Facebook vs. Congress: What Should Home Builders Know?

Facebook 'like' buttonFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked to testify in front of House and Senate committees this week to discuss election influence, but members had far more questions about advertising, user data, privacy and consent.

Congressional hearings are not known for their entertainment value and Zuckerberg’s testimony wasn’t exciting, but there were some important points made, and a few key takeaways for builders and remodelers.

Your Facebook advertising options are shrinking (a little). Facebook is feeling heat and acting quickly to dial back on advertiser freedoms. Even before this week’s testimony, Facebook announced it would be discontinuing “Partner Categories,” targeting that includes the industry-favorite option of reaching consumers who are “likely to move.”

This week, Facebook surveyed advertisers to rank the value of “the various targeting options that Facebook offers.” At least they’re asking what marketers value most.

I’m nowhere close to giving up on Facebook advertising, but that next great innovation in advertising tech has been delayed.

Internet advertising and privacy regulation is inevitable. Most consumers would welcome additional privacy protection. But business owners know how burdensome regulations can be. Almost every legislator threatened or directly proposed regulating Facebook and other internet companies.

“Your user agreement sucks,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R- La.), who told Zuckerberg that Facebook needs to do more to help consumers understand how their content is shared. Increasing Facebook’s legal responsibility for user privacy and disclosure will have an immediate impact on your advertising opportunities.

Expect this to quickly trickle down from big tech, with more laws enforcing how all businesses — including yours — collect, share and use consumer data for advertising purposes.

Real estate-specific advertising rules to come. About a year ago, Facebook began asking real estate marketing companies to assert whether they were advertising in accordance with fair housing laws. In other words, Facebook is asking advertisers to self-certify that they are not using Facebook’s targeting tools to illegally exclude protected classes from promotions.

We know that self-certifying “good behavior” didn’t work out with a rogue developer and Cambridge Analytica. Don’t be shocked if real estate ads get moved into a category of their own — with fewer targeting options to ensure fair housing compliance.

Bad apples. Geez.

This guest post was written by Dennis O’Neil, a member of the NAHB National Sales and Marketing Council and president of ONeil Interactive, a full-service advertising and marketing agency for home builders. O’Neil can be reached at 410-584-2500.

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  1. I am so sad about the removal of the ‘likely to move’ post target.

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