Where Facebook Meets Real Estate. Drive with Scott Shapiro.
If you don’t have a mobile-first strategy, you don’t have a marketing strategy. If we think about it, a device the age of a fourth grader (i.e. smartphone) is the leading consumer product we have out there. So, every morning when I wake up, or I think about strategy, it’s always with the end-user on a cellphone thinking through how do we provide addictive solutions in a mobile-first world?
There are no shortage of reputations for Facebook. Many real estate agents have begun advertising on the platform to generate leads. Others have dismissed it for a slew of reasons. Scott Shapiro jumps into the conversation to explain their mission and the strides they’re making to produce meaningful business results for real estate professionals.
In this episode of Driven, get ready to hear:
- What it means to take a mobile-first marketing strategy (4 min 30 sec)
- How Facebook Messenger and bots are opening the door for conversations (15 min 30 sec)
- The role “engagement” has in today’s online world (19 min)
Think about the real estate purchase. Consumers buy a home every 7 years, roughly. Some of them cost more than a quarter million dollars. Of course the consumer is going to have multiple points of entry to make a decision. It’s a huge decision. So, understanding the consumer behavior and working with professionals who can actually ascertain the data and point you to the right places is a huge key. Hence partnerships like BoomTown and Facebook. Hire the experts who understand the platforms and really know how to turn the dials in the right way.
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Here is the transcript of the video and audio, in case you don’t have time to listen.
Rivers: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Driven. My name is Rivers Pierce, and today I have the honor of having Scott Shapiro in the car with me. He is from Facebook and he’s actually in Charleston. We’re on my home turf this time around and yet again it’s rainy and cloudy outside, but we’re going to drive around and talk a little bit about real estate and Facebook and I’m really excited to have you. So Scott, why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit more and tell us about yourself. We’ll go from there.
Scott Shapiro: Hi, I am Scott Shapiro. I’m a client partner from Facebook and Instagram. I’ve been in Facebook and Instagram for going on five years this September. I came from a traditional media background at ABC, Disney, the nine years prior to Facebook, and I’ve had a really great time at Facebook doing a lot of different verticals. I’ve worked with banks, health insurance companies, and whatnot, but love being in the real estate industry, in the space. Look forward to doing some innovative things over the next year or two together and really enjoy the industry as a whole. I find the people I meet to be super genuine and super entrepreneurial, and that’s a lot of excitement for me every day.
Rivers: Yeah. That definitely hit the nail on the head about the industry for sure. So why don’t you kind of talk about what your team does at Facebook and why you work with a company like BoomTown?
Scott Shapiro: Sure. Happy to do so. What we do at Facebook is we work with leading industry providers to work through figuring out marketing and advertising strategy so that clients such as BoomTown can take advantage of our platforms to drive success for their end clients. So ultimately what we’re looking to do is figure out ways and strategies where $1 put on Facebook drives $3, $5, $10 of ad spend return. So that’s what we’re charged with is to figure that out, to help design strategy, and help to really make sure that our best clients are using our platform in a way that sees success for them.
Rivers: Right. And so I guess for those in the real estate world, there’s what, 1.2, 3 million realtors?
Scott Shapiro: That’s right.
Rivers: They’re all entrepreneurial. They’re small business owners if you will. It’s not necessarily scalable, or it’s almost impossible for a company to work with all of them at an individual level. And so you have partners, companies like BoomTown, where Facebook would partner with us to be able to provide scalable services to the real estate industry at large, with that being kind of the model there. So for those of you who are watching, through a company like us, you get access to people like Scott and his fantastic team, and the support and the toolset, and the technology that they bring to the table. And then they also work with us on the technology that we have built off of their platform and APIs that allow us to do very real estate specific things through the Facebook platform.
Scott Shapiro: That’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely right.
Rivers: All right. Hit the nail on the head on that one.
Scott Shapiro: Nailed it.
Rivers: So I’m usually talking to real estate professionals or coaches and whatnot, so this a little bit of a different conversation. Obviously BoomTown’s a technology company. What kind of impact have you seen, or do you think you’ve seen in the time you’ve been working in the space – and obviously you’ve been working with Facebook for several years – that technology has had on, maybe just the world in general and how that filters down into home buying, home ownership, the whole process of finding real estate and agents. I mean, what do you think that impact has been?
