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What Realtors should know about Facebook and real estate search

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While some real estate columnists fear Facebook, real estate professionals on the ground can feel the tangible shift of consumers congregating online in various forums, blogs, Twitter and other social networks to a mass flocking to Facebook.

This week, eMarketer reports that of American adults with internet access, 42% use Facebook Facebook claims that it has 250 million daily visitors and 500 million account holders with eMarketer projecting 132.5 million being in America.

In contrast, less than ten percent of America is on Twitter and less than 25% of those make up for nearly 90% of all activity.

Facebook is not fueled by “power users” in the way Twitter is and finding “influencers” is less relevant than finding specific, targeted consumers which is possible not only through passive marketing such as professional Facebook pages and activity of a Realtor, but through direct marketing via Facebook ads which can narrow the pool of consumers from that 500 million down to 500 or even 50 funneled consumers. In the past, Realtors would pay thousands upon thousands to reach the precise buyers for their specific buyer, and Facebook ads allow agents to pay much less to reach consumers based on their exact profile information.

Facebook is big, so what?

Unlike other networks where size means more volume, Facebook ads allow agents to break through the noise by targeting specific consumers and allows you to break through the noise by being allowed into consumers’ networks via Pages or Groups as they get to opt in or opt out.

Last fall, Facebook and Microsoft partnered, and we’re starting to see the results of this major partnership roll in. This week, Microsoft search site, Bing.com announced they will now show you who of your Facebook friends have “liked” any of the links displayed in search results. Given that the “like” button is on 2.5 million websites already, the social graph is growing at an unprecedented rate and make for richer search results.

Facebook likes as a part of Bing search results reaffirms our assertion that consumers desire to validate their choices by their social graph whether they’re looking for a Realtor, a specific property, a contractor, a lender, a title company, a neighborhood, a restaurant, a church, a doctor, or anything.

We don’t recommend shying away from Facebook, rather reading the terms of service and knowing what you can and cannot do (as with any website or social network) and always encourage others to do the same. We encourage real estate professionals to know how to communicate on their clients’ terms, back up their Facebook activity, and employ an actual strategy other than posting about kitty cats.

Real estate professionals can tap the insanely amazing power of Facebook through Facebook ads, Facebook pages and groups and while others are scared away by technicalities, others are expanding their business in an environment where others are closing up shop. The size of Facebook and “likes” showing up in search are huge- don’t pass it up.

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Jeff Belonger

    February 26, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Lani… I find all of this very interesting. I think the biggest point is that you need to be using facebook as part of your marketing strategies. And you hit the nail on the head, that facebook ads are an excellent way to use your money wisely and to define your audience. The one problem about Bing and the searches is that Google is used by most. Not sure what you find in your analytics, but Google for me is used much more than Bing or the other search engines by like 75% of the time. But again. using the facebook ads is huge and can give you great results. thanks

    • Lani Rosales

      February 26, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Google is by far the biggest and I don’t foresee that changing, but Bing is growing quickly and they tend to mimick each others’ actions, so it stands to reason that within the year, Google will implement FB likes into their search algorithm as well. 🙂

  2. Matthew Hardy

    February 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Does AgentGenius purchase ads on Facebook? Can you give some examples of how much agents are spending on Facebook ad purchases and what kind of return they’re getting? Thanks!

  3. BawldGuy

    February 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    OK, you continue to aggravate. 🙂 If it was almost anyone but you, my eyes would already be halfway to full roll. I trust your judgment on this stuff, cuz you’ve never given me a wrong turn. So I have two questions.

    1. Can anyone out there point to bank deposits as a DIRECT consequence of their FB efforts?

    2. “Real estate professionals can tap the insanely amazing power of Facebook through Facebook ads, Facebook pages and groups . . .” Can you point to any who’ve been taking advantage of this relatively new opportunity?

    Much thanks — and please don’t hurt me.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Matt, Jeff, if you two sounded any more like Statler and Waldorf, I’d LOSE it! lol

      I can point to many many many years ago when my social network and Benn’s merged and several people I had reconnected with on FB said, “omg, you’re married to a Realtor? I’m looking to invest” which led to several transactions and that was before the boom and that was before the power of Pages/Groups/Ads.

