Which Digital Ad Platform Is Right for You?

From Google AdWords to sponsored tweets to Snapchat filters, the realm of online advertising offers many options. Learn how to optimize your budget with the right tools.

Real estate is an industry that has moved relatively quickly to the online realm. For buyers, the search for a property typically begins with the web; home buyers want to see the property online. National Association of REALTORS® data indicates 95 percent of home buyers looked at real estate websites before making a choice in 2016, proving the internet plays a prominent role in the real estate market.

What’s interesting, however, is that many agents have not capitalized on this trend. While 91 percent of real estate professionals use social media, only 9 percent use these networks to market their listings. Furthermore, the real estate industry ranked lowest in social media engagement in HubSpot’s 2015 Social Media Benchmarks Report.

Since the largest demographic of home buyers in the United States are millennials (with a median age of 29), and this group spends an average of seven hours per day online, real estate pros should consider using digital ads.

Digital ads are a way to target a certain market, making sure a particular audience gets a specific message at a precise time. There are many ad platforms to choose from; ensure you understand each platform so you can choose the right one for your next campaign.

A Variety of Digital Ad Messages for Agents

Real estate pros can use different types of ads to get an assortment of messages out to potential clients. Depending on your goals, these ad types can help spread the appropriate message.

A listing ad can help you showcase a residential or commercial property you’re trying to sell using high-quality images of the space. On the other hand, you can use an industry ad to demonstrate your expertise by addressing hot topics, such as whether or not it’s the right time to buy or sell property. Finally, a sold ad can be used to target clients with similar properties, so they know you can handle their listings.

However, by far the most common purpose for online ads in the real estate industry is to generate leads, so let’s focus on those. Here’s a breakdown of how you can use some of the most popular online ad platforms to generate more leads.

Facebook Ads

Facebook’s lead generation template is very user-friendly, which makes it a good place for many real estate professionals to start. You can use Facebook to gather contact information in your CRM by having the ad direct to a simple landing page on your website, with a form asking for a name and email address. Some agents and brokers ask for more information (phone, whether they are a buyer or seller, address), but it’s usually a good idea to keep it simple.

You can then see where each lead came from (or which ad they clicked on to get to your landing page) and follow up appropriately. Another option is Facebook mid-roll ads shown in during a video; this new type of ad is growing in popularity. Since these must be video ads, you should consider hiring a professional to get the most out of this ad type.

Twitter Ads

There are a few different types of Twitter ads, but agents can mainly focus on promoted tweets and videos. Real estate professionals can, for example, promote a tweet that showcases a new property and bid on certain keywords, which can include property type and location. Twitter allows you to start with around 50 keywords in order to test which works best and gets clicks. Some keywords, such as “REALTOR,” will be too broad, but putting in “Phoenix listing agent” will help narrow down the search.

Promoted tweets have been attributed to a 29 percent increase in offline sales, so agents should be sure to use strong call-to-action words such as “sign up now” or “view the property” when creating tweets.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn is an absolute must for agents and brokers, and not just because the network is 277 percent more effective at lead generation than Facebook or Twitter, according to HubSpot. LinkedIn works as an online business card, where agents can add enormous amounts of information about themselves and begin building a professional brand.

LinkedIn offers various types of ads for companies large and small. Sponsored updates allows agents to target specific audiences by creating a custom post for each group, which can be broken down by demographics. The network also offers LinkedIn small-business advertising options for individuals and smaller companies looking to connect to a select group, such as those that earn a certain amount per year who are located in a specific city.

Instagram Ads

Agents and brokers often overlook Instagram, but it’s a versatile option for real estate, which is an increasingly visual industry. Instagram ad options include a carousel of photos, which is great for agents looking to showcase a variety of features of a property. Instagram ads, like most social ad networks, offer call-to-action buttons and highly targeted features. Since Instagram is so image-focused, it’s also a great place for listing agents to showcase high-quality property photos.

