Social media, for good or bad, is here to stay and has changed the way we communicate. By recognizing the pros, cons, and legal issues of using these platforms for HOA communication and professional branding, you can make these tools work for your homeowners association rather than against it.
What are the Pros?
Gone are the delays from designing a newsletter, getting it printed, and then distributing it to your HOA community. Whether via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or your HOA website, your member communications can be delivered with a click.
It saves money
There’s no need for graphic design, printing, or postage to get your HOA messages to your community members.
It provides easy access to information
You can add links to your community calendar, emergency services, annual reports, meeting notes, bylaws, and anything you think of to help your HOA members get the information they need, 24/7.
It’s easy to correct
Notice a typo? Is a name misspelled? Did a meeting time change? Corrections are just a few keyboard strokes away.
It enhances communication among HOA members
The word “social” is the keyword to social media. It’s meant to be an ongoing and interactive conversation among members. Homeowners like to know what’s going on, even if they don’t always participate in the online community.
It gives everyone a voice
An effective HOA social media strategy facilitates effective communication. When a member posts online and their questions are answered with kindness and respect, that homeowner will feel cared about and heard.
It makes life easier for you and HOA members
You can send meeting reminders and agendas, update the status of HOA projects, promote self-help to homeowners, spotlight community events, and strengthen the concept of “community.”
What are the Cons?
While an association is not required by law to have a social media platform, it is a friendly and accessible way to communicate. But don’t rely on it to provide notices and any legal communications required by Davis-Stirling. Also, according to Davis-Stirling, websites expose associations to potential liability. These liabilities can include defamation, invasion of privacy, being litigation targets by so-called “rights” organizations seizing on a word or phrase that offends them, and theft of personal information.
In order to minimize these risks, make sure your website and other platforms are clearly divided into two sections: one for members only that is password-protected for sensitive information like financials, and one that is open to the public...while keeping your professional brand in mind.
Rantings and insults and whiners…oh my
Even though it's intended for positive outreach, some HOA members will use your online platform to rant about the board, the manager, the timeliness of projects, or fellow homeowners. Make sure you have someone who is designated to administer your platforms to address these issues immediately and block inappropriate content.
If you’re going to have an online presence, make sure it is updated in the present. While it’s great to have many platforms, it sends a bad message if your messages are out of date.
Using it only as an extension of HOA meetings
Yikes. Repeating what’s in minutes without adding anything new, interactive, or fun makes for a boring platform and a loss of readership.
Negative information, long lists of rules, calling out violators, and talking about individual “crazy-makers” can undermine the sense of community for your HOA and negatively impact livability. It could even impact potential buyers! Chat rooms and bulletin boards are a lose-lose for your association and should not be set up by your HOA.
Remember, your HOA board needs to set policy guidelines and block anyone who uses your platform in a way that doesn’t follow policy. That way there is no ambiguity about what your HOA platforms will tolerate.
No one's in charge
Make sure the admin settings on any platform are such that only the HOA board or management can post pictures and initial posts. Individual HOA members should not be allowed to initiate posts for comments or post pictures. Be sure to get written permission before you post photos of members and especially their children.
Social media gives your HOA board tremendous power if you use it wisely to influence, inform, engage, and entertain the homeowners association community. It's a big undertaking, but the positives can far outweigh the negatives…especially when someone's dedicated to do the job.