How to Use the Facebook Pixel for Retargeting and Personalised Social Advertising

Content personalisation is a digital marketing trend set to continue in 2018. Personalising your food brand’s marketing messages can be challenging and time consuming to pull off but it’s a great way to build deeper connections with your audience and customers. Plus, people’s food preferences are incredibly wide ranging and personal so it’s worth putting in the effort to make your messages resonate with your foodie fans as much as possible.

You can personalise your website content, your email marketing campaigns and even your social media content.

Today we’re going to look at personalising social media content via retargeting ads on Facebook using the Facebook Pixel. What’s retargeting? What’s the Facebook Pixel? I’m glad you asked.

Key Takeaways

  1. Retargeting shows advertising to people who already know your brand
  2. Tracking pixels gather user data and send it back to 3rd party platforms – like Facebook
  3. There’s all sorts of ways to use this data to segment your visitors
  4. Don’t be creepy with retargeting campaigns or you’ll scare potential customers away!

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is the practice of sending targeted advertising to people who’ve already visited your website or online shop. Perhaps they came for a browse but didn’t buy anything.

Maybe they read a few of your blog posts but didn’t sign up for your newsletter. Perhaps they added something delicious to their shopping cart but didn’t complete the checkout process.

You can use retargeting to encourage them to come back and sign up or complete their purchase.

I’m sure you’ve experienced retargeting before. It can sometimes feel a bit creepy. Imagine that you’ve been scouring the Internet for the perfect pair of red shoes on your lunch break. You visit a promising site and look through their online catalogue. Nope. You’ve still not found the perfect pair. You go back to work.

Later that day you pop onto Facebook in a moment of afternoon procrastination. As you scroll through your feed you see pictures of the shoes you were browsing earlier that day. Is this some kind of freaky coincidence? No. It’s retargeting. But how does it work?

When you visit a website – especially one that sells products – you may be tagged with something called a tracking pixel. This is a snippet of code that sends data about your online persona and online activity back to a 3rd party platform.

Tracking pixels work in a similar way to how data is sent to analytics providers. Tools like Google Analytics are commonplace and often used by website owners to learn about how their website is performing in terms of traffic, audience, content, conversions and other metrics.

While it’s not known how many websites use Google Analytics (or other analytics providers), I bet you never think twice about them when visiting a website. However, when you go e-shopping on your lunch break and ads for those same products start showing up in your feeds, you might start to get the creeps.

But retargeting doesn’t have to be creepy. Done right, it can be a powerful way of reconnecting with your audience and customers.

What is the Facebook Pixel?

The Facebook Pixel is a tracking code you add to your website. It sends data about Facebook users who visit your website back to your Facebook Advertising account.

You can use this data to create custom audiences of people who have visited your site and performed certain actions. This enables you to send highly targeted social ads to them on both Facebook and Instagram.

The pixel tracks users who have already visited your website. This group of people have had some form of interaction with your brand or business so are likely to be more receptive to hearing from you again. Just don’t scare them off with creepy retargeting!

Use the knowledge you gather about them wisely to build a stronger relationship.

Here’s some ideas of the kinds of personalised social advertising you can produce using the Facebook Pixel:

  • Target users who visit a certain page of your website.
  • Target users who viewed a certain number of pages or spent a certain amount of time on your website.
  • Send a first-time purchase offer to anyone who visited your site but hasn’t purchased anything yet.
  • Display an ad promoting a new blog post to someone who read a previous post in the same category.
  • Give a discount code to anyone who put items in their basket but didn’t check out.
  • Send an offer to your existing customers when launching a new product.
  • Track how many visitors converted after seeing a particular ad on Facebook.
  • Create a lookalike audience that mimics your actual website visitors to expand your reach.

It’s a very powerful tool with lots of options. We’ll look at a couple of specific examples in a minute but first let’s cover how to add the tracking code to your website so you can start gathering data.

Adding the Facebook Pixel to Your Website

Adding the tracking code to your website requires two steps: creating your pixel and adding a snippet of code to your website.

First, log into Facebook Ads Manager for your business account.

Click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner and choose All Tools from the dropdown menu. Find the Events Manager section in the fly out menu and click Pixels

You can only have 1 pixel per FB account. If you have already created your pixel, it will be shown with a graph of activity.

