Why the Real Estate Industry needs it's own 'niche' social ecosystem and should not rely so much on Facebook and other social channels for property marketing

NewOpps

Over the past 10 years Facebook has gone from millions of active users into the billions. Other platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram have also grown rapidly. It is clear people love using social media and that it's definitely here to stay: in addition to connecting people on a global scale, it has turned traditional marketing on its head and provided opportunities for individuals to create million dollar businesses. But is all this about to change? Are these platforms becoming overcrowded? How will the new Facebook algorithms effect real estate businesses who rely on the platform for marketing? What are the alternatives?


Global networks have become overcrowded

Many feel that in trying to be all things to all people, these global platforms have become overcrowded. News feeds and status walls are becoming saturated with irrelevant (sometimes explicit) content, fake news, internet trolls and noisy chatter. Like traditional TV and radio advertising, messages are pushed out to people regardless. With TV people can now pause or fast-forward annoying ads. On social platforms there are options to block or hide individual ads but you can't turn ads off altogether. There is a growing number of people who have become tired of these global social channels - not just because of being bombarded with ads, but because they no longer trust them, because of this they are deactivating their accounts.


Facebook's new algorithms – is the honeymoon over?

Whether you love or hate social media, if you are in business you most likely still need it. However, since Facebook introduced changes to their algorithms it has become clear that over-reliance on major networks can have serious consequences on business. Facebook news feeds will now display more "family and friend" posts and less from business, brands, and news outlets. Facebook's goal is to cut the clutter and place more emphasis on "social interactions". This is a devastating blow to small businesses. To understand the impact it is already having, this is a must read. Many businesses that relied on Facebook are now dead in the water as a direct result of their changes.


New discrimination policies make life even more difficult for real estate marketing on Facebook

Facebook advertising rules are following traditional channels such as newspapers, TV commercials, signs etc. Back in 2017 they started implementing changes including the tightening of their advertising policies. This came about as a result of policymakers, civil rights leaders and government officials who raised concerns that advertisers could misuse some aspects of Facebook's affinity marketing segments i.e. to run ads that discriminate against people, particularly in areas such as housing, employment and the extension of credit.

Many real estate agents are already feeling the impact of these changes, particularly with organic marketing and sales posts which can be produced free through feeds from company websites, social sharing etc. Facebook have already started to block these types of posts because they are now classed as advertising.

Every country has it's own set of rules and regulations to protect individuals against discrimination - in particular, rules relating to traditional real estate advertising. In Australia (New Zealand can be found here) this is regulated under the Australian Human Rights Commission and include:


In the UK this is regulated by the Equality & Human Rights Commission and in the US by The Fair Housing Act. It is the latter that has impacted globally on Facebook advertising. The advertising segments that policy makers and regulators are most concerned about are those that deliberately target (or exclude) people based on:

  • ​Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Income
  • Race / Colour / Ethnicity
  • Religion


Agents have already been hit with the new policy changes and told they can no longer segment their adverts where they could be seen as discriminating: any ads that appeared to be targeting or excluding certain groups would be blocked by their new algorithm. As many agents have discovered the algorithm gets it wrong sometimes and is blocking non-discriminating ads. Once this happens it is difficult to rectify as support at Facebook is pretty poor.

There are many articles and news reports regarding the changes to Facebook policies like this one from TechCrunch. The worry for many is on how they will deal with location targeting. It has been common practice for financial institutions to refuse loans based on where a person lives: some areas that have high unemployment might be classified as high risk for loan repayment and so on. This would be a massive blow for real estate agents who rely heavily on location based marketing. Some believe it is only a matter of time before this restriction will be fully implemented in Facebook.


Is LinkedIn the Facebook alternative for business?

LinkedIn is a brilliant business tool and is especially useful for finding and making initial connections with key contacts. However some people feel it is fast becoming the professional's version of Facebook with an increasing number of "personal and social" posts cluttering up the news feeds. LinkedIn almost need to do the reverse of what Facebook are currently implementing and place emphasis on "business and career posts" and discourage or limit the social. 

Like Twitter, LinkedIn lacks some useful features such as being able to retrieve content in a structured way. For example, if someone posts an important announcement or article to the news feed it can be missed by the majority of their connections - they have to be logged in at the time it is posted as news feeds change every second and posts are pushed down the page. Hashtags and tags generally are extremely useful, but if you are looking for a particular article or event for example it can be difficult to find it (if anyone knows how this can be achieved please share with us). There are additional restrictions on LinkedIn such as the maximum allowed connections of 30k. This is fine for most of us but for some 'influencers' for example its not so good. 


Are 'niche' platforms and social/business networks the future?

They should certainly be given some serious consideration! There is a growing army of people who are actively seeking, or creating these alternative platforms and online communities. Whilst Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat will continue to be fundamental to a company's social media strategy, there are now more reasons than ever to be seeking out alternatives (and being actively involved in growing them). Niche networks have more focused audiences. Whether it's specific to real estate, property development, DIY or maybe even a community of 'mobile camping enthusiasts' they are a great addition to your marketing and can help build loyal, highly engaged audiences for your brand. Niche network doesn't mean small either – some of these can have in excess of 100k active users – even millions!