Scott Shapiro: I think the biggest impact, Rivers, is still about the mobile device. So, if you think about the smartphone, we’re coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone, the first iPhone. And I think what we’ve seen in the space is that mobile has changed the way consumers look to learn about what they’re going to buy, and how they make decisions about what they’re going to buy, not only in real estate but cars, travel, e-commerce. So what we’ve seen, especially over the five years I’ve been at Facebook, is the value of being a first in class mobile marketer is key. So what I will tell partners of mine is, “If you don’t have a mobile-first strategy, you don’t have a marketing strategy [laughter].” Period. End. Stop the conversation. Because it’s that integral to the world we live in today. So if we think about it, a device the age of a fourth grader or fifth grader is really the leading consumer device that we have out there right now. So I think that’s been one of the big things. And I think one of the things that we consistently think through every day as a platform is how to deliver that best-in-class experience on a mobile device. So every morning when I wake up, or I think about strategy, it’s always with the end user on a cell phone thinking through how do we provide additive solutions back to our end clients in a mobile-first world?
Rivers: And guys have definitely tackled mobile.
Scott Shapiro: We have. We have–
Rivers: I mean, and that was an issue for– how is Facebook–
Scott Shapiro: It was.
Rivers: –going to tackle mobile, or who is going to tackle mobile-first and best? And I think you guys have clearly– you’re owning that game. I mean, Instagram is mobile only.
Scott Shapiro: Mobile only. But I think it speaks to laser focus and ruthless prioritization. I mean, when we looked at where the world was going and being a mobile-first world, we had to become a mobile-first company. So my advice to real estate professionals would be, how do you make your individual business mobile-first, mobile-best? How do you think about the end consumer who is ingesting data, ingesting your property, looking at different properties, thinking about these things? Is that working in a mobile way? Are they able to easily access it from a mobile device? And if they are, then you’re ahead of the game. If you’re not, then you’ve slipped behind. Because it really is a mobile always-on, always-first world that we live in.
Rivers: It is always-on. Good point. All right. And while we’re taking a little stop, I’m going to move the car seat out of the way a little bit here. We’ll edit this obviously.
Scott Shapiro: No problem. I’ll sit in the car seat [inaudible] the second part of this–
Rivers: I’m trying to– there we go. There we go. All right, so what else do we want to talk about? We’ve talked a little bit about tech. What do you think some of the misconceptions are, or even myths, I guess, of mobile marketing or Facebook advertising that you’ve seen in the real estate space?
Scott Shapiro: Sure. I think the thought– social engagement can be misleading. Likes, and shares, and comments versus end results for your products. So we look at leads, we look at GCI, we look at driving business results. To us, when we do that, we’ve succeeded. We’ve earned our seat at the table. We’ve become additive to your everyday business.
Rivers: Business results being closed deals–
Scott Shapiro: Absolutely.
Rivers: –or at least opportunities that– obviously you can’t close the deal for them.
Scott Shapiro: I’m not sure a house has ever been sold based on a like. Now, it may be a share because somebody saw something, but– what we want to look at is, we want to be measured as a business partner for our end client. So if we’re driving– if the end result is obviously to sell a home, that’s how we look at success. Which is, are we being additive to the process, and are we being additive for your business so that that gets done? At the end of the day, if the charge is, go sell that house, and we’re not getting the job done for you, then we’re not living up to our expectations.
Rivers: So do you think– well, I don’t think exactly like the Vanity metrics that Facebook provides– yes, they go hand in hand with a lot of the vanity metrics of the real estate space. But again, a branding plate doesn’t sell the house necessarily.
Scott Shapiro: No. No.
Rivers: But I think also there are a lot of misconceptions out there that people think, “Oh, well I just buy my leads from Facebook,” right? And we’ve heard this time and again but that’s not the case, right? So what is that misconception? What do you think the– where do you think that confusion comes from?