If you haven’t set up a pixel before, there will be a button to create your pixel.

You have a number of options for how to add the pixel to your website. You can use a Tag Manager, add the code manually or email your code to your developer or tech team. Choose the method that makes the most sense for you.

Whichever method you choose, a snippet of code like the screenshot below will be added to your website.

This code triggers the loading of the tracking pixel on your website and sends the data back to Facebook for doing all sorts of clever data-driven things.

Creating a Custom Audience to Target All Website Visitors

Once your tracking code is installed and has gathered some data about your website visitors, you can set up your first audience for retargeting.

To create any custom audience – board or hyper focused – you follow the same series of steps.

You can create multiple audiences of different types of visitors (casual browsers, repeat buyers, cart abandoners, etc.) by selecting different combinations of options.

To create a custom retargeting audience, log in to Facebook Ads Manager and select Audiences from the hamburger menu.

This will show you a list of any custom audiences you may have already saved when creating previous Facebook ads.

To create a custom audience click on the “Create Audience” button just below the hamburger menu icon in the top left of the screen. Select “Custom Audience” from the dropdown.

This will bring up a popup where you can build your audience from all sorts of data sources. If you have an existing customer list, you can turn them into a Facebook audience. You can create an audience of users who engage with your Facebook page. You can create an audience from offline channels. There’s loads of options!

To create a custom audience based on your Pixel data, choose the “Website Traffic” option.

The next popup is where the magic happens. You can choose a series of conditions which determine who should be included or excluded from the audience.

The simplest custom audience is “all website visitors”. You’d use this option if you wanted to target anyone and everyone who’s previously visited your website. This is good for promoting content or a new product.

All you need to do is give the audience a name and then click the Create Audience button.

You’ll now be able to select this custom audience from your Saved Audiences when setting up your next Facebook Ads campaign.

Creating a Custom Audience to Target Cart Abandonment

To get more fine-grained with your retargeting campaigns, you need to determine the parameters that segment visitors into different groups.

Let’s say you wanted to send personalised social ads to visitors that had put something in their cart but not completed checkout. To determine which visitors fit this criteria we just need to know what pages of your site they would visit in the case of completing a purchase vs. just putting something in their cart. To do this, we can look at the URLs of the different stages of the process.

Let’s assume your website address is

You have products listed at

You have a shopping cart page at

Your checkout page has the URL

Finally, there’s a “thanks for buying” page at

A customer who completed a purchase would have visited at least one product page, the cart page, checkout page and thanks page.

A customer that put something in their cart but didn’t complete checkout would have visited product, cart and checkout pages but NOT the thanks page.

Now that we know the differentiating factor we can set up our custom audience as follows:

Follow the same steps as in the previous section until you reach the popup where you can configure the conditions for your audience.

Using our hypothetical URLs above, we can say that anyone who visited the thanks for buying page is a buyer. We can create a custom audience of buyers by including anyone who visited the URL

An alternative method here would be to use conversion tracking rather than including/excluding certain page URLs. This is something we’ll cover in a future post.

To create an audience of shoppers who didn’t complete the checkout process, you can combine conditions that include some people and exclude others.

Start by creating an audience that includes anyone who visited URLs that contain /product, /cart or /checkout.

Next, click the “Exclude” link just above the audience name text box. This will bring up another section to the audience creation popup where you can set the criteria for exclusion.

Add an exclude condition for anyone who visited the specific page with a URL This will create an audience of people who were viewing product, cart and checkout pages but NOT those that visited the thanks page. These are your cart abandoners.

You can now send them personalised marketing messages that encourage them to return to your website. Get creative! Just don’t be too creepy.

You can do some very clever things with Facebook’s advertising platform. And with all the changes they’re thinking about making to the News Feed, you’ll need to get familiar with how to get the biggest results for your ad spend.

Retargeting with the Facebook Pixel is a powerful way to reconnect with your visitors and encourage them back to your website or online store. It’s particularly powerful for eCommerce brands and can be a rich source of data and insights.

But it’s an area of digital marketing which calls for treading carefully to avoid scaring off potential customers. Use it wisely, measure the results and see if it works for your business.