REALTORS: You can use promoted posts to showcase your listings!

But don’t!

Greg Vincent asked the seemingly obvious questions as to whether agents should use Facebook Ads to send consumers to their post about a listing or a page on their website featuring the listing.

The answer is neither.

I’ve been buying Facebook Ads on-and-off for quite a while and have seen no evidence to suggest buying ads on Facebook makes any sense at all. Facebook is super-quick to take down non-performing ads (i.e. ads that people aren’t clicking on), and I just can’t image that the typical listing has any lasting value for consumers. If, and only if, Facebook someday figures out who is likely to move to a geographic area AND lets you target those people, I might change my mind.

Looking from a larger perspective, at just about every presentation I’ve been giving over the past few months, I’ve been harping about how Facebook makes so much more sense as a sphere building tool than as a tool to reach your next client.

If you’re curious why I make the distinction between reaching consumers directly and building your sphere, check out the Agent Business Cycle diagram. Based on countless interviews with agents (as well as my own surveys), I feel comfortable saying that the majority of agent business is generated from sphere building activities (whether they be reaching into an agent’s community or connecting with past clients)… and Facebook is the ultimate sphere building tool.

Used “right,” there has never been a social network that will help you to reach new and relevant people (i.e. friends of friends/fans/followers) so easily, but when used “wrong,” Facebook will quickly take just about all your influence within your network.

So what do “right” interactions look like on Facebook? If you’re brand new to the idea, I recommend checking out Networking Engine Optimization, but in summary, you want to be creating content (and promoting content) that will get people to interact with your business page. More than any other factor, it seems pretty clear that Facebook determines the relevance of something by looking at the interactions of their friends (whether it be comments, likes, new fans, wall posts, etc.).

Create a page with no interactions and expect to have a relative “black hole” in Facebook in the same way that a website without any inbound links is essentially a black hole to Google.

With Promoted Posts, Facebook is Targeting Google’s Adwords

After writing my last post on why I think the ability to promote posts on Facebook is going to be huge, I realized I didn’t capture the “why” very well…  We already know that Facebook recently passed google.com in terms of raw traffic, and yet the industry around turning that traffic into real business is still in the infant stages…   So, here’s my attempt to summarize where things currently stand between Facebook and Google:

Here’s how to think about this table:

  • Google is best used to target search traffic, while Facebook is best used to target friends of existing fans.
  • Google’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what other web searches are clicking on… and the industry around that is called SEO. Facebook’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what your friends are click on (I’m calling this NEO).
  • You can use Google’s Adwords to buy targeted search traffic, which is relevant because you can surmise someone’s interest (or intent) based on the keywords they entered into Google’s search box.   You can use Facebook’s Ads to buy targeted traffic, which you can make relevant by buying terms that are related to your business page.
  • With Google, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your website is to generate backlinks from other relevant and quality sites. With Facebook, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your business page is to generate quality engagement from your existing fan base
  • With Google, you can increase your relevance by sending paid traffic to more relevant pages on your site (i.e. not your homepage) that are likely to convert at higher rates.  With Facebook, you can now send relevant people (i.e. friends of fans) to posts that are likely to convert at higher rates and having higher levels of engagement.

In web traffic, it’s all about relevance and Promoted Posts are Facebook’s way of letting your pay to improve the relevance of any given status update by sending more (and hopefully relevant) traffic to the update!

You’re probably paying too much for Google Ads!

Realtors: Have you ever had a call from a random sales guy that goes something like this?

Sales guy: “Hello, you already know how important it is to be at the top of google search results for “[your city] real estate”. Unlike some services that are auction based, I can get you there with for a flat fee of $XYZ [usually $50, $75, or $100].”

I’m pretty sure I already know the answer because when I asked this same question to a group of REALTORS yesterday during a presentation at a WCR event, more than half the hands in the audience of around 200 agents went up.

So here’s the deal… The only way to buy Google Ads (i.e. the ads that show up above the google search results), is through a “pay per click” (or CPC) process where Google charges for each time someone clicks on an ad. At least for ads that show up in search results there is NO way to pay Google a “flat” fee.

In every case I’ve seen of a company charging real estate professionals a flat fee for google ads, it’s ONLY because they know that the ads they are buying are MUCH cheaper than the flat fee they are charging you.   For example, if they know that “[Your City] real estate” is likely to cost them $15/month because they are likely to get 15 clicks that cost them a $1/each, then they might charge a real estate professional a  $50 “flat fee” to buy the ads for you.

In practice, this would mean that you’re paying someone a $35/month “service” fee each month and all they have to do is configure a Google AdWords campaign to run on autopilot.

