What Facebook’s New Advertising Policies Mean for Senior Housing

Facebook’s changes to its advertising algorithms to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads will likely have little impact overall on the senior living industry. For luxury age-restricted communities, however, the changes could mean a longer sales process for leads cultivated online.

Facebook announced Wednesday it reached a landmark settlement with civil rights groups that filed a lawsuit last year accusing the Menlo Park, California social media platform of allowing advertisers to unlawfully block minorities, older people and women — three protected target demographics — from seeing ads for housing, jobs and credit.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement that companies seeking to run housing, unemployment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code. Advertisers offering housing, employment or credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall, and any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable.

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Additionally, Facebook is building a tool allowing its users to search for and view all current housing ads in the U.S. targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to a specific user.

“Our job is to make sure these benefits continue while also making sure that our ads tools aren’t misused,” Sandberg said. “There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads.”

Senior living will be largely unaffected

The changes to Facebook’s advertising algorithms are not expected to impact senior living as a whole, in large part because providers are still confused about how to leverage Facebook for business, Bild & Company founder and President Traci Bild told Senior Housing News. Her firm specializes in senior living marketing.

“The more regional, mid-sized operator uses Facebook for the community, not as a move-in generator,” Bild said. “It’s fantastic for event building.”

Another reason senior living will be largely unaffected by the changes is because the senior is typically not the target of an operator’s advertising, Seyfarth Shaw Partner Brian Ashe told SHN. Based in San Francisco, Ashe is co-leader of the senior housing and long-term care team at the law firm.

“Most of the decisions for what to do with Mom aren’t necessarily made by Mom,” he said.

Less bang for the buck for active adult ads

One segment of the industry that is having success generating leads and sales through Facebook is age-restricted living, according to Bild. These communities may no longer target marketing based on age.

“[Senior living operators are now] obliged to make general solicitations which would include age-specific limitations on qualifications for residency,” Ashe said. “But the target would not be limited to people of a specific age.”

Because senior living is such a location-specific industry, there are concerns that no longer targeting ads by ZIP code will impact an operator’s ability to generate leads and, therefore, sales, Bild said.

“The vicinity of a community is a priority for people seeking senior housing,” she said.

Operators with larger marketing budgets will need to review their strategies in order to maximize their advertising dollars, since they can no longer use keywords and search engine optimization to drill down to their desired age and income demographics.

“The operators with good budgets may wind up spending more to get less,” Bild said.

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