Advertising real estate on Meta Ryan George

233: Facebook Just Closed Its Real Estate Targeting Loophole

Meta announced in June that after its settlement with the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), it will close the loophole we auction marketers have been using for the past 3 years on real estate auctions. The Meta platform will no longer allow Special Ad Audiences for real estate, employment, credit, and political/social ads. If you’re not familiar with Special Ad Audiences, they are a version of lookalike audiences for those special ad categories of real estate, employment, finance, and political/social issues.

My clients and I have used Special Ad Audiences to replicate purchased lists, in-house lists (like past bidders and current email subscribers), pixel traffic, and Facebook interactors. As of August 25, no new Special Ad Audiences are now permitted to be created. On September 13, no new ads will be permitted to be created with existing Special Ad Audiences. And on October 12, ads using Special Ad Audiences will no longer be distributed on the Meta platform.

Meta is teasing “a new method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.” (You can view Meta’s full announcement here and their timeline here.) At the time of writing, I’m not privy to what that new tool will be or how it will work.

While this does limit our ability to target audiences, it doesn’t impact our ability to use headlines and photos to target our buyer base within the general public, as I detailed in my last blog post. Most real estate auction buyers are local. So, auctions of most agricultural, commercial, and residential properties will be affected little by this change. Special-use and vacation properties will be most affected by these changes, as those are most dependent on lookalike audiences. We’ll still have multiple audience options for resort and vacation properties—just not as many.

Since Apple’s iOS 14 privacy update, lookalike audiences based on website traffic or Facebook interactors have been growing less and less efficient for my clients. I’ve already been allocating less and less of Meta campaign budgets for those second-round ads over the past few months because of that drop in efficiency. Meta’s policy change for Special Ad Audiences just accelerates the decline of pixel and interactor lookalikes audiences that I’ve been seeing.

Advertising real estate on Facebook Ryan George

So what now?

How will I be adapting my clients’ Meta platform ads for real estate auctions?

(1) Real estate campaigns will get simpler with fewer ads. Money previously allocated to Special Ad Audience ads and the purchase of speciality lists can now go to the standard audiences we’ve used on every campaign that are still in play.

(2) For customers who are ordering only Meta ads (no direct mail, newsprint, signs, etc.), I will be knocking $150 off my minimum fee for real estate auction campaigns for the foreseeable future. I will learn the replacement option(s) as soon as they are available and reevaluate that discount once I discover the new tool’s efficacy.

(3) I will continue to use dynamic content for ads. That allows Meta’s artificial intelligence engines to find the most efficient version(s) of the ads we can use. I’ll leverage the headlines and sales copy I’ve found to work best for all ads.

Even with these changes, the Meta platform will continue to drastically outperform direct mail, newsprint, banner ads, and signs in terms of cost per website visitor, cost per bidder, and cost per buyer. So, until those metrics change, I’ll still recommend Meta-heavy advertising budgets to clients who are selling real estate.

These changes do not impact non-real estate asset categories. We still have all of the robust targeting options we’ve had for years, and I look forward to continuing to provide clients with efficient results for those campaigns.

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