Most real estate agents are burning cash on Facebook with little-to-no ROI.
They tell their clients they “do” social media advertising but, for the most part, that simply means they ‘boost’ a post from their Facebook page for a measly $15-$30, which might get a small amount of reach and engagement but achieves zero conversion.
Tech-savvy agents are using Facebook Ads Manager to target their advertising more effectively and with a higher proportion of their campaign spend. Others are using third-party software applications or they’re letting the major property portals to run their Facebook ads for them. Sadly, these agents are also burning through cash with little to no return-on-investment to show for it.
- If you’re not driving traffic back to your own website from your Facebook ads, or if your website pages aren’t set up correctly, you’re burning cash on Facebook.
- If you’re boosting posts from your Facebook page to promote a listing, you’re burning cash on Facebook.
- If you’re not measuring your Facebook ads and using the results to inform your next campaign, you’re definitely burning cash on Facebook.
- If you don’t have the Facebook pixel installed or a re-marketing system in place, you’re burning cash on Facebook.
- And, if you don’t have Facebook Business Manager configured correctly, you’re burning cash on Facebook.
Facebook advertising can massively increase revenue while reducing advertising costs, but unfortunately many real estate agents and/or their marketing team focus too much on how their ad looks rather than what it can potentially achieve – spending hours crafting the perfect post rather than a strategy for repeatable results.
Since 2014, we’ve helped thousands of agents implement a profitable Facebook advertising system into their business that doesn’t rely on the portals, or third party software. Even the best agents in the country are looking to save money if it delivers a better outcome for their clients, and a competitive advantage to their team.
It’s a system focused solely on these two objectives (and in this order):
- Traffic generation – drive as many people as possible to your real estate website at the lowest cost
- Lead generation – generate consistent buyer and vendor leads on your website at the lowest cost possible
Are there other objectives when running ads on Facebook? Of course. Are there ways to generate leads on Facebook without getting people to leave the platform? Yes.
But these two objectives – in this order – form a repeatable Facebook ads system, much of which can be automated, to deliver consistent, measurable results at a lower cost.
In this article, I’ll walk you through each of these objectives to help you implement the same Facebook ads framework for your business used by America’s best agents.
The social media advertising products currently offered by the major property portals are one of the most useless revenue wasting and profit sucking subscriptions in real estate in my opinion.
We are paying the major property portals to create ads that drive traffic back to our listing on their website (which we’ve already paid for) which is, in turn, driving significantly more traffic to their website than ever before. And because they’re now generating more traffic off the back of real estate agents using these services, guess what’s happening to the cost of everyone’s subscription very soon… Cha-ching!
Their sales reps will tell you that their products are better than you doing social media advertising yourself because they can target people who are actively looking for real estate on their platform. But this value proposition is becoming much harder to sell given the Apple iOS updates in recent months which limits advertisers ability to track people across their website or app if a user opts out of Facebook tracking them on an Apple mobile device.
Also, if you’re in a market where the majority of active buyers live in close proximity to the property they’re thinking of buying (say a 5km radius), you can be confident that your geographically targeted listing ads will reach the same audience as the major portals anyway – depending on your ad budget.
Furthermore, while Facebook ads can drive a significant level of traffic to your listings at a very low cost, they perform quite poorly when it comes to generating buyer inquires on their first interaction.
Traffic from Facebook has a disproportionately high bounce rate and a much lower time-on-site compared to other digital channels. Meaning, when someone clicks on a Facebook ad and lands on your listing, whether that be on your website or the major portals, most people won’t stay on that page for very long let alone inquire about the property.
Remember where these people have just come from – a social platform. They were catching up on all the things they care about, or perhaps they were just mindlessly scrolling through their news feed before clicking on your ad. Google Analytics data shows us that most of them will click back to their news feed after just a few moments of checking out your listing.
So by using their social media advertising products, you are delivering tonnes of traffic to the major portals, which is great for them, but it delivers very minimal (if any) strategic benefit to you.
Most American’s will be happy to click on a Facebook ad about a property in their local area because we all love looking at real estate. While you may see thousands of website clicks on your Facebook ads, it doesn’t mean those people are interested in buying the property, or any property for that matter. It simply means your ad was effective at getting someone’s attention – enough to pull them out of their news feed for a short moment.
Something else to consider when using third-party software companies to run any form of online advertising for your business is the protection of your data. Most third parties will install scripts on your website in order to re-target your website visitors and it’s important to ask “who else has access to our website traffic” before you let them install any code on your site.
And these are just a few of the reasons why you need to have a Facebook advertising system in-house that keeps you front of mind with buyers and sellers in your community.
Step #1: Optimize your website
I still see lots of agents creating Facebook ads that are sending users to the listing page on the major property portals instead of their own website. When I ask why it’s the same answer each time.
They tell me it’s because they’re embarrassed about sending people to their own website. So, business owners, this one is on you – get your website in order. If you don’t, none of what we’re talking about in this article is possible and you will need to continue relying on the major property portals and third-party software providers for buyer and seller leads – and absorbing the certain rising costs of doing so.
If your team isn’t proud of your website and they’re sending people elsewhere, you don’t just have a marketing problem – you have a culture problem.
Ensuring that your website is responsive and fast on all devices is still as important as ever. But equally as important is ensuring that your website is optimized for conversion. If you’re sending people to your website but nobody is filling out your web forms, you are effectively pouring water into a bucket with many holes.
Working only with a graphic designer or having a go at designing a website yourself to save money is probably not the best approach. We specialize in building real estate websites that will give your website the best chance of converting visitors into leads.
