Last week, Facebook changed its ad policies to comply with anti-discrimination laws, and the move has broad implications for all of us in consumer finance and housing.
But that’s just one of three important strategy shifts the social media giant has made lately, and all are likely to impact those in the housing world.
Here’s what you need to know, and how you can adjust your processes to benefit:
1. Facebook’s latest ad policy changes make branding more important than lead gen.
Facebook’s great strength is letting marketers be ultra-precise when targeting customers, but it recently changed its policy to avoid violations against anti-discrimination laws in housing, lending and employment.
In effect, the limited targeting abilities makes branding more important than demand generation within the Facebook feed.
Branding is top-of-the-funnel visibility and awareness that allows you to first identify potential customers and engage. Demand gen is deeper funnel activity where you refine targeting and convert these folks to customers.
What do the industry’s top marketers and compliance pros think so far?
Joe Welu is the founder and CEO of Total Expert, a fintech company that powers marketing and customer engagement for banks and lenders representing over 10% of the U.S. mortgage industry’s $1.6 trillion in annual volume. He stressed important branding nuances on Facebook.
“Lender and Realtor Facebook activity today is not only about generating a lead, it's about building brand awareness and trust with customers so you can engage them when the context is right,” Welu said.
“People don’t really go on Facebook to find an agent or a lender, but they’re happy to jump into conversations an agent or lender might be having about a listing,” Welu continued. “It’s the digital version of hanging out at an open house.”
You can still post and advertise specific properties on Facebook to create these organic open house-like discussions, according to Mitch Kider, one of the industry’s top legal and compliance attorneys and founder of Weiner Brodsky Kider PC.
“There's no reason why you can't advertise property specific,” said Kider. “You just can't restrict protected groups from accessing property specific information, and you can't boost those posts to selected groups because it's illegal.”
Welu says it’s business as usual for lenders and Realtors who post and discuss listings, and it’s also Social Media 101 for salespeople and marketing teams who do this organically –because they build brand for free by putting in the time.
“But if you want to spend money to build brand on Facebook,” said Welu, “think education-centric content deployed with your ideal customer in mind in addition to property listings.”
Ads along the lines of “Free report on how to win in 2019 buyer’s market” provide critical education to both buyers and sellers, build trust by demonstrating your industry expertise, and build brand while also directing customers to your own platforms where you can collect email addresses and begin demand gen.
2. Facebook is about to start competing with Zillow.
This critical note was buried in last week’s Facebook announcement:
“We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the U.S. targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.”
I already predicted how a portal like this may lead to a superhero level war between Facebook and Zillow, and here’s what Kider had to say about this theory.
“The Fair Housing Act doesn't let you discriminate in any aspect of housing,” said Kider. “So if you open a separate portal, it's a good way to satisfy a law, because anyone who’s a Facebook member can go see it.”
It’s a brilliant move by Facebook because it satisfies the law, drastically increases exposure of estate advertising for Facebook’s paying customers, and Facebook can probably raise prices of those ads over time.
So you’ll want to be early on this one!
I also predicted that when Facebook users are experiencing peak FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) while viewing pictures of their friends’ shiny new homes, they’ll soon likely see button that say something like “Now go search for your new home,” which takes them to this new portal.
If Facebook lets consumers search for homes their own way, Kider said this would be compliant because the consumer is in control of the search.
3. All consumer finance will soon be compliant on Facebook.
If the Facebook feed is the best place to build brand, Facebook Messenger will soon be the best place to convert and close your customers.
Earlier this month, another Facebook announcement detailed a complete re-think of messaging within Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
In short, they plan to fully encrypt all messages so not even Facebook can read them.
If all messaging activity of 1.52 billion daily active Facebook users is completely private, I predict consumer finance and real estate companies will eventually deem it compliant to work with customers directly within Facebook’s messaging platforms.
It’s probably safe to guess Facebook will take a cut for providing this private messaging platform, but I predict this will become a standard line item in your marketing tech stack budgets.
Why? Because if you can integrate your existing software tools to engage in real-time directly on Facebook (or Instagram or WhatsApp), your branding activities on these platforms won’t suffer conversion fallout when trying to pull people over to your own sites.
Aru Anavekar is the founder and CEO Botsplash, which makes software to engage customers in this real-time messaging world. She believes the whole funnel can be run directly in Facebook.
“Facebook ads with external calls to action are going to covert poorly,” said Anavekar. “Or at least convert less well than ads that move customers to the next step directly in Facebook. Engaging on Messenger is the key to this.”
And now, Facebook is redoing Messenger to give consumer finance and real estate companies the security they need to eventually allow this.
It’ll make your Facebook brand spend more valuable, and most important, it’ll make your demand gen ROI higher.
If you remember nothing else about your future Facebook strategy, remember this:
Branding in feeds, demand gen in messenger.
Facebook did $56 billion in 2018 revenue, has 1.52 billion daily active customers, and makes no small plans.
Don’t ignore these new plans, and I’ll watch it closely for the HousingWire community.
Hit me with questions @thebasispoint.