Are estate agents wise to the real Facebook opportunity?

2You don’t have to just target people who ‘Like’ your Page.

In fact, you’d be crazy to rely just on page followers, even if you’ve got 5,000 fans. You can target people who are not your fans (i.e. not yet “Liked” your page) on Facebook, and reach many more home owners too.

Most estate agents who use Facebook will use it ‘organically’ like most of the rest of the world, except those who know better. By ‘organic’, I mean post stories to your ‘Page Timeline’ and let Facebook distribute it to your Fans who have ‘Liked’ your page.

This is to be encouraged – indeed, it’s essential – but to rely on this method alone for Facebook marketing is like pushing water uphill. In this post I explain why and offer an alternative method.

So how can an estate agent leverage Facebook’s reach?

Unless you’ve got some really remarkable, compelling content, Facebook will only distribute your posts to about 2 to 5% of your Fans. Yes, you read that right! And whilst property posts are fortunately very engaging, they are not likely to go ‘viral’. Facebook explains here why this reach is declining.

organic reach

Why is Facebook restricting organic distribution?

With Facebook usage in the UK at around 36 million and worldwide 1.4bn+, there is an enormous amount of content winging its way into everyone’s Facebook news feeds. So Facebook rations how many posts each person gets in any given day, to around 300 posts. That’s made up from Pages they like, their friends’ posts, notifications, and sponsored posts. If left unrestricted, everyone would get – on average – about 1,500 posts in their news feeds and it would be unmanageable. In the way that some people find Twitter.

So back in the stone age of early 2014, about 16% of your page Fans would see a Post. Then in the middle ages of Autumn last year it reduced it to about 10% and in early 2015, brands were reporting that 2 to 5% of their followers were seeing their ‘organic’ content.

An alternative (with ‘go-faster stripes’)

Facebook Advertising.

This is having a similar impact to the advent of TV in the 1950s. If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest in the world!  Yet we can be highly selective about reaching niche audiences; and creative in how we engage with them. As an estate agent, you want to maximise awareness so why restrict your audience to only those that happen to ‘Like’ your page (and, as explained above, only a small fraction of them at that!). People are now more reticent about ‘Liking’ pages so building a fan base organically, whilst important, can be quite slow.

This is why Facebook constantly invites Page owners to ‘Boost’ their post. This appears as a button every time you post onto your Page, and opens up an advertising control panel.

Boost PostBut be careful of merely ‘boosting’ your post.

‘Boost Post’ is a crude mechanism and will most likely end in tears. Whilst it now has more functionality, some crucial targeting features are absent. Advertising on Facebook needs to be strategic and requires playing a ‘long game’ but the rewards can be massive.  It’s worth using the more sophisticated advertising tools, such as Power Editor, to hone who sees your content and to forensically review the results.

Like a leaflet drop, you can target 1000s of home owners within 2 km of an address to shout about a new sale; or reach prospective sellers within a 10 mile catchment.

Unlike a leaflet drop, you can measure who reads each Facebook ad, how many interactions it has, shares, clicks on links, etc; and even distribute them with an implicit social endorsement from their named friends. Property posts get great engagement on Facebook.

With advertising tools you can target

  • By location – up to 1 km radius from an address
  • By interests
  • Your fans’ friends
  • All your fans
  • People who have visited your website pages
  • By demographics such as age, gender, education, marital status
  • Parents of pre teens, teenagers, adults children
  • Household demographics

…and many, many more.  This will be the subject another post.  The opportunities are endless!

The cynical may say Facebook is simply trying to force business pages into paying for distribution. But to my mind Facebook is (rightly) protecting the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’: it’s essential for Facebook to avoid overloading users or they will drift away from Facebook and jeopardise the $200 billion valuation of the world’s biggest social network. And since it offers one of the most targeted platforms for advertising, why shouldn’t they charge for it if it delivers value? You wouldn’t expect Country Life to give its ads away for free!

8 tips for advertising properties on Facebook?

As mentioned, Facebook will invite you to ‘boost’ a post. But we recommend taking a longer term, more strategic approach to your advertising.

  1. Define what you specifically want to achieve. If you’re not sure how it can help you, then get professional advice.
  2. Ensure you measure what’s important and not get distracted by irrelevant stats. This isn’t always obvious.
  3. Commit a realistic budget. Take the medium seriously.
  4. Allow sufficient time for your campaigns to take root and don’t judge too early.  All marketing is experimental by nature and Facebook is no different.
  5. Review what’s working and what’s not. Embrace failure – it’s a great learning tool, so long as you adjust and optimise as you go.
  6. Train a member of staff to manage the campaigns but don’t give it to the office junior – it’s too valuable! (But do you have time? Delegate it to a specialist marketing agency.)
  7. Assign resources (i.e. time!) each week to update campaigns, monitor the ads’ results, produce reports and plan the next campaigns.
  8. Review all campaigns monthly.

If this seems all quite daunting and time consuming and you worry it will distract from your day job of negotiating and selling properties, then you can contract the management to an agency like Tactical Results which specialises in property advertising on Facebook.  But don’t confuse ‘social media management’ with ‘social advertising’: advertising requires quite separate skills to social media management.

More information on Tactical Results Facebook Advertising for Estate Agents:

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