How Upcoming Facebook Changes Will Impact Real Estate Marketing


April 9, 2019

In March 2019, Facebook announced changes to its ad policies aimed to put the platform in better compliance with civil rights legislation. If you’ve got your ear to the ground, you may have heard that these changes will impact housing, employment, and credit ads on the platform in order to better avoid discrimination—both intentional and unintentional—against protected minorities.

It’s true that changes are coming to Facebook’s advertising tools that will have a significant impact on housing ads, which commonly target users by location, age, and other demographics. But how, if at all, will you need to adjust your real estate marketing plan to adapt to these changes? That’s the question we’re here to answer today. Let us take you through the details of the situation, the changes to come, and how those changes will impact your future real estate marketing campaigns.

The Situation

First, let’s go over the reason these changes were necessary. Currently, Facebook offers a number of ad targeting tools that present a problem when applied to the housing, employment, and lending verticals in particular. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with support from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) charged Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits sellers and landlords from discriminating against any protected class of people.

At the moment, advertisers on Facebook may target their ads based on traits like race, sex, and age. They can also target ads based on traits that can indirectly target race, sex, or age, including zip code, “multicultural affinity,” and “look-alike” profiles. While brands may want to ensure they reach audiences most likely to convert, targeting based on these traits can have the unfortunate effect of ensuring that only people who fit a particular mold have access to their property or special promotions. More troublesome still, users do not self-select these aforementioned traits, and so do not have personal control over how and whether they are marketed to. Instead, Facebook attributes these traits to users through a complex, proprietary algorithm that takes into account a user’s likes, location, and browsing patterns both on and off Facebook.

The HUD successfully argued that advertising tools like these do not comply with civil rights laws like the Fair Housing Act, and as a result, Facebook has agreed to implement a number of changes in the coming months. But what, exactly, will be changing?

The Changes to the Facebook Platform

There are a few significant changes coming to the Facebook platform that will affect real estate marketing. First and foremost, Facebook is removing certain targeting options for ads:

  • Advertisers will no longer be able to target audiences based on age, gender, or zip code.
  • Geographic radius targeting will be required to target a 15-mile geographical radius at minimum; previously the minimum was 1-5 miles depending on the area.
  • An undisclosed number of “interests” used for targeting will be removed. This could include “university student,” “looking for new housing,” etc. often leveraged to target audiences.

Facebook will also be developing a new portal through which all users may search and review all housing ads. This measure ensures that users have access to all housing ads, regardless of whether they are served those ads in their normal Facebook feeds.

Facebook has not announced a date on which these changes will go live, but we do know that we can expect these changes by the end of 2019.

The Impact on Real Estate Marketing

So how will these changes impact actual real estate marketing campaigns? First, let’s talk about how targeting changes will impact housing brands.

First, without the ability to target based on age, gender, or zip code, each housing ad on Facebook will be competing more heavily with other ads. This could increase the Cost Per Click and reduce average Click Through Rates for Facebook ads.

Secondly, a minimum 15-mile radius for geographic targeting reduces the precision of geotargeted ads on Facebook. However, geotargeting will still remain a useful targeting tool in spite of the increased minimum radius.

Third, with the possible elimination of interest tags that hit too close to protected classes (e.g. “university student”) certain niche markets like student housing and senior living may find it particularly important to adopt marketing strategies that do not rely on interest tags.

In preparing for these changes, branding may take on additional importance for real estate brands. Crystal clear, compelling branding will be even more crucial in promoting brand awareness, reaching your desired audience, and driving conversions. If you’re looking to enhance your branding, we can help!

In addition to the impacts that targeting changes will have, Facebook’s development of a new portal where users can view and search housing ads will also have implications for real estate marketing. With users able to opt-in and control their search for housing on Facebook, the platform may begin to compete with housing platforms like Zillow, becoming a new place where people actively perform housing searches. Additionally, with users driving how they filter housing ads on Facebook, ads may need to cater to a different buyer journey on this platform.

How To Adapt

As you adjust to these Facebook changes, there are a few action items we recommend. These actions will help you minimize the disruption these Facebook changes present for your overall digital marketing ROI.

  • Closely monitor the performance of your Facebook campaigns. Pay attention to Cost Per Click, Click Through Rates, and Conversion Rates.
  • Evaluate the quality of leads post-click, keeping a lookout for any changes.
  • Evaluate ongoing ROI for Facebook campaigns against your other advertising channels.
  • Based on the above evaluations, you may choose to rethink the role of Facebook campaigns within your overall real estate marketing plan.

The changes Facebook advertising will undergo in the coming months may be significant, but they don’t have to be scary! We can help you navigate how to adapt your real estate marketing plan, ensuring that your ads deliver real value. If you’d like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact us!