Tag : facebook-ads

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232: How to Target Buyers on Low Budget Real Estate Campaigns

In July of 2019, Facebook changed its rules about advertising employment, financing, and real estate to comply with federal anti-discrimination guidelines. When that happened, we advertisers lost the ability to target real estate ads to specific demographics like age, gender, wealth, occupation, home value, hobbies, affiliations, etc. That left us with eight kinds of audiences we could still use. For the most-targeted audiences, though, the best option requires purchasing a list from a database broker.

The problem is that sometimes our real estate value or seller budget doesn’t give us a big enough Facebook budget to purchase a more targeted audience. Then what? How do we work around that hurdle? 

Low Budget Real Estate Ads on Facebook

Here’s what I do.

First, I build the campaign as a two-stage process. I advertise the first round to the general public, my client’s past website visitors, and/or their past Facebook interactions. Then, I have Facebook replicate either (1) the customer’s website traffic to this auction’s page—if they have a Facebook pixel installed—or (2) the people who interacted with the first round ads on Facebook. Or both. For the second round of advertising, Facebook finds the common denominators of the people who self-selected as prospects in the first round and then builds an audience of people who share those common denominators. So, it duplicates only interested parties—and that’s better than a purchased list because you can’t buy a list that’s 100% interested parties.

Second, I rely on headlines for targeting in both rounds. Facebook’s black-box algorithm wants our ads to align our content with their users’ interests. Users get less annoyed by ads that align with their interests and are thus more likely to remain on the platform where Facebook can serve more ads. So, even first-round ads somewhat adapt to the audience of those interacting with them based on the content of the ads.

The way to get people to interact with your auction ads is to show them assets they want and use headlines that speak to the benefit of acquiring that asset. Buyers want real estate—even the same kind of real estate or even the same property—for different reasons. It doesn’t take much space to bait the hook with those primal desires.

Residential

  • Great for entertaining!
  • [name] School District
  • Quiet neighborhood!
  • Enjoy wooded privacy!
  • More lake life in your life!
  • Close to [hospital/univesrity/tourist destination]
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Investment

  • Buy more cash flow!
  • Build your cash flow!
  • Ready for tenets!
  • Turnkey rental unit!
  • Expand your holdings!
  • Close to campus!
  • Real estate at your price!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Commercial

  • Great business location!
  • High Traffic Location
  • Prime Intersection 
  • Make money here!
  • Expand your operation!
  • Next to [name] Hospital
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Agricultural

  • 2022 crop rights!
  • Premium Loam Soil
  • Fantastic Base Yields!
  • Cropland at your price!
  • Tillable Acreage Auction
  • Buy land at your price!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Recreational

  • Sportsman’s Paradise!
  • Prime Hunting Land
  • Long river frontage!
  • Buy scenic seclusion!
  • Buy wooded privacy!
  • Ideal Hunting Camp
  • Tag big bucks here!
  • Abundant Wildlife
  • Bring your horses!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

The people who respond to these headlines are your prospective buyers. So are the lookalikes of these people that Facebook can find. And you can superimpose those common denominators over any geographic area you’d like. I usually save the widest geographical coverage area for the second round of real estate campaigns. That’s how so many of my clients have seen their auction properties sell to out-of-state buyers this year—and not just seasonal and recreational properties.

With Facebook’s dynamic content tools, you can test up to five headlines and five subheads per ad and have Facebook automatically adapt the ads as they run to favor the headline(s) and subhead(s) that are drawing the most clicks and other interactions. I also use a variable-image tool as well, giving the artificial intelligence engine up to 250 different versions of each ad to test, analyze, and adapt to get the most amount of clicks at the lowest-available cost per click. So, even the first round of ads can hone its content to achieve efficient traffic.

By the way, this method also works well for advertising non-real estate assets for which Facebook doesn’t have pertinent interest or occupational categories. You can market to more general audiences with asset-specific headlines that find the subset of the bigger audience that is interested in what you’re selling. Just as with real estate, you can run a second-stage ad that targets the lookalikes of those early responders.

You don’t need huge budgets to get efficient traffic to real estate auctions. Headlines are free. Good photography can be free or cheap. When you don’t waste space on auction details and focus on asset details and selling points, you find your prospects more efficiently and in greater quantity.

More and better traffic leads to more bidders. More bidders lead to more bidding. More bidding leads to higher sale prices and bigger commissions. And you can generate a lot of that “more,” higher,” and “bigger just by making your headlines more aligned with your buyer’s interests.

