Facebook: why bother?

Social media has been the free channel for marketing for many real estate companies, but it looks like those days may be over.

Earlier this month, Facebook tweaked the algorithm that determines which stories show up in the newsfeed, the center stream of posts you see when you log into the site or app. On their blog announcing the change, the company explained that they’d be putting more articles from publishers in the feed and giving higher rank to those that had more comments from a user’s friends.

Great news for publishers like Huffington Post and CNN, but not so much for brands, which appear to be the biggest losers with this new change.

One social media agency, Ignite Social, reviewed 689 posts across 21 brand pages through a variety of industries and found that, in the week after the December 2 change, organic reach declined 44% on average, with some brand pages seeing declines as high as 88%.

If Ignite Social’s assessment that brand posts now reach only about 2.5% of fans is right, it begs the question, why bother?

Anecdotally, there are many agents out there who swear that they’re getting leads from Facebook. And that makes sense. Agents are people and Facebook can help cultivate relationships.

But what’s the brokerage play? The brand play? How does a broker approach Facebook in 2014?

1. Advertising

Facebook may be attempting to discourage the continued use of “free” content distribution by brands. Or maybe what’s happening to brand content now is a side effect of its larger mission to serve up the most relevant, engaging content to users (which often does not come from brands).

Either way, maybe it’s time to try out some of Facebook’s growing advertising options. One of the strong suits of advertising on Facebook is the ability to target your audience, tailor your message and analyze your results.

Facebook’s Custom Audiences product allows companies to target customers they touch outside of Facebook (offline, email, etc.) within the network. And its Lookalike Audiences product allows you to also reach people who are similar to your custom audience list.

2. Recruiting

Make your page all about the culture of your brokerage – a sort of living resume of what life at your brokerage is like. Any agent considering joining you can check your page and get an immediate sense of who you are. Consumers visiting the page will also get a sense of your brokerage, which tells them a bit about you.

Show us pics of your office, your holiday parties, your team volunteer days. Give us short interviews with your agents, your transaction coordinators and office managers. The point here is think past the notion of your posts going out into a stream and more about your page as a snapshot in time.

In other words, focus on the audience that, while smaller, is more motivated to seek out and explore what you’ve got.

3. 20 steps beyond

Very powerful cases have been made for brands to be on Facebook and other social channels. Oreo, Ikea and Dove each had hugely successful plays on social media this year. But when you look at some of the classic success stories, you can’t ignore the fact that a lot of brain power and money went into these brand campaigns. The success stories rarely come from brands that are relegating posting duty to interns.

If you have the resources, make 2014 the year you try something bigger.

Is it worth it?

The changes to Facebook’s algorithm remind me of when Google tweaks the algorithm that powers Internet search. Ultimately, they’re trying to serve up more relevant content to end users. But in the process, brands and other web publishers are forced to react.

We should see this same care on Facebook. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Maybe 2014 is the year you decide Facebook isn’t worth the effort anymore. Or maybe you take this time to truly think through the strategy – the time spent, the resources spent, the return on investment.

Either way, it’s clear that we’ve entered a realm where only serious players need apply. The rest will just be talking to themselves.