An HOA Facebook Page - Yes or No?
Should a Home Owner's Association create and maintain a social media page for all residents? If so, what are the benefits and disadvantages?
Pro: Why every HOA ought to utilize social media.
- Messaging - It is an effective, quick means for communicating important information. For instance, upcoming maintenance work, block parties, neighborhood watch meetings and/or concerns, reminding folks about seasonal tasks such as disconnecting hoses before the first winter freeze, or reporting a lost pet.
- Education - Since many residents - both tenants and owners - have never been a part of an HOA before, the HOA's social media page presents an opportunity to remind and/or educate members on the the various rules and regulations that are essential for a healthy HOA community. For instance, what must be considered before hiring a vendor to install Dish TV on the roof, or having a fence built, or installing a new storm door, or even how to deal with a neighbor's barking dog.
- Community - It is common for some folks to have lived in an HOA for years without ever learning who their neighbors were, at least until a neighbor became obnoxious. A social media page, such as a Facebook HOA page, encourages members to get to know others in their community. That happens when members have a venue in which they may share items they have for sale, advertize their need for a baby or pet sitter, invite neighbors to an event at their home, offer a particular service, or just want to express an idea for discussion on how to make life in the HOA an even nicer experience.
Con: Why an HOA social media site can be a headache for the board.
- Venting - An HOA page on social media can sometimes be inappropriately used to communicate anger, prejudice, as well as abusive and inappropriate comments toward and about other members.
- Destroying - Though an HOA social media page can be effectively used to build up a sense of community, it can also be wrongly used to destroy any sense of community, especially when verbal arguments break out online. When folks make public accusations, poke fun at another's religious or political affiliation, or make a point in reiterating a failure of a member that has been reported in the news, the community feels violated.
- Undermining - Let's be honest, some people just don't like any kind of authority. Posting any rules and regulations on an HOA social media site can bring out the 'bear' in certain folks. They will question the rules, question the integrity of those who enforce the rules, and stir up others who might lean in the same direction, but would not have otherwise voiced their dislikes. Questions regarding the competencies or honesty of a board member or property manager should be addressed to the HOA board as a whole and not voiced on the social media page.
Some Tips for Creating a Healthy HOA Social Media Page
- Site Administrator(s) - Don't permit the page to exist on auto-pilot. It needs to be monitored regularly by a responsible person, usually someone(s) who are also members of the HOA board.
- Invitations to Join - Invite all residents to join the page. Be quick to accept their requests to join. Encourage members of the HOA page to check in to it regularly so that they may remain informed.
- Make it a Closed Community Page - Screen folks who request to join, making sure that they are actual residents or at least owners of property within the HOA. When folks leave the HOA, remove them from the page membership. Determine if your page will be open to teens or for only adult residents. Decide if you will open it up to specific people who are not residents of the HOA, but are essential to the community, such as the property manager.
- Clear Rules - Make it clear what the page is for and not for. Also, be sure to state that the page administrator has the right to delete any posts that are not in harmony with the rules and even to terminate the page membership of any resident who consistently misuses the page even after repeated warnings.
- Consistency - Be sure to apply the rules fairly and evenly to all participants. In other words, don't delete only the posts of those who present a side of an issue that differs from your own.
- Board Content - As useful as an HOA social media page can be, if it is kept full of monotonous and lengthy board issues, folks will cease to check in. Post excerpts from the Rules only when a reminder seems to be needed, yet remind members to read the whole document for context.
- Resources - Create a tab in which you can post important documents such as a copy of the Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, Minutes from the HOA Board Meetings, Agenda Items for the Annual Board Meeting, pool rules, etc. Also, a tab that opens to a list of important contacts , including for the property management company, reliable vendors for electrical, HVAC, and/or plumbing needs, and the neighborhood watch leader.
- Crimes - Hopefully your HOA also has an active Neighborhood Watch group. Though it is useful to give residents a heads up on the HOA page, regarding any concerns within the community, be careful not to slander, expose confidential information, or to create fear. In other words, don't use the HOA page to add insult to injury.
- Don't Depend Only On the HOA Social Media Page - Frankly, you will probably never get all residents to join the HOA page and many who do will not check it very often. In other words, don't make your HOA page your only means of communication. Some things, such as the Annual Board Meeting, require a letter to be sent to all owners.
- Don't be Quick to Close Down Your HOA page - Granted, it is often tempting to just close down the HOA social media page because of some of the hassles involved. It takes time to monitor it, to update it, to answer both good and silly questions, etc. It is stressful to deal with those who enjoy creating conflict on the HOA page. Yet, in my experience, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
It you have other suggestions on this topic, please contact us.