Apr 17, 2021
For Creatives

Advertising for Creatives Part 2: Retargeting and Nurturing an Audience

Dan Servantes

In Part 1: Building Awareness, we learned how to use advertising to reach an audience that has never heard of you, but is predisposed to care about your art/products/services/brand. For those with even a small budget, this can be the quickest way to get top of funnel awareness and test different content formats and audience targeting variants.

With some testing and iteration, you will soon find an audience that displays interest in what you are promoting and the content format that connects with them. This interest will be indicated by active engagement metrics like shares, comments, high video view percentage, and click-throughs (if there is a link in your ad).

However, it takes more than one impression (someone seeing your ad one time) for that person to become a fan. So, our second step after reaching a new audience is to show ads specifically to people who engaged with the first ad. This is called retargeting: serving ads to an audience based on their previous activity with your brand.

In this article, we’ll go over how to retarget audiences on Instagram and what type of content to use when retargeting.

How to Retarget Audiences

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on retargeting audiences on Instagram. Generally, Instagram is the most utilized advertising platform for emerging creatives. In a future article, we’ll dive into retargeting on YouTube, which has a much wider set of retargeting options.

Retargeting on Instagram is done through Facebook’s Ads Manager (Facebook owns Instagram). When creating your ad set, rather than choosing interests for targeting, go to “Create New” and select “Custom Audiences”.

Select Create New > Custom Audience at the Ad Set Level

Now, you can choose which behaviors to use as the basis of your retargeting.

Custom Audience Sources

Let’s look at two options that make the most sense for an emerging creative and one that will benefit more established creators.

Video View Retargeting

If the goal of your awareness level ad set was to get as many video views as possible and NOT to get click-throughs on a link, then you should retarget people that watched your video for a specific length of time.

Why not do this if your previous ad incorporated clicking on a link? Because the most interested viewers of that ad will likely click through the link before they watch the whole video. Whereas if the goal of the first ad was just to get people to watch a video, you can safely assume that the people that watched a high percentage of the video are the most interested viewers.

After selecting “Video” under Facebook Sources on the “Choose a Custom Audience Source” window, you are presented with options for how to build this audience.

Video engagement audience window
Video engagement audience options

The engagement metric that you select depends on your video and how many views it already has. The view count on Facebook and Instagram is based on 3-seconds of viewing. That is too low of a threshold to assume the viewer has interest in your content. Instead, I use the following decision matrix to choose the appropriate metric:

  • If the video is under 30 seconds long: Choose “People who either completed or viewed at least 15 seconds of your video (ThruPlay)”.
  • If the video is 30-60 seconds long: Choose “People who have watched at 75% of your video”. 
  • If the video is over 60 seconds long: Choose “People who have watched at 50% of your video”.
  • If the video is over 30 seconds AND has over 6,000 views at 95%: Choose “People who have watched at 95% of your video”. 

Generally, you don’t want to advertise to an audience of less than 6,000 people. The more people in your targeting, the less expensive it is to reach them. This is why we expand our targeting beyond people that have watched 95% of a video. However, if your video has a high amount of views, especially views at 95%, then targeting the viewers that completed the video will put your new ad set in front of a highly relevant audience that is now through the awareness stage of the funnel.

After choosing which viewership metric you want to use, you are given the option for selecting which videos are used to build the audience – meaning, only viewers of those videos that meet the view length criteria will be included.

You then have to select a retention length (e.g. How many days after someone watched your video should they be eligible to be included in your retargeting?). The more recently someone watched your video, the better. Of course, if the videos that you’re using for retargeting were published a week ago, it doesn’t matter if you select 365 days for retention because the oldest view would only be 7 days ago. 

A good reason to use a long retention length (180-365 days) is if you want to re-engage people that had previously viewed your videos. Keep this in mind when developing creative. There’s a big difference in messaging between connecting with someone that viewed a video last week compared to over 6 months ago.

Instagram Engagement Retargeting

Another viable option for a retargeting audience is building the audience using people who have engaged with your Instagram page.

Choose “Instagram account” from the Custom Audience Source page and you are shown the following window. Make sure the appropriate Instagram account is selected as “Source”.

Instagram Custom Audience window

You can then choose what “Events” or actions people have to have taken to be included in the retargeting audience.

Instagram Custom Audience options

Similar to the video view retargeting ads, the Event that you choose depends on the amount of people who have engaged with your page and posts. “Everyone who engaged with your professional account” is casting the widest possible net and will give you the largest possible retargeting audience. That said, there are specific reasons to use the other options if enough of your audience is taking these actions:

  • Anyone who visited your professional account’s profile: If your previous ad set utilized story ads, people will not have had the ability to like or comment on the ads. However, if they were interested in what you were promoting, they may have gone to your profile to learn more about you. Also, if a large account tagged you in a post, you’ll experience a spike in people checking out your profile to see who you are. This retargeting option allows you to reach those people a second time, even people did not choose to follow you.
  • People who engaged with any post or ad: Use this to specifically target people that found your post or ad relevant enough to like, comment, save, share, or click through.
  • People who sent a message to your professional account: Most Instagram DMs from people you don’t know likely come as replies to stories. Instagram ranks this type of engagement higher than typical post commenting and liking. If you are receiving DMs from a lot of people, this could be a good targeting option to reach people that really care about your art.
  • People who saved any post or ad: This option is best for people that post their art on Instagram - whether that’s performance videos, digital drawings, comedy videos, etc. These types of posts can get a high amount of saves (relative to day in the life-type posts). 

