Facebook Housing Ads: The New Targeting Reality and What it Means

September 18, 2019

How many times can the Facebook Apocalypse hit the marketing world? New algorithms and sweeping changes are hardly anything new to the social media savvy. But if you’re in the business of marketing for the housing industry, August 26, 2019 is a date that you’ll not soon forget. It was the deadline to identify any ads for U.S. Credit, Employment, and Housing Ads as belonging to a “Special Ad Category.” This was an accelerated timeline from the original December 31, 2019 originally given in March. Read on to find out what this means for your campaigns.

Why now & what is changing?

In a landmark legal case in 2018, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and other private parties, filed litigation against Facebook. In June of 2019, Facebook released an update to their Civil Rights Audit in response to the settlement of this case. One of the four key areas for action described in the audit is “Fighting Discrimination in Facebook Ads.” As a result, Facebook is rolling out updates so that housing ads can no longer target by age, gender or zip code (and geographic areas less than 15 miles).

What’s gone, exactly?

When a campaign is created or edited, a prompt now comes up asking if the campaign is part of a Special Ad Category. Once you select that yes, this is a housing ad, the targeting options become restricted. What is gone in the Housing Special Ad Category:

  • Age 
  • Gender
  • Zip code (but geo-targeting is still available in a minimum 15-mile radius around an address, city, or dropped pin)
  • Interests and demographic information that are NOT real estate related

Essentially, any interest that could be considered a proxy for age or gender has also been removed. For clients that have relied on persona targeting derived from analysis of home buyer data and qualified prospect data, this marks a major shift. Even “Outdoor Living” is no longer a target-able interest, for our outdoor amenities-focused communities. For 55+ communities, it’s going to be vital to include who the community is for in the messaging and ad creative because everyone is going to see the ad, regardless of life stage.

What’s left to target?

The targeting options for housing are restricted to Real Estate interests and a geographical area that includes a minimum 15-mile radius. Available interests include:

  • Real estate (broadly)
  • Top home listing websites - Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com
  • Mortgage interests
  • Renting/Apartments finder websites
  • Starter Home and Luxury Home

So you can see that there are still opportunities to segment by type of buyer but the reality is that audiences are going to be much broader than they’ve been in the past; which brings up the concern that traffic from Facebook Ads might now be cheaper but less well-qualified.

How will this impact performance?

Since August 26, the social media ads team at Blue Sky Marketing has been keeping a close eye on how this affects campaign performance and are working closely with our dedicated Marketing Expert at Facebook to mitigate any negative effects. We're implementing lower-funnel campaigns in addition to broader ones, revising creative where possible to create more signals for interest and intent, and improving pixel implementation on websites for more robust signal health.

What’s the new strategy?

  • Relevant Ad Creative - while it’s always been important to have engaging and relevant ad creative, it’s now more crucial than ever. Creative and messaging must catch the eye of just the right prospect to maintain high-quality traffic from Facebook ads.
    • Use videos or anything with motion, and keep descriptions crisp and concise.
    • Set up dynamic home inventory carousel ads from your website feed of homes.
    • Make sure your ads are going to the best landing page possible to invite visitors to connect and nurture those connections with strong email marketing and re-targeting messages.
  • Remarketing for Lower Funnel Objectives - since we know that we'll get more lower-intent traffic from a broader audience, use remarketing to re-engage those prospects with lower-funnel conversion campaigns to complete crucial actions on the site.
  • Special Ad Audiences - If you have access to buyer or prospect lists (emails and phone numbers), set up Special Ad Audiences for targeting. These are basically Lookalike audiences for these special categories, which are audiences built of similar profiles that are in your uploaded list. 
  • Event or Promotional Messages Marketing - only ad campaigns that are selling homes or communities are restricted. If you're promoting an event or some other promotional message (like about schools opening, new commercial development, and news of that nature), all of Facebook's targeting is fair game. Craft your marketing, content and social planning around announcements and engagements like this that will drive traffic to the website based on demographics and interests.
  • Improve Facebook Pixel Signal Health - make sure that you have a Facebook pixel installed on your website first and foremost, but also develop better "signal health" with conversion tracking in your Events Manager. This is a crucial and more technical tactic but will help Facebook to know who is completing desired actions on the website and find more profiles like them. It also helps you implement those lower-funnel campaigns mentioned above.
  • Test with Third Party Data Lists - if you are dedicated to persona targeting which requires demographic information to be successful, third party data companies can sell hashed lists of Facebook profiles using Custom Audiences. 
  • Test, Test, Test - As always, test, test, test and let the data drive your marketing decisions.

We Can Help - Reach Out Today!

The social media advertising team at Blue Sky Marketing dove deep into the new Facebook marketing reality to craft a set of best practices you can use to ensure a smooth transition. Reach out to talk to us about how we can help your campaigns transition with ease.

Email us. Call Michelle at 713.818.0070. Or fill out a contact us form and we will call you. 

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