Images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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“Why Can’t I See My Facebook Ads?”

This blog post, like most I’ve written over the past few years, is a response to a question I get asked often. So far in 2022, I’ve worked for 65 companies; and 16 are companies that tried my services for the first time. The question that spawned this article comes primarily from those new clients.

I actually get the question in three forms:

  1. “Why don’t the ads you created show on my business’ Facebook page?”
  2. “Why can’t I see the Facebook ads you created when I’m on Facebook?”
  3. “Why can’t my seller see my Facebook ads when they’re on Facebook?”

The answer to the first question is the easiest to answer. Unless a client requests me to build a photo album or video post on their Facebook page, I don’t. Facebook doesn’t give much organic (free) distribution of page posts. Promoted posts can be optimized only to those who Facebook’s algorithm knows are likely to like, share, or comment on that post. Neither boosted nor promoted posts can be optimized to distribute to those most likely to click on links and go to my client’s website. Since I’m paid to drive traffic to auctions and find bidders, posts are inefficient vehicles for accomplishing what I’m hired to do. And as you can see in the diagram below, it’s harder to click to a client’s website from a post than from an ad.

Facebook Ads vs Posts Ryan George

In contrast, ads can be optimized for those likely to go to your website. But ads only show in the various feeds of the Meta platform: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and the Audience Network (Facebook ads on news and entertainment sites—similar to the Google display network). So, the way to see an ad is to be one of the people we’re targeting with the ads.

As with all Meta ads, if a prospect in our targeted audience doesn’t like, comment, share, or click the link in the ads they see, eventually the algorithm determines they’re not interested and moves the ads in front of other viewers. So if you see one of your auction ads in the wild, make sure to engage with it in some way to teach the algorithm to show you them more often.

Another way to see your ads more often is to install a free Facebook tracking pixel on your website. As you post your auctions and review the content on your website, you’ll automatically be included in any audience that targets people who’ve been on your site. That said, being included in an audience doesn’t guarantee you’ll see the ad in question. Facebook rarely saturates an entire audience with ads, because it knows not everyone in that audience will be interested. It doesn’t waste advertisers’ dollars by forcing the issue. (That’s why your cost per click will generally go down the larger the audience is.) Meta’s algorithms are trained by thousands of each user’s online interactions to know what they’ll click on and what they won’t.

For all of these reasons, while I’m building Facebook ads, I screen capture them for my clients to save for their records and/or seller presentations. I see maybe 5% of the ads I create in my own Meta platform feeds. So, I can’t rely on encountering them in the wild. But I don’t worry that Facebook isn’t running them or showing them to the wrong people. I’ve got Facebook’s real-time data reporting that details distribution metrics; and my clients and I can verify enough of that data in Google Analytics to know it’s reliable self-reporting.

There’s mystery, nuance, and uneven results in most, if not all, Facebook advertising. But the same has been true of newspaper advertising for decades. It’s been the case for email marketing since SPAM filters were invented. You can’t know in advance how many and exactly who is seeing TV ads or hearing radio ads, either. We can’t know in advance how many people will see our road signs—let alone if the right drivers will. We don’t know how many people will open an envelope or brochure from a mailbox, either. At least Facebook ads come with live tracking.

I can’t tell an auctioneer why their seller can’t see our ads. What I can tell them is that their seller can see their results.

 

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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230: The Real Estate Shots That Get the Most Clicks on Facebook

Three years ago, I went fishing for the first time in my adult life. My buddies wanted to introduce me to fly fishing. So, we booked a weekend of guided fishing in drift boats. On the first day, I caught more fish than anyone and netted all four types of trout known to inhabit the rivers of Paradise Valley. Meanwhile, the experienced fly fishermen in the boat with the other guide couldn’t match my beginner’s luck. They groused later that their guide didn’t adapt his bait to the conditions as our guide did.

The next morning proved their assertion correct. We surrendered our guide to the other boat and got a new one, who happened to be a solid guide too. We caught enough fish to stay engaged with the river, but the boat with our former guide absolutely smoked us. My brother-in-law caught 16 fish, including the full Yellowstone Grand Slam.

