REA is the dominant brand in the Australian real estate portal scene, but as we reported in the first article of this series, they are not immune to threats from challengers.
Social media giant Facebook represents one such challenger. Despite taking somewhat of a back seat to Instagram and Snapchat as the platform of choice for millennials in recent times, it is still an absolute force among Gen X and the Baby boomers – and they have been busy making a play for stakes in the real estate market.
While obviously not a real estate portal, Facebook is a visually dynamic source of access to the latest and greatest in everything, and since turning their hand to real estate, they have steadily been making inroads as a viable alternative to REA. In May 2019, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg hinted that Facebook could be considering a play within the real estate space and with further evidence indicating this below means we have exciting times ahead.
A HUGE AUDIENCE & PASSIVE BUYERS
CoreLogic estimates that the average Australian sells their property every 11 years. This means that they are only Active buyers for around one year, and for the remaining 10 years are Inactive or Passive Buyers, therefore they will not be found on Realestate.com.au.
The advantage Facebook has here is that their audience are paying attention around the clock 24/7, 365, whereas those within the property portals are only there when they are looking to transact real estate. Essentially, Facebook can not only deliver agents active buyers, but also these passive/inactive buyers – something the real estate portals just aren’t achieving at this stage.
Plus, with a global audience of 2.41 billion active users per month and 1.59 billion unique logins daily as of June 2019, Facebook has an unparalleled number of eyes on it. This critical mass of users presents huge potential as consumers of real estate marketing and property advertising, helping to generate leads for agents and property owners.THE MARKETPLACE
The Facebook marketplace is a thriving hub of commerce intertwining comfortably with the interests and followings of users. You can find almost anything on there, and this includes a strong real estate presence.
While you will certainly find properties for sale on there, it is growing in stature as a venue for locating rental properties. This is best highlighted by the moves that Facebook made throughout 2018, forming partnerships with some strong international rental marketplace brands. These include:
- Rental Beast (USA)
- Rentseeker.ca (Canada)
- OnTheMarket (UK)
- Dot Property, Hipflat and Property Flow (Thailand)
In addition, they have given the property search section (both rentals and sales) a frontend makeover, with new search filters including property type, location, number of bedrooms, pet friendliness and, of course, price.
Given these moves and the rapid expansion of their foray into rental real estate, it shouldn’t be a surprise if (or rather when) Facebook partners with a player in the Australian rental and (most likely) sales sector to support the already flourishing listings being posted daily in the marketplace.
FEED AND AD ALGORITHMS
Have you noticed how you might search for something then realise it keeps popping up in your feed or in the ads that straddle it? This is due to algorithms Facebook implements and continually updates.
Their algorithm system dictates the order and presentation of posts and ads, so that users can have easy access to what is of most relevance to them. This strategy is used in lieu of releasing content chronologically in an attempt to ensure that what you see is of interest and the chances of interaction is maximised.
What this all translates to is that searches for properties in a given area are likely to trigger a flow of posts, boosted posts and ads for consumers who have used Facebook to look for a property.
Knowing about these algorithms can help agents connect with potential clients who are either early in the buying/leasing cycle or those who are disenchanted with real estate portals and have sought Facebook as an alternative option for finding properties, whilst simultaneously catching up on what’s been going on in people’s lives.
Understanding the algorithms can also help in luring people to view properties. Zephoria asserts that engagement is 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays – prime time for planning open house visits for potential clients. Plus, when you check into an area or a venue, you will see properties close to your current location that meet your identified criteria.
With Word Stream reporting a seriously impressive 11% conversion rate from Facebook ads, real estate agents may get more bang for their buck advertising with Facebook than they would with REA.
Just like on LinkedIn, Facebook Groups are essentially designated spaces where users can connect to others with similar interests, or those who are offering something – information, visuals, stats, inventory, etc – that is of specific relevance.
They are basically communities where people share information, advertise items in posts, and unite on common ground, with the idea being that all members of a group can participate and benefit from each other’s contributions.
This is extremely handy for agents, as they are able to target efforts to specific demographics and markets, such as homeowners and property investors in the local area, who can otherwise be difficult to connect with via portals.
There are five types of groups that should be of specific interest to agents:
- Buy, sell and swap groups
- Parents, mothers and fathers groups
- Humans of/Living in (localised area groups)
- Memories/histories groups (nostalgia groups interested in a given area, like school reunion groups)
- Property to buy, rent or sell
The REA portal is teeming with agents battling for your business, and standing out in that crowd can be difficult, time consuming, labour intensive and expensive.
However, by playing smart within the confines of the Facebook universe, you can enhance your visibility, organically grow your audience and raise your profile within your local area, giving you a clear advantage over the throng of other agents all fighting it out on the REA battleground.
In addition to establishing an agent as an expert in a specific area, type of listing or style of property, Facebook also allows agents to show some personality and authenticity – traits that vendors looking for a reliable agent actively search for.
Plus, if you want to provide a personal touch, Facebook allows you to showcase your news, views and clues as an agent in real-time. Demonstrating this, 2019 research from Sprout Social shows that users spend on average three times longer watching live feeds on Facebook as opposed to pre-recorded videos on external sites. The lesson here: fish where the fish are biting.
According to the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, nearly 8 in 10 advertisers claim a significant increase in traffic to their own website as a result of their Facebook use, and the potential benefits of this for local agents is substantial.
With the scale of their consumer audience, their impressive ability to align ad and feed content with personal information and increasing numbers of properties being listed in their marketplace, Facebook has crept up on REA as a threat – primarily within the leasing sector at this point in time.
Keep an eye out for the next article in our series on threats to REA’s dominance in which we profile Airbnb and the waves they have been making in the Australian real estate industry.