Big news from Facebooklandia: In addition to targeting Facebook ads by geography and interest, nonprofits can now upload lists of email addresses and target Facebook ads to specific individuals.

This means that, as marketers, we can design ads for specific segments of our list, or even for a single individual, and deliver it straight to her eyes on Facebook. It’s called customized audience ads, and it’s a game changer.

Best part? It’s practically free (kind of).

Besides the usual cost-per-click of running an ad, there’s no additional cost or fee for uploading your email file to create a targeted audience. So running a highly targeted campaign will have the same pricing as any old run-of-the-mill Facebook ad.

Here are some thoughts about how nonprofits might benefit:

Increase Ticket Sales

  • Your annual Run/Walk/Ride event is coming up and you are looking to increase early-bird signups. You’ve seen good results from previous participants, but lower than usual response among highly-engaged prospects. When you send your early-bird reminder email, you enter this segmented list of highly-engaged prospects into Facebook’s customized audience as well. They see targeted ads prominently featuring a ‘slashed-price discount’ for the 3 days surrounding the email launch, and you see higher participation and revenue.

Boost Email Fundraising

  • You have seen a steady drop in donation page conversion rates over the past year. While email performance is still on par, you have noticed that (compared to last year) a smaller percentage of supporters are actually making a donation out of those who land on the page. As a test, you split this group of “clicked-but-didn’t-donate” supporters in half and run a week’s worth of Facebook ads leading up to the deadline of their next campaign to see whether seeing additional promotions can push enough of these hot prospects over the hump to justify the cost.

Cheap Targeting

  • You have seen significant campaign gains by showing online display ads to your Direct Mail file. You are considering running a similar test for your online file, but the cost for such a test exceeds the remaining marketing budget for the year. Instead, you turn to Facebook’s customized audience tool to run the same creative used on the direct mail file through Facebook for a small, random portion of the online list concurrently with their next online campaign, at a fraction of the cost.

Grow Your Facebook Presence

  • Everybody wants more friends. You have tried sponsored posts, as well as simply emailing the file, and seen good results from both – but there’s still room for growth. Using customized audience ads, you run ads targeting the email file that hasn’t yet ‘liked’ your organization on Facebook with a campaign featuring blatantly manipulative cute photos of baby animals.

Reader Aaron Teskey pointed out another use we didn’t mention: using your email file as a suppression group in list-building ads. This way, you don’t pay to show the ads to people that are already on your list. (Thanks Aaron!)

This is honestly just the tip of the iceberg. Nonprofits could serve up ads to mid-level and major donors, individual members of the media who happen to be on your email list, Hill staffers… The possibilities are endless, if bordering on creepy.

Customized audiences ads takes the control and targeting that we rely on for email marketing and extends them to Facebook ads. How will you use it?

P.S. Here’s how you actually get it to work!

To use customized audience ads, you must first have a .csv file of the email addresses you want to target.

You’ll also need access to Facebook’s Power Editor (here’s how to get it). Once in the Power Editor, click the ‘Custom Audience’ button then select ‘Create Audience’ to upload your .csv file. After a short processing period, your customized audience will be available as a targeting tool on any of your Facebook ads.

Custom Audience tab in Facebook's Power Editor