Room for Real Estate Pros in Facebook’s ‘Living Room’?

May 22, 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to move the social network away from the “town square” concept and “build the digital equivalent of the living room,” making users’ circles smaller and more private, could be a potentially difficult transition for real estate professionals. But it remains to be seen how the changes will affect advertisers’ reach to new audiences.

The “living room” idea—which exposes users to less content generated outside their inner circles—is more of an evolution of Facebook’s algorithm than a drastically new approach. Among the changes: Content from Facebook groups users belong to now takes precedence in news feeds. That means it may be harder for real estate pros who market their business on the social network to reach current and prospective clients.

“These kinds of groupings have been a long time coming,” says Lindsay Listanski, head of national marketing for Climb Real Estate and a former director of national media at Coldwell Banker. In the last few years, she adds, people have begun realizing the huge digital footprint they’ve created on what is essentially a public soap box. “And it’s something they might not be comfortable with. People are more protective and more private with what they share.”

Of Facebook’s 2.37 billion users, about 400 million already are active in organized Facebook groups. But as users begin to form increasingly specialized groups—Listanski speculates that online “living rooms” might only contain 40 or 50 people—real estate professionals fear that they will be less likely to reach users not already in their social media circles. Critics argue that Facebook’s latest changes help it to collect more personal data and drive marketing and advertising.

Karen Kovacs North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, told Market Watch: “We forget the company that’s hosting our conversation is also listening. If we are lured into the false sense of security that we’re in a private living room and can speak freely, we might say things that we would absolutely not want others to hear.”

Data mining is, after all, Facebook’s bread and butter, and the social network isn’t going to miss the opportunity to generate revenue from advertising in these living rooms, Listanski says. Agents and brokers may be forced to purchase advertising on Facebook where it wasn't necessary previously to get in front of a wide audience.

But Listanski is optimistic. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is tailor-made for real estate professionals, Listanski points out. “The best way to talk about real estate is through photography. That’s what Instagram is for,” she says. “If you have great photos and a knack for storytelling, that’s a platform that’s made for you. Agents who understand it’s not all about them—that it’s about participating in the community—will be just fine” with the latest Facebook redesign.