It’s nice to sit on the sidelines and watch two Silicon Valley behemoths battle in the relentless pursuit of user information and privacy. However, when you are in the middle of the fight like most realtors are, it’s not as fun dodging the falling debris. This article outlines exactly what Apple’s iOS14 update will change and how Facebook is responding. It also delves into what you can do as a realtor to maintain and build your network throughout this fight. 

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iOS14: Privacy First

Apple has made it crystal clear in recent keynotes that they are taking user privacy seriously. This starts with their updated app store. Before downloading an app, a page is displayed telling users how their data is tracked and gathered. This is a good move on Apple’s part as access to this information to better understand how they as a user are monitored, should be essential for all its users. The second part of this update, and the one impacting Facebook the most, is the “Opt-in” feature. 

After reading how an app will use and track their information, users must “opt-in,” instead of “opt-out”, of being tracked. Apple’s assumption is that its users do not want an app tracking them. So, Apple users therefore automatically opt-out of any tracking or data collection. They must opt-in when they are willing to let an app collect and track their data. Apple’s prompt will specifically read: 

“Facebook would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalized ads to you.”

This Is Not How Facebook Operates

A major company that will be affected by iOS14 is Facebook, whose ads depend on tracking users.

This prompt won’t only appear before a user downloads Facebook. The prompt displays for the rest of the Facebook app family including Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp. 

This is counter to how Facebook generally operates. Facebook users automatically opt-in to data collection and tracking features. They must go through their settings and preferences to opt-out. Facebook is concerned users will not opt-in to data tracking and collection which will directly impact their revenues from advertisers. 

When a user opts out of Facebook’s tracking, they are opting out of participating in data collection. This influences Facebook’s most important feature: Displayed advertisements. This will have a hard impact on realtors. Displayed advertisements are based on users’ browsing histories collected from apps and websites owned by other companies. This lets advertisers target ads toward particular niches to increase conversions and click-through rates. 

Facebook’s Response To iOS14: Take The Side Of Small Businesses

In response to iOS14, Facebook decided to take the side of small businesses.

2020 was extremely unkind to small businesses around the world. Several initiatives launched to support local businesses throughout the year.  Facebook is attempting to paint Apple’s iOS14 as a devastating blow to these initiatives. 

In the article “Speaking Up For Small Businesses,” Facebook states iOS14 will have a harmful impact on small businesses in particular. As many of these companies are struggling to stay afloat, they rely on Facebook’s advertising services now more than ever. 

The magic of the internet has enabled entrepreneurs to convert their ideas into businesses all from their mobile devices. Small businesses do not need to enlist the help of expensive ad agencies to draw up complicated campaigns. For a few dollars, they can roll out their own Facebook campaign and reach larger audiences on the platform. 

Small Businesses, With Small Budgets

Most small businesses, including solo-agents and teams, will often operate on a marginal marketing budget. Facebook has been a tool which provides small businesses with a large return on their investment through their marketing services. 

Facebook’s marketing services work because they target the audiences their customers want. It doesn’t do wedding planners any good to reach audiences with no plans on marriage. It doesn’t do a small steak boutique any good to reach out to vegans. And it certainly doesn’t do realtors any good to reach audiences who have no interest in buying a home.

Businesses find that their advertising budgets take them farther on Facebook, but iOS14 may harm the success of their ads.

Facebook prides its marketing service on getting ads in front of the right people. Apple’s iOS14 update limits the effectiveness of personal advertising. This makes it harder for small businesses to reach out to their audiences and stifles their growth and ability to compete with big business. 

A study conducted by Deloitte in the US found 44% of small to medium businesses started using or increased their use of targeted advertising on social media since the start of the pandemic. The study also found that SMBs using targeted marketing were twice as likely to report higher revenues. 

Facebook states that while Apple is announcing iOS14’s updates under the banner of protecting user privacy, they are really implementing these new measures for their own profit. This is made clear in Apple’s own advertising platform being exempt from the prompt requirement. Facebook is claiming that Apple is using this data to improve the function of their own ads.  

Facebook believes harmony can be reached without the fallout and damage iOS14 will do to small businesses, yet realtors should still be cautious.  

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How Will iOS14 Impact Realtors & The Real Estate Industry

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In 2020, Facebook issued its “Special Ad Audience” category. This was an entirely new classification that had a direct impact on housing, employment, and credit ads. Facebook focused on these industries due to the importance they place on a person being able to get a job, have a place to live, and access credit. Facebook limited the level of targeting real estate agents could do, preventing them from creating a target audience based on gender, age, and zip codes. These are crucial demographics realtors operate on. 

Facebook gets around this by making a “Special Ad Audience” for realtors. Facebook displays a realtor’s advertisements to audiences whose online behaviour is similar to a realtors current customers, without consulting demographics.

For example, “listings” are a type of ad that Facebook requires to have a special ad audience. Realtors often target by location when running listing advertisements. For example, if a listing is in Toronto, agents will adjust settings to make the ad exclusive to local residents. Facebook now disallows this. Instead, Facebook will display a listing ad to a special audience of users. These users were either looking for Toronto properties based on their online behavior, or their habits are in line with a realtor’s current clientele. Ads are still targeted, but not in the detail a realtor may prefer. 

The Problem iOS14 Poses To Special Ad Audiences

iOS14 encourages users to opt-out of data tracking and collection. It will be difficult for Facebook to build special ad audiences for realtors. These audiences are based on online user behavior. Without extensive data collection, Facebook will not be able to create detailed profiles for special ad audiences. This means a realtor’s ads could be exposed to the wrong audiences. 

Avoiding The Problem

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A good thing to practice as realtors is getting creative with your Facebook marketing. Rather than advertising the location, price, and look of a home, make educational ads focused on the real estate industry as a whole. Making educational informative ads allows Facebook to promote your ads outside your special audience.

For example, promoting an educational online conference you’re hosting for informing first-time buyers on what they need to be aware of when buying a home is an excellent ad to run on Facebook. It requires no special ad audience and will be viewed by more users.

You must focus on running advertisements that are more creative, educational, and informative. This is how you build connections with your audience and grow your network. Showing off houses you’re trying to sell does the exact opposite.

Building Connection

Even if you run more educational advertisements in the upcoming year, it’s highly likely that you will notice a decline in engagement and revenue from Facebook due to iOS14. That’s why it’s important to not solely rely on Facebook advertising.

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You need to build your relationships and connections with locals in your community. You must establish yourself as a go-to agent. Even with the pandemic, there are hundreds of digital resources to keep you connected with clients and building your network. You don’t want to sit and hope that your ads find customers. Your goal should be to build your referrals and network so that customers find you. 

This doesn’t require any door-to-door knocking or cold calling. Remotely interviewing small business owners in your area is a fantastic way to build connections. You only need a laptop, an internet connection, and an interested business owner. If your interview helps people to get to know the business owner and show off their personality, then you’ve done great! If you need help finding business owners to interview, platforms like Parkbench will help you every step of the way! They’ll even polish your interviewing skills. In addition to this, Parkbench creates your own hyperlocal network dedicated to establishing you as the go-to realtor in an exclusive community. 

iOS14 will have an impact on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean it should have an impact on realtors. With more options available than ever before, realtors can explore new advertising avenues and platforms designed to help grow their networks and set them up for success.  

 References

Special Ad Category 

https://adespresso.com/blog/facebook-special-ad-category/

Privacy Updates 

https://www.facebook.com/business/news/ios-14-apple-privacy-update-impacts-small-business-ads

Facebook Small Business Article

https://www.facebook.com/business/news/ios-14-apple-privacy-update-impacts-small-business-ads

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