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, and then 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 put 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) scandal 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 forecasted 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 U.K.’s call for him to appear before Parliament to answer for getting data on 50 million user profiles and their use by CA.
Much of the resulting damage has been due to Facebook’s ever-changing attempts to deny and obfuscate its role in the use of stolen data and its continuing attempts to cover up the extent of its involvement.
When Data Security Chief Alex Stamos called for full cooperation, he was essentially 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 it behind.
When Facebook’s user base began to skew 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 agents and 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 called Facebook, “a way for people to hide, not actually talk.”
Calling real estate “a contact sport,” she went on to say, “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,” Murtland said.
Derek Devore, CEO of listings aggregator Duvora, said, “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 [its] effectiveness,” he said.
Devore went 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
Aaron Norris, of California real estate investment and finance firm The Norris Group, said 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 said, “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 said that his firm participates in a variety of social media channels, but each has a specific purpose. Some are for relationship building with journalists, others are for SEO, and some are strictly forecasting to be the first to market for zero interface results. “We’re nerds! But it’s paid off in spades,” he said.
Norris sees the basic security problem with Facebook or any other platform as going all-in on a social media channel you don’t own. When there’s a problem, audiences leave en masse.
“When it happens, so goes your lead generation model,” he said. “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, Norris said for many, “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.