Youtube is a good example of how 'niche' networks can work both in favor of the consumer and the advertiser. Although the channel is packed with marketing and promotional videos, it is actually the Vloggers (video bloggers) who are the most lucrative for major advertisers and also the reason behind the surge in Youtube millionaires. Advertisers cottoned on to the fact that followers of Vloggers were captive audiences they could tap in to. Vloggers generally specialise or have some other appeal to viewers and it generates mass followers. If the Vlogger is a 'camping enthusiasts' for example, then advertisers might pay the Vlogger to test and review products, or pay for mentions etc.  Unlike traditional methods of advertising like TV commercials (where the same ad is pushed out to everyone) Youtube viewers have actively sought and followed these Vloggers/Youtube channels and if ads do appear, they are generally very specific to their interests. This has proved very successful for marketeers.


Would a 'niche' social platform work for the real estate industry?

Most definitely yes! Real estate agents, property related service providers (including tradesmen) are already all over social media. As said earlier, these platforms are flooded with posts and content such as property for sale, or articles promoting products and services (these will quite possibly disappear as and when new policies for advertising are implemented). Many LinkedIn users are already complaining that "the platform is being used as a substitute property portal" with too many properties being posted by agents to the news stream. Without some clever viral marketing campaign and/or a hefty marketing budget, it is difficult for any business (let alone real estate) to stand out from their competitors on these platforms. 

The real estate industry is crying out for it's own space - not just to market property, but to bring together content directly related to the industry including curated news articles, videos, podcasts, events, training courses and so on. If you have ever tried to find real estate or property related events you know that they are spread across multiple platforms like Eventbrite, 10times, individual websites and so on.  


Niche property related platforms are a massive benefit to the consumer too

From the consumer's perspective they are being bombarded with ads wherever they go, quite often in spaces where they just want to switch off. Facebook was created as a social space where friends and family connected and shared content and experiences. It has now become a massive marketing tool and constantly bombards users with adverts. Although they have introduced many changes, and are going back to more "family and friend" posts and less from business, brands, and news outlets. adverts will continue to be shown. They have introduced real estate sections to their marketplace, but many people feel uncomfortable with this, and given recent data breeches and other issues is it really the right platform to advertise property? Just because we can use it doesn't mean we should. There have been many reports of rogue real estate agents operating on Facebook (see this for example) also check out these news reports and search the internet for more:

https://www.athomeingroningen.com/housing-in-groningen/avoid-scamming/

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/property/couple-scammed-out-1200-fake-521641

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-16/the-common-pitfalls-when-renting-off-private-listings/8276124


When consumers are seeking a product or service they tend to visit specialist websites. If they are looking for a plumber or a special occasion outfit, they visit sites that provide those products or services. Niche platforms are better for consumers because there are no blurred lines between social and business. They are also more 'search friendly' because they categorise content in multiple ways. Take an online clothes shop for example, products are categorised by the type of clothing, so not only can you use smart search, you can also use traditional search methods to find what you are looking for. Finally, users who join 'niche' property platforms are more likely to be open to your services because it is most likely the reason they signed up. 


Linktosale is a 'niche' social property platform with integrated property portal, service provider marketplace, ratings and reviews. It is built on social networking technology and connects business and consumers for all things property. The beta version Australian platform was soft launched early 2018, with a planned UK version in 2019. 

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Comments 4

Guest - Tanya, Brisbane, Australia on Monday, 03 December 2018 14:05

This is useful thanks. We tried Facebook without success. I agree about Linked-in our branch staff are on there and yes we are guilty of posting properties. We were also using gumtree for a while and a few other free to list including Twitter - that was useless for our needs. We are trying to establish which generated the most interest. It does make sense having a space of our own for property so I have shared the link with our branch manager. This portal looks really good so I hope he is interested in signing up! The main portals are so costly and it is time we had more alternatives.

This is useful thanks. We tried Facebook without success. I agree about Linked-in our branch staff are on there and yes we are guilty of posting properties. We were also using gumtree for a while and a few other free to list including Twitter - that was useless for our needs. We are trying to establish which generated the most interest. It does make sense having a space of our own for property so I have shared the link with our branch manager. This portal looks really good so I hope he is interested in signing up! The main portals are so costly and it is time we had more alternatives.
Guest - disgruntled on Tuesday, 04 December 2018 20:13

This got shared to me so first I knew of link-to-sale.
Feel exactly the same. We have been banging on for years about the portal charges. Have shared the details to our team. We have never used Facebook or Linkedin to post properties and we are doing ok. But we haven't really embraced new tech in our agency so propbably why. I like the way they have agents rated on the listings and maybe it will save us having to pay for this separately on other sites? I am surprised I have only just seen this site given it is a property portal

This got shared to me so first I knew of link-to-sale. Feel exactly the same. We have been banging on for years about the portal charges. Have shared the details to our team. We have never used Facebook or Linkedin to post properties and we are doing ok. But we haven't really embraced new tech in our agency so propbably why. I like the way they have agents rated on the listings and maybe it will save us having to pay for this separately on other sites? I am surprised I have only just seen this site given it is a property portal
Guest - pete on Wednesday, 05 December 2018 10:07

Hey guys thumbs up

Hey guys thumbs up
Guest - gregory on Wednesday, 05 December 2018 12:48

seen on my linkedin so guessing it is useful? One thing, I ask every one of my clients to complete feedback on 2 sites and they rarely do it is like it is too much effort. Thinking about it though why would they bother there isn't anything in it for them

seen on my linkedin so guessing it is useful? One thing, I ask every one of my clients to complete feedback on 2 sites and they rarely do it is like it is too much effort. Thinking about it though why would they bother there isn't anything in it for them
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