All You Need to Know About Using Social Media to Build Community
Social media can be a phenomenal marketing and communications tool for your community association! It’s a great way to inform residents, keep them connected and strengthen their loyalty. But you need to put a strategy behind your community’s social media presence.
“Why? What’s the big deal? This is kid stuff!” may well be what just ran through your mind seeing the words “social media strategy” and “your community” in the same sentence. And that’s okay. But there are risks to not having a social media strategy.
A few sporadic Facebook posts and tweets at most aren’t going to achieve the results you’re after, for one thing. Social media needs to be consistent, or people stop looking at your pages and you drop out of newsfeeds. Beyond that, you can run into real trouble – legal trouble – if a resident without the right guidance responds to an irate homeowner, for example, or violates another business’s copyright. To avoid wasting time and other potential pitfalls, read on for some guidelines to running effective social media for your community:
1. Know your goal.
Before you dive in, consider the goals you want your social media efforts to achieve. Perhaps you want to build community spirit. Maybe you want to keep owners informed about what’s new and exciting in the community. You can use social media to build your community’s brand. Or you could use it for all the above! No matter the purpose, make sure everything you post and tweet furthers those objectives. For example, to achieve all the goals above, you can tweet about an upcoming parking lot resurfacing project, post a message on Facebook about an upcoming community meeting, share photos from your latest Yappy Hour social – or all three.
2. Establish ownership.
Maintaining your social media presence is an important task, so it should be assigned to a specific person or small group (2 to 3 people, no more!) to manage. This role goes beyond mere posting... remember, social media is just that – “social” – so your social media manager should be monitoring your channels for comments and feedback and responding promptly and appropriately or alerting those who need to know. The social media manager could be part of the property management team or you can choose a resident or committee member (or one of each), so you don’t miss posting great event photos because someone is on vacation, engaged with other responsibilities, etc. Need guidance? A good property management company can help you define this role.
3. Choose your channels.
There are so many social media outlets to choose from that sometimes it’s hard to determine which are best for your community. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to Instagram to Pinterest, there are many options that cater to different groups and interests.
Generally speaking, Facebook and LinkedIn are best for community associations, but you may find that Twitter is also useful for emergency updates and event reminders or that event photos on Instagram may appeal more to your residents if they are largely younger.
4. Know the law.
Be aware that copyright infringement, plagiarism, causing emotional distress or violating privacy rights can land your association in legal hot water if you engage in those activities through social media. Remember that anything you post remains online in perpetuity – even if you delete it – so carefully consider every item before you hit “Enter.”
5. Engage your residents.
You don’t want to be talking to yourself, right? That’s why it’s important to have an audience of fans and followers. You can start building this by including links to your social media on your website and other communications, and by promoting your social media presence at all events. But there’s even more you can do:
- Polls: Facebook offers this tool, and it’s a great way to get residents’ thoughts on events and topics. You can use this feedback to build your whole calendar, if you like.
- Events: Again, Facebook allows your community to create events that people can RSVP to directly. Promotion to your residents is really easy too. Remember that Twitter is a great tool for reminders, as well.
- Photo albums: Give participants the chance to upload and view photos from events.
- Photo updates: This is a great way to mark the progress of a big community project.
- Cross-promotion: Feature resident posts in your other communications, like your community newsletters.
- Recruitment: Social media is a great way to recruit volunteers.
- Contests: They’re both fun and functional! Photo-captioning contests and other contests bring people together and invite engagement.
- Star-making: If you have residents who are celebrating achievements or milestones, share it on social media (with their permission, of course).
- Requests: A direct appeal for feedback may get you a lot of response and engagement. Plus, it lets residents know that they have a voice in the community.
- Clubs: Your social channels are great tools for bringing together residents with common interests.
6. Define a policy.
A defined social media policy will help protect you from liability and make your program more effective. Your policy should do the following: define who has access to the sites and who is allowed to post information, prohibit negative or defamatory comments, re-assert residents’ privacy rights regarding published information, establish the right of the board to remove user comments that violate standards and put in place a procedure for screening content prior to publication.
On your Facebook page, you can post guidelines that outline your policy, including the fact that you will remove posts that violate it. For Twitter, consider setting your account to “protected” or “private,” which will allow only select users to see your tweets. As for LinkedIn, your official page won’t allow much interaction, but if you form a LinkedIn Group, you have more options – the site allows you to post some overall rules for engagement, along with a limited ability to manage your group settings.
7. Consider special groups for committees.
Social networking is a great way to improve communication and collaboration among committee members. Encourage your committee chairs to establish dedicated, private groups for members to brainstorm, to share ideas and to plan events.
8. Keep some things offline.
It’s critical to keep formal board decisions and communications out of social media. No actual board action should ever be undertaken based on discussions that occur online. Remember, social media’s role is in community building and communication of public information and events.
9. Board members beware.
Board members and community managers should avoid connecting directly with community members on social media sites. Favoritism (perceived or real) can create real pitfalls when an association is trying to accomplish its goals, and personal relationships formed via social media can be a contributing factor. So, if you’re a board member, carefully consider whom you agree to “friend” or connect with on social media. Board members should never respond to angry homeowners in a public forum like Facebook page comments. Instead, contact the homeowner offline with a phone call, email or even an in-person visit. That personal touch may help diffuse a delicate situation and make resolving an issue easier.
Like most things, social media has its good and its bad sides. By following the above tips, you can make social media a powerful tool for good in your community association while avoiding its pitfalls.
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