Scott Shapiro: I think we have a lot of players in the ecosystem who are maybe making some promises that aren’t necessarily aligned with what we as Facebook would constitute as best practices. I think a lot of people speak on knowing Facebook marketing, and I’m not 100% sure that all players in the space are accurately describing their knowledge. And so I think there can be a misconception of what you’re buying in the end product. So we are an open platform. Anybody can go in and build off of our API. I mean, if our daughters were old enough and wanted to build a bot, they could. It’s the beauty of Facebook. So I think one of the things that– if I’m a real estate professional, I’m looking at is what other companies– what companies in the space are doing it right in totality and digital marketing? And usually, that correlation point between excellent digital marketing will also come down to Facebook. If you know how to do great digital marketing across the scope, you’re thinking about how to do Facebook and Instagram, best in class and property. So that’s one thing I would suggest to look for, is somebody who knows the whole spectrum is probably going to know our platform a hell of a lot better than others.
Rivers: Absolutely. And basically, don’t just take somebody’s word at blind faith. Get references. Get referrals. Check out their website. Are they a partner? Have they gone through some of your training?
Scott Shapiro: I really most think about, Rivers, is when a Realtor is out selling their services, a lot of what they lean upon are references, and people who know the quality of their work. And I would say, do the same due diligence when you’re using third-party providers to represent your business in a digital marketing space. So a little bit of research will go a long way. You’ll start to weed out people who know the space versus the people who don’t know the space. I think looking at companies that have driven success for other partners is a key. It’s so important to getting it right.
Rivers: Yeah, and I think people they’re still– I’ve been doing digital marketing for 12 years probably. Yeah, 12 years now. We’re kind of old-school [laughter]. We’re old now, right? In the space?
Scott Shapiro: Yes, we are. Yeah.
Rivers: There’s still a general misconception that digital marketing is this easy thing. It’s not 2004 or ’05 anymore. When I started doing digital marketing, Facebook advertising didn’t even exist. I don’t even think it was like out of college stuff yet, right?
Scott Shapiro: No, probably not.
Rivers: And so I was just doing AdWords and whatnot. But it’s still like, you can’t gain the system anymore on any of these products, any of these platforms. There’s a reason why we have 20 plus people at BoomTown internally that are on our digital marketing team that are doing advertising, building products. I think one of the things we see is– if you want to be a digital marketer, go be a digital marketer, and also don’t try to moonlight as one as a real estate agent. That’s not going to be effective. But using your platform can be a bit deceptive in that sense. You can boost a post and yes, you can get some reach, but if you really want to do it well, you really want to use the full set of the ads manager platform, the custom audiences, and do it well. You’re going to need a pro that knows what they’re doing.
Scott Shapiro: That’s right. You definitely need someone who understands it inside and out. The platform–
Rivers: And it’s complex.
Scott Shapiro: It is complex–
Rivers: And it’s not complex because you guys wanted to make a complex tool. It’s complex because it needs to meet the demands of the modern consumer, and that’s a complex landscape to navigate.
Scott Shapiro: Yeah, and it’s a very nuanced landscape and I think talking about bringing in gestation of data and creative best practices, and the fact that again as you think about in the omnichannel world the consumer on any purchase, and especially a purchase that’s once every seven years like a home–
Rivers: And half a million dollars–
Scott Shapiro: Half a million dollars. They’re going to touch multiple points of entry to make that decision. So understanding the consumer behavior and working with professionals who can actually ascertain the data and understand and point you to the right places is a huge key.
Rivers: It’s critical.
Scott Shapiro: It is critical. It’s why we built partnerships with companies such as BoomTown and others because it is complex, and it’s, by the way, why Google’s done the same thing. It’s not Facebook in a vacuum. I think digital marketing in totality you have experts who get that who really understand the platforms and really know how to turn the dials the right way to give you, the end user, success. By the way, and that also leads to your consumer being happier because they’re getting the most pertinent, relevant information at the time they want it, when they need it, because when you use partnerships the right way, in the end, the consumer gets the right message at the right time. And that’s a huge–
Rivers: and that’s critical as well.
Scott Shapiro: It’s mission critical.
Rivers: And I think it’s also, we were talking about this earlier, that it’s not just– you even alluded to this, you can’t just use Facebook. You need to be thinking about search. You need to be thinking about social. You need to be thinking about email, and text, and call, and all the regular traditional best practices, and we’re not saying you don’t need to do direct mail, or out of home, or TV, or radio. It’s just, how do you do them all in a world that– an omnichannel world where they all need to talk to each other and it needs to be tracked, and the messaging needs to be clear and not just scattered. Right?
