• Instagram has a new ad platform that allows firms to design and run campaigns themselves.
  • Redfin has seen “positive” results from its national 2-week-old Instagram campaign.
  • Instagram and other mobile-only social media networks such as Snapchat may herald a new real estate advertising future for agents and brokers.

Facebook is clearly the lion of real estate social media advertising, but some of its younger counterparts are nipping at its heels.

Real estate brokers and agents have a growing number of other platforms to spend their demographic-targeted ad dollars on, including Facebook’s own fast-growing adolescent, Instagram.

Instagram recently introduced an application programming interface (API) that allows advertisers to design and run campaigns themselves, opening the mobile photo-sharing app’s ad platform to smaller advertisers.

Seattle-based brokerage Redfin, which has over 1,000 agents in 34 states, began testing a nationwide ad campaign on the app two weeks ago, according to Redfin spokeswoman Angie Newman. The app’s new self-serve ad platform contributed to the firm’s decision to conduct the ad experiment, she said.

Instagram ads, like Redfin’s below, show up among the photos and videos of users’ followers as they scroll through the app, which claims to have 300 million active monthly users.


As on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram advertisers can target their messaging to users by geography, age, interests and other demographic information.

In the initial phase of its Instagram test, Redfin is targeting homebuyers with photos of the brokerage’s listings, Newman said.

Redfin may expand the experiment to engage new homeowners with content around do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and ideas.

The Instagram test has been positive, Newman said, adding that the self-serve platform makes it easy for the firm to test out different ads.

While real estate agents have developed creative ways to market themselves on Instagram without advertising, ads may soon be an important component, if Facebook’s trajectory provides any hint of what’s to come.

It’s not clear if Instagram ad economics make sense for individual brokers and agents yet, but the fast-growing, mobile-centric network is poised for a bigger ad footprint, and real estate pros may be wise to keep an eye on it.

By 2017, Instagram ad revenues will account for 10.6 percent of Facebook’s global ad revenue, according to digital ad firm eMarketer. Projections for this year put the app’s share at 3.7 percent.

Perceptions of a newbie millennial agent

Brokers and agents looking to reach the almighty millennial (and the younger Generation Z) might also want to monitor the emerging social network Snapchat, which recently began integrating ads into its platform.

For now, advertising looks to be open to just deep-pocketed big brands, but Snapchat claims that more than 60 percent of U.S. smartphone owners aged 13 to 34 use the platform.

Carson Sweezy, a 22-year-old fledgling agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in McLean, Virginia, is ready for the Snapchat revolution, when it happens. He doesn’t run “ads” on the platform, but he uses it to build his brand, as he does on the dating app Tinder and Instagram.

“Although most are not looking to buy at my age, a lot do rent,” Sweezy noted in a comment on a Facebook post on the subject. “It is all about building the brand for the future.”

Sweezy’s Snapchat profile photo doubles as his Facebook profile pic (left). His Tinder profile tells potential dates that he’s an agent trolling for leads. “It’s a great way to break the ice on Tinder,” Sweezy said. “Still waiting for a sale from it, but have closed many dates.”

Millennials — those born between 1980 and 1995 — are America’s largest homebuying generation, so, in a sense, the future is now.

“Twitter is dead, Facebook is dead and mass emails are all junk,” Sweezy said.

Email marketers and their sales numbers may debunk that assertion, but Pew Research Center data provides Sweezy some backup, at least for Twitter.

Social media platform % of U.S. adults aged 18-29 who use the platform (2014)
Facebook 87%
Instagram 53%
Twitter 37%
Pinterest 34%
LinkedIn 23%

Source: Pew Research Center

Facebook may be popular and effective, but, “socially, it is dead,” Sweezy said in response to pushback from agents in the post.

“I come (to Facebook) to learn from from vets, so I must use the medium you old folks use. (Old to me is over 30; don’t take offense).”

Agents winning beaucoup clients and leads from Facebook ads may disagree that its power is waning, but the new ad platforms on the popular mobile-only social platforms Instagram and Snapchat foreshadow a different future.

Other millennial agents, please weigh in below. Can you chalk Sweezy’s take up to the myopia of a greenhorn agent or is he on to something? What are you seeing and/or doing?

Email Paul Hagey.

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