Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Facebook is making yet another round of updates to its platform that will have an impact on homebuilders.
Unlike previous updates, however, this upcoming rollout will directly impact homebuilders and land developers as Facebook works to curtail potential housing discrimination on its advertising network. Coming as a direct result of a recent lawsuit filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance and American Civil Liberties Union, these changes are the realization of Facebook’s settlement in that suit.
Though Facebook’s advertising platform already prohibits real estate advertisers from leveraging targeting capabilities to discriminate against protected classes (i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), this move will strengthen restrictions already in place to prevent such activity. How is this going to affect your business’ presence on Facebook and Instagram? Read on.
There’s a lot to unpack in the Facebook Newsroom announcement regarding the updates that are to come to the platform, and it’s important to recognize that this isn’t an attack on homebuilders, developers or real estate agents (employers and various financial services businesses will be affected, too).
Cutting through all the noise that’s out there about this update, these are the three most important changes you need to know about:
Targeting by Age and Gender is Disallowed
This will likely be the most difficult change for homebuilders to overcome as these rules are rolled out in full.
Have a community that appeals to middle-aged buyers? Selling homes in an age-restricted 55+ community? Unfortunately, your targeting will be locked to the standard 18-65+ age range.
Zip Code and Geo-Targeting Rules Are Being Updated
In the aforementioned lawsuit, it was argued that targeting by zip code allows advertisers to exclude races and ethnicities by proxy. As a result, Facebook said that it will no longer allow real estate advertisers to use zip codes in its targeting.
The removal of zip codes isn’t the only geographic-targeting change that homebuilders will have to contend with. Previously, homebuilders on Facebook could target a geographic region by radius all the way down to the nearest one mile. Once implemented, these updated rules will limit radius targeting to 15 miles.
Lookalike Audiences Will Exclude Protected Targeting Rules
Lookalike audiences on Facebook are designed to help advertisers reach new users who closely resemble an existing set of users. For example, advertisers can create lookalike audiences to target users who Facebook deems are similar website visitors, existing customers, etc.
With the impending rule changes, homebuilders will still be able to leverage the power of machine learning to build lookalike audiences based on whatever customer lists they have access to; however, Facebook has stated that it will not take gender, age or any of the protected targeting elements into account when building these audiences going forward.
How This Will Impact Your Campaigns
Facebook has indicated that the enforcement of these new rules will happen gradually — with the final rollout occurring sometime over the course of Q4 2019 — so your current campaigns for the spring market are unaffected. But when these changes are fully implemented, it will be essential to understanding the impact they have on your ability to reach the right users on Facebook and Instagram.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that by losing the ability to target by age and specific geographic targets, you lose your best ally in digital marketing: relevance.
If you’re like most homebuilders, you know that different communities are going to appeal to different people. But, as a result of these changes, you’re going to have to accept that you simply won’t be able to be specific about who your ads are reaching anymore. With that comes lower website traffic quality and the potential for budget inefficiency.
What You Can (and Should) Do About It
The most important thing to understand about your next steps is that there will be no one best practice for pivoting around these rule changes. Anyone who tells you differently fundamentally misunderstands the importance of age and geographic targeting in real estate advertising.
The best path forward will be paved by testing and analysis. But with that said, there are some key ways you can maximize your Facebook placements going forward:
Develop Clear, Succinct Ad Content
Because you’re losing the ability to target ads based on age, you’ll want to focus on being especially clear about product, price and location.
Don’t make users guess about whether or not they can afford your home or if it’s something they might be interested in; otherwise, you risk wasting impressions or paying for extra clicks that don’t get you any closer to your goals.
Leverage Remarketing Audiences
Although you won’t want to abandon inbound marketing opportunities on Facebook altogether, this shift might be a good reason for your to bolster (or start) your remarketing efforts on Facebook.
We know the new home shopping process is a lengthy one, so it’s important to add as many brand touchpoints as possible in a potential buyer’s journey. Using Facebook’s powerful set of tools to reach and re-engage past website visitors is a cost-effective way to mitigate the loss of relevance caused by these targeting changes.
Use Conversion Campaigns (Cautiously)
We’ve seen other advertisers recommend using Facebook’s “conversion” campaign objective to generate more leads and actions on your website going forward. These campaign types utilize specific website events as the key performance indicator and rely on user signals to help Facebook prioritize who is going to see what ads.
This tactic is fine in principle, but just like any other form of marketing, the use of conversion campaigns makes open communication between your sales and marketing team absolutely essential. That’s because conversion campaigns are designed to get you as many “conversions” on your site at the lowest possible cost. Facebook isn’t inclined to qualify your leads before they visit your site, so you’ll want to ensure the leads you’re generating for your sales team via these ads are actually valuable to your business.
In any case, you’ll want to A/B test your campaign types — from traditional inbound campaigns to engagement ads and everything in between — to determine what tactic is giving you the most bang for your buck.
Want to learn more about why housing ads on Facebook are changing? Check out this great breakdown from Reuters. And if you need help navigating the latest round of social media shakeups, get in touch with us today.