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  • Writer's pictureKarel Costa-Armas

Social Media for Community Associations - Procedures and Etiquette



Are you and your management company using social media platforms and apps to bring a better sense of community to your clients? Do some residents expect you to provide such a service? Technology these days allows for just about anyone to report events in real-time. This is a topic that managers and management companies usually stand on either extreme ends of the spectrum. Legal opinions vary as well. The ones that are against the use of social media for their associations tend to have their opinions accompanied by a fear of the unknown. This is quite normal since many of the community association managers currently working did not grow up with smart phones, apps, and instant notifications. Let’s face it, while many of us have Facebook and Instagram accounts, most of us have no idea of what actual social media marketing is. In my opinion, any manager using social media in their profession, specifically for their community association, should read up on social media marketing and the etiquette and disciplines that accompany it. Using social media for work is a bit of an art, and one that has ever changing, and mostly unwritten rules, if you are to be successful at it.


Purpose


The main question you want to answer in whether to generate a social media page for your association is “why?”. Why are you considering being involved in this endeavor to provide information, pictures, and updates? Is it because some residents wish to vent online? If so, abandon the idea now because all that will do is create yet another avenue of complaints for those you can never satisfy anyway. The usual complainers already have their own outlets online and some have even gone rogue and developed their own blogs. You’ll want to avoid negativity in every way when dealing with online content. To me, there is only one reason to generate a social media page or channel. That reason is to assist the board in bringing about a better sense of community and elicit warm fuzzy feelings from your clients, the residents. Love is the goal. Yes, I said it, love them to death with pictures and positive information. Make the board look good by providing pictures and content that will make your residents cheer.


Solutions


What problems can social media solve for a community? For me, transparency is one issue that is usually at the forefront of unhappy residents. Social media platforms can assist managers with communicating worthwhile information. Residents like to know what’s going on in their neighborhood and what the assessment money is being spent on. It’s usually all about the bottom line so providing information and pictures of vendors doing the work being invoiced is welcomed by most. While notices and email updates serve us well, a few pictures or a short video of the repaving project or tree trimming goes a long way. Do you have a high-rise condominium with a chiller system? Do any of your residents know what the chillers look like? It is very helpful to post pictures of the chillers and large equipment requiring routine maintenance. Residents will acquire a better sense of where the finances went when budget time comes around.


When your cooling towers need belt replacement or filter cleaning, you want to be able to snap a picture or two of the work. These jobs sometimes carry a big price tag and it is very convenient to have the ability to tell a resident or board member, “I posted a video on our Facebook page when that work was done; take a look at it and you’ll understand why they are charging us for sixteen hours’ worth of labor”. If your board has been discussing capital improvements and the members want to be kept up to date, simply snap a few a pictures and post them to the community Facebook page. Being proactive is a huge advantage when being more transparent than what the community has been accustomed to. You want to make residents (the client) feel informed. What better way to inform them than while they are scrolling on their phone at their leisure?


What about emergencies? I am a manager in Florida. We have plenty of storms and hurricanes. These events close down roads and neighborhoods. We also have lots of snowbirds (owners that live up north during the summer and come down for the winter) that may rely on a social media feed. Social media is a good way for them to stay informed without having to pick up the phone and call the office. If there is a hurricane event, I can post status notifications of what the local government is trying to get out to the public. I can very quickly “share” a local news station’s weather alert. These posts can then be shared by your viewing audience and therefore you have a multiplier in effect. Local phone lines electrical service can be down and yet a manager will still be able to post to the community’s page. In other words, it’s a good supplement to your primary contact management system when you need to get a message out.


Facebook, Instagram, Twitter?


For community associations, I find Facebook to be the easiest and most familiar with middle aged and older residents. The platform provides for lengthy posts if you need them and an easier way for a manager to respond to a serious inquiry. While there are new platforms every day, the quick scrollers on their phones may not be too interested in reading about the new landscaper or how the seawall rebuild is doing. I’ve certainly found Instagram helpful but only as a second channel to the same association that I have already generated a Facebook page for. I am not a Twitter fan and therefore cannot attest to any advantage of Twitter for community associations. There may indeed be an audience for it but again, I find Facebook the best way to document events and proactive posts about the community. Facebook users are normally scrolling to see their friends and family’s pictures. When their community association post suddenly pops up in their feed, it’s almost as though they are receiving news from a friend or family member.


Formal Resolution

If this is a new idea for the association, you’ll want to follow a formal process to set up the proper parameters. One way of gathering information and opinions of residents is to appoint a committee. It can be a general “communications” committee or a specific “social media” committee. They’ll help answer some of the obvious questions that will be part of a potential formal board resolution.

