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The hashtag #DeleteFacebook has been trending on a number of social platforms since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco. This has caused many to question whether this could be the end of the goliath social network. While most agree that Facebook is too big to collapse, users are still left feeling uneasy with the state of their personal information, and the long reach that Facebook seems to have over their private lives.

In the world of real estate, agents have been told for years that Facebook is a non-negotiable part of their marketing strategy—since their clients could be there, so should they. However, in light of the scandal, agents may be wondering what their best course of action should be. Here are some insights into why Facebook has been so popular within the real estate sector, what the implications of the scandal are, and some actions you can take to plan for the future.

Why the initial Facebook push?
At the end of 2017, Facebook saw 1.40 billion people, on average, log on daily. This is more than any other social network. In addition to this, almost 30 percent of those users were between the ages of 25 and 34. Since millennials are still the largest group of homebuyers at 35 percent, it makes sense that agents would be targeting them on a platform they use. Genuine social interaction was another reason for the major push. Facebook gave agents the opportunity to connect with clients in a more meaningful way.

Facebook’s marketing and advertising strategy and algorithms make it easy for agents to create ads. Since Facebook allows users to include personal information in their profiles, it makes targeting ads simple. Agents can specify the age group, location, living status, and even likelihood of moving of those users they want to see their ads.

Why is the scandal such a big deal?
While Facebook used personal information before for things like ad targeting, it was based on the information provided by the user—political affiliation, location, pages liked, etc. This time, according to The Guardian, a company called Cambridge Analytica “used personal information [through Facebook] without permission to build a system that could target U.S. voters with personalised [sic] political advertisements based on their psychological profile.” To obtain this information, Facebook users were prompted to take a quiz called “thisismydigitallife,” which then gave Cambridge Analytica access to both their own and their friends’ personal information. Even though a little over 270,000 users took the quiz, because they gave access to more than just their own information, researchers were able to obtain data from 50 million user profiles.

This breakthrough has also brought to light the fact that Facebook collects metadata from its users. For those using the Messenger app, Facebook requests access to users’ contacts, call and text history, locations and time spent there. Facebook attempts to make it clear that the reason they compile and track this information is to help users connect with people they care about and have a better experience on the social platform.

What should I do now?
While we’ve seen swarms of people leave Facebook over the scandal, overall, the vast majority of users have moved on with their lives and continued to scroll through their newsfeeds. With the information being presented as of now, Facebook is attempting to regain their prominence by creating stronger privacy settings and promising to make amends by publishing privacy shortcuts that will allow you to quickly access privacy. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that all users have options when it comes to the site. If you are concerned about your own privacy, there are features that can be turned off, such as location-based settings and automatic updates. Review your current settings to see what data you’re making available.

For those who are set on leaving the platform, but still want to maintain a social presence, there are some other social networking options. While Instagram is a great way to connect with clients through visual media, the platform is owned by Facebook; however, both Twitter and Snapchat are also popular in the real estate world, and, when used well, can be great ways to connect with new and existing clients.

Even though Facebook is a still a great way to reach new clients, it’s perfectly understandable if you’re not ready to invest in your social media presence right now. Another way to attract leads is to focus on boosting your website so clients can find you straight from the source. Homes.com SEO Fuel is designed to improve your website’s organic search results so that you can get back to doing what you do best…selling.

McNease_Patty_60x60Patty McNease is director of Marketing for Homes.com. For more information, please visit connect.homes.com.

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