This article adapted at Inman.
Years ago, I was talking to a social media consultant about the best platforms for real estate. She talked knowledgeably about the pros and cons of each, but never mentioned Facebook. When I asked her why, she said, “It goes without saying. Facebook is non-negotiable. You have to be there because that’s where everybody is.”
In the years since, real estate pros have survived algorithm changes, a preference for video, a preference away from video, and the explosion of paid content as a necessity within the platform. Through it all, Facebook continued to be non-negotiable and people were willing to pay in time and money for workshops, videos, and podcasts that promised Facebook mastery.
But the new revelations about Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) breach has called into question Facebook’s dominance among even its most die-hard advocates, and has everyone wondering whether it’s time to #DeleteFacebook.
Facebook Facing a Bleak Outlook
Internet researcher eMarketer recently forecast a fall in Facebook and Google’s market dominance, even before news of Facebook’s CA troubles became the dominant story this week. Then came stories of Zuckerburg et al’s attempts to intimidate The Guardian into silence and the UK’s call for him to appear before Parliament to answer for the breach of 50 million user profiles and their illicit use by CA.
Much of the resulting damage has been due to Facebook’s ever-changing attempts to deny and obfuscate their role in the use of stolen data and their continuing attempts to cover up the extent of their involvement. When Data Security Chief Alex Stamos called for full cooperation, he was forced out, suggesting that Facebook’s only appropriate posture in the face of the controversy is denial.
How great is Facebook anyway?
Even before the current controversy, however, Facebook has faced criticism and a sense that the changing landscape of social media was leaving them behind. As Facebook’s user base skewed older, it seemed to become little more than a virtual senior citizens center, as younger users abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram (purchased by Facebook in 2012) and Snapchat.
For many real estate professionals, continuing to maintain a Facebook page has become a formality or a nuisance, and some now see little value in attempting to stay engaged in light of the recent revelations.
Cincinnati Realtor Jennifer Murtland calls Facebook, “a way for people to hide, not actually talk.” Calling real estate “a contact sport,” she goes on, “Typically buying or selling a house is attached with an emotional event -- getting married, getting divorced, having kids. This requires a conversation, not just a Like on the computer.”
“ We are thinking of quitting [Facebook] in part because of the breach but not in full. I am not surprised by the breach. We give our data away when we participate in those silly quizzes. How do we think that FB seems to "know" what product you are talking about? These are part of the pros and cons to the internet and computers. Honestly,nothing is safe and privacy is an illusion,” says Murtland.
According to Derek Devore, CEO of listings aggregator Duvora, “Absolutely this will push more professionals into leaving the platform, especially in the real estate sector.”
“Many individual agents have spent countless funds on "boosting" their posts, pages, and listings in order to build their brand around their business page,” he continues. “The problem is, Facebook has demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to drastically change their policies around how their algorithms rank business pages, leaving real estate agents at a monetary loss and lack of clarity as to [their] effectiveness.”
Devore goes on, “Facebook has become a global social network which cannot effectively police its third-party application platform - leaving users to basically fend for themselves during these personal data breaches.”
Lack of control is the biggest factor
According to Aaron Norris of California real estate investment and finance firm The Norris Group, the biggest reason that people don’t get results with Facebook is a lack of focus. This means that agents and brokers are exposing their information for no good purpose.
Norris says, “I’m not leaving Facebook, yet. But I’ll continue my wait-and-see approach as Facebook’s marketing platform has much to be desired. Too many real estate brands haven’t figured out what job social media generally has in their business. It ends up getting very few views and most aren’t even looking at what Facebook should be doing as far as driving business.”
Norris says that his firm participates in a variety of social media channels, but “we give them all a job. For some it’s building relationship with journalists, other is SEO, and others is strictly forecasting to be first to market for zero interface results. We’re nerds! But it’s paid off in spades.”
Norris sees the basic security problem with Facebook or any other platform as “going all-in on social media channels you do not own. They screw up and audiences leave en masse. When it happens, so goes your lead generation model. I don’t mind participating in the channels and following the best practices for those channels, but never would I put all my eggs in one basket.”
While he thinks some will abandon it, for many Norris says, “Facebook will continue to be a very important lead source for Realtors that use it well.”
For those who are not all-in or have not seen the kinds of results they expected, however, it may be that Facebook’s days as a non-negotiable part of every real estate agent’s marketing plan are numbered.