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What Realtors should know about Facebook and real estate search

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.

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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, 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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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  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 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: 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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