What platform will be used (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)?

What will the social media be used for?

Will there be one person in charge of monitoring and posting or will the board hire a marketing company?

Will the manager be involved in providing media to the committee?

Does the management charge an additional fee to provide this service?

Will there be a widget or news feed of the social media platform present on the official association website?

What information will be permitted and restricted?

Will there be “official” board business posted for the public to see?

What disclaimers should be posted online?


Networking and Better Relationships with Vendors


One of the greatest reasons managers and management companies may consider to be good at online marketing and social media is networking. Have you considered how much you could improve your employer’s reputation and credibility by posting positive information, beautiful pictures, and creative messages? If done correctly and you “tag” the company, you may be recognized for taking ownership of the company and caring about your employer’s growth. What employer out there wouldn’t want a few great managers that are helping the company’s bottom line? If you are a management company owner, educator, or decision maker, you’ll want to consider having a few sharp managers learning how to better use social media and getting you some fantastic exposure. If you already have a marketing department, your managers could provide material to the marketing team.

Who else can you help while using social media? Your vendors. Yes, they will greatly appreciate the post you make about the work they did. “Tag” their company and you are basically handing them free advertising. Your vendors spend thousands of dollars to advertise, membership dues in networking organizations, luncheons, etc. Post a picture of your pool company tech changing out a pump, “tag” the company, and say something nice. They may just return the favor and give you and your management company some excellent exposure to existing and possibly new clients. Again, I say this with the concept of generating only positive posts with creative pictures. While I am not an attorney or marketing expert, steer clear of negative comments, reviews, opinions, embarrassing photos, or internet trolling.



Suggested Social Media Do’s


As you would expect, I must advise you I am not an attorney and therefore only suggest some of the following tips.

· Positive Posts Only. I can’t stress enough to stay positive and brief. Like Joe Friday says “just the facts”.

· Holiday and Sporting Events. Social media is an excellent place to announce the upcoming 4th of July party or Winter Celebration. Use bright and joyful pictures to catch their attention. Is your country club sponsoring a charity? Make sure to let everyone know about it before, during, and after the event.

· Landscapes and wildlife. We all know how great it is to look at beautiful sunsets, cute animals, and local wildlife. If you have interesting animals such as rabbits, bears, gators, ducklings, etc, post the pics. Promote your properties’ assets. Remind the residents why they chose to live at the community you manage. You may be posting a picture of an area a resident long forgot even existed in their community. Some communities have older residents that just aren’t able to get around as much as they used to.

· If you receive a request to remove a picture or post that has offended someone, delete it immediately. No post is great enough that you would risk being offensive or drawing negative attention to yourself or your management company.

· Delete any comment that may offend someone. You have the right to delete and monitor your page. There is no inherent right to post to anyone else’s page. You may even mention that in the description of the page “any derogatory or offensive comments will be deleted”.

· Block anyone that repeatedly violates your standards, or the guidelines set forth in the formal board resolution. This is just part of life online. Trolls and offensive folks should be blocked to avoid problems.

· Consider signage on the property advising residents and visitors that random pictures and videos are taken throughout the property. This might be helpful when you have amenities open to the public such as a country club, marina, or tennis center.

· Be consistent. Decide how many posts you are dedicated to making and do so on a consistent basis.

· “Tag” your vendors and promote each other. That’s what social media is about. Networking.

· Kudos to all. Commend employees and committees for jobs well done. Recognize their strengths and accomplishments.


Suggested Social Media Don’ts

· Nothing negative or opinionated. You’ll want to keep personal opinions to yourself other than when you are building someone up or commending a vendor on a job well done. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, especially online.

· Keep politics and religion out of the community page. No need to start a riot online by offending someone else’s beliefs.

· Copyright Infringements. There are lots of copywritten material and pictures you’ll need to be careful about using. While not very common to be cited for a Facebook post, think twice before using certain materials, especially if you are not giving credit to the source.

· Avoid pictures of too much skin or racy situations. Pictures of alcohol consumption may cause problems.

· Avoid posting pictures of children without permission. There are reasons minors’ faces are blurred out on the news.


In summary, social media continues to be the new normal. Most managers simply stay away from it because it is unfamiliar territory in community management. Some managers may perceive social media as “additional work”. If done properly, it is initially quite a bit of extra work. It is something managers should at least, be informed of. While this is an area that a management company can certainly consider charging an additional fee for, it may soon become an expected service for overall positive communications of the associations you manage. It’s better to be proactive and get your message out on your terms. Social media is an untapped resource and an excellent to tool that can allow you to shine and stand out.


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Karel Costa-Armas, LCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM


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