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| 14 minute read

How Real Estate Agents Can Maximize Facebook & Stay Visible

Sammy Harper Apr 21, 20

Travis Thom is a Facebook marketing strategist for the real estate community, and he runs Facebook and Instagram campaigns all over the world. He grew up in a real estate family, started an independent brokerage, and found a way to thrive during the 2008 crash.


Travis shared his winning Facebook strategies for real estate in a recent webinar with Firepoint/Realvolve. In this blog post, you’ll find excerpts and key takeaways from his discussion.

To access the full video line-up of Facebook strategies, click here!

The following is a collection of excerpts from our webinar with Travis Thom. While some text has been paraphrased, all knowledge shared is credited to the brilliant and gracious Thom.

First, a little background...

I began as a real estate agent when I was 19. I had just dropped out of college and moved back home. I grew up in a third generation real estate family but my family didn't want to hire me. "You're not allowed here. You need to cut your teeth on a bigger brokerage and figure out what you're doing." 

So I started with a brokerage where I was the youngest person in the office. Average age in the office was 64 years old. Everyone told me to cold call and door knock and send out postcards. Call expireds. All of the things that they'd been doing for decades. The first 18 months, I door-knocked on 2500 homes and heard "no" 2500 different times.

Now, my script didn't really change. I really wasn't a necessarily bright or intelligent marketer at the time. I would knock on the door and I would say, "Hello, Mr. or Mrs. Seller, are you looking to buy or sell in the near future?" And they would say, "No, I'm not." I'd say, "Okay, thanks for your time" and I'd go to the next door and then I'd hear no again.

September 3rd, 2003 is where things really changed for me. My parents saw that I was struggling, so they gave me this book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. There was one paragraph that really stood out to me, which was that you need to make an emotional deposit with someone before you can make a withdrawal.

It's so true. You need to make an emotional deposit with someone before you can make a withdrawal, otherwise it's going to end up in a negative balance. That really opened up my eyes to the fact that, all that time, the way I'd been marketing was just asking, asking, asking for the business. I hadn’t been giving them anything in return.

Making An Emotional Deposit

My office was across from this local university of 30,000 students, 28,000 staff. Now, that was a gold mine I didn't even really recognize until I started researching loan programs. There was the kiddie condo loan program at the time where parents could cosign with their students, give them credit to buy a house.

My brother and I created the Student and Parent Guide to Home Buying (or Making This Four Years a Very, Very Profitable Experience). It was a little foldable guide that broke down mortgage, appreciation, equity—basically, the ABCs of how to buy a house, get appreciation in those four years in college, then you could sell the home. We distributed it all over campus.

On the very back of this is a call to action that said, "If you want to see all the homes that qualify for this type of program in this area around the university, go to this website, enter your name and email, and we'll send you a list of homes." Well, it was a really ugly landing page, but it got traffic to it and—lo and behold—I started taking people to this condo development across the street from the university, and I sold this one student a home. She told her friend about it, and she also bought a condo. And then about three other people came through that marketing campaign that I had done.

Now this is where things shifted a little bit more because the developer said, " You brought in more clients to us than our listing agents have." They brought me into the listing sales office. They fired the team on the spot, which is an incredibly awkward experience, hired me, and then I sold that development out in about five months.

We continued doing the same thing—building landing pages, giving some sort of emotional deposit or some sort of value to the prospect ("Hey, we're going to give you the photos, details and pricing and floor plans if you give us your name and email.”). Then Facebook came around and we started running Facebook ads and started winning more developments based on this whole methodology here, to the point where I had over $100 million in inventory. I had 271 listings. We grew from just a one-man shop to 32 people in three different real estate companies over a short period of time.

Because of all of the Facebook marketing driving traffic to these landing pages and getting leads, we had thousands of leads that we had generated. We were also doing email marketing during that time. Because of that, the 2008-2009-2010 downturns were some of my best years in real estate because I had developed a pond that I could fish out of.

You have to make an emotional deposit with someone before you can make a withdrawal. People will gravitate towards you if you're giving value.

The key to successful Facebook marketing is making that emotional deposit. So, now that Travis has been introduced, let’s move on to his tips and strategies that you can begin to implement today.

Creating a high converting Facebook ad:

Your goal, when using Facebook Ads, is to get people to click on your ad and move forward to the next step. Industry standard clickthrough rate is 1% on any type of Facebook ad. So if you’re seeing less than 1%, something's off. 

So, what creates a high converting Facebook ad?

Research shows that 90% of people will read the ad’s image first before their eyes move on to the headline and smaller text. So, if all the eyeballs are on the image, that image needs to summarize what the ad is offering.

Our creative copywriting formula for ads is called AIDA: attention, interest, desire and action. We need to:

  • Grab their attention (because people scroll through the mobile newsfeed 2.5x faster than they do on a desktop)
  • Pique their interest through unusual, counterintuitive, or fresh information
  • Create desire by engaging their heart
  • Drive action by asking them to take the next step (“Click here to download the guide.” “Tap here to see all the photos.”)

Animated images get a 20% to 30% higher click through rate and a 200%-500% higher engagement rate than just a static image. (You can create animated ads through Facebook’s new video creation tool.)

