As more tools bring communities into the digital age, they also bring their own set of challenges. Social media is one of those moving targets. It’s a valuable tool that allows your board to communicate with homeowners with lightning speed about everything from maintenance reminders to event promotions – but it also has the potential for misuse. A simple social media posts could start a community crisis, escalate a situation with an angry homeowner or even put boards and the association in legal trouble.
Having a written social media policy can help ensure that your board avoids these issues while helping your community experience all the positive effects of social networks. Below is suggested information to include in your policy. Whether you use an app with a private social network or a public social network, use the points below as a starting place for discussion with your board so that you create a social media policy that’s customized to the needs and culture of your community.
1. Content Your Board Should Post
If you’re not sure what your board should say on social media, make it clear which types of posts current and future board members should feel free to create. Examples include:
- General announcements
- Event and meeting information
- Polls to collect opinions about decisions facing the community
- Event photos
- Content that your community would find useful
Remember, don’t post too much; bombarding your community with too many updates will eventually make them tune out. But if you make sure that your social media posts are relevant to your homeowners, they will come to rely on the community’s social channels for receiving up-to-date information.
2. Content Your Board Should Never Post
Just as important as knowing what your board should publish is knowing what they should avoid publishing. Collect feedback from your board about posts board members should never make addition to the items below and include them prominently in your policy.
- Photos of children without parental consent
- Photos taken of anyone without their consent
- Confidential board business (or anything hinting at it)
- An individual’s private information
- Posts directed toward a specific person in your community
- Anything promoting a board member’s personal agenda
- Inflammatory or defaming remarks
By avoiding posts like these, the board will help prevent legal problems while preserving community harmony.
3. How to Stay Compliant
Avoid legal trouble and ensure that you’re working within the bounds of your governing documents by including best practices for remaining compliant in your social media policy. Include steps the board needs to take to ensure compliance, like:
- Asking the association’s attorney to review the policy after it’s been created
- Noting and continuing to follow required distribution methods of certain types of information as written in your governing documents (such as meeting notifications)
- Reviewing and updating the policy annually to ensure it’s still relevant to the rapid changes in social media
4. How to Handle Negativity
One of the most difficult challenges that social media presents board is the potential for negative posts from homeowners. Whether a member of your community has made a post personally calling out a board member with inflammatory remarks, complaining about a violation or is simply making passive-aggressive comments, write these best practices for de-escalating the situation into your policy:
- Don’t ignore the negative post by not responding. Take it as an opportunity to publicly show the community that the board cares what homeowners think and is willing to work with them.
- Reply indicating that you understand the issue (even if it’s unfounded) and that you acknowledge their concerns.
- Tell them that you’ll message them directly to continue working with them on this problem or leave your contact information and invite them to reach out to you.
When responding to a negative post, you have several goals: preserving the board’s reputation with the community, repairing the relationship with the homeowner as much as possible and taking the conversation offline. This last point is especially important to keep the homeowner from posting more negativity and escalating the situation. Remember, do not respond defensively or engage in an argument with a homeowner on social media. It solves nothing, reflects badly on the board and increases animosity.
Whenever you’re posting or responding to a post on social media as a board member, remember this simple rule of thumb: If you’re asking yourself is something is ok to post, it probably isn’t. By creating your community’s social media policy based on this idea, you’ll help your community minimize the pitfalls of social networks while building a true sense of community.
About the Author
Marisa Highsmith is a business development manager for Associa HRW. She is responsible for creating and building client relationships, proposal writing, contract negotiations and public relations. She has also served as a community manager for HRW, which helped her develop a strong background in apartment and homeowners’ association management as well as customer service. Marisa has 15 years experience in the community association management industry. She attended both Cape Fear Community College and East Carolina University where she majored in Child Development and Family Relations. Marisa also serves on the board of the Lower Cape Fear YWCA.More Content by Marisa Highsmith