There is a big difference between being a Facebook user, and using Facebook for marketing. It is very easy to be a Facebook user: You sign up for an account, connect with a few friends, and you are off and running. However, when you look at Facebook as a marketing tool, it suddenly becomes a very complex platform with a multitude of options and an endless array of tactics that can be deployed. And Realtors, residential real estate Brokerages, and Associations need to understand the marketing tools that Facebook offers in order to formulate and execute a productive business development or marketing strategy on Facebook. The marketing tools that Facebook offers are diverse and distinct. Each tool is different in its functionality and as a result, the strategies to use the tool successfully vary dramatically. In fact, some of the tools have different terms of service which means that what you are allowed to do with one tool, might not be allowed in another tool. Therefore, before you can formulate a Facebook marketing strategy, you have to understand your options and the tools. This post presents and explains the following road map to Facebook's marketing tools for real estate.
Note that this chart is as of December 2012. Facebook changes its product line often, and without warning. The chart and this post will be updated as the product line evolves.
Facebook essentially offers four main products for marketing yourself and your service:
Each product is a unique and distinct marketing tool. Each of these tools are separate and independent entities - each stands alone with their own set of rules and strategies for marketing success. However, at the same time, the tools are tightly intertwined in that you must have a profile in order to create each of these tools, and the activities/stories that of these tools create are blended together on the news feed (or homepage of Facebook) that users see when they log into the system. An introduction to each of the main marketing products follows.
When you sign up for a Facebook account, a profile is created for you. In Facebook terminology, Account = Profile (the terminology can be tricky and is part of the reason many are confused about Facebook's product line). Profiles are the core product in the Facebook system. You must have a profile in order to market yourself and your business on Facebook (it is necessary to have a profile to create a page, or a group, for example).
The profile is designed to be personal to you. The profile is to be representative of you, a human being (vs. a brand). The Facebook terms of service state that you may only have one profile and you may not use your profile for commercial gain. So, if you have two profiles (one for business and one for personal) or you are posting your listings on your personal wall, then you are in violation of the terms of services.
Profile connections are called Friends. You know you are looking at a Facebook profile if you see an "Add Friend" button. In order to connect with someone's profile on Facebook, you must have mutual agreement to see each others' profile. In other words, you must request to be someone's friend, and they have to accept that friendship request before you have full access to their profile. Profiles also have a host of privacy settings that can be applied to them which allow you to lock down or open up the visibility on your profile and the content associated with it.
Because real estate is a relationship oriented business where who you know matters and sphere marketing has power, the profile can be a very powerful tool for the modern real estate agent, despite the fact that it is against the terms of service to use your profile for your own commercial gain. This is because the profile allows for relationship building, sales intelligence, the ability to listen to our sphere of influence, and the opportunity to efficiently "touch" a lot of people that matter to our business on a frequent and cost effective (free) basis. And, all of these things matter in a successful real estate sales career.
The second main grouping of Facebook marketing tools is pages. Facebook pages come in several forms and each are their own entities with varied strategies for marketing success:
Official Pages: Official pages are an important Facebook tool for the real estate professional. Setting up an official page is a little like setting up a public website for your business within Facebook. Official pages look very similar to profiles in that they have a wall, and tabs, just like profiles do. However, official pages are a very different marketing tool than profiles are, and the Facebook terms of service are different for official pages than they are for profiles (see our post on Facebook Profiles vs Official Pages for a detailed description of the differences). You know you are looking at a page (vs. a profile) when you see a "Like" button at the top of it (vs. the "Add Friend" button you see on profiles).
The first significant difference is that official pages are designed to be for commercial use (in other words, it is not a terms of service violation to post real estate listings on your page). You must be the authorized representative of the business in order to create a Facebook page (most real estate agents are independent contractors and therefore the authorized representative of their real estate practice so this criteria isn't a problem). If Facebook deems you to not be the authorized representative of your page, your page can be reclassified as a "Community" page and you will be stripped of your administrator access.