Even worse (at least in this situation), Google lets the people who manage Google AdWords campaigns set a daily and monthly limit as to what they’ll pay, so the people providing you the service can KNOW they will never exceed the flat fee they are charging you.  When you pay someone a flat fee for your Google Ads, the odds are completely stacked in their favor!

Now, I probably wouldn’t have written this post, except after I mentioned this situation in my presentation I was surprised at the number of agents who came up to me afterwords just to confirm their situation wasn’t the “exception”.  I found no exception, but lots of agents overpaying for their Google Ads…

So, what’s the solution?

Buy your own ads on Google’s self-service backend called Adwords.    It’s really not that hard to set-up an ad campaign and even if you simply bought the same exact ad you’re now paying a flat fee for, you’d likely save  hundreds of dollars a year.   Not only that, when you start buying the ads yourself, you’re likely to be far more selective because Google gives you the tools (and the encouragement) to test out using different campaigns and see which ones are working best for you.

I’ve found that the main factors that determine how successful your AdWords campaign will be are:

  • The price you’re willing to pay per click
  • The keywords you target
  • The text you use on your ad
  • The landing page that you send people to

As I mentioned, if you manage your own ad campaign, google gives you all the tools you need (and many more) to experiment with adjusting all of these factors so you can find the ads that are most cost effective for you.

4realz Gets a New Look

I was putting together a new blog for a client this past week (it’s not launched yet, so I can’t send you a link) and was inspired to use a new theme for 4realz.net.

There’s more than a few things that I like about this new theme, but some of the big improvements are:

  1. The code is really clean and easy to modify.
  2. I’ve become somewhat addicted to adding more pages to my themes, and by having the pages listed on the sidepanel (as oppose to tabbed across the top), I can add a virtually unlimited number of pages.
  3. The new theme has a convenient place for ads (i.e. the entire left sidepanel below the search box!)…. In terms of pricing and philosophy, I haven’t published anything yet, but when I do, you can be sure I’m going to borrow heavily from Jay.  And until I do publish something, you can expect that a 3 month commitment at $100/month will get you a 125 x 125 block on 4realz left sidepanel (assuming your ad is approved).

So far, the only problem I’ve noticed with this theme is that it’s doing something really quirkly with smiley faces in comments, so if you’re going to leave a comment, don’t use a smiley face (fixed!).

UPDATE:

Kinda random, but looks like Kris just update her theme as well… and was also inspired by Jay.  🙂

Trulia adds Spotlight ads and lowers…

…the overall price of their featured listings with a revamp of their ad platform.

Some details… What used to cost $50/month for 10 listings now costs $39/month for unlimited listings.   In addition, as part of Trulia Pro, agents can also add unlimited spotlight ads.  So far, so good…

However, similar to Joel, a move toward “unlimited” ads had me scratching my head a bit.  From a business point of view, the upside of the spotlight ads seem somewhat limited for both Trulia and the ad buyer… especially in that they don’t do much to reward creative or innovative ads.

One of the keys to success of Google’s AdWords program is that users are constantly tweaking their ads and adjusting (often increasing!) budgets for their ad campaigns. With the Spotlight ads, there’s very little incentive to tweak. Sure you might be able to tweak things to get a slightly higher click-through-rate, but at the end of the day, you won’t be able to increase the amount of money you spend on the service (remember I get “unlimited ads for $39/month”), so even if you figured out the “system”, most agents won’t be able to use that knowledge to substantially increase their exposure.

Nonetheless, especially while the system is new with lots of excess inventory, there’s probably a lot of low-hanging fruit to pick up for agents looking to find potential buyers…

Looking for a Social Media ROI?

So is Notorious Rob

The problem is that the quality of marketing matters so much and some of the best marketing is extremely niche focused and doesn’t necessarily scale or translate in other locations well.

Of course there are examples of people doing extremely well with hard-sell techniques and people doing extremely well with soft-sell techniques.  But the reality is that most agents using either of these techniques (or some hybrid) are largely failing to get a good return on the money they spend on marketing.

My take is that the most important improvement that many agents could make to their marketing is simply to learn to do a better job creating, measuring, tracking and tweaking their marketing plans.   In other words, some people will do much better at soft-sell techniques, while others will thrive in hard-sell situations…

And while it would be possible to show individual cases where people using either a hard-sell or soft-sell strategy was able to outshine and dominate their competition, in practice, ROI is not measured at an industry-wide level.  Rather marketing ROI for agents is measured at the individual level and needs to answer basic questions like “Did I optimize my marketing time/dollars to achieve my desired objective?”

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!