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Facebook Fair Housing Updates - July 2019

July 29, 2019

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, lawsuits around privacy and compliance, countless testimonies in court, the restructuring of top board members, and a $5 billion fine—all leading to a slippery slope of significant changes for advertisers. You guessed it…we're talking Facebook.

As you may remember, the Federal Housing Department slapped Facebook with a discrimination lawsuit back in March—just one of the many problems plaguing the social networking giant over the past few months. HUD’s claim was that that Facebook was in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Their reasoning?

Facebook allowed advertisers to target and exclude certain demographics from viewing housing advertisements based on age, gender, location and other factors baked into their advanced algorithms.

In response to these concerns, Facebook removed 5,000 specific targeting options and expanded advertiser education to prevent misuse of their ad platform. A Facebook representative noted that “While these options have been used in legitimate ways to reach people interested in a certain product or service, we think minimizing the risk of abuse is more important.”

To avoid future allegations, Facebook took their platform modifications a step further, recently announcing that they would be rolling out additional changes to ad targeting for housing, employment, and credit vendors.

 Ding, ding, ding…that's us. And as of July 24th, those changes are here.

So, what does all of this really mean? A lot of strategic changes lie ahead for apartment marketers.

Here are our main takeaways from the latest updates to Facebook’s ad targeting:

  • Age – Regardless of whether you're marketing for student housing, senior living, or traditional multifamily, all advertisers must include ages 18-65+ in their audience targeting.

  • Gender - Marketers can no longer target one gender or the other; both genders must always be included in ad targeting.

  • Zip Code - Zip code targeting has been removed, as it excludes certain demographics from viewing ads and therefore has been deemed unacceptable under the Fair Housing Act.

  • Look-a-like Audiences - Look-a-like audiences identify prospects that are similar to your most valued customers by finding users in analogous demographic data sets. By default, this type of audience excludes certain demographics and can no longer be used for targeting.

Although these changes will alter paid social performance, we at Digible believe they also provide an opportunity to apply a more creative approach to our Facebook marketing strategy. Here are a few of our recommendations for ways to keep users engaged, despite limited targeting capabilities.

  • Location - An alternative to zip code targeting is radius targeting. Facebook will still allow users to target a minimum 15-mile radius around a specific address, city, or dropped pin location. At Digible, we utilize radius targeting in our other media campaigns such as Paid Search, Display, and Geofencing. With proven success using this tactic, we are confident that this strategy will work for Facebook as well.

  • Detailed Interests - Although targeting is more limited than ever before, you can still implement certain interest-based targeting options. For example, we target users that show interest in apartments through their behaviors on the platform—posts they've liked, pages they've interacted with, and even other advertisements they've engaged with in their Newsfeed.

  • Audiences - A creative way to target apartment seekers is through targeting those who've shown interest in ILS sites like Zillow, Apartments.com, or Apartment Guide. Engaged users in these categories are (presumably) qualified individuals searching for apartments in their region.

  • Ad Copy – Specific ad copy features will help to narrow qualified audiences and engage target demographics.

    • Location Callout: With the help of property management companies, we can identify neighborhood hot spots, local hangouts, and other features that will help isolate the location of the building. This tactic can also help pinpoint users that are likely to rent an apartment in that specific area.

    • Price Point: We can include price points as main callouts in our ad headlines. By incorporating price into our ads, we can help narrow down users that may or may not be interested based on monthly rental costs. 

    • Amenities: Renters are often looking for very specific amenities—perhaps a pet-friendly apartment with a swimming pool and a detached garage. We suggest incorporating these elements into your ad copy to generate qualified leads and more engaged users.

  • Special Ad Audiences - This is a new type of audience that will replace look-a-like audiences for special ad categories. Special Ad audiences use internet behavior and interest categories to build demographic sets that are similar to your most valued customers.

  • Creative - Each audience interacts differently with any given creative. We implement as many as five variations of creative per ad group and run 3-4 week tests to determine which creative aligns best with each audience. Ideally, these 5 creatives are uniquely different from one another. This way we can narrow down which creative pairs best with each audience.

Although the July 24th Facebook changes will likely alter ad performance, we believe that using the above tactics to creatively combat these modifications will keep users engaged and ready to move from leads to leasers.

Let us know if you’d like to talk about these changes over a cup o’ joe. First cup is on us.

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