Throughout history communication has changed drastically. From petroglyphs in caves telling the stories of ancient hunts and battles, to the pony express taking letters across the frontier, to the dial tones of “you’ve got mail” signaling an email has arrived, the barriers to communication have steadily dropped over time. That evolution has continued over the last 15 years with the rise of social media. Now, the barriers are virtually gone. But what does that mean for our community associations? Should community associations have a social media page/pages? And if yes, what are ways the page can be implemented?
As of 2019, there are roughly 3.4 billion (or 45% of the world’s population) active social media users around the world.1 In the United States, the percentage is even greater, with 72% of the adult population active on at least one social media page.2 Translating that to our communities, it is safe to assume that almost 3/4 of the homes in any community are on at least one social media platform.
While most are using social media to communicate with family and friends, people often use social media platforms to interact with companies, brands and organizations. Today, more than 40% of digital consumers are using social media to interact and research brands.3 There is almost an inherent expectation that all organizations should have a social media page. But where does this leave our community associations as organizations?
Should Community Associations Have Social Media Pages?
For many years, attorneys would advise their clients with a simple answer to this question – NO! There were concerns regarding the regulation of free speech. There were also concerns the pages would turn into platforms for board and neighbor bashing. Ultimately, it was believed social media pages caused more problems than they solved and increased the potential for liability, but as social media consumes more and more of our lives, homeowner expectations have risen on associations having a social media presence in order to share community updates, event information and emergency announcements.
If your association feels it is necessary to have a social media page, you should have a plan to implement the social media page to ensure it reaches the greatest level of success.
Strategy for Implementation
All successful social media pages have a plan behind their success and an association social media page should be no different.
The first steps to outlining your social media plan should be to define the purpose of the plan. For associations, that purpose should be to distribute/provide information to the members, receive information from the members and ultimately foster communication with the members and between the members.
The page content should be limited to the defined purpose of the page. If the purpose of the page is to provide updates on community related events, the content on the page should be community event related. Stretching too far from the purpose of the page can lead to issues that open the page to controversy. A helpful tool to avoid this potential issue is to adopt a social media policy as a part of your plan.
Social Media Policy
The association should not allow obscene or unlawful posts, or posts and comments that are harassing or threatening in nature. It is strongly recommended to refrain from posting copyrighted material or images. Posting this type of content can subject the page to being suspended or deleted by the social media network.
The policy should include language stating no advertising or junk messaging will be allowed on the page to prevent the page from becoming a marketplace that advertises homeowners’ addresses and subjecting the association to potential liability. In addition to not allowing a marketplace to develop, the policy should not allow for posting of personal information of the residents, such as addresses, images of their homes, or complaints regarding neighbor-to-neighbor disputes.
Most importantly, the social media policy should determine who is the administrator of the social media page and, as a result, the arbiter of potential violations. This person could be a board member, a committee member, or a community manager, but there is a potential cost factor involved with the community manager.
Once all of these steps are defined and the plan is in place, the association is ready to launch the association’s new “official” social media page. But what do you do if an “unofficial” page that many of the residents use already exists?
Find out on Tuesday, August 10 at 11:30 a.m. for our “Tweet Others as You Would Like to Be Tweeted: Social Media and Your Community” webinar. Teddy Holtz and I will be covering other strategies you can take to successfully implement a social media page for your community and the strategies you can take to handle “unofficial” pages in your community.