast interested in games and interior design, the lookalike feature can find other groups who expressed interest in unique decor, off-screen games, and so on. 

By using this approach to lookalike audiences, brands can gain valuable insights into their target demographics. This enables them to assess if their age range targeting is accurate and identify potential hot spots within specific cities where their brand resonates strongly. Employing this strategy effectively can lead to optimal outcomes and yield the best results for advertising campaigns. 

Which Platforms Offer Lookalike Audiences?

We previously covered ways to sell more through lookalike audiences on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn, but there are several other platforms with this feature that you can explore.


Marketing your business on TikTok is a great way to increase brand awareness and engagement, and drive conversions. Through Lookalike Audience, you can expand the reach of your ads and select the size of the range by picking specific, balanced, or broad. The more specific the audience size, the more similar audience the model will look for. They even offer lookalike audiences during different phases of ad delivery so you can start off reaching new users or try to extend the life cycle of the advertisement toward the end of the delivery. 


You can reach different Snapchatters through their Lookalike Audience feature. Snapchat offers three different types of lookalike audiences: similarity, balance, and reach. Similarity looks for the closest resemblance to your target audience, balance targets a mid-size audience that balances resemblance and reach, while reach searches for the broadest audience. 


Pinterest offers lookalike audiences under a different name, Actalike, which finds users who are most likely to engage with your Pins, or are likely to visit your website based on your target audience. Once you select Actalike audiences from your ad manager, you can select the percentage of people you want to reach from your target audience. The great thing about Actalike is that you can create a new audience just from the new users you reach via Actalike and retarget them with a new campaign. 

Best Practices For Lookalike Targeting

It is crucial not to confine your advertising efforts solely to what you know and what’s most familiar to you. Using lookalike audiences lets you get more out of all the research you’ve done to create your customer base especially when some platforms will give you the option to find more valuable customers versus a broad audience. 

Finding your optimal source audience

Even though most platforms offer a comprehensive lookalike feature, it takes more than just a few clicks to get the most out of it. We recommend testing to identify the optimal source audiences. There might be one audience you created that lends itself to having more commonalities with a vast audience. Start by testing out a custom audience or a contact upload list to see which drives better results.

Test message and visual components to boost engagement 

Using the same logic, test different campaigns and see if a particular message or visual component draws more people in. For example, if your current audience values your messaging around sustainability the most, test out a campaign that highlights a statistic around ESG or showcases a B-Corp certification versus a visually pleasing campaign that focuses on a product itself. 

Identify your objective(s)

Most importantly, having an objective for a lookalike audience will be the foundation for this ad strategy. More so, testing out different objectives for lookalike audiences will increase your ROI. We know it’s a bit risky to spend your budget on lookalike audiences when the outcome is even less guaranteed, but if you find the right objective your conversions can increase tenfold. At first, if your objective is email sign-ups and lookalike audiences aren’t sharing this information, don’t give up on lookalike audiences altogether. 

You can switch your objective to website traffic and then you’ll probably see new customers interacting with your website and retarget them later. Aftering visiting your website and getting familiar, your new customers will most likely sign up for emails, especially with an offer in return. 

Reaching New Heights 

By exploring and expanding upon what has proven successful for your business, you can attract new customers to broaden your reach, drive the most conversions, and get the highest engagement. Implementing lookalike audiences as part of your advertising strategy may require fine tuning, however, the overall impact will be an increase in brand awareness and visibility. 

At AdRoll, we understand the importance of finding the right customers at the right place and time. We are here to support your advertising endeavors by providing the tools, expertise and resources you need to make the most of lookalike audiences and drive meaningful results for your business. Take the next step and learn more about how AdRoll can help you effectively target and engage with your ideal customers today!

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