Social media can be a valuable communication tool for HOAs. But, you need to adopt a strict HOA social media policy to keep members in check and avoid potential liability.
Steps for Determining Your HOA Social Media Policy
Technology has certainly come a long way since the Internet first came to light. Gone are the days of snail mail and door-to-door newsletters. In today’s hyperconnected world, social media is king.
Like other organizations, homeowners associations can also benefit from social media. Having a social media policy, though, is key to an effective and harmonious existence online. But, before you can even begin to lay down your HOA policies for social media, you must first decide on a few things.
- Stick to One Platform. There are so many social media platforms available today, but it’s in your HOA’s best interests to choose only one. This will make it easy to track social activity and saves time on posting to multiple channels. Facebook, by far, has the largest user base. With 2.7 billion monthly active users worldwide, most of your residents will likely have a Facebook account.
- Determine Privacy Settings. When creating a page or group on social media, particularly Facebook, you must adjust its privacy settings. It’s best to set the group to private or closed. That way, non-members can’t join and cause distractions to HOA-related business.
- Appoint Administrators. Generally, board members should act as the group’s administrators. But, you should also appoint specific board members to post updates, approve or deny posts from members, and manage or reply to comments. You can also assign different members for each role.
- Deal With Negative Posts Appropriately. There will always be negative posters online, your HOA social media page included. Instead of ignoring negative posts or comments, take the time to respond to them. Let them know you understand what they’re saying and have acknowledged their opinion. This shows that you care about homeowner issues. Then, move the conversation to a private medium.
What’s a Good HOA Social Media Policy?
Every homeowners association should have an HOA communications policy, and it extends to social media as well. Typical HOA rules about social media dictate how homeowners should behave in an online setting.
It is also a good idea to tailor your rules according to the platform. For instance, if you have a Facebook group or page, make a set of HOA Facebook page rules. This way, you can avoid a nasty and costly HOA Facebook lawsuit.
Here are some HOA social media policy examples on the types of content that members can and can’t post:
Board members must only post content that’s related to the association. This includes meeting dates, community event details, new HOA rules, changes to existing HOA rules, and reminders of the deadline of dues.
It’s also a good idea to post links to association documents, such as the homeowners association bylaws, CC&Rs, a sundry of application forms, and the like.
Additionally, other content worth posting or sharing include:
- Community event photos
- Content community members may find useful (such as gardening tips, maintenance tips, etc.)
All association members, including HOA board members on social media, must refrain from posting any content that falls under any of the following:
- Profane, offensive, defamatory, or violent in any way
- Personally attacking specific groups or individuals
- Deliberately disorderly comments meant to abuse, harass, threaten, or intimidate (i.e. trolling)
- Links to files that contain viruses
- Content related to confidential association business (such as vendor negotiations or contracts)
- Content that fosters, advocates, or perpetuates discrimination based on a person’s race, religion, gender, color, national origin, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability
- Any type of discrimination (in the sole discretion of the association)
- Sexual content or links to sexual content
- Content that encourages or conducts any activity that is offensive, harmful, or illegal in any way
- Content related to confidential or proprietary business information
- Personal information
- Copyrighted or trademarked content (such as images)
- Images of children without parental consent
- Content that promotes or advertises a product/service, brand, or individual
- Community gossip
- Personal opinions as representing the association’s views
- Political bias
If a member violates any of these HOA social media rules, the HOA reserves the right to do one or all of the following:
- Delete the post or comment in question without prior notice
- Remove the offender from the group
- Revoke the offender’s posting or commenting abilities
HOA Board Members and Social Media: Know the Law
Irresponsible social media use can lead to problems, which is why board members should familiarize themselves with the law to remain compliant. Remember that, under the Federal Communications Decency Act, your association may be found liable if a person, acting as a representative of the HOA, posts any defamatory or discriminatory statements. Therefore, you should exercise strict control of what members post or comment online.
Your association should also never post personal or privileged information as well as copyrighted or trademarked materials. Sharing such information or materials can lead to litigation as well. It’s also always a good idea to ask your attorney to review your HOA social media policy to make sure you’re not breaking any laws.
The Benefits of Using Social Media in Your HOA
How can social media make HOA management easier?
- Easy, Instant Communication. You can instantly compose a short message right on your phone and share it on your HOA page. Plus, given the format of social media, this message can be instantly consumed as well.
- Get Feedback Easily. Change the way you get the pulse of your community. In the age of social media, you can get feedback anytime, anywhere. You also get all manner of feedback, too — from comments and shares to reactions.
- Make Your HOA More Accessible. Social media is an easy way to make your HOA feel more in touch and accessible to your homeowners. It’s also a great way to showcase everything your HOA has to offer. Combine your HOA social media accounts with your HOA website for even better results.
Make Social Media Work for You
Like most things, social media can work to benefit your community, but it can also harm it. It’s a great way to communicate with your residents, as long as you use it with care. Adopt a strict HOA social media policy and make sure to enforce it uniformly. In doing so, you can protect your association.
When in doubt, know that you always have the option of leaving social media to the experts. It’s a good idea to look at a reputable national directory like HOA Management for your association needs.
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