Make sure your marketing is legal and ethical
Facebook is often the go-to platform to promote listings and market your business. It’s also the app many of your clients and prospects turn to the minute they wake up. But now Facebook is dealing with fallout from questionable ad targeting practices.
The allegation that Facebook enables housing discrimination by allowing real estate advertisers to exclude certain audiences was the focus of a federal lawsuit filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance and three affiliated groups. According to the complaint, “Facebook continues to enable landlords and real estate brokers to bar families with children, women, and others from receiving rental and sales ads for housing.”
How Misuse Can Occur
The problems stemming from Facebook can emerge innocently enough, often by users with no intent to violate the Fair Housing Act, in part because of the ease of the technology. Let’s say a listing agent markets a “starter home” by using Facebook’s ad filters to target that listing to buyers ages 25 to 35. Or a female agent who connects well with female buyers decides to focus her Facebook advertising toward women. In both cases they’re likely breaking federal and state fair housing law and violating the REALTOR® Code of EthicsYou must market to all demographics to stay within the law. Targeted marketing that singles out a particular group is either best avoided or handled with utmost care. “It’s unlawful to create a notice or statement that’s exclusive,” says Fred Underwood, director of diversity and community outreach programs at NAR. If your marketing includes people photos, then include a broad spectrum of people. Interpretation of the photo rule is that people photos must reflect the demographic percentage spectrum of the area.
Remember that Facebook offers digital services to many industries other than housing. It’s ok to target protected classes if the advertisement is not for housing or any other protected industry. That’s why Facebook will offer you ad filters that can result in a fair housing violation. And it’s why you may think its ok, because Facebook is offering it. But Facebook is not going to protect you if you get into trouble using their filters. You have to be vigilant and understand the law. If you do select a protected class filter and promote to a market based on the filter, you’ve probably just violated Fair Housing Law. It’s best to cast a wide net for prospects. Interested audiences will self-select. Focus on building an organic, hyperlocal audience by consistently publishing quality content that directs users to your website. And take it from there.
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