Social media platforms used to be spaces to share cat videos, connect with long-lost friends from school or stare longingly at wanderlust-inducing travel posts. They were also free to use – and that meant that once they’d established themselves as part of a consumer’s essential daily routine, they had to find ways to pay their bills.
More and more advertisements are cropping up on our social media feeds these days as brands find out more about our interests and interactions, attempting to target us with products they believe will interest us. Not everyone does it right, though – which means that consumers are often bombarded by hundreds of ads across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn that they simply scroll past.
The ads are working, too – South Africa’s online retail sales grew by around 40% last year, driven by lockdowns, but also demonstrating how easy it was to migrate to researching and making more purchases, online. Rand Merchant Bank expects the sector’s value to surge by 150%, to R225 billion, within the next five years and online-only retailers like OneDayOnly and Takealot showed a 128% increase in sales in the case of the former and 28% increase in revenue by March 2020, for the latter. Nielsen stats showed that 29% of South African consumers are shopping more online now than before the pandemic. It’s a big leap from buying groceries online to buying a home in the digital space – but there are definite signs that the tide is turning.
When done right, though, social media advertising can actually point consumers in the direction of things they need, rather than things they don’t – and you might have noticed that if you’ve been checking out properties to rent or buy, or researching agents to help manage the sale or rental of your property recently, you’ve been seeing more and more relevant property-related ads on those platforms.
In South Africa, that targeted property advertising is a result of increasing adoption of the Flow platform, the product of Gil Sperling and Daniel Levy, the minds behind the continent’s largest and most successful adtech marketing company, Popimedia. Popimedia were the largest buyers of Facebook media inventory in Africa, representing some of the world’s biggest brands, when the company was acquired by global communications group Publicis in 2016.
Flow harnesses their expertise in the adtech space to help take the property industry into the 21st century by offering estate agents the chance to target prospective buyers and renters, based on what they’re actually looking for, in the areas they’re searching in. “Rather than spamming a single person looking for a starter flat near Sandton with listings for free-standing four-bedroom properties in Kyalami, agents can now better serve potential customers with ads for properties that suit their needs and means, in the right areas,” says Sperling. “It cuts out a lot of frustration on the part of the consumer, too – nobody wants to get spammed with irrelevant ads, particularly at a time when South Africans are spending more time on social media than ever before, and transacting online has seen such immense growth on the back of the last year’s series of lockdowns and restrictions”. Pretoria-based real estate franchise RealNet Rainmaker is one of Flow’s early success stories, reaping the rewards of joining the proptech revolution and seeing an increase of 30% in the volume of enquiries received from targeted and engaged buyers and sellers who have seen their ads on their social media platforms. “30% more enquiries for the agency means that they’re finding the right potential customers and serving them the right ads for the right properties,” says Sperling. “The social media landscape has adapted to having the platforms becoming a vital source of information for people – but, like the spread of fake news, badly-targeted ads for products they don’t want or need are a hugely negative aspect of a space which has become such an important part of our lives”.