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Reach the Right Audience: Target Custom Audiences in Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers


If you want to drive people to your dealership, you must first drive them to your website. And if you want to drive them to your website, you need to be using Facebook ads.

Advertising on Facebook is one of the most powerful marketing methods you can implement as an auto dealer. Not only is it surprisingly inexpensive, it’s also wildly successful: auto ads boast a click-through rate double that of the average Facebook ad.

Facebook advertising for auto dealers becomes even more profitable when you tailor your target audience to your best potential customers. Facebook Ads Manager has a fantastic built-in targeting service that allows you to hone in on interested leads and even conquest your competitors’ leads by selecting the specific demographics, interests, and behaviors you’d like to reach.

But what if you want to take your targeting even further?

With Facebook’s custom audience feature, you can actually hand-pick the people you want your ad to reach. No more shooting in the dark–now you can pinpoint the exact target you want to hit.

If you know John Smith has been browsing Silverados on your site, you can show him an ad featuring your latest 1500s. If Jane Doe has looked at your service page, you can present her with an offer for a cheap oil change.

It’s lead tracking on a whole new level. And if you want to close more sales, it’s a level you’ve got to achieve.

Here’s how to get there.

How to Create a Custom Facebook Audience

Facebook offers a few different tools you can use to create a custom audience:

  • Ads Manager
  • Ad Creation
  • Power Editor
  • Analytics for Apps

In this post, we’ll focus on using Ads Manager. To see a step-by-step process for each of these tools, read this how-to article by Facebook.

In Ads Manager, click Tools at the top, then Audiences. Next, select Create Audience, then Custom Audience. You will see three types of custom audiences:

  • Customer List: Matches people on Facebook with emails, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs, or mobile advertiser IDs from a list you’ve provided
  • Website Traffic: Creates a list of people who have visited your website or viewed specific pages on your site, captured by a Pixel installed on your site
  • App Activity: Creates a list of people who have taken a specific action in your app or game

While the second two options are valuable for certain situations, we recommend creating your own customer list for the greatest control over your audience.


To do this, you can either upload a .CSV file with one column of data you’d like to match and copy and paste that data directly into Facebook, or import a separate list from MailChimp. From there, follow the instructions to finish creating your custom audience.

The list you create can be comprised of practically anyone in your database. As an auto dealer, you can segment based on any contact properties from your CRM, and you can get as specific as you want: customers who purchased a Hyundai Sonata two or more years ago, leads who have expressed interest in a used SUV, people who visited your trade-in evaluation page within the last month. Get creative!

Once you’ve created your custom audience, simply add it to your ad campaign, and your ad will be shown to the people you’ve selected. It’s as easy as that!

Ways to Leverage Custom Audiences for Your Dealership

So how can your dealership use custom audiences to your advantage?

  • Increase your page likes. Increase your customers’ loyalty by encouraging them to follow you on Facebook. Create a custom audience from your current customer list, exclude anyone who already likes your page, and promote your page to them. That way, any time you post an update about a new event or offer, they’ll be the first to know.
  • Try retargeting. It’s a little creepy, we know, but you can motivate people who have looked at a specific vehicle or service offer to act on it by advertising that page. Just don’t get too creepy–some people will be turned off by messaging that screams, “We see you!”
  • Reach contacts you can’t reach with email. While most customers prefer to communicate via email, not all of your contacts will take the time to open your emails–and some might not give you their email address. Make sure they don’t miss the message you want them to hear by creating a custom audience of people who have never opened an email from you and/or people whose email address you don’t have.
  • Blast brand loyalists. The automotive industry is full of people who are diehard fans of their favorite brand–the Ford vs. Chevy debate is about as divisive as the Vikings vs. Packers. Take advantage of this loyalty by segmenting your Facebook ad based on contacts who have purchased a certain make or model and highlighting its newest edition. You can also target contacts who are loyal to your specific dealership–perhaps those with an email click rate of 25% or higher–so that you know your hottest leads are getting the message.
  • Target people who are similar to your current contacts. Attract new leads by creating a “lookalike audience”: a list generated by Facebook that finds people it deems similar to those in one of your custom audiences. To do this, navigate to Power Editor and click on the name of your custom audience, then select Create Similar Audience. Next, choose your country and whether you want to optimize for Similarity (top 1% of Facebook users) or Greater Reach (top 5%). It might take a while, but the list you’ll get will be full of great new leads.

Use Targeted Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers


If you want your dealership to show up online, you have to be on Facebook, plain and simple.

But the world of Facebook is huge and sprawling, and it’s hard to navigate if you don’t know what you’re doing.

For a clear, comprehensive guide to advertising on Facebook, check out our free eBook, A Step-by-Step Guide to Leveraging Facebook Ads for Automotive Dealers. It’s full of great tips for creating, targeting, and testing successful Facebook ads for auto dealers.