Retargeting Ads blog post

The advertiser’s guide to social media ad retargeting

How often are you seeing current or potential customers coming to your site but then not taking any action? They simply poke around your pages a bit and then leave, without giving you a new conversion. How can you get that customer back to your page to actually go through with the action you’d ideally like them to take? Welcome to the world of retargeting.

I’m sure you’ve all seen retargeting ads in action before — ads on your Facebook feed showcasing the shoes you almost bought online the other day, or a sponsored post of one of the apartment buildings you looked at two weeks ago, which has now magically appeared on your Instagram feed.

You can use retargeting to draw customers back to your page or product. Social media has a big role to play in the process seeing as nearly 70 percent of all U.S. adults are active on at least one social network.

Let’s take a look at how retargeting works and which platforms offer retargeting options through their audience settings.

Related: How to create buyer personas for social advertising

What is retargeting?

”A form of targeting online advertising to reach people who have already visited a website or are already in a database as a lead or customer. Retargeting ads reach people based on their previous internet actions.”

How does retargeting work?

There are two main options when it comes to retargeting: pixel-based and list-based. Let’s take a look at both.



Pixel-based retargeting places an unobtrusive piece of JavaScript (also referred to as a cookie) into a user’s web browser to track the pages and products that this person views. The cookie then notifies the ad networks chosen by the advertiser to serve specific ads to that user based on what they browsed.

Ads run for up to 30 days from the last time a customer visited a website.


  • Timely
  • Behavior-based
  • Specific to a particular page on your site


  • Lower number of people in the campaign at any given time due to retargeting ads expiring once the user has been absent from the site for more than 30 days
  • Can be complicated or time-intensive to implement JavaScript on so many pages


List-based retargeting implements a list of emails you upload from potential or past customers. The platform you’ve chosen then identifies people using that same email address on their network and shows ads specifically to those people. You can create multiple lists based on different actions, and it never expires. Emails need to be manually removed from the list.

Cold emailing is one of the most effective ways to generate leads, but it’s also time consuming. The right cold email templates will save you time, get more replies, and generate more leads.They’ve established high-value prospect relationships and landed us exciting new deals, but more than anything else—they get opens, replies, and start conversations.


  • Allows for more customization since you choose who goes on what list based on actions customers have taken in the past


  • The possibility of users having different emails used across platforms
  • Less timely due to managing lists manually

Why should you care about retargeting?

Retargeting allows you to remind users of products or pages they viewed and encourages them to proceed further through the purchase funnel.

It also can be used to generate awareness by drawing user’s attention to products, features or announcements that are relevant to your business.

The advantage of a social media retargeting campaign is that people can see that the ad is from a real account. This encourages users to share, reply to and discuss your content on well-known platforms.

Related: How to use effective targeting to reach your social media audience

Social media platforms and retargeting

Social media platforms offer a variety of retargeting options. We’ve listed them below to help you design your paid social retargeting campaign.

Facebook & Instagram retargeting

Custom audiences. Choose one of three available options.

  • Contact list. Uses data from your CRM system or customer contact list to connect with these customers on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Website visitors. Inserts the Facebook pixel (similar to the JavaScript code mentioned earlier) to create a custom audience based on people who have visited your site. The website traffic data can be used to show people ads for things they’ve demonstrated interest in on your website.
  • App users. Uses the Facebook pixel to target people who use your app to inspire them to return to a game or view items they may be interested in purchasing.

Dynamic Ads. They can be used to promote products to people who have already expressed interest in your website or app. You just need to upload your product catalog to Facebook or Instagram and set up the campaign once. It will work continuously to find the right people for each product and remind them of items they viewed but didn’t buy.

Twitter retargeting

Tailored audiences. Choose between three audience types available.

  • Lists. They can be used to target relevant influencers based on emails of current customers or Twitter names.
  • Web. Target people that have visited your site using the Twitter website tag or Twitter’s Official Partner Program.
  • Mobile apps. Reach groups of people that have taken an action inside your mobile app, such as an install or sign up, using conversion tracking.

LinkedIn retargeting

Website retargeting. Allows you to segment website visitors based on pages they visit in your site. It tailors the ad content to the visitor you wish to reactivate. It also assists in helping to convert more prospects by guiding them along the buyer journey.

Snapchat retargeting

Snap engagement audiences. It can be used to target users that have previously interacted with any of your ads on the app.

YouTube retargeting

Video remarketing. Reaches viewers based on their past interactions with your videos, TrueView ads or YouTube channel.

Resource: Remarketing: Definition & How It Works

Pinterest retargeting

Engagement targeting. Reaches pinners who have interacted with your Pinterest campaigns in the past with personalized content. You can create an audience based on pin clicks, comments, saves, close ups or based on their interest in a specific pin.

Visitor targeting. Insert the Pinterest tag onto your webpage to retarget people based on the things they did such as browsing a specific category, adding an item to a shopping cart or signing up for your services. There are two options for visitor targeting:

  • Events: Uses event tags on your site and the data associated with the event.
  • URL: Tracks one or more pages a visitor views on your site.

Related: How AI can improve your paid social by 25%

Retargeting best practices

General insights

  • Align your messaging and creative with the list you developed and where your customers are in the sales funnel.
  • Put a frequency cap on your ads to limit the number of times a targeted user sees your ad. This approach helps you avoid the risk of having a potential customer feel overwhelmed.
  • Use a burn code (burn pixel) to untag users who actually followed through in making a purchase, ensuring you aren’t serving ads that can annoy people.
  • Rotate your creatives and perform A/B tests.

Facebook & Instagram

  • Include as much data as possible to segment your target in order to reach the right people.
  • Separate data into columns according to the data types accepted by Facebook.
  • Add correct product IDs to Facebook pixel and App Events.


  • Be sure your list matches at least 500 users. Otherwise, your audience will be too small to be used for campaign targeting.
  • Use the “expand reach by targeting similar users” option when you have a small audience or to drive higher campaign volume.
  • While additional targeting is available, layering highly granular geotargeting onto a tailored audience campaign will likely result in very low campaign volume.


  • Name your audiences clearly and uniquely.
  • Choose a URL rule that aligns with your retargeting campaign goals.
  • Check the “Verified” tag status of your designated audience segments after 24 hours.
  • Diversify your campaign to ensure scale, reach and relevance.


  • Distribute meaningful visual content to increase engagement.
  • Include lookalike audiences to expand your reach to Snapchatters similar to your target audience.


  • Refine your targeting with specific categories such as topics, interests, keywords, demographics, etc.
  • Use various ad formats when building your remarketing campaign.
  • Look to performance metrics to optimize your campaign.
  • Combine your remarketing lists to customize your targeting.


  • Use keywords to define your target audience to reach them while they browse and search on Pinterest.
  • Make sure your Pinterest tag is verified in the tag dashboard.
  • Choose keywords that are relevant and compliant with Pinterest policies.


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