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Social media is an indispensable tool for Texas homeowners associations (HOAs) and condominium owners associations (COAs) to engage with their communities and build a positive online presence. However, enjoying the rewards of social platforms requires successfully navigating social media risks that could impact your association. That’s why we’ve asked the expert.

In the webinar below, we interview Laura Guitar, President of Reputation & Risk Advisors (a division of rbb Communications) and ask about the most common social media risks for Texas HOAs and COAs. We also answer real questions sent to us from board members like you about how to navigate your association’s online reputation the right way.

social media risks texas hoa and coas should avoid

Before managing social media risks, start with these questions for your board:

Is social media right for your organization?

Consider the demographics of your community. Take a survey to determine if your residents prefer to communicate and receive information via social media, emails, newsletters or phone calls.

Do you have enough time to manage social media?   

You might be surprised just how much time it takes to consistently curate a social media account.  You must think about not only the time it takes to post content, but also responding/reacting to comments and questions. A healthy, positive online brand isn’t a “set it and forget it” model, but something that takes a dedicated individual or committee to nurture and monitor with established rules.

Is social media worth the time and effort?  

Think of it like this: if someone from your association isn’t setting the bar for your online reputation, it will be set by those posting to social media without your input. That image may not be the image your HOA or COA wants for your community.

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What are the social media risks of responding to homeowners via social platforms?

There are certainly legal risks involved - boards should first be in contact with their legal counsel to establish safeguards for the board members and the association.

Risk: One-on-one conversations  

Social media shouldn’t be a forum for one-on-one conversations. By nature, it’s designed to be a platform for quick updates and high-level information.  Reinforce positive interactions and mitigate the risks posed by negative comments. Move negative conversations offline, and make sure that you post in such a way that users see that you’ve offered to address the concern privately. This lets the community know that you are responsive and attempting to address the concern.

Risk: Spread of misinformation 

In instances where incorrect information is being posted, the response is the exact opposite. This is an opportunity for the association to respond directly to the post with a answers that redirect users to the correct, factual source. 

Risk: Distribution of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) 

Your social media guidelines should clearly state posts containing protected personal information (e.g. financial documents) will be removed to protect residents and the association. PII means any representation of information that reveals the identity of an individual directly (name, address, social security number, or other identifying number or code, telephone number, email address, etc.) or indirectly (data elements may include a combination of gender, race, birth date, geographic indicator, and other descriptors).

texas hoas and coas should avoid these common social media risks

How should a board representative respond to false information on social media?  

PR and media firms have identified a rise in the general spread of misinformation and disinformation. There is a difference between these two types of social media risks.
  • Misinformation is the unintentional distribution of incorrect or outdated facts.
  • Disinformation is the intentional effort to spread incorrect facts, often to sully an individual or organization’s reputation.

Responding to misinformation: Acknowledge the error, gently correct the facts, and direct post owner to additional information if needed. Linking to external, credible sources where people can go check facts for themselves is a great way to redirect the flow of misinformation to truthful information.

Pro Tip: If misinformation is prevalent enough across the entire platform or reoccurs frequently, pin the post with correct information to the top of the page.   

Responding to disinformation: Because people ascribe feelings to social media platforms like they do individuals, they form trust in certain brands, pages, and communities online. It’s important for HOA and COA boards to begin building trust with followers as soon as possible by being accurate and transparent in your responses. When disinformation (or misinformation) occurs, your page will already have a track record of trusted, accurate information.

Note: People tend to share negative experiences 20-30% more than positive experiences.  By building a deposit of trust, your board will have a well of good experiences to balance out the occasional negative comment.

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What should HOA or COA board members do if residents are sharing confidential information online?

Social media risks often involve people who don’t realize they’ve shared protected information. It is the responsibility of the board to establish a code of conduct and social media policies to which all followers must adhere. Make sure to clearly state that any posts with PII will be removed for the safety of all users. 

Realize your followers are somewhat transient as families move in and out of the association, so regularly remind users of the guidelines. Be sure to apply the policies consistently with every post to help mitigate this type of risk.

How can my board reach out to residents when the association has listed platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor as "unapproved" or "non-official" channels?  

There are a variety of communication options you can use with residents instead of social media (think: community newsletters, easily accessible flyer stations, phone trees, a homeowner portal, etc.). Your board may even consider an access-controlled area of your association’s website to post important announcements without getting into the social media risks associated with other platforms.  

texas hoa and coa social media risks to avoid

What are the traits of a good social media moderator?   

The moderator is the person who can see all sides of the conversation and applies the board’s rules for the page without personal bias. Fair and thoughtful moderators typically become the perception of the board itself, so appointing the right volunteer(s) to this position is important. 

The great part about social media is the ability to uncover potentially unknown issues of which the board should be aware. Moderators are there to help triage online conversations, identifying potential hot-spot items early before they become contentious, and moving them offline and up to the board or management partner to resolve.

Note: Moderators should be perceived more as a benevolent presence than social media police.  

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What is the best way to reach renters in a community who may not have full access to the HOA or COA’s online resources?   

Social media resources like Facebook groups can be useful here. Set up one page for owners-only and another one for the wider community. Be careful and review information before sharing to make sure you’re posting in the right group. The challenging part is keeping group members updated, making sure residents who have moved away no longer have access to private pages.

See more on social media risks and commonly asked board questions - watch the full webinar. 

For more on how to mitigate social media risks and answers to other common questions from boards like yours, watch the full webinar HERE or click below:

Webinar - Expert Tips - Social Media Risks Texas HOA and COAs Should Avoid

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Wednesday March 27, 2024