Understanding Facebook’s Special Ad Category for Real Estate Advertisers

In August of 2019, Facebook officially rolled out its Special Ad Category update within Facebook Ads Manager, which restricts ad targeting options for any account running ads related to credit, employment, or housing. The purpose of this new ad category is to help advertisers avoid discriminatory practices. Facebook required all advertisers to identify whether or not their campaigns belong to a Special Ad Category and update their targeting settings to comply with these restrictions by March 31, 2020, or their ads would not be allowed to run.

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What is Facebook’s Special Ad Category?

Facebook developed the Special Ad Category in response to civil rights concerns about its ad targeting features. Within this expansion of Facebook’s ad policies, it is requiredfor any account running ads related to credit, employment, or housingto select the Special Ad Category when creating a campaign. By doing so, advertisers are limited in the targeting options they can utilize so that Facebook users are protected from unlawful discrimination.

How Does This Impact Ad Targeting?

Under the special categories mentioned above, the following restrictions are placed on advertisers’ targeting options.


Ads can no longer be targeted by zip code, but can still be targeted by country, city, or state.

Age & Gender

All ages (18-65+) and genders must be included.

Detailed Targeting

Any targeting options (demographics, interests, or behaviors) that could contribute to discriminatory practices may be restricted.

Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences are no longer an option for campaigns ran under special ad categories. Instead, Facebook will utilize the custom audiences you would generally use for lookalikes (website visitors, customer lists, or engaged users) to create something similar, now referred to as a Special Ad Audience.  Under the special categories, advertisers can make use of Special Ad Audiences in lieu of Lookalike Audiences. These audiences still use existing information you have about the users you want to reach to create an audience with similar behavior. However, the audiences are adjusted to be in compliance with the Special Ad Category policies.

How Do Real Estate Advertisers Adjust Their Strategy?

At Today’s Business, we have been working with luxury real estate properties for many years. In past campaigns, we had been successful in using Interest Targeting and Lookalike Audiences to drive traffic to the properties’ website in order to build up a strong remarketing audience of potential qualified leads. Now, with the debut of the new Special Ad Category, we were forced to revamp our strategies for our real estate clients. 

If you are a real estate property who is feeling the effects of this change, here are a few ways that you can adjust your strategy to comply with Facebook’s new policy and effectively reach your target audience through Facebook advertising campaigns.

Use Engaging Ad Creatives

The number one way to run a Facebook campaign that your target audience will engage with by putting your creativity on full display. When it comes to luxury apartment communities that generally have a higher price tag and exclusive amenities, it is important to highlight those specifics in your ads to be able to catch the eyes of those who fit into your demographic and get them to click through, but also provide a clear message to people who may not fit your target audience. By putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience, you can highlight the important things that users would be looking for when they apartment hunting and truly set yourself apart from your competition. 

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Use Your “Voice”

Your ad has captured your audience’s attention. Now, they’re reading your ad’s caption for more information. This is your opportunity to tell them what they want to hear. Reiterate the key points displayed in your ad creative, provide more detail, and most importantly, speak to who you are targeting! To combat these new targeting restrictions, it is incredibly important that your ad copy isn’t leaving any questions unanswered. If a 25-year-old is seeing an ad for an active adult community, you should give them no reason to click-through to your website because the dynamic-duo of your ad creative and ad copy has clearly explained to them that their age group is unable to live at your community. Even though you cannot choose the age range you are looking to target, by hitting the nail on the head when it comes to your creative and copy, over time, Facebook’s machine learning will dynamically adjust to show your ad to the most engaged audience and ultimately give you a low cost per result.

Use Simple but Specific Targeting

There is a reason why you are advertising your community in the first place, right? There is a goal you are looking to accomplish and you know who you are looking for in order to complete that goal. Remarketing is more important than it ever was in terms of acquiring quality leads for real estate. Your targeting strategy should be less impression-based and more lead-based. You can spend hundreds of dollars and get your ads in front of tens of thousands of people, but since you are limited in what you can control, you could essentially be wasting your ad dollars reaching the wrong people. By building a strong remarketing audience and driving those users to a landing page optimized for conversions, your campaign will be set for success.With the ever-changing dynamics of digital marketing, we must continue to rely on our creative abilities and adaptability to get our message across to our target audiences. Speak directly to your audience, put yourself in their shoes, give them all the information they need, and retarget until they convert!

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Social Media Advertising at Today’s Business

Our Social Media Strategy team takes a comprehensive approach to social media marketing with your business goals in mind. Our methods are anything but one size fits all. We formulate a unique and competitive strategy for each brand that we work with. Depending on your goals, we are able to determine appropriate KPIs for each of your campaigns.

We are constantly keeping up to date on emerging trends in the social landscape to ensure that our campaigns are always utilizing best practices and performing adjacent to industry standards. If you are ready to start embracing the full potential of Facebook and Instagram advertising in your brand’s social media campaigns, let’s talk!