How to Start Using Engagement Audiences to Improve Performance

We all know the feeling. We take all the information we’ve gathered through research, conversations with clients, mix it all together with our expertise and put together some pretty fabulous audiences to target their potential customer base.

We then monitor the campaigns closely and ensure performance is strong. Making ad copy changes, targeting adjustments, tweaks to bids and shifts in budgets, all for the purpose of increasing performance.

But once we set those campaigns free, how much attention is being paid to the audience itself? Are we listening to what the audience is telling us? Are we noticing how the audience’s engagement with our ads could be impacting performance?

If you’re not leveraging any type of Engagement Audiences, the answer to that questions is likely “No”.

Let’s start with the basics.

What are Engagement Audiences?

Spoiler alert: the name kind of gives it away.

Engagement Audiences are audiences you create in your campaigns based on someone’s engagement with your ads, brand pages, or website.

This is not to be confused with audiences you create based on their conversion performance. Those are a different beast. I’m referring to the engagement someone has with your ad or your brand, outside of their conversion performance.

The engagement users have with our ads and brand, as well as the actions they take after that click, can be pretty important in telling us if they are a potential customer or not. We just have to listen, create audiences based on those actions, and leverage them in our campaigns to improve efficiency.

An important piece to think about here, some users in an audience are going to be more likely to become customers than others. A different group of users is going to be highly likely to never become a customer. Each of these groups can (and most likely will) have different engagement levels with your brand online. Ergo, …

Engagement Audiences Can Be Positive and Negative

It’s up to you as a marketer and data analyst to determine what actions signify the more likely and highly unlikely customers to segment them into their own audience and leverage them accordingly.

The goal of an Engagement Audience is to identify actions that produce a meaningful difference in how one group of users is engaging with your brand as opposed to another, then look to exclude them from the greater population of your original audience. Not all engagement needs to be considered exclusion worthy, but only those actions that cause the messaging you’re providing in your current campaigns to no longer be impactful to these engaged audience members.

So what do we do with these audience chunks we carve off? Are they dead to us now?

Of course not.

Some audiences might have taken a particular action you find desirable and want to speak to them in a different manner moving forward. The name of the game is finding those nuances between audience members and speaking to their degrees of difference in ways that resonate.

Exclusion Doesn’t Mean Removing Forever

When creating Engagement Audiences, you’re identifying users who no longer qualify for the existing message or offer you have in place. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a fit for ANY message or offer you have in your arsenal.

Some audiences might simply need a more specific message and call to action moving forward. The name of the game is finding the nuances between audience members, whether they’ve engaged in a positive or negative manner, and speaking to their differences in ways that resonate.

Think of Engagement Audiences in the same way you would Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). With a large enough audience and specific behaviors, it becomes prudent to create separate campaigns for your RLSA targets rather than trying to piggyback off of the same campaigns as your net new users.

And that’s what we’re doing here as well.

Interpreting Your Engagement Audiences

The examples I’ll be walking through below are meant to get your gears turning for Engagement Audiences. They will certainly not be a comprehensive list of all the audiences you can/should be making, but can hopefully get you started down the right path.

Since this isn’t a perfect science, not all indicators are going to be significant. Some of those users should remain in your original audience until more information is gathered.

When it comes time for you to build your own Engagement Audiences, it’s important to view all engagement through the lens of your unique business model. From one business to the next, the same engagement audiences won’t mean the same thing. It’s important to keep that in mind and translate audience engagement in the context of each business you’re working with. Don’t hop on the one-size-fits-all bandwagon because odds are, it doesn’t.

So with that said, let’s start jumping into some audience examples.

Negative Indicators

For these audiences, we’re going to be looking for people who have engaged with our advertising, but their actions show a negative relationship toward us. These are folks that we’re assuming are not truly interested in our offer for one reason or another and should be excluded from our original set of campaigns. Whether we target them elsewhere or keep them out altogether depends on the action and how it translates to the business model.

Let’s get into some examples of Engagement Audiences based on negative indicators.

Facebook Lead Ads Engagement

Lead Ads in Facebook have become a pretty powerful tool for generating online leads. But not everyone who engages with them is interested in filling it out right off the bat. Luckily, Facebook has provided us advertisers with some pretty cool engagement audiences around this ad type.