The guide from our first day and their second day could look at the grass on the banks and tell when to switch lures. An hour later, he knew to switch to something bigger or smaller—and where to cast to take advantage of that adjustment. He knew the insect shapes and sizes that accompany specific weather and seasons. He’d drifted the rivers of southern Montana so long that the cracks in his weathered skin seemed like maps of the watershed in which he worked.

real estate imagery Ryan George underwater

I’m no river sage, but I’ve spent almost $2 million on Facebook advertising. Thousands of auctions into this livelihood, I’ve tried all different kinds of lures while fishing for bidders. Thanks to gracious and patient clients, I’ve been able to test different headlines, different imagery, and different ad delivery formats. One thing I’ve discovered is that prospective real estate buyers don’t respond equally to the various types of visuals in your ads. In fact, there seem to be defined strata in terms of efficiency of results. 

From my experience here are the four types of imagery from worst cost per click to best.

#4 Video

I don’t know if video performs so poorly for my clients’ ads because of the production quality of the video, because the videos typically don’t follow Facebook’s recommendations for video ads, or because of something else. But video ads typically have a cost per click multiple times that of photo-based ads. They’re usually not even close.

#3 Aerial

Generally, my clients use aerials when they don’t have ground shots of the subject property or when winter snow hides valuable details. Sometimes, they use aerials because the properties are in dire need of—well—redevelopment. I can’t tell you why aerials perform worse than the next two options, but my guess is that the detail that makes aerial imagery valuable is mostly lost at the scale in which it’s seen on our newsfeeds.

#2 Drone Shot

It makes sense that images from drones outperform aerials because they’re usually captured closer to the subject property. Also, they put the property in context with an oblique view. Property lines pop with a more dimensional perspective, and the height of capture makes the surrounding scenery look more beautiful thanks to that horizon line. If a property is close to a beach, a lake, a commercial area, or other landmarks, a drone shot shows proximity you don’t have to mention in the ad’s restricted text space.

#1 Eye-Level Photo

Humans are accustomed to seeing properties at eye level. We also want a close-up view—especially within the tight confines of a social media ad. Buyers want to know as much what they’re in for before they click that link. That doesn’t mean the photos need to be boring MLS inventory shots. Show that sweeping view from the porch or along the fence line. Take the photo from the top floor of that commercial building or the top of the grain elevator. Snap a field picture through the windshield of the combine or from the deer stand. Take a picture from a canoe looking back at the lake house or at sunset with all of the lights on. There are lots of ways—even with our phones—to take interesting images that will capture attention. But even the mundane standard photos will typically outperform aerials, videos, and even drone shots.

It’s good to try new lures. I recommend it, actually—as long as you’re testing it and measuring it against your baselines. The differences between properties can make it tough for an auctioneer or REALTOR® to get enough apples to compare with other apples. From the scale of my time on the Facebook river, though, I can highly recommend your imagery tackle box holds more eye-level and drone phots than other lures.

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Why I Don’t Create Auction Company Promotion

This year, I’ve received a bevy of requests for the same thing. I’ve read the shared inquiry in emails, transcribed voicemails, Facebook messages, and even a comment on a blog post. The question?

“Do you help auctioneers promote their business—or just their auctions?”

The short answer is, “Just their auctions.” Since auctioneers are asking this a lot, it might be good for me to explain why. So here are my top 6 reasons why I no longer build this kind of Facebook advertising.

(1) You don’t need to promote your company to buyers.

The best way to promote that your website as a prime place to shop is to constantly show buyers what you’re selling. And the best way to do that is to show them the assets in your auctions. If you’re dead-set on spending company money to promote your marketplace, I’d add that money to your auction advertising budgets. In almost every auction campaign I build, I use an audience that targets people who’ve interacted with the past year of posts & ads from that client’s company. In most of my campaigns, that ad earns the most efficient traffic of any ad we create—often as low as 4¢ or 6¢ per click. Without company promotion ads on Facebook, I’ve helped multiple clients grow that audience to 200,000 people. Even without Facebook ads touting their buyer marketplace, I’ve seen clients double their annual revenue and quadruple their bidder registrations.

(2) Seller promotion on Facebook requires a lot of content.

If you’ve targeted your company promotion campaign to those most likely to need your services, you can’t just serve the same ad or two to your prospects. It might take years before a prospect is in need of your services—not the few days or weeks it takes for a buyer-based auction campaign to pay for itself. The needed diversity and quantity of content proves quite daunting, which explains why “social media manager” (the person in charge of brand awareness online) at most companies is a part-time or full-time job. Thankfully, regular auctions in their social feeds show prospective sellers that others trust you often. They see that “if you want something done, give it to someone already busy.” If your auction-based ads and posts look more professional than what’s out there, even better.

(3) Auctioneers haven’t been able to help me help them.