Scott Shapiro: That’s right and it needs to have a cogent end point. Right? So I think it always– going back to the vanity metrics, the misinterpretation of Facebook, ultimately you don’t market anywhere to get a like, or a share, or a comment, or a happy face. You’re marketing with an end game in mind, which is most likely the sale of a real estate property on behalf of your client. So I always go back to what’s the end game? The end game is we want to drive success. We want to get to the right consumers at the right time on the devices they are using most. And when you do it with the right partners and when you work together and you have the right expertise, that can get done. I think the misnomer is thinking that it’s just easy and off the shelf ready. I mean, anyone I’ve met who works at this, works at it. They work at it to perfect it.
Rivers: Yes. And that’s the same thing with selling a home.
Scott Shapiro: That’s right. I could no more go out and sell a home than the man on the moon.
Rivers: I agree.
Scott Shapiro: I would need to learn about it. I would need to become an expert in it. I would need to be licensed, hopefully [laughter], to do it. And that constitutes how you become best in class in at something, is you become an expert.
Rivers: So let’s see what’s a good segue from there. Let’s talk about– do you want to talk about Messenger and something like where things are going? Do you want to touch any of that stuff or–?
Scott Shapiro: I think we could touch on that as a future state. Yeah, sure.
Rivers: Okay. So, obviously, one of the things people are always talking about in real estate is you’ve got to be on top of– a lead comes in the door, a prospect comes in the door. You know there’s 10 other people that they’ve probably applied on– filled out something on the website, so that speed to lead, that communication strategy, needs to be as close to immediate as possible, right?
Scott Shapiro: Right.
Rivers: So knowing that text is huge, texting, and everything is mobile, Messaging tools i.e. Facebook Messenger a huge opportunity kind of that’s up and coming, right? Where do you think that’s going, the future state of Messenger and potentially WhatsApp or– but the messaging type of platform play?
Scott Shapiro: So in the year and a half that– since we’ve broken Messenger out from the Facebook app, we have over a billion users.
Scott Shapiro: So there is a huge appetite in use by consumers to use these tools each and every day, multiple times, and so what we wanted to do was make it more functional, make it more interactive, make it more engaging. And to a large part, I think what we’re seeing is that adaptation is taking place. You don’t get to a billion users without a good product. I think the speed to lead commentary is very interesting because just think about your everyday life. If you have to wait six or seven minutes for an Uber, that is a–
Rivers: You’re frustrated.
Scott Shapiro: That’s a frustrating experience.
Rivers: That’s where we’ve come to as a society [laughter].
Scott Shapiro: It’s where we’ve come to. It’s the instant gratification of you’re going to get back to me. And so I think the toolsets that we’re trying to build with various bots and various experiences are so that when a consumer is in that moment to move, that there is toolsets available for our customers to actually reach out to their customers at a faster lightweight fashion. And I think what we’re going to see more and more of is the bot experience will be a help to qualify and communicate faster in a lightweight fashion. It will open up the door to the longer conversation. So I don’t think it ever shuts off the longer, more serious conversation.
Rivers: It doesn’t replace the real estate profession.
Scott Shapiro: No. No. Absolutely not. What it does is, I think it aligns the consumer and the professional to where they are, and sets the expectation going into that first initial conversation.
Rivers: Right. Right, right, right.
Scott Shapiro: Is it that they have financing in place, they’re ready to go, they know the neighborhood, and they saw your ad and the reason why they’re reaching out is they are an immediate prospect versus maybe someone who’s just starting the process but needs that consultative support and help. And so I see it as a tool to help align and focus on the clients that are coming in the door so that you’re prescribing the right type of support at that moment.
Rivers: So it’s additive.
Scott Shapiro: Absolutely.
Rivers: It’s just looking at it as just another tool in your toolbox.
Scott Shapiro: That’s right.
Rivers: Right. And also, some people prefer that as their means of communication.
