There are 1.2 billion unique Facebook users and that figure only continues to rise. Facebook offers advertisers the opportunity to tap into audiences of unprecedented size and scope. However, sifting through those 1.2 billion users can be an understandably daunting task. With this in mind, Facebook has rolled out several features and tools to allow advertisers to target their desired audiences accurately and effectively. Since it began advertising, Facebook has made several advances in the targeting process. Today, the most precise targeting mechanism in Facebook’s arsenal is Lookalike Audiences.

The concept behind Lookalike Audiences is pretty simple. It allows an advertiser to reach new people that are likely to be interested in your business by assessing your Facebook fan page and finding other Facebook users with similar characteristics and demographics. This group of similar targets is your lookalike audience.

What’s so great about this tool is that your business doesn’t even need to have a robust fan base in order to utilize this tool. You can also use current customer databases or email lists. If you upload a customer email list, Facebook will scan the list for matches. All the emails that appear both in your database and as a user on Facebook will be assessed for demographic information and a lookalike audience will be created.

Lookalike audiences can be optimized based on either similarity or reach. If you optimize for similarity, Facebook will find the people most similar to your custom audience. This new audience will be smaller, but more precise and includes the top 1% of your lookalike matches. If you wish to spread your message to more users, you may be interested in optimizing for reach. Optimizing for reach will give you access to more people with similarities, but it will be slightly less precise. Optimizing for reach will net you the top 5% of similar users.

Since being introduced in March, lookalike campaigns have been met with a great deal of success. Some campaigns have averaged as much as 4-5% click-through-rates, which is pretty darn good considering Facebook’s right-bar ads averaged around .04%. Lookalike Audiences are truly a new realm of targeting. They have brought the world of marketing to the point where an email address is all you need to profile people based on interests, personality, and demographics. Today, social media marketers don’t worry about targeting; computers do. And they’re doing a better job.