Social media has increasingly become the primary way that people stay connected — no matter where in the world they are. Everyone from individual influencers to large international brands use these channels to better relate to their audiences, and Community Associations can reap much of the same benefits from employing a similar strategy. However, rather than simply trying to sell a product or service, Associations must view their social media presence as a tool for increasing community engagement and keeping residents better informed of important community business. Although this may seem like a heavy lift, there are a number of guidelines and best practices that can make navigating the ever-shifting social landscape a bit easier on an Association.
Pros and Cons
Before jumping into creating a Twitter account or Facebook page for your community, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons to creating a social media presence for your Community Association to see if social media would be beneficial or simply a burden.
One of the greatest benefits that social media can add to a Community Association is the increased transparency and communication they provide, both of which serve as the foundation for building community within the Association and making residents feel like they’re not just aware of what the board is doing, but also actively involved in the goings on in their community.
Even if your community already has a web presence in the form of a website or online message board of some sort, creating social media accounts for the community can encourage greater resident participation, as many people already maintain a social media account for personal use. The U.S. alone boasts 230 million active monthly social media users — 71 percent of the population. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything to create accounts on most social media platforms, giving your Association a free platform to bond with residents and keep them better informed.
On the flip side of things, social media can also open the door to legal issues related to resident privacy and other concerns. Everyone has a platform on social media, which is usually a good thing, but can quickly lead to problems if a resident, board member, or other community member chooses to air their grievances with the board, other residents, or the Association at large on a public forum. This can damage the reputation of the community, potentially driving interested homeowners away from considering your Association a place to call their home.
Create a Plan
As with anything the board undertakes in service of the community, the first step to building a productive social media presence for the Community Association is to create a sound social media policy. This policy should include everything from who is responsible to updating the Association’s social feeds, to what kind of content is fit to post, to dealing with those who cause problems on the Association’s social pages.
Generally, event and meeting information, photos from community events, and general announcements or reminders relating to important community business are all examples of appropriate content to post. Any posts that include an individual’s personal information, anything related to confidential board business, and content that supports a board member or resident’s personal agenda should never appear on the community’s social feeds.
Once a plan has been established, the board should consult the Association’s lawyer to look over the policy and determine whether or not the policy is putting the board in legal jeopardy in any way. Copyright infringement, plagiarism, and violations of privacy rights are just some of the things that can stem from poor social media practices, causing costly and time-consuming headaches in the community.
Maximize Your Engagement
With a solid, attorney-approved social media plan in place, the community can then start making posts. But the social media landscape is wide and varied, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
Polling residents to see which social media channels they use most is a great way to determine which channels will be most successful in terms of community engagement. If there are a high concentration of residents on Facebook every day, for example, it might make sense for the community to not just make a Facebook page for users to visit, but also to make a private Facebook group for those residents to better connect with and get to know their neighbors. In fact, keeping a page like this private is the best way to curb user comments and posts that could devolve into a fight or portray the Association in a negative way.
Above all, use social media as a way to better engage residents through things like polls, events, photos, and contests, inviting residents to voice their opinion on appropriate topics and celebrating the people that make the community a wonderful place to live.
Social media gives everyone a voice — for better or for worse. By establishing a clear social media policy for the Association, then enforcing that policy in a kind but firm way online, your Association will be better primed to use these channels to keep the community better informed, better connected, and stronger all around.