When properly utilized, Facebook is an extraordinary medium for promoting your listings and developing business. Facebook is word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising at scale. And WOM matters not only in the listings that agents sell (from neighbors, other agents, etc.), but also in referrals to you as an agent.

However, people aren’t on Facebook to be sold to.

So I can understand why some savvy social marketers, including Todd Carpenter, senior manager of industry engagement at Trulia and former social media director for the National Association of Realtors, would suggest that the medium shouldn’t be used to sell houses. Todd’s argument stems from what I believe the real issue is: When it comes to promoting listings on Facebook, most agents simply do it wrong.

Promoting your product (houses) and positioning yourself as someone to know, like and trust on Facebook requires a new type of marketing skill. When you understand the culture of Facebook and the marketing tool set that Facebook offers, there is most certainly a place for listings on Facebook. Agents just need to market their listings on Facebook correctly.

Before we delve into the appropriate ways to promote listings on Facebook, let’s first address the wrong ways.

If you are posting your listings on your profile wall, you are doing it wrong for two reasons. First, the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) states, “You will not use your personal profile for your own commercial gain.” Posting listings on your profile wall is an SRR violation and puts you in jeopardy of having your Facebook account shut down.

Second, your Facebook friends view your listing posts as spam (remember, nobody is on Facebook to be sold to), and will react by hiding your posts, reporting you to Facebook as an SRR violation, or worse yet, defriending you.

Facebook Pages, on the other hand, are Facebook’s “tool” for businesses that want to have a presence on Facebook. Pages are Facebook’s commercial entity, and therefore it is not a terms-of-service violation to post your listings on your page. However, if your page wall is a steady stream of listings, you are still doing it wrong.

Studies show that when fans “like” a page, they don’t believe they are opting in to receive marketing messages, so don’t directly pitch your listings on your page wall — your fans will unlike your page. In addition, a steady stream of listings on your page wall is boring and creates no engagement. The end result is you will neither attract fans to your page nor increase the exposure for your listing. It’s simply not effective.

So what is a listing agent to do? Fortunately, there are appropriate ways to promote your listings on Facebook. Here are four options:

Third-party page applications

Facebook business pages allow for third-party applications to be installed on your page that extend the functionality of your page and are accessed via the application buttons on your timeline. I recommend Realtor.com’s Social Connections application. It is free and any (U.S.-based) Realtor can install it on their page. The application auto-syncs with the MLS so you don’t have to manage your listings on Facebook; listings will appear/disappear/price-adjust automatically as you update the MLS. And, because the listings are displayed on the application tab of your page, they are not posted on your page wall. Anyone (for example, your seller) who is interested in looking at your listings can simply click on the listings tab.

This solution also complies with the culture of Facebook in that you aren’t pushing your listing into your fan’s news feed. This is because you aren’t actually posting the listings on your page timeline wall. The listings appear only on the application page, which does not go out in the news feed. Third-party apps are a great way to pacify both your sellers who will want their listings on Facebook and your Facebook fans who don’t want to be sold to on Facebook.

Realtor.com’s Social Connections App example from Summit Home Consultants.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads, which most often appear on the right-hand sidebar of most Facebook pages, can be utilized by agents to target their listing to Facebook users most likely to purchase the home. With this powerful advertising medium, you can tell Facebook to target and display your ad only to Facebook users who meet certain criteria; for example, users who live in a particular ZIP code.

All Facebook ads include a hyperlink, and you can have your ad link, for example, to a single-property website, which gives people more details about the listing. Facebook lets you know how many times your ad was displayed (number of impressions), as well as how many clicks your ad received.

Ads are charged on a cost-per-click basis, and you can cap your spend at whatever dollar amount you want — say, $50 per listing. Agents can tell their seller, “I displayed your ad 500,000 times to people who live in the city of Newport Beach, and that generated 64 clicks to my single property website for your listing.” It’s a powerful tool that makes you look great to your sellers.

Facebook listing ad example from Realtor Raj Qsar

Have your seller post her listing

Although it is a terms-of-service violation for you to post your listing on your profile, you should encourage your seller to post her listing on her wall: “Know anyone who’d be a perfect fit for our quaint Harbor View Hills home? We’ve just listed it and are looking for the perfect buyer. Please help us spread the word!” This is word-of-mouth advertising at its finest.

Your client’s friends, family and neighbors all have a vested interest in helping your seller out, and your client is likely connected to many of them on Facebook. This group will engage with the post, which ultimately creates greater visibly for the listing in Facebook. Coach your client to provide, within the post, a link to the single-property listing website and tag you or your business page. If you are Facebook friends with your client, you should comment on the post and consider sharing your client’s post to your business page.

Listings as part of your page content strategy

If you insist on promoting your listings on your business page wall, be smart about it. There is an art to this approach, and my book, “Facebook Page Marketing: Content Strategies for Real Estate,” provides many specific examples.

To avoid annoying your fans, figure out creative ways to selectively post listings on your page wall. Focus on one feature, or something unique about the home. Or tell the story of the home in pictures. Think about how you can position the property to create activity (comments, likes and shares) on the post. The more activity your post has, the greater visibility for the post in the news feed of your fans, which results in more exposure for your listing.

“Listing as part of effective page content strategy” example from Realtor Heather Elias.

The reality is, your sellers are expecting their listings to be on Facebook, and being able to say that you are putting their listing on Facebook is an essential part of a modern listing presentation (if you aren’t, your competition is!). But, to be effective, you have to do it appropriately. Don’t blast out your listings on your wall. You now have four more skillful solutions that are an integral part of today’s real estate marketing campaign and can help you grow your business using Facebook.

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