      Let’s say you want to advertise to a specific demo, 45 year old married women in Southern California (a super basic example). In the past, you would study area clusters and direct mail the areas with the highest concentrations of this demo. Now, you log in to Facebook ads, tell it only to advertise to 45 year old married women in Southern California and voila, you’re on their sidebar and you’re NOT paying to be on the sidebar of any man’s profile, Texan’s profile, single peoples’ profiles, etc. The ROI of directly reaching your target demo is still being fleshed out but it’s kind of a DUH proposition.

      There are several agents, especially writers here at AG that use FB for direct business and I will let them step in and tell you their specific results (I’d rather not single anyone out by naming or not naming but I’ve already given you a hint).

      The social graph is intersecting with search not only on Bing but on Google and the two ways I’ve seen FB used successfully (that can be documented if those agents wish to share)- Facebook Groups about an area attraction or part of town (say “Austin East Siders”) with the agent as the passive moderator, and the second way being highly active in gathering people offline from their personal Facebook networks.

      I wouldn’t steer you guys wrong! I love Twitter and I think it’s a gold mine, but Facebook ads and how it overlaps with search is a simple stupid goldmine that requires sharp strategies but less fingers crossed than Twitter as time has shown.

    • Barry Cunningham

      February 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      Not sure why you’d be “aggravated”. Lani is correct. However there is a lot that goes into utilizing FB ads and one has to have the knowledge and experienc ein using them correctly.

      As for your question: “Can anyone out there point to bank deposits as a DIRECT consequence of their FB efforts?”…let me nod in the affirmative. Not just in real estate, but in a number of niches and online businesses. With so many on Facebook it takes more of an argument NOT to understand than to actually get it.

      PPC costs are WAY lower on FB (if you know what you’re doing), the traffic is laser targeted and the point that you’re probably missing is that there is not a “Buy A House Here” button.

      Once people opt-into our ads (for any product) they are part of a very defined sales funnel that is totally automated. I know you like “skinning cats”. FB makes it so much easier because you get the meat without having to do the actual “skinning”.

      If, that is, you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately most do not, won’t learn how to utilize FB ads and give up having blown a wad of money.

      As for your second question…”Can you point to any who’ve been taking advantage of this relatively new opportunity?”…here I am! (by the way…it’s not all that new of an opportunity)

  4. Jeff Belonger

    February 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Lani… now I am way lost and confused… you are calling me an old man that disagrees? lol First off, what did I disagree about? I thought I agreed with you?? The only difference I could see is that you said you are seeing the results with Bing and the ‘liked’ results. My comment wasn’t torwards that part, but just the general statement that Google is used more than Bing.. other than that.. what who you call old.. LOL but stull curious on the reference. ;o) Besides, I am a young old guy..

  5. Chris Caton

    February 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I really have to disagree with the message in this article. Facebook has extremely limited application for advertising to potential clients. Identifying your target market isn’t nearly as important as identifying prospects at the right point in the buying cycle. The ROI on Facebook pales in comparison to its competitors (like Google) simply because people don’t turn to Facebook when they’re looking for a product; they turn to search engines. Dollar for dollar, your ad money is better spent on Google than on Facebook if you want to increase actual sales.

    Facebook certainly has a place in your brand strategy, and could serve to develop a broader community of potential clients. However, it’s hardly a first step in the process, and most brokers should look to more traditional community-building first; very few people are really interested in hearing about a real estate agent every week for years in between buying cycles. You’re better off using Facebook to showcase your firm and link *to your Facebook page* from other venues in order to build rapport and establish legitimacy in the consumer’s mind; using Facebook as the starting point is far from wise.

  6. Jeff Belonger

    February 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    ah, Jeff brown.. lol I was saying to myself.. gee, I actually agreed.. lol have a good weekend… Jeff B. out.. lol

  7. Matthew Hardy

    February 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    > Statler and Waldorf

    That’s cold. 😉

    > several transactions
    > The ROI of directly reaching your target demo is still being fleshed out
    > a simple stupid goldmine

    … and yet not one piece of empirical evidence.

    I think I’m startin’ to get the “DUH” part.

    Since we’re respectively waiting for others to “step in and tell you their specific results”, would you be so kind to answer “Does AgentGenius purchase ads on Facebook?” and if so, what results you’re seeing so far?

    BTW – thanks for the discussion.

    • Barry Cunningham

      February 27, 2011 at 12:36 am

      @ Matthew….”and yet not one piece of empirical evidence”…other than a bank deposit slip, what kind of empirical evidence are you seeking? I don’t think Lani has any ties to Facebook and my name isn’t zuckerberg (though I truly wish…) so there’s no incentive to post an outright lie. I know it doesn’t benefit me and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t benefit Lani either.

