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TikTok Custom Audience: Targeting Your Ads to the Right Users

Seeing your TikTok ads not resonate with your target audience can be frustrating, resulting in low conversion rates and ROI. But what if there was a way to reach a highly targeted audience of TikTok users more likely to be interested in your product or service? This is where TikTok custom audiences come in. So, let’s dive deeper into what TikTok custom audiences are, how they work, and how you can use them to supercharge your TikTok advertising strategy.

What is TikTok Custom Audience?

TikTok Custom Audience is a targeting option on the TikTok advertising platform that allows advertisers to access groups of customers who used to interact with their business. The customers can be:  

  • Those who were engaged with the audience’s TikTok account in the past.
  • Those who have visited or taken specific actions on your website, such as purchasing or filling out a form.

An ad account can have up to 400 custom audiences at one time. However, each must contain at least 1,000 customers to be used in an ad group. 

Benefits of TikTok Custom Audience

For TikTok advertisers, creating Custom Audiences is very helpful with: 

  • Remarketing to existing customer groups to encourage them to take the last action – buying to complete the order.
  • Access to existing customers to generate higher conversion rates by inviting old customers back to your store, sending special offers to your customers, etc.
  • Boosting in-app following and engagement: Custom Audience will help you target the right audience to increase customer engagement, optimize your ad budget, and increase your following on your account.

Extending custom file: Custom Audience is a mandatory condition for creating a Lookalike Audience, which helps TikTok advertisers significantly widen their audience.

How to set up a Custom Audience

To target Custom Audiences in an ad group, a minimum audience size of 1,000 is required. Follow these steps to make a Custom Audience:

Step 1:  Open up the new section of Audience Targeting

Click on the Create New button in the Include segment.

Click Create New to make TikTok audience targeting

Step 2: Create the suitable Custom Audience

First, click on Create Audience and choose Custom Audience.

Choose the Custom Audience

After that, you will see six ways to create a Custom Audience: Customer file, Engagement, App activity, Website traffic, Lead generation, and Business account audience.

All these six above have similar setup steps, in turn as follows:

  1. Select the type of engagement, Ad group ID, and time period under the Include.
  2. Click the Add more rules icon and choose Broaden Audience or Narrow Audience. 
  3. Click Exclude People and enter the time period, engagement, and Ad group ID to exclude certain users from being added to your Engagement list. However, you can skip this step if you want to include everyone. 
  4. Name the audience. 
  5. Toggle Auto-Refresh/Reach and Frequency
  6. Click Confirm to form your audience.

Your custom audience will be saved in the “Audiences” tab, which you can use to create targeted ads in your campaigns. Remember to keep your audience up to date and refresh it periodically to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness.

6 ways to create a Custom Audience

1. Customer File 

You can upload your Customer File to TikTok Ads Manager to create a Custom Audience. TikTok allows customers to upload files using Mobile Ad Identifier (MAID) and accepts both Apple Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and Google Advertising ID. 

Customer files belongs to TikTok ads audience targeting


  • Your upload needs to be in .txt or .csv format and not larger than 1 GB.
  • Within the account, you can have up to 400 custom audiences at once.

2. Engagement

Engagement audiences enable advertisers to retarget users who have previously interacted with a brand’s ad content. That includes all types of Video ads on TikTok and ad solutions for instant experiences (Instant Page ads and App Profile Page ads).

Engagenment on TikTok audience targeting


  • The Website Traffic Audience is different from Engagement Audience. The engagement audience comprises people who have taken action on TikTok Ads Manager’s family of apps, including TikTok, BuzzVideo, and Babe. Website Traffic Audience is the audience that has taken action on your landing page and has been tracked by our pixel.
  • Pangle placement only supports audiences derived from “clicks” and “impressions.” Other actions are not supported, such as “video views.”
  • Within the account, one advertiser can have up to 400 custom audiences.

3. App activity

This allows you to create an audience of app users who have completed specific events. You can target your ads to people who have previously used your app or who you want to re-engage with. Once set up, you can create audiences by id/name app from attributed and non-attributed events.

App Activity


  • Condition of using this feature:
    • Before setting up the event, configure app events and access your third-party tracking platform to send back event data to TikTok.
    • Please ensure that the in-app events option in your third-party tracking platform is enabled for the App Activity audience to function correctly. Unless you configure it for other events, the Install event will be posted back by default once enabled.
  • An advertiser can have up to 400 custom audiences at one time within the account.

4. Website Traffic

Website Traffic is an option that allows you to create a group of users who have visited your website or taken a specific action on it. 


  • Prerequisite for using this feature: You need to set up TikTok Pixel and determine the event to track.
  • Pangle placement only supports audiences generated from Attributed Events.
  • Within the account, one advertiser can have up to 400 custom audiences.
  • Advanced Matching can be enabled to expand targeting even further; this can be done with the TikTok Pixel. 

5. Lead generation

Lead generation allows you to create an audience of users who engage with your Lead Ads. For instance, you can retarget users who viewed the form page of your Lead Ads without submitting it to enhance campaign efficiency.

A Lead Generation Audience, in particular, refers to users who have interacted with your Lead Ads by viewing or submitting the form.


  • Within the account, one advertiser can have up to 400 custom audiences.
  • Lead Generation only supports TikTok placement.

6. Business account audience

How does Business account audience look like on TikTok ads audience targeting?

A new Custom Audience type that allows you to retarget audiences using your own TikTok Business Account only if your organic profile has completed one of the following events:

  • Follow
  • Visit Profile
  • Video View (2s, 6s, 100% view)
  • Video Engagement (React/Share/Comment)

Before creating a Business account audience, you must first link your TikTok For Business Account. When your Business Account is successfully connected and ready to create audiences, it’ll be seen under Through the following account. At this step, you should:

  • Choose the following rules and settings for your Business Account audience: 
    • People who’ve carried out the following actions
    • Add more rules (optional)
    • Exclude People (optional)
    • Audience Name
  • Click Confirm to complete your Business Account audience.

Note: Audience Auto-Refresh is turned on by default and cannot be disabled. You can only create an audience with the linked Business Account, which cannot be changed. Business Audience cannot be used in conjunction with another TikTok Ads account.

Best practices to use TikTok Custom Audience

TikTok custom audience is a powerful tool for advertisers to reach a highly relevant audience and achieve their advertising goals. To use this tool effectively, it’s important to follow some best practices. Here are some tips to help you make the most of TikTok custom audience:

  • Create specific custom audiences based on your advertising goals and target them with relevant ads. For example, you can create a custom audience of users who have abandoned their cart on your website and retarget them with a discount offer to encourage them to complete their purchase.
  • Use a lookback window that makes sense for your advertising goals. If you want to target users who have recently visited your website, use a shorter lookback window of 7 to 14 days. If you want to target users who have already installed your app, use a longer lookback window of up to 180 days.
  • Segment your custom audience based on user behavior or attributes to show them more relevant ads. For instance, you can create a custom audience of users who have watched 50% or more of your video ads and retarget them with a follow-up ad that provides more information about your product or service.
  • Use creative and engaging ad formats, such as video or carousel ads, to capture the attention of your custom audience and showcase your brand in the best light possible.

Final word

By implementing these best practices, you can create custom audiences that are highly targeted, leading to better ad performance and improved ROI for your advertising campaigns on TikTok. While custom audience allows you to target users who have previously interacted with your brand, TikTok lookalike audience enables you to reach new users similar to your existing customer base. So, why not use both for the diversity of your ad campaign? Check out this article to learn more about TikTok Lookalike audience!

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Hanh Le Nguyen
Hanh Le Nguyen
Advertising & Marketing Specialist


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