Website Visitor Retargeting

This final retargeting option is for more established artists that either have a high amount of click throughs on their ads or are already receiving a large amount of traffic to their website. It is also a targeting method that is controversial as of late. 

Website visitors are tagged when you install a Facebook pixel on your website. This is a piece of code that tracks who visits your website and what actions they take on the site. The data is anonymized (i.e. I don’t know the names of the people who visit the Entrepreneurship & Art website), but the pixel allows advertisers to target people who have gone to the website.

The recent controversy is around Apple making this opt-in tracking by default in their Safari web browser. This means that rather than automatically tagging everyone who visits your website, Facebook will only be able to track people who consent to being tracked. This has ignited a PR war between the two companies. Apple, arguing on behalf of their users’ privacy (which is one of Apple’s competitive advantages). And Facebook, arguing on behalf of small businesses that have built their businesses on the back of hyper-targeted advertising. I’ll talk about this in more depth on a future podcast episode. Click here to subscribe!

Going back to utilization of this retargeting method, there are several ways to retarget people based on how they interacted with your website.

Website Custom Audience window
  • All Website Visitors: Anyone that has gone to your website, regardless of what page or how long they spent on the site. You may have multiple sites (a main website, an ecommerce store, or separate sites for different projects). This option targets people who have gone to any site with your pixel on it.
  • People who visited specific web pages: This could be used for only retargeting people who visited your ecommerce store or only visited the tour section of a website. By focusing on specific pages, you can serve more relevant ads. E.g. Advertise a new tour announcement to people who have viewed your tour page in the past.
  • Visitors by time spent: I would be hesitant to use this one. Many artist pages are designed to redirect traffic to different platforms that host the artist’s content (Spotify, YouTube, etc.). This means that people won’t (and shouldn’t) spend a lot of time on the website. However, if you host a blog or anything similar on your website that lends itself to long view durations, this could be a good idea.
  • Event retargeting: You can also set up custom events based on what types of behavior you want to track on your site. This could include “Add to Cart” for ecommerce sites, “Newsletter Sign Up”, or you could use events to group together specific types of pages. This gets more complex than I’ll get in this article, but it is achievable by everyone with a bit of research. Here’s a good place to start: Create a Custom Audience From Website Events


When designing creative for your retargeting ads, consider what the audience that you’re retargeting already knows about you and what your objective is. 

Different video view activity, engagement, and website engagement can be indicative of different levels of fandom. Some people may still be discovering you, and your best course of action is to serve them more interesting content to turn them into fans. Other people may be perusing your ecommerce store, and they would be more likely to be interested in purchasing merch. This context is everything. And if you aim too high and see poor results – e.g. a low click through rate on sending people to your store – dial back your objective and focus on serving people more valuable content.

To nurture a new audience and turn them into fans, you must focus on providing them some form of value through your content. I call this the Three E’s of Content Marketing: Entertaining, Educational, and Emotional. You can read more about this here, but the concept is that any piece of content must have one of those three characteristics. If you can include multiple E’s in the content, then that piece of content will be even more powerful. 

My favorite example of combining multiple E’s into one piece of content is the “Make It Count” video that Casey Neistat produced for Nike:

It is entertaining and emotional, and it plays to Nike’s purpose more than the specific product (the featured product is only shown for the first 8 seconds). This is a crucial concept to consider, and George Howard’s Purpose, Not Product article is required reading on the topic.

Final Thoughts

Providing value cannot be overstated in the early relationship with a potential fan. If you do not put in the leg work to nurture the relationship by providing entertainment, educational, or emotional value, it will take much longer to build a loyal fan base. Once these fans have received and recognized this value from you, they will reciprocate either financially by purchasing tickets and merch or promotionally by telling their friends about your work and fast tracking them to super fandom. 

Retargeting is simply a tool to identify the people that have potential to become loyal fans and put the appropriate value-adding content in front of them. It is important that you use these tools and strategies to build the brand and community that is authentic to you and your art. It can be appealing to try to over-optimize and make your marketing and content fit what you think the largest amount of people want to see. Don’t fall for this. You will commoditize yourself and lose what makes your art special.

In upcoming articles, I’ll go deeper into different advertising tools than can be used to reach more of your Total Addressable Market and move into advertising techniques for established creatives and brands that are focused on driving revenue rather than awareness.

Photo is a composite of photos by George Pagan III and Christopher Burns on Unsplash

Dan Servantes

Dan Servantes is a marketing consultant at GHStrategic and author of the Remote Musician’s Handbook. You can follow him on Twitter (@DRServantes), on Medium, or via Entrepreneurship & Art.