We’re easily able to create specific audiences based on how someone interacted with our Lead Ads with the following 3 options:

  • Anyone who opened this form
  • People who opened but didn’t submit form
  • People who opened and submitted form

The easiest list I like to apply to my net new Lead Ads campaigns is the ‘People who opened but didn’t submit form’ list. These people engaged with my ad, most likely took some time to read a bit about what I was doing, and decided not to engage further.

We don’t expect 100% of our audience to convert after a click, but since this person has already engaged with my advertising before, it might be prudent to put them into a different audience moving forward.

In this situation, it’s also important to remember if you’ve utilized a Welcome Screen. If so, it could be even more telling that someone opened a Lead Ad, read the Welcome Screen, then decided not to fill out the form. Again, these users could be targeted somewhere else, but for now, I want them out of my campaigns targeted at net new users.

One additional benefit to the current Facebook set up is that you don’t have to create a new audience for each form you want this type of list for. Once you’ve selected your page, you can choose as many forms as you want to fit into this list, which could effectively create the logic of “Anyone who opened any of my forms but didn’t submit”.

You’re also given the ability to get a bit fancy if you utilize the Include More or Exclude More options just to the bottom right, which can take your audience building even further if you’re trying to create complex rules based on form engagement.

You’re then given effectively all the same level of flexibility that you were given in the first editor with the ability to choose multiple forms and set a date range. At this point, you’re able to create custom interaction audiences to your heart’s content to find that specific audience you’re looking to target or exclude.

Google Analytics Engagement & Time on Site

Another platform that can give you great insights into how users are engaging with your brand is Google Analytics. If you’ve linked your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts, you can leverage the audience creation process in Google Analytics and then exclude or target those users in the Google AdWords interface.

One of the simplest audiences I create here is based on Display advertising and Time on Site.

We’ve all accidentally clicked on an ad we didn’t intend to. Only to then glance at the landing page that loaded to quickly confirm this isn’t something we wanted, then hit the back arrow.

A quick hit and then a bounce.

Those are the folks we want to exclude as they’re pretty clearly telling us their first interaction was a mistake. So how do we do it?

In Google Analytics, head to the Admin section of the interface and navigate to the Audiences section.

As a note, you’ll have to have the Remarketing capabilities enabled in your account to leverage this tool.

You’ll then be taken to a list of all existing audiences and have the ability to click the red button that says “+Audience” to create a new audience.

You’ll then be given a choice to use a preset audience, utilize a segment, or create a new audience. Given that you’ve most likely not created this negative engagement display audience, choose to create a new one.

The next screen to pop up is the audience editor where we can mix and match just about all available pieces in our Google Analytics account and turn them into targetable or excludable audiences.

For the Display negative engagement list, I start by creating a filter that will include all of my Display campaigns. Since I’m a stickler for campaign naming convention, I’m able to do this easily by adding a filter for all Traffic Sources to include all users from Campaigns including “Display – “.

That step ensures we’re targeting the right users. Now we need to segment these users by their engagement.

Under conditions, we need to segment for 3 variables to create this audience. We want to find users who have:

  • Spent less than 5 seconds on the site
  • Have one recorded session
  • Have one recorded bounce

We can then apply this list as an exclusion to our Display campaigns to ensure we’re no longer a victim of hapless clicking or fat finger syndrome.

Positive Indicators

Not all Negative Engagement Audiences must come from someone behaving in a negative manner. At times, it’s just as important to make sure we’re treating people on a positive end of a spectrum with as much attention to detail as we are the negative end. They can require the same attention to detail as the negative audiences who need segmented to themselves, but with even more promise based on their engagement.

Facebook Video Engagement

In the same place as the Facebook Lead Ads engagement audience, you can make a custom audience based on engagement with your videos on the Facebook network. At this stage, there are some pretty handy preset audiences based on how much of a video someone has watched:

Depending on the length of the video, I like to create audiences of folks who I believe have watched enough of the video to get a solid sense of the product/service we’re promoting, even if they didn’t watch the entire thing.

