As homeowners associations (HOAs) continue to grow, residents seek easier ways to share information and communicate with each other, their board and their residential management company. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Nextdoor, are quickly becoming favorite mediums for information sharing amongst neighbors mainly due to their ease of use and mobile accessibility.
Many times, community social pages are set up by well-intentioned homeowners without the involvement of the community association. In most cases, these neighborhood sites are also developed without policies and guidelines. However, it’s important for your board to establish how these sites will be administered, who will be allowed access and what types of information should be posted.
“Residents, and typically even board members, do not think of the community association as a corporation or themselves as shareholders,” says Bonnie Carlisle, president of FirstService Residential in Austin. “They don’t realize that some of their conversations may be harmful or that they may be inadvertently contributing to slanderous or incorrect information.”
Misinformation can be a huge source of angst and confusion for residents. Once it has been posted to a social media site, it can appear as though it’s owned or endorsed by the community association and its representatives. However, many times the board, the developer or the HOA management company are not even privy to these sites or haven’t had an opportunity to validate the information in advance. “This can be a huge liability for all parties,” says Carlisle.
It’s important for board members to work with their residential management company to set a firm social media policy and work with the site administrator to monitor activity on the site. Here we’ve identified a few of the most common issues frequently made on homeowner-controlled social media sites and some suggestions on how you can keep things aboveboard:
- Incorrectly stating use of HOA facilities. In many cases, residents may not fully understand community policies. Providing a secondary page with helpful links to an official HOA website that contains policy and amenity information will help residents to easily confirm details.
- Posting information regarding owner violations. Homeowners need to be aware that they should not post anything regarding HOA violations, or issues they may have with a neighbor. Comments that criticize other owners or their property directly could create unnecessary conflict. Bring any such posts to the attention of the management company so that the issue may be addressed appropriately.
- Overstating community development plans. The best defense here is a good offense. Be sure that your board proactively communicates the nature of any construction in the community. Keep homeowners informed of future plans with frequent updates on the social page and community website. It may also be helpful to direct them to local city and county sites for information on public improvement projects.
- Making negative comments about the community. Don’t allow posts that shine a derogatory light on the board, developer or vendors that work in the community. These can create discord amongst homeowners and also discourage future buyers from wanting to live in the community. If this occurs, respond to the individual in a private message, and then ask the administrator to hide the original comment.
- Posting inappropriate or vulgar material. What is funny to one person may not necessarily be amusing to another. Posts that make racial, sexist, slanderous or ill-mannered remarks or innuendos should be automatically deleted.
Social media can be a great tool to enhance engagement with residents in your community. To make certain it’s a positive networking experience and to minimize risk to your HOA, be sure to create a well-defined social media policy from the beginning that outlines a process for proper monitoring and adherence from members.