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When I Flat-out refuse to set up Facebook Messenger ads

In early 2019 I tripped over an idea that Facebook Messenger could be the marketing unicorn businesses had been searching for.

It had all the right features: it was in the palm of the market’s hand, it was one-on-one, it was only slightly invasive, and – most importantly – it was easy for both business and consumer to use.

I quickly developed a script to attract homeowners and convert them into potential sellers using a complementary valuation as the carrot.

I dove into Ads Manager and separated the mass of interest, demographic and behavioural data to come up with a recipe that worked…

And did it work?!

I found that the leads were pretty cheap (around R15 to R40 each, depending on the area) and that plenty of people were willing to engage with an agent over Messenger.


One problem…no, two…

Despite the best targeting and the clearest offer, I still got leads who were not even homeowners…let alone sellers. The ratio was small though (like 1 in 15) and I can only explain why using the logic of aspiration. These “junk” leads were aspirational and seemed to meet many of my targeting criteria, so did end up seeing my ad and clicked out of curiosity.

The second problem was the reason why I don’t help just anybody set up and run successful Messenger ads. I was not picky at the start…but I soon learned that I had to be.

Messenger ads are massively powerful: as a business owner you get to enjoy a virtual one-on-one with a potential client and get to ask them all the questions you would normally ask in person or on the phone. You get to qualify them and decide if they are worth pursuing…

In theory this makes perfect sense…

But in practice it looks like this:

“I’m interested in a home valuation”

“Great. Where is the property located?”

“In Silver Lakes…”

“Awesome. What’s your cell number?”




You see, a Messenger conversation is very much like an in-person discussion: you need to get the lead to feel comfortable talking with you before you push them to a different medium.

Remember, the lead just met you…and before they get the opportunity to trust you, you ask for their cell number (a piece of personal data).

Would you give your personal data to someone you just met? Probably not.

The agents I saw doing this were rarely successful in converting their Messenger leads.

The ones who did well were natural conversationalists and knew what questions to ask and for how long before they got the lead to request switching over to Whatsapp or a call.

These were the agents who not only attracted leads, but were able to convert them into real prospects…and if they did get access to the property to conduct a valuation, they knew they had a great chance of signing a sole mandate.

Messenger is powerful, and so is Facebook. But remember that it’s only effective if you employ the same tactics and play by the same rules you would normally use in person or on the phone. Push too hard and fast, and say goodbye to the potential comm and your R30 lead cost.

Think you're ready for Messenger ads?

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