Facebook Targeting

229: Facebook’s Current Real Estate Targeting Options

In July of 2019, Facebook changed targeting options for real estate, employment, and financial product advertising to comply with federal anti-discrimination policies. (It has since added political advertising to the list of Special Ad Categories.) While that shift removed some valuable demographic and interest categories from our toolbox, the remaining options prove robust enough for the vast majority of auction properties I’ve advertised since then. Here’s a list of targeting options still available for sponsored ads and promoted posts.

Local Residents

Most real estate is purchased by local residents, and this audience does the heavy lifting—and often gets the lowest cost per click—on most of my real estate campaigns. Because targeting a small area or a specific zip code could be discriminatory, Facebook’s minimum radius for all real estate ads is currently 15 miles. We cannot target counties, and the maximum radius for all Facebook ads is 50 miles. Facebook does allow adding additional radii, but I typically don’t recommend that for this specific audience.

Current Visitors

This is a great option for vacation and recreation properties, particularly during seasons when visitors are likely. The most likely non-local people who would buy a property as an end-user or an investor are those who’ve at least visited the area. The minimum radius for the area visited is also 15 miles. 

Recent Visitors

If you missed a holiday weekend, opening day, or other critical high-traffic time, Facebook will allow you to target those who recently visited the area in question. The minimum radius for the area visited is 15 miles.

Website Traffic

If you have a Facebook Business Manager pixel installed on your website, you can serve ads and posts to people who visited your website for up to 180 days prior. You can narrow that source traffic to those who stayed on your site for a designated length of time, those who visited a specific page (like a similar property), and those who performed specific actions on that site. In order to generate a larger group from which to generate lookalikes, I usually leave this option as just those who visited the auction and/or catalog page. 

Third-party platforms like BidSpotter and Proxibid do not allow pixel installation, and I’ve only seen HiBid allow them in a couple of situations. In my experience, BidWrangler and MarkNet Alliance are the platforms that make adding a pixel easy.

Facebook Interactors

This option has more subcategories than the others shown so far. Just one of the submenus is shown below. Basically, you can target people who interacted with your Facebook content. Rather than getting in the weeds on some of these options, I generally use only one of two options: (1) “Everyone who engaged with your page” and (2) “People who engaged with any post or ad.” For my clients who don’t have a Facebook Business Manager pixel installed on their site, I use this audience as a proxy for website traffic.

Customer Lists

Facebook allows you to accept the indemnity for targeting by uploading customer lists to their black box for distribution. That list can be past buyers, past bidders, past sellers, direct mail recipients, and email subscribers. These lists comprise “warm” prospects: those familiar or at least acquainted at one time with your brand. The lists must have all pieces of information in separate columns (first name, last name, city, state, email address, etc.). The more columns of information in the CSV file, (1) the easier it is for Facebook to match the list with its database and (2) the smaller the list it needs to build an audience. We can’t know in advance how many records it will take for Facebook to find its minimum number of matches, but we can always upload a list to find out. Generally, it takes several hundred records for them to find the minimum number of matches. 

Purchased Lists

Using the customer list loophole, you can upload any list you purchase. For real estate auctions, you can purchase at least four types of lists. First, you can buy a consumer list based on demographics like income, net worth, home value, and even a few interest categories (like equestrian enthusiasts and those with hunting licenses). Second, you can buy business records with highest-ranking known employee based on an industry’s SIC code. Phone numbers and emails are often available for an extra fee and help with the match rate. Third, you can buy lists of landowners, sorted by contiguous acres owned and whether they live on that land or not. Consumers cost less per piece than businesses, which cost well less than landowners. At my list broker, the minimum list costs are $100, $100, and $250, respectively for these lists. Fourth, I’ve also had clients purchase lists of members from a state or national trade association. Those are typically more expensive, where available.

It’s important to know that neither you nor I can purchase a list of investors. We can query based on income, net worth, or acres owned but not on whether someone is a known real estate investor. We can query real estate investment trusts, property management firms, and real estate development corporations but not individuals who do this work. In fact, we can’t target anyone based on profession (like farmer or developer)—only the highest-known employees at companies from our selected designated SIC codes. I don’t recommend buying farm lists based on SIC codes. (1) Most farmers want to buy properties within 15 miles, and (2) a landowners list provides a more accurate data set.

Special Ad Audiences

If you’d like Facebook to replicate your web traffic, Facebook interactors, customer list, or purchased list, you’ll need to use the Special Ad Audience tool in Ads Manager. The process for creating this is identical to creating a Lookalike Audience for ads that aren’t designated for a Special Ad Category.

Which and how many of these audiences I recommend depends on the asset category, budget, and data resources at my client’s disposal. (I don’t give recommendations for what client budgets should be, by the way. I just anonymously show what my other clients have spent and achieved on their campaigns of similar assets.) 

Across almost $2 million of Facebook ads, I’ve seen sponsored ads outperform posts more than 99% of the time in getting people off Facebook to client websites. I’ve also found that photo ads outperform video ads, especially when using Ad Manager’s Dynamic Content tool. Facebook data shows that (1) more than 80% of video ads are played on mute and (2) ads with videos need to communicate their hook within the first 7 seconds. In fact, Facebook recommends that videos in ads be 15 seconds or shorter. 

If any or all of this seems confusing or overwhelming, you aren’t alone in that sentiment. Thankfully, you know a guy who creates almost 500 Facebook campaigns a year; and I’d be happy to take the complicated work of advertising real estate on Facebook off your hands.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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