Sept. 13, 2018.
Facebook HUD changes show an impact for the majority of real estate agents. Facebook’s response to the recent Housing and Urban Development complaint resulted in over 5,000 targeted ad adjustments — a move impacting almost 80 percent of real estate agents.
As the dust settles, realtors have a valuable opportunity to learn from Facebook’s mistakes. Making an effort to advertise inclusively sets a standard of excellence and could also help you reach a broader audience.
Facebook HUD changes for ads make waves: What realtors think
On August 21, 2018, Facebook made its move — removing more than 5,000 ad targeting options to “prevent misuse” and protect users from discrimination. These Facebook HUD changes include no longer allowing advertisers to block ad viewers based on ethnicity or religion. (Find all the details of the HUD compliant at the bottom of this page.)
Facebook was quick to respond to the HUD, saying:
“There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies. Over the past year, we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse. We’re aware of the statement of interest filed and will respond in court; and we’ll continue working directly with HUD to address their concerns.”
Up to 77 percent of realtors use Facebook to network, generate leads, and connect with clients. Here’s what they think:
- We might be vulnerable. Michael Kelczewski of Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty says that, per HUD guidelines, advertising must not discriminate against protected classes. “The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 provide discriminatory protections allowing for equal access to residential housing.Unfortunately, Facebook’s advertising filters allowed individuals to ‘target’ users based upon restricted criteria. There’s no requirement to prove intent when the Department of Housing and Urban Development investigates.” As you might imagine, Kelczewski says, many companies or realtors could be open to sanctions.
Just use common sense. Facebook has a powerful ad creation tool that benefits most businesses. But realtors, in particular, are subject to both a realtor code of conduct, as well as some common sense discrimination laws, Brett Maternowski of Dalton Wade Real Estate Group says. “I’m not sure I agree that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that a realtor isn’t violating any laws. However, it’s fairly easy to create an ad that violates the law unintentionally, and I’m glad it’s being addressed.”
- It’s a learning experience. All realtors can learn from the latest Facebook snafu and continue to practice inclusive marketing. Even if you don’t pay for advertising, you can still stay inclusive in any content you post to expand your reach. Andrea Valenzuela, Cornerstone partner and realtor at Price & Co. Real Estate, doesn’t use Facebook ads but stays active on the site to grow her audience. “I use Facebook very organically through a business page that posts helpful home buying/selling information, local market stats, and general design and lifestyle articles,” she says. “This has helped me reach many clients for free.”
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6 simple ways to advertise without discriminating with Facebook HUD changes
To keep advertising aboveboard with Facebook HUD changes, Facebook’s going to continue to tweak their policies and educate advertisers on discrimination.
You can also learn from these changes, tweak your own ad strategy, and continue generating leads without skipping a beat. Here’s how:
1. Do your homework.
You can still place ads on Facebook — and should, especially if you have a campaign that’s converting. But you may feel more confident if you review HUD guidelines and state law before crafting advertisements, Kelczewski says.
After a quick read-through, you can rest assured your ads provide equal access to information and responses to all viewers. Facebook HUD changes make audience targeting more streamlined.
2. Don’t filter your audience.
With discriminatory advertising practices now brought to light, realtors have been given a gift. Not only does it help you and your team to re-read local laws and HUD guidelines, but now, you can look at your existing online and off-line marketing campaigns with fresh eyes.
The HUD complaint is a reminder that “narrowing your audience” is not always helpful or fair. This is especially true with any site that offers ad-targeting options based on ethnicity, gender, religion, or familial status. Facebook HUD changes actually make it easier to avoid discriminating against demographics.
3. Pick better images.
With changes to Facebook ad filters, realtors who want to stand out need to step up their game. Valenzuela swears by an organic marketing tactic that’s as simple as it is effective: Post exceptional images with your content.
Her approach can work for image-based ads too. “Generally, people seem to be most attracted to posts with eye-catching pictures. So, I usually find my posts with unique design trends or infographics have the highest engagements,” she says.
Images affect up to 90 percent of Facebook ad performance.
4. Pick diverse images (and language).
High-quality images are more likely to convert, but diverse images that uphold the Fair Housing Act are equally important in inclusive advertising. Fair Housing Act regulations state that to avoid advertising discrimination, human models should reasonably include minority and majority groups, both sexes, and families with children, where it applies.
Thankfully, today, most brands believe that diverse advertising images are better for inclusion — and for marketing.
5. Join more groups.
Facebook may be cracking down on paid advertising, but the social network is still flush with local groups where homeowners and homebuyers are chatting, Dan Moyer, Digital Marketing Director at NexusTek, says. There, you might find threads on real estate, downsizing, school districts, and more.
“Realtors need to understand how to leverage these groups in order to get their personal brand in front of people who may not have been following their official Facebook page. By joining and engaging in groups, you can become a thought leader in your community. As long as you stay away from spamming and aim to provide actual value to a conversation.” It also helps to remember that no one likes being sold to on social media, Moyer says.
6. Tie your Facebook ads to Facebook Live.
Jeff Miller, co-founder of Maryland’s AE Home Group, says his team has found success using Facebook Live to hold virtual open houses to attract buyers. On Sundays between 1-3 p.m., Miller sets up a mevo camera at a listed property and answers live questions from followers over Facebook.
“Thanks to the convenience, we find that we have hundreds of local buyers attending our virtual events and have even sold a few properties using this method,” he says.
Miller also offers a “pro tip” to take it a step further. After holding an open house, run the video recording as a Facebook Ad for the following week. Use a radius of 10 to 25 miles from the location to ensure that your ad budget is only spent on local residents.
“These individuals are likely to recognize the house or neighborhood, gaining their attention and increasing their likelihood of watching and converting.”
How Facebook ad filters may discriminate: The details
In a nutshell, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development filed an official housing discrimination complaint on August 13, 2018, alleging that:
- Facebook targeted ads filters allowed users to discriminate. Realtors, landlords, and homeowners could filter targeted Facebook ads and screen potential buyers and tenants by color, race, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability.
- Targeted Facebook ads may violate the Fair Housing Act and limit affordable housing options for those protected.
- Examples of targeted ad filtering addressed in the HUD complaint include: focusing on either women or men; enabling ad-blocking for Facebook users who access content related to disabilities, i.e., “assistance dog” and other keywords; blocking ads for Facebook users interested in a particular region, i.e., “China” and others; and promoting or excluding Facebook users by interest in religion.
The U.S. Justice Department also released a statement of interest in support that can be read here.
Stop buying leads and step up your social strategy
While there’s no one-size-fits-all social plan for realtors and brokerages, our Ultimate Real Estate Social Media Guide, broken up into Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, is a great place to start. Then, get help to ease the burden of round-the-clock marketing. Click here to become a Cornerstone Realtor Partner: You’ll get prequalified buyer referrals, and we’ll stay committed to doing whatever it takes to get your clients home fast.
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For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.