The disruption Facebook is having on traditional real estate advertising

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The real estate industry has always had a love-hate relationship with the portals such as zonaprop, argenprop , etc. While the portals own the best audience for property buyers – and are therefore an important part of any vendor’s marketing spend – the charging models and sense of dependence have always irked independent agents. No one likes being obliged to pay for a service you feel you have little control over.

But the portals and the technology that drives them are now more than 15 years old. And over the past 3 years, the game they changed has started to change again. The portals may be now about to be disrupted themselves.

Fifteen years ago, the idea that buyers could go to one place online to see every property on the market in any suburb they chose was absolutely revolutionary. Buyers no longer had to jump in the car and visit the suburb to check out local real estate agent shop windows or get hold of a local paper. All the information you needed was in one place, and you could look at it at whatever time suited you – 9am, 9pm, 2pm, or 2am – on your desktop computer in the comfort of your office or living room and send a message of inquiry. It was a huge improvement from the old way of doing things, removing pain points and making property hunting faster and more convenient.

But two new revolutions have occurred roughly in the past three to five years – the social and mobile revolutions. The two are interconnected as the conversion of our mobile phones to mobile computers that are always on and always with us in turn, enabled the social revolution with apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Messenger, LinkedIn, Pinterest and WhatsApp to dominate our lives.

And apps like Facebook are likely to dramatically change how we ‘do’ real estate again very shortly.

Facebook claims to be a company based on “human connection and bringing people together”, the recent REIQ Tech Day was told. Its mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.

There are 2.01b people on Facebook every month and 1.32b daily. Facebook is the eighth most-used feature on any mobile phone, and in addition to the mothership, there are 1.2b on Whatsapp, 1.2b on Messenger and 700m people on Instagram each month – all part of the Facebook family.
The only thing bigger than the Facebook community, the conference was told, is Christianity, which is declining.

Facebook also has a second mission – to “democratise advertising” by making it easy and affordable for every business – especially small businesses – to reach customers by giving them access to the same tools that big business has traditionally dominated.

This is where the threat to the portals happens.

Because Facebook is not really just a cool entertainment app that allows you to see photos of friends’ new babies, hashtag all the blessings in your life, rage against the latest political upset or message your husband with a virtual cat on your head (or is that just my guy and me?). Facebook is a major big data play.

Every interaction we have with Facebook captures information about us as individuals – our likes, our passions, our friends, key events in our lives, our behaviour, how we feel, our recommendations, who our friends are and their likes, passions, events and behaviour. Every interaction builds up a more and more detailed picture of us individually, which is what makes the Facebook advertising algorithms and their ability to target so powerful. We don’t really see or feel this. When the algorithm does its job, the result is simply more content we’re genuinely interested in.

There is no need to ‘spray and pray your advertising as a business on Facebook. If your ideal customer is a 36-year-old woman with two primary school-age children who love shoes and wine and drives a four-wheel drive and works part-time, and who lives in a 3-bedroom house, you can find her thousands like her and target your message exactly to her. Knowing this, if you’ve got a beautiful 4-bedroom house in her area with a walk-in wardrobe, wine cellar, great child-friendly outdoor area with a pool and large garage that would be perfect, you can easily target advertising directly to her (and her friends).

It doesn’t matter that she’s not on zonaprop, argenprop  etc looking yet. It doesn’t matter that she may not have thought (as far as you’re aware) that she should move up. You can plant the seed in her mind. You can show her what’s possible through Facebook targeted advertising and encourage her to move from a passive buyer (one who has not thought about buying or selling at all) to becoming a researcher or an active buyer or seller (one who decides that now is the time to act).

This is part one of the strengths of Facebook over the portals; using it, you can target people and move them into your contact funnel before they have even decided that moving is the right decision for them. You have the power to target and influence their behaviour.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Part two of Facebook’s strength is only now starting to be witnessed. As Facebook’s ability to capture and process data about us accelerates at truly mind-blowing speeds, its capability for predictive analytics becomes ridiculously powerful. Soon, Facebook won’t just be able to target people because they match a profile of someone who might be interested in buying, selling or renting because you select them.