Scott Shapiro: They do. They do. The largest generational transfer of wealth is happening right now with the millennial generation. Baby boomers, I believe there were 68 million baby boomers; there’s 74.5 million millennials. And within that subset, to make it even more fun, you have millennials who are in their 30s who are now buying homes and having children, and millennials who are getting their first job out of college who are 24,25. So while we’ve all come up over the last 10 years on the power of mobile and smartphones, there are different ways to engage with the consumer set. And, frankly, the younger millennial is much more apt to want a initial conversation through a messaging experience versus a phone call. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want the personalized care and service that you’re going to bring to them eventually. But that first barrier to entry is going to probably be, frankly, on a messaging platform. And then it’ll lead to that first in-depth, sit-down, getting the baseline established for the relationship. But it shouldn’t be discounted by the real estate professional that that’s not a valuable conversation. If anything, I think it is the most valuable conversation because you can really ascertain what they need.
Rivers: Yeah, and the bottom line is, do you want– it’s engagement.
Scott Shapiro: That’s right.
Rivers: Right. And we’ve been pushing that a lot with our client bases that instead of looking at cost per lead, obviously, we want to start looking at a real return and ROI. But what are those engagement metrics in between the phone call, the text, the email, the messengers? Whatever it is, you’re communicating, and if somebody’s talking back to you, I don’t care what medium that is. If it’s a smoke signal, I’ll take it. Whatever.
Scott Shapiro: And the world has grown smaller, so if you think about, it’s a easy, lightweight, identifiable way to also communicate. The other thing that I think is interesting about messenger versus SMS text is, an SMS text off of a phone number could be anybody. The nice thing about messenger really is that you understand that I’m Scott. My real identity, that is persistent across the Facebook family of apps and services, actually transfers over to Messenger. So you know who you’re talking to from day one. I mean, there are times – I’m sure this has happened to you – where you’ll get a text and you’ll look at the phone number and you start to piece together that, “Oh, that’s Rivers. Oh, that’s Scott. Oh, that’s right.” Whereas, I think Messenger, again, it takes down a barrier of entry point to having a really interesting and good conversation. So I wouldn’t fear it at all. I would look at it as a great way to start a conversation, and a great way to understand what the needs of your end client are, and do it in a way that they– by the way that they love.
Rivers: Exactly. And let’s just put this out there, this doesn’t mean stop everything you’re doing and move all of your money into Messenger-based marketing. It’s a tool in your toolset and keep an eye on it. It’s not quite there yet probably, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on as the younger generation is growing. I use it all the time. I mean, and I’m 40 years old. I’m not quite a– I’m a Gen Xer, I guess. I still prefer initial consultation and whatnot by a text or Messenger or something like that.
Scott Shapiro: Yeah. I think consumer behavior’s just changed, that that’s what our expectations are, but it still leads to the opening up of a really good conversation point. I think the interesting thing about the development of bots is how does that further qualify and get the conversation to the next stage before you even have the phone call?
Scott Shapiro: It’s can you really understand what that person is looking for, and then that first phone call, instead of a tougher conversation becomes an easier conversation because basically, they’ve told you what you need.
Rivers: That’s all out of the way. Right.
Scott Shapiro: All the preambles out of the way.
Rivers: Which allows you to do more with less. It allows you to scale, right?
Scott Shapiro: That’s right.
Rivers: You taking care of the things that can be automated, if you will, that allow you to do more of the real dollar productive activities that are your expertise as a real estate professional.
Scott Shapiro: I also think that the other thing that it allows you to do as you get good at it is to show your true personality. Once you go from let’s say the bot initial qualification, and you’re having a real conversation back and forth on Messenger. You can throw some personality in and really begin to learn who that person is before you even get on the phone.
Rivers: Yeah, good point.
Scott Shapiro: I think it takes down that friction point and it allows for a real human moment in conversation. So as much as we talk about sometimes does technology desensitize us to personal interaction, I think it can actually add to it, and I think that’s a great case in point where–
Rivers: Right, and it’s not necessarily just Messenger. It can be email. It can be text. It can be–
Scott Shapiro: Absolutely.
Rivers: Right, exactly.