      Like I said above. One of the problems Realtors have is they are looking for the immediate sale. I’ve run EXTENSIVE adwords campaigns and similar campaigns on FB and they are apples and oranges.

      With FB, as said above, it’s all about the touches. Once opted-in to our funnel by varying strategically placed ads our conversions rise considerably.

      With Google, you don’t get nearly as much information and not nearly as much interaction. Either they hit the landing page and opt-in or they’re lost. On facebook, they don’t even have to immediately opt-in and in fact, that’s not our original objective. We merely seek to get them to like the page…oh and yeah..there’s another problem…

      Most realtors we see, don’t even have “fan pages” they try to run business on fb with personal pages..so they’re dead from the outset.

      It’s not easy to run fb ads and it’s surely not for the inexperienced. Presently we spend about $5k per month on FB on our various sites and we wouldn’t be running it if the return isn’t there. But I do understand how Realtors don’t see the value. It’s more or less derived from the fact that they really don’t have the relative experience and budget to properly manage a FB campaign.

      I’m not here to convince anyone…but rather to underscore what Lani wrote. The only way anyone is going to understand is to actually spend the time and money learning how to properly run FB ads. But..I kind of like the fact that it’s difficult to master. It keeps a lot of people out of the way of us who do. Which keeps the costs down.

  8. Coleen DeGroff

    February 27, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I’ve had some success with Facebook pages, particularly w/the page I’ve set up for the community I serve. Buyers are finding me thru this page and I am establishing myself as a community expert. Cost to me? Nothing. I didn’t have much success w/Facebook ads so I quit paying for those and instead concentrate my Facebook efforts on my community page.

  9. Jeff Belonger

    February 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

    @ Chris C. ….. Well, I totally disagree with your disagreement … ;o) Seriously.. the first thing that should be thought of is… does it or will it work for everyone? NO… just like blogging doesn’t work for everyone. .. print advertising doesn’t work for everyone.

    You stated this… “Identifying your target market isn’t nearly as important as identifying prospects at the right point in the buying cycle.”

    Many of those that are experts when it comes to marketing would disagree with your statement. See, what is being talked about here is strategic marketing, where to place an ad that will get you your best bang for your buck. Identifying prospects at the right point in the buying cycle can’t really be done with the marketing that Lani is talking about, so you aren’t comparing apples to apples. At least in my opinion, unless you have some fool proof way.

    You then stated this… ” The ROI on Facebook pales in comparison to its competitors (like Google) simply because people don’t turn to Facebook when they’re looking for a product”

    In my opinion, it comes down to the money that you would want to spend. Not only can advertising on FB be much cheaper, but you can specifically target your audience. There are over 10 specific categories and you just can’t do this with google. Besides, with FB, it can come down to the difference of a great landing page or a bad landing page. How is it written? Does it have specific key words.. how do you have your categories set up, so that you are targeting the right areas. With Google, yes, it’s more popular… and it has it’s moments… but ask anyone that has done advertising on both google and FB, and most will say that it works better with FB ads and it’s cheaper… keeping in mind, you don’t neccessarily need thousands of calls or e-mails as opposed to those that know what they want and contact you. It’s like the long tail when blogging.. I will get less searches, but those that do search it know what they want and I will sometimes have better results.

    Overall, maybe you can have negative feedback because you had no luck with FB.Not once did you mention that you have tried both.. secondly, if you had, we don’t even know if you did it properly. So just because one had a bad experience, doesn’t mean that it was not a good idea. I will say this, I have done both… and I have spoken to a dozen or more that have done both… and all have said their money was better spent by FB ads.. but again, it comes down to a few important details that you didn’t mention. A very good landing page is critical. Just my .02….

  10. Mike McGee

    February 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Lani wrote: “Let’s say you want to advertise to a specific demo, 45 year old married women in Southern California”. That may be great if you’re selling women’s dresses. But I don’t care about a prospect’s gender, age or marital status, I only care if they’re looking to buy or sell real estate! How can I target THAT on FB? It would be great if I could target those who mention specific geographical areas along with keywords like “move” in their status updates. I don’t think FB can do that, it only looks at items in the user’s profile.