I have started the process of company promotion ads on Facebook with a few auctioneers. I think I’ve only ever had one make it all the way to Facebook. All the rest of the campaigns quietly fizzled out when the answers to the following questions never arrived in my inbox:

  • What problem(s) do you solve for potential sellers?
  • How do you solve those problems uniquely better than those prospects’ other options?
  • What evidence (stats, quotes, case studies) do you have that you reliably deliver those solutions?

“Sold!” isn’t enough for sellers. Sellers are looking for more money, faster money, and/or easier money than their other options. Which of those fits you’re brand? How can you prove that?

(4) Auctioneers don’t have sales funnels in place.

Even if I could reliably get traffic to the auctioneer’s website, I’ve found that the bid callers asking me for company promotion would lose the fish before they reeled them into the boat. What I mean is that if they even have a page for sellers on their site, it’s rarely set up to net the fish on the line. It’s usually just one of the long, boilerplate lists that the auction industry copies and pastes from each other. “The most transparent way to sell” … “online bidding brings in more buyers” … blah, blah blah. It doesn’t address the questions asked above or their answers. It doesn’t offer hope and solutions—just a method of sale. The seller program on their site is not built as a succession of multiple, brief-content pages which can be tracked to see where people jumped out of the sales process. Few have forms for requesting a free consultation, downloading a seller guide, or submitting a consignment. 

(5) My personality isn’t compatible with the timelines.

I don’t have the attention span to watch a folder languish on my desk for six months or a year. I like getting from order to fulfillment to payment in as few days as possible. In 2021, auction folders have lived on my desk for an average of 17.3 days, and I get paid an average of 21.1 days after I send the invoice. Thanks to Facebook, that first number is steadily dropping. I’m still trying to figure out how to get that second number lower. Haha.

(6) I don’t need the extra work.

I’m on pace to advertise 743 auctions this year. My wife, my daughter, and I can all affirm that’s more than enough work to keep me busy—to keep me coming into the office as early as 5:00 A.M. and shutting down as late as 11:00 P.M. Seller marketing requires more creativity and mental acuity for me, and it’s far harder to estimate time and thus invoices in advance. 

I promote my company on Facebook, and those ads have brought me scores of inquiries and dozens of clients in the past two years, but I have tons of content at my disposal and a solid awareness of the problems I solve uniquely better than auctioneers’ other options do. I’m not saying company promotion couldn’t or doesn’t work for auction companies. I’m just not the right vendor to build those campaigns, and I don’t want to waste auctioneers’ valuable time and resources proving that I’m a poor fit.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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225: The Easiest Way to Lower Your Facebook Costs for Personal Property Auctions

In July of 2019, Facebook changed its advertiser policies to align with federal anti-discrimination guidelines for employment, finance, and real estate. From that moment forward, we’ve not been able to target real estate ads toward people based on occupation, wealth categories, relationship status, education, and interests (like turkey hunting or riding equestrian). Our minimum geographic radius for real estate ads expanded to 15 miles to prevent using geography as a proxy for wealth or race. 

Facebook Ads Manager debuted Special Ad Audiences, a system for building lookalike audiences for ads in these Special Ad Categories. Over the last 24 months, we’ve been able to replicate past Facebook interactors, past website (pixel) traffic, in-house lists, and even purchased lists. While we can’t target real estate as narrowly as we can personal property, I’ve found that with some extra time we can still get efficient traffic within these parameters.

Special Ad Category

For personal property ads, though, we bump into no such hurdles or restrictions. If we want to target people who like Ritchie Bros and Machinery Trader, operate an excavator, and purchase used items, we can still target them. If we want to target middle-aged men who like kayak fishing but not deep sea fishing, we can serve ads to that specific audience. If we want people who like estate sales, Antiques Roadshow, and barn finds, we can easily serve ads just to those people. If we want farmers who like John Deere and TractorHouse but not FFA and The Progressive Farmer, we can narrow that tightly.

I wouldn’t, but you can.

Well, you can if you put your personal property auction on web pages that don’t mention real estate.

See, Facebook’s automated approval system doesn’t check only the content of the ads. It also evaluates the content of the pages to which you’re sending people who click on your ads. First, it checks for items and services on Facebook’s list of prohibited advertising content. Then, it checks to see if any of the content would fall under a Special Ad Category: real estate, finance, employment, and now political topics. If any of those contexts apply, so do the restrictions that come with them. Those Special Ad Category restrictions hamper the efficacy and efficiency of personal property ads far more than they do real estate.