Scott Shapiro: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Rivers: Yeah. All right, so in light of all this, the Millennials are taking over the world, technology, chat bots, and automation is taking over the world. That whole transfer of wealth, knowing that people are delaying families, things are just kind of moving later into life. The whole four years of college, get a job, white-picket fence, 20-year job. But those kind of prescribed– those just don’t really exist in that mindset of that generation. What do you think that means for the concept of the home? Home ownership, the American Dream, is that still something that is there?
Scott Shapiro: I think it is. I definitely think it is.
Rivers: I mean, you have a 10, 11-year-old daughter. I mean, do you think– where do you think she’s going to be when she’s thinking about this stuff?
Scott Shapiro: No, she’s already talking about home, and roots, and doing her own thing and making– a home is the most personal thing that you can have outside– it’s funny. The two things that you can probably personalize the most in your life are your phone [laughter], your Facebook feed, and your home. Right? If you think about it, right? No two phones are the same. If you and I compared our phones and what apps we have on it, they’d be completely different. I’ve been married to my wife for 15 years. Our feeds are radically different, and she’s the love of my life. And then your home. Your home is your home, and it’s your own individual expression of who you are and what you make of it. So I think that those things still correlate extremely well to this generation. I think they’ve been later to get into the marketplace based on supply and demand, opportunity, and–
Rivers: The economy.
Scott Shapiro: –the economy, the entry-point. I don’t think it’s diminished the desire. I think there’s just maybe an extra layer that they have to go to to get to that point. But I wouldn’t mistake that for a lack of want, or a lack of need, or a lack of thinking that it’s not important. I still think that at the end of the day, it’s part of ingrained in who we are, sense of place, a sense of home is core to who we are.
Rivers: As a–
Scott Shapiro: Society.
Rivers: As a society.
Scott Shapiro: Yeah, I think it’s American.
Rivers: So the depression, the recession, sorry, that hasn’t burned them to a point of saying “Homeownership isn’t part of my future.”
Scott Shapiro: No, I don’t think that. I think it’s– I think they’re more apt to be transitory, so I think that it’s taking them longer to get that firm first or second job where they then feel “I’m here. I’m confident. I’m going to start making that investment.” I don’t think it’s changed the fact that they want to do it, I think it’s just moved the timeline back. I don’t think it’s changed the quintessential thought of homeownership. I think it’s just that maybe they are later. Just like they’re a little later to have children.
Rivers: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott Shapiro: That hasn’t changed the fact that they want to be parents, it’s just they’re doing it a little bit later.
Rivers: Yep, absolutely.
Scott Shapiro: And I think we tend to love to jump on these ideas of, see everything is changing, or if it bleeds, it leads [laughter].” That would be like saying our population is dwindling because people are waiting until their mid-30s to have children. I mean, I have teammates that are having children in their mid-30s versus my parents had me when they were in their early 20s.
Rivers: Yeah, absolutely. Well, any other closing notes or thoughts?
Scott Shapiro: Yeah. I think the other closing note I would make is that I’d go back to what I first said which is, any marketing strategy you really want to start with as you think about plotting out success for your business, really does need to be mobile-first. When I meet people, when I go to industry conferences, I continue to stress it again, and again, and again, and again simply because to me it’s just a base point of success. What I encourage people in the real estate industry to do is be a cultural anthropologist for a moment and look at what’s going on around you in the course of your day, and see how they’re interacting with mobile and think about the time spent on mobile being the eyeballs you want to ultimately drive sales. So if I came up to you and said, “I have a technology that basically has 90% of the people on it every day, multiple times a day for–
Rivers: 100 times a day.
Scott Shapiro: –hours on end”, you would look at me and say, “Sign me up.”
Rivers: I want in.
Scott Shapiro: I think where there’s a gap is this idea that I can’t do it. But I think through partners, as we talked about earlier, if you put your faith and reliance in good, qualified partners to do it for you or with you, you’re going to get success. And I think early stages of maybe mobile marketing that wasn’t always the case. And I would say that if you’ve been if you’ve had a bad experience before, I’d say go back in it again. And if you’re continuing to find some frustration points, I would say keep at it because ultimately that’s where you need to be. If I were starting my own real estate business today, I wouldn’t start it without a mobile-first strategy, and I think that that’s sort of the basis of where I would go.
Rivers: All right, well, mobile-first. You heard it from the expert at Facebook. So Scott, thank you.