An example for sellers: The old-school ‘free market appraisal’ approach, asking for tonnes of information in a long form – for an agent to manually prepare a CMA – is being replaced with Instant Property Valuations.
An example for buyers: By using tools on your IDX listing pages such as, live chat and downloadable contracts etc, you are providing buyers (and potential vendors) with an experience that they cannot get anywhere else online – including the major portals.
Not only do these tools keep people on your website longer, but they also increase buyer inquires whilst WOWing potential vendors and keeps them coming back.
All great digital marketing starts and ends with a great website and all of your digital advertising, including email campaigns, should be bringing people back to your website rather than letting people live on channels you don’t control i.e. the major property portals, social media etc.
Step #2: Drive tonnes of traffic to your listings on your website at the lowest possible cost
As I alluded to earlier, there is an obvious motivation behind the major property portals push for agents to use their social media advertising products. Listing ads on Facebook are arguably the cheapest form of generating large volumes of traffic to a website. The more traffic the portals generate, the more likely we’ll see a subscription price rise around the corner.
Facebook has six primary ad formats, including:
- Instant Experience
While it can be tempting to start creating any ads and experimenting with different ad formats, it is important to know which one performs best for our objective.
Video ads are widely used by agents as more and more vendors invest in video for their marketing campaigns. I often hear agents use the number of video views a listing has received as a measure of success. The problem with video views as a metric, however, is that the numbers can be very misleading.
For Facebook and Instagram, viewing just three seconds of a video of any length is considered a view.
A lot of agents put far too much emphasis on video views as a measure of success. Why? Because it’s typically a big number and Facebook has deliberately engineered their platform this way. Why? To keep you from sending its users away from Facebook. Why? Because that’s good for Facebook’s business, not necessarily for yours.
Video ads are very effective at generating awareness (getting people to stop scrolling and pay attention) but once they’ve spent a few seconds watching your video, most will keep scrolling and forget about your ad. Video ads also tend to get preferential treatment in the Facebook Ad Auction. But an image-based ad, in almost every test we’ve run over the past 7 years, outperforms video-based ads when it comes to driving tonnes of traffic to your website at the lowest cost.
Here’s an example where the same targeting, budget, timeframe and copy were applied to an image ad as well as a video ad for the same listing. While the video ad reached over 1,000 more people, the image ad outperformed when it comes to our core objective – website traffic at the lowest cost.
You should definitely be incorporating video into your digital marketing, and perhaps run some tests yourself like the example above to see which works best for you.
Worth noting is that people will spend up to 2.5 times longer on a web page with a video on it – it might as well be your website! Use the image ads to bring people into the listing pages on your website and a video to keep people there longer.
Done right, you could see 1,000+ people visit your website for every $100 you spend on Facebook ads for your listings. Do this for every listing that goes to market and you can start to imagine the number of people who would be on your website every day.
But if you’re dabbling with $30-$50 per campaign, you’re going to have to up your game. The minimum spend we see most agents using now for Facebook ads is at least $100 per listing and many are spending upwards of $500+ per listing (vendor paid).
Step #3: Re-targeting for vendor lead generation
As we mentioned earlier, Facebook actually performs quite poorly at generating buyer inquiry so instead of focusing your listing ads solely on buyers, we’re actually going to capitalize on the volume of traffic to your website by re-targeting potential vendors.
While it might seem more logical to re-target buyers who’ve visited your website with more listing ads, I’d recommend spending the bulk of your re-targeting budget on this strategy instead.
Once you have a good level of traffic flowing through your website each month, this provides an abundance of future lead generation opportunities for your teams that you don’t get if you’re sending all of your traffic to someone else’s website i.e. the major property portals or a third party software company.
Just like your prospecting efforts, digital marketing is a numbers game. The more calls you make, the more appraisals you get.
The same logic applies to your website. The more traffic you generate to your listing pages, the more potential vendors you can re-target with ads.
And the more people you re-target, the more leads you’ll get flowing in from your website on a consistent basis.
The scope of this article prevents us from going too deep into the setup of the Facebook Pixel, Pixel Events, Custom Conversions and Custom Audiences. You should definitely read up on the latest best practices before setting up your re-targeting campaigns.
While the results from re-targeting website visitors may slightly decrease in the future due to the Apple iOS updates we mentioned earlier, it shouldn’t deter you from implementing a re-targeting system to bring potential clients back to your website who’ve visited previously. Agents who are re-targeting their website traffic are still seeing great results even with all the hype surrounding the Apple iOS updates, which only affects Apple iPhones and iPad on iOS14.* (Android and desktop devices are not affected).
The Goal: Rely less on third parties for property inquiry i.e. the portals and advertising software/consultants
As an industry, the more we keep driving traffic to other websites the more often their subscription costs will increase.
99.9% of the social media advertising products and services available to you as a real estate agent can be performed by someone on your team but if you don’t have the resources to implement everything in this article, then perhaps some of the tools mentioned above can help fill those resource gaps for you.
But when it comes to running your listing ads on Facebook, this is absolutely something that should not be outsourced. It takes no longer than 2-3 minutes to create a geographically targeted Facebook ad for a listing and once you have a template set up inside your Facebook Ads Manager, you could even get that process down to 1-2 minutes. The only thing stopping you from doing this is a few moments to learn how.
The major property portals, marketing consultants and software developers didn’t bank on you getting smarter about this stuff. Do we need them still? Absolutely – they are all a critical part of the digital marketing mix in real estate.
But do we need them as much as they make you think you do? I’ll let you decide.