The goal is to identify groups of individuals that have an understanding of what you do so you can market to them in a different way moving forward. These users most likely don’t need the net new introduction to your brand, but rather need more specific information than they got in the video as that didn’t entice them to take further action.

The piece to pay attention to for this audience is your video content itself. At what point the video do you get to exactly what you do? Does it take 10 seconds? 45 seconds? Longer than that?

Let’s take an example.

A recent video I promoted is 1:19 in length, meaning the preset lengths will fit into the following buckets.

  • 3 seconds
  • 10 seconds
  • 25% = 19.75 seconds
  • 50% = 39.5 seconds
  • 75% = 59.75 seconds
  • 95% = 75 seconds

Although the entire video is great and has solid engagement and conversion stats, the product I’m advertising doesn’t actually get talked about directly until 26 seconds in.

This means that anyone that has viewed under 50% of the video (based on the buckets we’re allowed to make) still doesn’t quite know what we’re promoting. The folks in the 50% bucket will have about 14 seconds to get the idea of what we do before jumping into the 75% bucket.

In my opinion, based on the video content, anyone who sticks with us beyond the 75% mark is most likely engaged enough with our video content AND our brand/product to land them in a spot in a separate, more engaged audience.

In this example, I’ll make an audience that looks like this:

Then I’ll create an ad that speaks to someone who’s had an introduction to the brand and our product, but then entice them to take an additional step by providing more information.

Similar to Lead Ad engagement audiences, Facebook allows you to choose which videos you want to include in your audience. If you’re planning to use only the 95% grouping, then odds are you can put nearly any video you would like in this audience.

If you’re looking to do a similar analysis to what I did with my video and segment only those who have seen a meaningful amount of your video, then it’s important to review each to make sure you know the time or percentage points each needs to hit individually before you group them together.

Company Engagement on Facebook & Instagram

In the Facebook Audiences tab, there are engagement audiences you can create based on the way users have engaged with your brand in the past. And now they’re available for Instagram too!

Each of these lets you create a number of lists based on the ways people have engaged with your brand, but the editors and the lists between Facebook and Instagram are slightly different.

For Facebook, you’re given 6 options in total:

Each of these can have their place in your audience strategy. If you’re looking to target net new folks with a brand intro audience, it’s important to know that those people actually need an introduction to your brand.

For the audiences above, I could argue that none of them need to see an introductory message. Anyone who has taken any of these steps recently probably already knows enough about your brand that it’s worth adjusting copy to be more enticing to get them to convert.

For Instagram engagement audiences, the options and editor are a bit different, but the overall abilities stay about the same.

Again, all of these folks are people who clearly have already engaged with your brand before. Are you messaging to them in the same way you’re messaging to everyone else? If some are willing to send a message to your brand page, do those folks even need to be advertised to anymore? Sounds like they’re already invested in your company and are comfortable getting in touch with you when they need something. Just some food for thought.

LinkedIn Company Followers

LinkedIn has recently started allowing advertisers to target users based on their connections to a company page. You can now target or exclude people if they follow your company.

In a similar vein to the Facebook engagement audience we talk about above, this can be a great way to ensure you’re keeping your net new audiences truly filled with people who haven’t been introduced to your brand yet and that you’re talking to folks who are already familiar enough to follow you with tailored messaging.

The idea here is to make your message as powerful as possible based on the audience you’re talking to. With this type of segmentation, you can speak to an audience who already knows you with messages of “how can we help you” rather than “here’s who we are”, which is something they most likely already know since they follow you.

Don’t Stop Interpreting

There are constantly new audience targeting capabilities being rolled out across most of the available advertising networks. Any one or combination of them could hold an important piece to making your audience targeting strategy just that much more important.

Keep in mind that our goal is to make our audience targeting strategies as impactful as possible, so it’s important to listen to what your audiences are telling you. Are they engaging with your brand on social? Did they visit your site but bounce pretty quickly? Are they indicating positive or negative engagement, and how can you target each of these behaviors differently to make an impact on performance? Keep your gears turning and always look to test how the engagement these folks are showing can impact your performance.

How are you using engagement audiences in your advertising? Are you finding folks with positive or negative engagement more impactful? What strategies have you seen work well? Share with us in the comments!