Soon, Facebook will be able to target people because their behaviour on Facebook and its associated apps signal that they are actively engaging in behaviour that pre-empts buying, selling or renting behaviour in addition to their profile. This behaviour may include things like renovating, finding tradespeople, reaching out to real estate agents, buying paint or asking friends for real estate recommendations – the possibilities and their combinations are endless. In such a scenario, you’ll get recommendations on who to target based on data that defines what they’re likely to do next, not the options they’ve chosen or things they’ve already done.

And that leads us to this new world order of being able to target people based on their profile, behaviour and likelihood of intention much higher up the sales funnel, rather than waiting for a potential customer to go onto a real estate website and make an inquiry.

Which leads to the question of why do you need a real estate portal – a special place to go to find a property to buy – if properties that need buying will serve themselves up to you just when you’re starting to think about the possibility of moving?

In this new world, the power any real estate portal can wield diminishes, and a portal customer’s value proposition is impacted. Why should I put so much of my advertising budget into reaching people who are actively in the market looking when I can put the budget into Facebook and target both those who are actively looking and those who are passive, but whose behaviour indicates that with the right property, they could change at any minute? No wonder the portals are worried.

So how, as a real estate agent, do you get yourself ready for this next exciting stage? Here are 4 things you can do:

1. Get serious about social now

Social is no longer something the receptionist can do in her spare time, or have your teenage kids help you as a hobby. Make it someone’s job in your business to understand thoroughly how targeting works in social media, who your target audience is for the different types of properties you sell and services you offer, and set aside a small budget to start practising the best ways to reach them and the content that works. Upload your database to create a matching audience in Facebook.

2. Learn about geo-targeting and targeting by property features

Kick it up a notch by learning about advanced topics such as geo-targeting (X people matching Y description within Z km of my office) and targeting people by property features that you know are in demand or which signal they may be interested in making the next move. ie, People in their 50s who have owned their properties for 20+ years may be ready to downsize or be looking for an investment. Families in 2-bedroom apartments may be looking for 3-bedroom houses or larger apartments. Ask yourself, “If I was this person, what kind of information in my Facebook feed would I find interesting?”

3. Improve your content

Social media is about human relationships, community and helping – it’s about being helpful, not boastful. And Facebook advises that your content needs to be striking and get attention quickly – in the first three seconds; otherwise, it is scrolled past. Evergreen content on how the property market works, tips for buyers and sellers and walking people through the process of moving are all ways you can connect with people while also establishing yourself as an expert who knows their stuff. A constant stream of properties for sale will only be appreciated by those who are actively looking (in which case they’re probably on a portal already), but an occasional inspirational property well targeted as part of a broader spectrum of useful content sends a more trustworthy message.

4. Experiment with different content styles

Writing a post and sticking up a photo is the easiest way to post, but Facebook rewards those who innovate. Video, slide shows and Facebook Live are prioritized by the algorithm, which means your message reaches more of the right people for less money. And don’t forget most people snack on social content while doing something else, so all videos should be captioned. No one sticks on earphones to listen to a 90-second video on the bus. Whatever you post, make sure you analyse its reach and engagement levels each time to determine what works best for your audience.

So if you’re one of those agents who rage against the portals, don’t despair. A change is coming. But it also means you’ll need to change your behaviour. Real estate is just one of the hundreds of consumer experiences that Facebook and the social universe are opening up. There is plenty of opportunity for real estate agents who get stuck in and recognise the opportunity – but just like 15 years ago, fortune will continue to favour the brave.

Contact the Gateway to South America team to learn about the best investment opportunities in the region. The company is a benchmark for foreign investors wishing to invest in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, providing expert advice on property acquisition and investment tours.

The Gateway Team – When You are Serious About Property

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About Gateway to South America

Established in 2006, Gateway to South America began as a single office in Buenos Aires. Since then, it has grown into a vibrant regional network, providing professional real estate marketing services to clients in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. If you enjoy reading our news site, please share it on your social media!

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