    I’ve also noticed that someone has “squatted” on all the neighborhood names in my area. They created “business” pages on FB with the name of each neighborhood. People “like” them, thinking their liking the official neighborhood page. I think that’s spammy, is it just me?

  11. stephanie crawford

    February 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    This doesn’t have anything to do with advertising on FB, but I can directly attribute two sales to regular old FB networking. I’m in the habit of asking IDX registrants to become a “friend” after they register. One gal, who found my site on her own and was not referred, noticed that we had mutual friends. When she learned that I was the Buyers Rep for both of those friends, there was no way she was going with another agent. The connection gave me instant credibility and social capital.

    I am just starting my adventure in building my followers on my business fan page. (FYI – I’m running a $100 Gas Card giveaway right now if you’ll “like” me: https://www.facebook.com/Nesting.In.Nashville.Real.Estate). It hasn’t taken off the way I’d hoped, but that just increases your chances of winning, right?!? Any pointers or tips from you AG’s out there? Thanks!

  12. BawldGuy

    February 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Hhmmm . . .

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Social Media

India’s government still pushing social media platforms to nix COVID posts

(EDITORIAL) Whomsoever controls the information controls the people, and India is proving that censorship is a dangerous path.

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Let’s take a walk through recent history, shall we? The timing is late April and the world is still attempting to control the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Certain countries have succeeded in administering vaccines and keeping down the spread. Other’s have not. People are dying. Families are being stripped of their securities. What’s the saving grace for the majority of these people? Social media.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have turned into the news distributors and social lifelines. Our generation has gotten used to things like cable news outlets being entirely one sided with their distributed factoids. It’s easier to trust people than a news monolith, even though they are typically just as biased.

Personally, I believe that we are more accepting of a person being biased because they are supposed to be, whereas companies that report news, we feel should be unbiased and when they aren’t, it’s less forgivable. However, I digress.

Social media has become the new source of news for the younger generations. We go out and take in information either from real life or from other sources and send it out into our own little virtual worlds. Every piece of this information should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked, of course. At least if the person actually wants to spread real news. They then interact and disperse news through instant communication online.

Which leads us to India, 2021.

From the standpoint of this generation, what’s been happening there is deplorable. The Government of India demanded that both Twitter and Facebook begin removing COVID-related posts. Their reasoning? These posts are “deemed posed potential to incite panic among the public.” They are restricting the freest form of communication that has ever existed in to the human race.

Now this could be something that’s innocuous, or a genuine care for the country’s people. I’m sure there are posts out there that may have incited panic. However, some of the previous actions taken by the Indian government tend to make me think otherwise. Pointedly, requests for the blocking of Twitter accounts which criticized the countries policies have gone out. They’ve even threatened jail time for employees and users in this case.

They keep claiming the country’s good but if they are only silencing dissenting voices, they’re actually just protecting their right to govern. Leading to a darker place in mind for any future actions. There are certain facts which stand however.

The Indian government has failed in a number of ways this year. The culmination of which is their unprecedented collapse of their nation’s health infrastructure. One of the only ways that some people are getting their health supplies is through social media as people communicate locations that have supplies available so they can save their lives.

The restrictions that the government is putting forth isn’t helping people. It has the potential to kill them.

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Social Media

How news outlets are positioning Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech

(MEDIA NEWS) As Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech hits the airwaves, media outlets act less predictably than some would think. And most are missing what we believe will be the ultimate outcome.

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Former President Trump

In a bold move against “Big Tech,” former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. The class action lawsuit, led by Trump himself, hopes to address the increasing impunity exhibited by these tech companies; there are multiple avenues of coverage that all predict different outcomes, the most likely of which is stronger regulation for tech companies.

Part of the larger issue is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are named in Trump’s lawsuit. While others waffled on understanding the difference between tech and media, we have insisted that one can only be categorized as a “technology” company if its primary product is hardware or software; “media” companies involve the dissemination of content using a digital platform.

But companies that might otherwise qualify as solely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a dearth of understanding regarding their very categorization – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.

Classifying companies like Facebook and Twitter as tech companies, therefore, is problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them, despite a clear need for regulatory consistency.

In any event, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance, one whose “status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor,” subjecting the companies in question to legal scrutiny under the first amendment – a right that Trump’s attorneys argue was violated when the former president was banned from using these sites.

There are several trains of thought regarding this lawsuit, the majority of which follow the expected party lines; however, one consistent player is Section 230, which is legislation that prevents social media companies from being held accountable for the content that their users create, publish, or share.