So, the easiest way to make personal property ads more efficient is to list personal property and real estate auctions separately on your website. Even without Facebook, this should be your standard practice. The buyer pool for personal property is almost always larger than the real estate where it’s housed. That’s true of farm equipment, commercial machinery, estate collections, and business liquidations. Yes, there’s a little overlap in prospect markets but not as much as you might think. The Venn diagrams look more like binoculars than Olympic rings.

Your Facebook ads should use their limited text space only for the content of interest to each targeted audience. Hopefully, you have separate email lists for real estate and personal property (if not subcategories beyond those two main headings). If you’ve sorted your bidder database by asset type, you can use variable data printing to send postcards with different emphases to different prospect pools. Sure, mention the real estate on the equipment version or vice versa; but give more space to what each list wants to see first.

The better you match the content of your advertising to a buyer’s interest, the more likely they are to visit your website. When they get to that website, you want them to see primarily what drew them in the first place. Anything less gives them cognitive dissonance and makes you look less professional. Facebook is just pushing us to best practices.

Let your competitors throw everything together as though an auction is just a community event. Let them cram everything into one ad or email or sign. On your auctions, market each asset category to its likely buyers—and then grin as you cash those bigger commission checks from more motivated bidders.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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212: Facebook Data That Will Improve Your Direct Mail

In August of 2019, Facebook cut the visible text available above an ad’s photo, slideshow, or video from seven short lines to just three. Don’t reach for your calculator. I’ll save you the trouble. That was a 57% cut in usable messaging in that space.

Why would they do this? Text is almost free in terms of server space. Their algorithms uncovered the fact that ads which said less got a more efficient response. Shorter text created better results. For those in the back: less was more.

This coincided with their findings that the most successful video ads were 15 seconds or shorter and that the best of those videos landed their hook within the first seven seconds. So, it’s not just a matter of consumers unwilling to read, though social science studies back that up. It’s a matter of time and attention. People respond to their first impressions far more than they do the tertiary details. 

Your first few seconds are either pass or fail.

If there was a negative impact of this change, it wasn’t drastic. I started keeping a spreadsheet of my Facebook advertising results the week of this change. Across all asset categories, I’ve seen these more succinct ads average just 9¢ per click over the span of 300± auctions. 

Publishing these results in (short) Facebook ads has brought me a new client per week or two instead of a new client every few months. All those new clients have helped me weather the pandemic’s hit on the auction industry. So, I’m not surprised Facebook was right. Algorithms trump human intuition all day every day. Facebook’s artificial intelligence, in particular, has adjusted my assumptions. I’m talking guesses that had been educated by more than 7,000 advertising campaigns.

There’s an interesting assumption in the auction industry that people have shorter attention spans online than they do in print. Don’t believe me? Grab almost any winning direct mail piece in any state or national auctioneer association’s advertising contest. I’d bet you what I’d charge to design it that there’s more text on any one side of it than what Facebook allows visible in a full ad. In many samples of auction direct mail I’ve seen, there’s more text in the terms & conditions on the mailer panel than in a successful Facebook ad. 

The problem is that we view people like we view search engines. We assume that the more information we feed them, the more results we’ll get. Instead of relying on our targeting, we throw as much spaghetti against the wall as we can and hope some of it sticks. It’s the old “more is more” approach, which is inefficient at best and expensively ineffective at worst. 

As Facebook proved earlier, less is more.

In the Internet age, our buyers are more educated than ever—especially if we’ve targeted well. We don’t need to list everything on the grocery aisle, if (1) the hanging placard shows the top four items or (2) the end cap has something yummy. If the customer doesn’t like the sizzle, they won’t like the steak. If they don’t want what’s in the headlines, it doesn’t matter what’s on the bulleted list. Frankly, if they don’t take notice from what’s in the pictures, it doesn’t matter what any of the text says.

Even if all of this weren’t true—even if human attention spans were growing instead of shrinking—you’d want to follow Facebook’s lead just for strategic purposes. Saving all the details for your website adds incentive for people to go to your online marketplace, where you can track advertising efficacy, capture interested parties for pixel-based marketing, and possibly get people registered to bid. Minimizing your text gives your headlines and photos more breathing room and your call to action more impact. 

Big, artistic, detailed direct mail pieces assuage our sellers, stroke our egos, and win awards. If we’re lucky, we impress future sellers and hold the attention of would-be buyers. Those aren’t necessarily wrong reasons for verbose postcards and brochures. If you want to get people to bid right now, though, I recommend relying on humility and the trillions of data points collected from 2.6 billion Facebook users, including the 72% of U.S. adults who use the platform.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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