Facebook official pages are also different from profiles in that they are totally public - people can see the content on your official page without having to be connected to it (whereas your profile requires acceptance by both parties to view the full profile). On pages, visitors can choose to "like" a page and this is not "approved" by page administrators. Once they like the page, they are connected to it. By liking your page, a visitor has become a fan of your page and given you permission to market to them in their news feed.
There are no privacy settings can be applied to pages and pages are indexed by search engines. This is a great benefit to the pages product as page administrators can benefit from the SEO, or search engine optimization, that results from their page being indexed.
Pages also allow for a centralized brand voice. Since you can have multiple administrators, this feature allows for each of the administrators to post on behalf of the brand, vs, as themselves. None of the other Facebook marketing tools has this functionality.
You create a page from your profile. In other words, pages are an add-on to the profile - they are not a separate account. When you create a page, you become the administrator of that page. You can administer one, or multiple pages. In addition, each official page can have multiple administrators. So, if you work as part of a real estate team, all members of your team can be administrators on your team's official page (assuming you all have individual Facebook profiles). You are not limited to one official page (as you are limited to one profile). You may create multiple pages.
- Places pages are for businesses that have a physical office address.
- Places pages allow business owners to offer "Facebook Deals".
Facebook Deals: Having a Facebook places page allows you to offer Facebook Deals to people who visit your physical location. You can offer a coupon to Facebook users who check into your location on their cell phone in order to encourage check-ins and repeat business, and gain visibility in Facebook when those check-ins and deals are publicized to the users news feed.
For real estate offices, or Realtors who have a physical office location, Facebook places pages is a marketing product to investigate. Having a Facebook places page allows for Facebook users to find out where your office is located, your business hours, and other relevant items about your business. It also allows for Facebook users to "check-in" when they are at your location using the geo-location tagging functionality on many cell phones. When they check in, their check in at your place is posted on their wall which can increase the visibility of your business.
Community Pages: Community pages are pages people go to share their interest in the topic of the page. Much like an official page, Facebook users "like" community pages as well. Other ways to connect to community pages include providing "likes and interests" in your personal profile (you'll notice a link to likes and interests that you add to the info tab of your personal profile - often that goes to a community page). A key difference between community pages and official pages is that community pages aren't tied to an official entity. There are community pages for cooking and boating, for example. There is no administrator of a community page. The page is administered by the "community" of people who "like" it.
From a marketer's standpoint, the lack of administrator control is the key difference between community pages and official/places pages. As a Facebook marketer, what you should know about community pages is that your goal is to not get demoted from an "Official page" to a "Community page". This can happen if you violate the terms of service of an official page...mainly, you aren't the authorized representative of the page you created. If you are unable to prove to Facebook that you are the authorized representative of your page (they have a form and a process), then you can be stripped of your administrator privileges and your page will be "managed by the community". Community pages should generally be avoided as part of a Facebook marketing plan as a result.
Facebook groups are designed as a place for a small group of Facebook users to share, chat, and email. There are three types of groups that can be created: Open, Closed, and Secret. The type of group you create determines if the group members and group content are public or private. Because you can create a closed or secret group where the conversations and content and members are not publicly visible, groups can be a great tool for real estate agents to have conversations on Facebook that are segregated from the conversations that are occurring on their profile wall. Offices and associations can also use closed and secret groups as places where their agents and members can converse without the greater Facebook community observing the discussion. One of the great features about Facebook groups is that group members don't have to be Facebook friends to communicate with each other in the group. Another feature to note about groups is that there is no centralized voice of the group. Each group member is equal and the conversation with the most recent activity is promoted to the top of the group's wall.
Facebook ads are the only Facebook marketing tool that costs money to use. With Facebook advertising, you can target users based on location, age, marital status, and likes and interests. You pay for ads on a cost per click basis (how many times someone clicks on your ad), or a cost per impression basis (how many times that ad appears on the site). Ads appear on the right hand sidebar in most places on Facebook. Facebook advertising is the most targeted and powerful advertising database available. Facebook ads can be very effective and an strong part of a pages marketing strategy. They can also be a great way to advertise listings.
Harmon Enterprises specializes in Facebook marketing for real estate. If you have a Facebook marketing question, post it on our Harmon Enterprises Facebook wall and we'll answer!