It’s the news that has the real estate and housing market talking – Facebook has announced that, due to observations made by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development), their targeting capabilities will be changing in the possibly near future. Nerves are high right now. Facebook has given us a confirmation on a handful of credentials that they will, definitively, be removing, but there are many questions that remain unanswered. Some people are upset, as Facebook is their main source of lead generation due to its reach and accessibility, and nobody wants what works to suddenly change.
So, what exactly has everyone so worked up? Well, audience targeting is going to be changing in some big ways. HUD has made claims that, by allowing certain credentials to be used in audience targeting, building an audience allows those in the housing market to discriminate against any demographics that they wish to exclude. These factors include gender, age, and geographical location, as well as terms that could be interpreted as discriminatory against ethnicities, religions, or levels of income, among any other factors that could exclude specific people from advertisements in their region’s housing market. And, trust me, I get it… at first, these changes sound really big! I read the articles and the announcements, I talked to my friends in the housing business, and I had time to really consider what might change in real estate advertising. My team and I even implemented test advertisements with the exclusions, and the results really were not that different from what we are used to, at all. We never marketed with age and gender in the past anyway, so these two changes were very easy to adapt to… but, what about zip codes? In the past, we used zip codes all over Ads Manager, and even still, the results were not that different. So… if test advertisements are seeing similar results to advertisements that allow the aforementioned credentials, what exactly is there to worry about? I will be the first one to reassure you – if you produce quality content for your brand and yourself, you don’t have to worry about a thing. You will still be able to market to your desired audience at a low cost per lead the same way you always have.
Let me start with an example. In the 1960s, Volkswagen started to gain popularity among consumers for its unique, almost comical vehicle designs. Believe it or not, Adolf Hitler’s favorite car was a Volkswagen, and the brand could have suffered deeply from being somehow associated with someone so notorious and hated. But, Volkswagen was so in-tune with their quirkiness that they ran an American ad for the Beetle featuring a white background, a VW Beetle alone in the foreground, with the headline in bold font: “Lemon.” Yes. VW called their car a lemon (in case you didn’t know, calling a car a lemon is not a compliment). Beneath the headline follows a story of how intensely the inspection process is carried out on every Volkswagen, so much so that even a smudge on a portion of interior chrome was enough to exclude an individual car from the production line – in other words, Volkswagen weeded out the lemons and left only the most perfect specimens. That headline though, that self-deprecation that they led with, was so intriguing that consumers couldn’t stop themselves from reading the rest. Volkswagen knew exactly how to grab the right attention from the right people, and directed their marketing to consumers who wanted something unusual, who wanted a car that expressed their personality rather than a vehicle to get them from point A to B. Back then, they didn’t have Facebook. They couldn’t target specific locations, ages, or genders… they ran ads with quality content, and they saw major results. This is the philosophy that every brand, every business owner, and every entrepreneur should be following, even today – it is all about the right quality content.
I’ve said it a million times, and I’m sure that I will say it a million more – marketing is messaging. It doesn’t matter where your advertisements are running. If you speak your brand’s message well, and you know who you are marketing to, it doesn’t matter how broad the audience is. Now more than ever, you absolutely have to know who your audience is. I repeat, know WHO your audience is, and stop thinking so much about WHERE. The goal in advertising is to capture the audience’s attention, and you want to give them what they want instead of trying to decide what they need. You will want to start thinking about marketing yourself to your chosen audience with even more concise content than before. If you want to sell to a specific part of town, say, a downtown square, then go into your downtown community and showcase it! Interview business owners in the area, visit your favorite shops, or go to a park and film something. Anything. Just create content that is as targeted and as authentic as possible. Remember that you are not just creating an advertisement, you are creating an experience, and if you know your brand and yourself, you shouldn’t see any diminished results as these changes take place.
Retargeting is going to become your best friend. It allows you to lock future content in on the people who have already shown interest in you and your brand, and it is time to utilize this invaluable feature. Once you’ve generated enough leads to be recognized, you will start producing content that speaks to your chosen audience on a more personal, engaging level. It also means that you will start whittling down your audience by retargeting to consumers that have engaged with your social media, landing pages, or media content. At this point, your marketing should have a very clear and concise message. As I said before, the size and location of your audience shouldn’t matter if the content is strong, because it is YOUR job to attract the people you want. Consumers want to see your face and learn about who you are, or they aren’t going to care about you, and in turn, they will not feel cared for by you. They want to see you in the environment that you are marketing to. Yes, you are your brand, but you are also one of them, and you have to relate to your audience; the objective from here on out is to get that committed YES from your audience. Retargeting is so important at this point in the process that if you haven’t utilized it up to now, you absolutely must begin as these changes are taking place.
Think of it this way… is someone with an average or below average income going to click on a $400,000 home, hoping they can magically come up with the down payment to afford the property? Probably not. Create content that makes your mission clear, and you will continue to have marketing successes. There is going to be a learning curve for some of you, and that’s okay – that’s the beautiful thing about change, isn’t it? It gives us a chance to reevaluate what works and what doesn’t. Some of you may have unconsciously been relying on targeting credentials for your lead generation, and some of you probably think it’s going to affect you more than it actually will. I just have to say this again, you have nothing to worry about, period. This is only going to help strengthen your brand and your message. You will be forced to really focus in on the things that mean something to you and to the people that you wish to work with. The world of marketing and advertising existed long before Facebook did, and plenty of people became successes then, too… It is not the end of your lead generation days, I guarantee it.