Facebook’s Ad Targeting Has Changed

Now, when you go into the Facebook ad manager to create a campaign, you have to select that you are creating a special ad category, which are ads related to credit, employment, or housing. This is a result of HUD’s recent lawsuit with Facebook, which resulted in a compromise where Facebook is restricting some of the advertising options to avoid any opportunities for discrimination. Which is a good thing.

If you're going to use a campaign to sell real estate, zip code targeting is unavailable, so the location must be a 15-mile radius, either of the property address you type in or the city center, if you're typing the actual city name. There’s been some concern in the real estate industry [about the fact that your target radius cannot be smaller than 15 miles], but about 70% of buyers end up buying their home within a 15-mile radius of their previous address. So that’s not too alarming.

Age, that's locked down. Gender, that's also locked down, and so are some of the detailed targeting options. Then look-alike audiences, you can't do that, but I'll explain what those are in just a minute here.

A lot of people thought, "Is this the death of real estate targeting?” But it’s not.

At my company, we set aside around $95,000 to test out some new targeting strategies. We ran 12 different strategies during a seven-month period to figure out what would get results. There were three that worked really, really well, and I’m going to walk you through those.

The old targeting strategies, they're gone. They are now non-available, so we've got to move forward with these strategies, because these are the ones that actually work.

3 Facebook Ad Targeting Strategies That Get Results

Broad Interest Targeting

Broad interest targeting means very little to no interest targeting. When you're inside the Facebook Ads Manager, where you have the opportunity to add all the targeting interests in there—well, you choose your location, but you don't really put anything else in. No interests. 

I know that this sounds absolutely counterintuitive. To me, when we first did it, it was difficult for my brain to kind of wrap around what this meant. 

But Facebook understands our browsing habits. It knows what we do online and offline—what apps we've downloaded, who we’ve engaged with in Messenger, what we’ve purchased, where we’ve traveled recently. The machine learning is insane.

When you have an ad, and there's an image of a house, the Facebook algorithm recognizes, "Oh, this image is of a house. I see that the ad copy mentions pricing, and houses in a community, and the square footage." Then it sees the website link, and it looks at the metadata on that website and says, "Oh, I get it. This looks like a real estate website." Then it puts it all together and says, "All right. Now we have more information about what this ad is about. We're going find people who are likely to be interested in real estate." The algorithm does the heavy lifting for you.

With broad interest targeting, you need the right ad copy that fits the desired audience, the right ad image. If you're going after a hyperlocal community, still call out the community name. Let’s say you’re going after Lakeshore in Oakland. Your ad should say something like, “See all of the homes in this Lakeshore community” and display an image of a landmark in Lakeshore, or the type of architecture that’s common there. That's going to really train Facebook to get deeper inside of that community over time.

Top Level Targeting

Next is top level targeting, meaning key point indicator behavioral targeting. Let's take Joe, for example. He just downloaded Zillow. He had looked at an online mortgage calculator a couple of nights ago, trying to net the equity of his house, trying to decide if he has enough for a down payment for another house. Then he looked at realtor.com. He checked Credit Karma about a month and a half ago to check his credit score. 

All of those are targeting interests inside of Facebook that you can label. You can tell your Facebook ads to go after people that match all and/or some of those.

Behavioral Intent Based Re-targeting

This is one of my favorites. This is showing people a video ad, and then engaging them later on, based on their actual interaction. 

Let's take Susie, for example. Susie is at her apartment, waiting to go meet some friends. She jumps on Facebook to check on a few things, talk to her mom real quick. She sees a video ad, and she watches about half of that video. The video is about a new community development just around the corner from her, showing the pool, the country club, the dog park, and some of the amenities that they have. 

Then her Uber is here, and she's off her phone and out the door.

We will then create a custom audience of Susie and about 4,000 to 5,000 other people like Susie that watched 50% of that video, because Susie and those others have shown us behavioral intent by watching half of the video. Now that we have a custom audience of anyone that has engaged with 50% of that video, we're going to run an ad to that custom audience. We're going to run a Facebook lead ad offering the floor plans, details, and photos of that development. Now we're turning video views into actual leads. 

You can continue to refine the audience, based on their behavioral engagement. This works really, really well.

Make sure that the video that you're choosing to run is very specific and provides value. If I'm doing a video on, "Hey guys, here's everything that you need to know about first-time home buyers and the stimulus package that's coming out," and it's a three-minute video, well, it's very specific. It's highly relevant to the people that watch 50%, or 70%, or 100%. People that watch only 10 seconds or 30 seconds of that, they have basically opted out. They've moved on. You don't want to continue targeting them, because they're not your buyers.

As for the percentage you set, 50% is a nice benchmark. But if the video is really long, like 5-7 minutes, then you could probably get away with re-targeting people that watched 10% or 25% of the video.

Get the full video line-up of Facebook strategies

We hope you enjoyed these excerpts from the webinar with Travis Thom. To learn even more about how to maximize Facebook, check out Travis's full video line-up. It includes the entire webinar, as well as concise videos on four winning campaigns:

  • The Reciprocity Funnel
  • The Digital Mayor Influencer Campaign
  • The Open House Mini Funnel Campaign
  • The Marketplace Home List Campaign

Don't let these strange times hold you back—start amping up your Facebook presence today!

Click here to get the full video line-up.

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About Sammy Harper

Sammy Harper is a content writer at Firepoint & Realvolve. Her nine years of digital marketing experience include SEO, email marketing, social media, and blogging. Fascinated by the real estate indust...

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