Right-leaning news outlets are focusing on possible infringement of free speech and the increasing prominence social media companies play in dictating real-world outcomes, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former interim Parler CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground.” Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, alleging support for the idea that conservatives are being censored on social media.

Trump is also quoted as referring to social media as “the de facto censorship arm of the U.S. government” in light of companies like Facebook and Twitter enforcing policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-leaning government officials.

This aligns with the “state actor theory” in which social media companies are held with the same regard as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.

A social media company’s status as a private entity, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem in which these companies have as much influence as they do, arguing instead for the abolishing of Section 230.

Conservative news outlets are predominantly optimistic about the lawsuit’s success, with sources such as Meckler pointing out that this constitutes “a developing area of the law” that could result in a crackdown on Section 230 – something that would change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning news outlets are more focused on the flaws in the lawsuit, however, with The Daily Beast asserting that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments presented in the suits.”

“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a state actor is not at all persuasive,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Jaffer also points out inconsistencies in the lawsuit’s motivations: “It’s also difficult to square the arguments in the lawsuit with President Trump’s actions in office. The complaint argues that legislators coerced Facebook into censoring speech, but no government actor engaged in this kind of coercion more brazenly than Trump himself.”

These outlets similarly reference Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cooperating with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something that Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies were colluding with Democrats.

Left-leaning sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be damaging should it succeed in repealing or altering the parameters around Section 230, but they primarily view this lawsuit as more of a fundraising attempt than a legitimate gripe with the law.

“They know that they’re going to lose and this is a fundraising, publicity stunt that maybe lets them take a section 230 case up the appellate ladder,” says Ari Cohn, a lawyer with TechFreedom.

Cohn also asserted that the argument about Facebook as a state actor is old news, and other sources explained that the lawsuit is most likely a distraction from other stories more than anything else.

There are some fringe takes regarding this lawsuit as well, with Daily Wire calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that is “dead on arrival” due to misinterpretations of Section 230 and the inaccurate logic that led up to the portrayal of Facebook as a “state actor”.

Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, emphasizes that “the case is frivolous, and… will almost certainly be dismissed in court because private companies are not subject to comply with the First Amendment, which upends the basis of the complaint’s argument.”

Whether or not this lawsuit finds traction, the most reasonable outcome to expect is a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what their role is in public dealings, and which laws pertain to them while they occupy the liminal space between technology and media dissemination.

“Tech” companies have operated without proper regulation for far too long, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.

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Instagram for Kids: Do kids really need social media that young?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram for Kids is a terrible idea that we’ll have to contend in the not-so-distant future as social media becomes more prevalent in our lives.

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Young girl playing phone, exploring Instagram for Kids

As a Facebook company, Instagram is used to pushing the envelope, and not always in a good way. One of their most recent initiatives, dubbed “Instagram for Kids”, offers pre-teens the opportunity to use a parent-controlled Instagram version—but global criticism is already mounting.

Instagram has a 13-and-up policy that restricts pre-teen kids from signing up for the app (in theory), but Instagram for Kids would allow younger users to share and interact with photos without the pressure of ads and inappropriate content (again, in theory). The goal behind a social media app for 12-and-unders is curious, given that acceptable teen social media use already starts at, arguably, a younger age than is responsible.

According to Instagram, though, their motivation for the app is simply to reduce access to harmful aspects of the web without instilling FOMO in younger children: “Kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps.”

Instagram also promises to “consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform [the app experience].”

That’s all fine in—and I cannot stress this enough—theory, but several members of the original internal discussion about this version of Instagram acknowledged that existing Instagram users who are under the age of 13 probably won’t switch over to the new platform, making Instagram for Kids obsolete for any illicit users. That leaves only one conclusion: That Instagram for Kids is for a substantially younger audience.

It’s difficult to find a morally upright justification for creating a social media app for, say, 8-year-olds. Parent control or not, the potential for data collection, early technology addiction, and breaches of privacy is very real. Add to that the fact that the children who are likely targeted by this app can’t exactly give informed consent for their information to be shared (not that 13-year-olds can, either, but that’s a different thing), and it starts to look pretty shady.

Instagram is already tangentially responsible for things like false marketing, eating disorders, and mental health decline in otherwise healthy adults. Adding pre-teens to that list is not only irresponsible—it’s morally bankrupt. Please keep your kids off of apps like this.

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