How To Adapt Your Real Estate Marketing Strategy After Facebook’s Ad Targeting Changes


November 12, 2019

facebook changes

If you read our blog post from earlier this year, you may already know that in March of this year, Facebook announced that it would be making changes to its ad targeting tools. Now, as of this September, those changes have gone live and are already affecting both existing ad campaigns and new campaigns. You may already be working to discern what this means for your real estate marketing plan and wondering what you can do to adjust your Facebook ad campaigns to ensure you’re still getting what you need from this digital platform.

As you ask yourself those questions, we’re here to help. We’ve been hard at work familiarizing ourselves with the recent changes and leveraging our expertise to compile updated best practices. Rest assured that while these changes do limit the functionality of certain targeting tools, it’s still possible to use Facebook ads as an effective part of your ad mix—you just need to rethink your strategy.

Why Did Facebook Change Its Ad Targeting?

In case you missed it, this all started back in March when Facebook was sued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for violations of the Fair Housing Act. According to HUD and a number of other organizations who supported the charges (including the ACLU and NFHA), Facebook’s ad targeting tools limited the housing options being presented to certain protected classes by allowing advertisers to target ads based on age group, location, education status, and so on.

Facebook then announced that it would be making changes to these advertising tools by the end of 2019, but did not offer a more specific time frame during which these changes would go into effect.

How Did Facebook Change Its Ad Targeting?

This September, without prior warning, Facebook implemented a number of changes that had immediate effects on existing campaigns and new launches. Many housing and financial advertisers logged in to find their radius targeting reset or their campaigns turned off.

A word to the wise: if you haven’t checked the status of your existing Facebook campaigns since September, it’s a good idea to give them a look and ensure they’re live and working as intended.

The September changes include:

  • A number of interests have been removed from the targeting options for housing, employment, and credit ads. For example, many interests related to universities can no longer be targeted directly.
  • Lookalike Audiences are no longer available for housing, employment, or credit ads.
  • Demographic targeting by traits such as age, ethnicity, and income has been removed.
  • Radius targeting has increased from a 1-mile minimum radius to a 15-mile minimum.

The overall effect is that competition among ads is now higher because ads are being served to broader audiences, meaning more people are seeing a wider variety of ads. This makes it more imperative than ever to find ways for your ad to stand out from the crowd.

How Should I Adapt My Facebook Ad Strategy?

There are a number of best practices and work-arounds we recommend in the wake of these changes. These strategies can help you work with the options still available to you to approximate the targeting strategies that have been removed, and/or ensure that your ads still get qualified clicks and low cost-per-click despite targeting limitations.

First, a disclaimer: while Facebook has an option to declare that your ad is a housing ad, you can’t get around these restrictions simply by not declaring. Facebook also has sophisticated AI that will flag housing ads even when they’re not declared by advertisers. Better to declare and work within the restrictions given from the start.

Get Crafty with Interests Targeting

While a number of interests have been removed from the targeting options, you may still be able to target by relevant interests that will create a qualified audience for your ad. For example, student housing brands may find that, while many university-related interests have been removed, there are still targetable interests such as Greek Life that indicate an individual may be a current college student. Take a look through the remaining interests and see if any are uniquely relevant for your target audience.

Place your Targeting Radius Strategically

In some cases, you can still meaningfully target by location, even with the 15-mile minimum targeting radius. A trick that may work for your location is to center your target over rural or less densely populated areas so that only the outer portion of your circle includes the area you actually want to target. This reduces the number of unqualified prospects your ad is served to while still allowing you to target the desired location.

Switch to a Cost Per Click (CPC) Model

Facebook allows you to choose between a cost per click (CPC) or a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) strategy. The targeting limitations mean that, even with some adjustments, your ad is likely to be served to a broader audience, translating into more impressions. As a result, we recommend switching to a CPC model if you haven’t already. This means you’ll only get charged for clicks on your ad rather than on how many people see your ad, which will likely result in less ad spend per lead.

Optimize Your Ad Copy & Design

With more ads competing with yours, it’s more crucial than ever that your ad has crystal clear messaging that will resonate with qualified prospects. In other words, it needs to be clear what you’re advertising and why someone should care. Ad space is limited, though, so stick to high-impact copy and simple, high-quality property images.

High-impact copy typically includes the word “apartments,” “living,” “housing,” “townhomes,” etc. and the location of the property. Alternatively, you might specifically reference “2-bedrooms” or “$100 off your first month’s rent.” Whatever you do, just be sure it clearly communicates your product and what’s great about it.

Reconsider Facebook’s Role in Your Ad Mix

If you make adjustments and you’re just not getting the results you want, it might be time to reconsider the role Facebook plays in your overall ad mix. For example, even if Facebook ads don’t work well when targeting new prospects, you may still get a lot of bang for your buck when using Facebook for retargeting ads. That’s because retargeting ads target users by behavior (visits to your site) rather than by demographic, so those who are served your ad are already a qualified audience.

These are just some of the strategies you can use to adjust to the new Facebook ad targeting changes for real estate ads. For more Facebook ad insights and other digital marketing expertise, contact a Threshold team member today. We’d be happy to be your guide for all things digital marketing!