Snapchat Ads

The majority of Snapchat users are in the 18–34 age range, but the 25–34 age range is the fastest growing group, meaning real estate professionals should pay attention. As for ads, Snapchat offers a traditional ad experience that runs along the lines of a Facebook ad, as well as paid geofilter options.

A geofilter is basically a digital sticker that agents can design and purchase for a particular area during certain amount of time. Real estate agents could create a branded geofilter during a community event they’re sponsoring or even an open house. Anyone who Snaps in that area will see that they can add the filter to their post.

YouTube Ads

YouTube is especially helpful in that it allows listing agents to showcase properties in a longer video format. Plus, 73 percent of homeowners say they’re more likely to list with a REALTOR® offering to do a video.

But you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to creating listing videos; YouTube also offers a variety of ad types, including banner ads and in-video ads. There’s a reason why of all of the ad revenue in the United States, YouTube owns nearly 20 percent of it. While a professional video on YouTube does offer the chance to make money, many real estate agents choose not to monetize video ads. Instead, they simply use YouTube as a free way to host and promote their videos as advertising for themselves and their listings.

Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is great for targeting a certain demographic that tends to be quite active in the real estate market: 83 percent of Pinterest users are women, and 45 percent of them are between the ages of 35 and 54. Plus, the average Pinterest user has a six-figure annual household income.

Pinterest offers ads and promoted pins for agents looking to broaden their scope. Those looking to boost engagement on Pinterest itself can promote their pins, while the ads can link to a homepage or landing page for those looking to collect lead data.

Google Ads

Creating a solid Google AdWord campaign is difficult, which is why many agents outsource this task to experts. But for every dollar spent on Google AdWords, the average business gains $2, which can be a lucrative option for agents with bigger advertising budgets. These pay-per-click ads allow real estate professionals to target individuals based on intent (what they’re trying to search for), which is a key differentiating factor in the ad world.

Ads can be based on broad match, phrase match, broad match modified, and exact match, each having its own advantages. For example, a broad match term such as “real estate agent” has the widest reach, but agents will most likely end up paying for a lot of irrelevant clicks, so it’s best to use more parameters. Broad match modified campaigns, such as “real estate agent + home buyer,” will narrow the search by telling Google to only include those who search for “home buyer” as well.

Display Ads

Seventy-eight percent of those looking to buy a new home visit more than three different sites before taking action on a real estate site, which means it makes sense to place ads on as many different sites as possible.

One way to do this is through a display ad, also known as a banner ad. Display ads allow real estate professionals to reach the right person at the right time, and they are typically only charged for when a person clicks on the ad. Like Google AdWords, display ads can be tricky to set up, so it’s usually worth hiring an expert.

Retargeting Ads

If you’re looking to reengage potential leads who have visited and left your website, this is a great choice. Retargeted ads use cookies to tag someone when they’re on your website. When they go to another site, the ad “follows” them and posts an ad to your site on the next site they visit, as long as that next site is enabled with a particular ad server. Retargeting is powerful, as these visitors are three times more likely to click on the familiar ad than a cold lead.

Optimizing Ads

In any digital campaign, you should include repeated testing and tweaking time for copy, images, and targeted audiences. Ad creation takes time, and agents should draft various options before executing. When deciding which platforms to use, it’s important to take note of which platforms your target market uses daily. Of course Google AdWords, display ads, and retargeted ads can be used for any group, but agents should run social media ads only on platforms they know their target audience uses. For example, many real estate agents run Facebook ads because the demographics show this network’s users are educated, have a relatively high income, and are in the homebuying age range.

Once your ads go live, it’s important to monitor the activity frequently to understand which ads perform best and why. Check your analytics to see which versions resonate best with the market you’re looking to target.

Ads that do not garner many clicks can be deleted, because the more clicks an ad has, the cheaper they become. The ads that have a high number of clicks are considered “more successful,” and agents can use these ads (the copy and images) to target other demographics. For example, if a certain ad worked well for women in the 25- to 35-year-old range, try it in the 35- to 45-year-old range as well.

The optimal time range for testing is usually six months to find out what works and what doesn’t. Then, take a look at the best-performing ads and optimize those accordingly.