You Can’t Post That on Facebook!

Updated dos and don’ts for social media use at your association.

By Carole Kaptur

An example of a Facebook post

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. It can sap my time but it can also keep me closer to the people I want to share with. It can be a distraction for staff but it’s also a great communication tool for your REALTOR® association. Just how can, and should, you balance social media use in your office and on the job? Here, I address some common AE questions.

Q. Can I ban employees from using social media during work?

Yes. If spelled out clearly in your employee handbook, you can ban employees from using social media platforms such as ­Facebook or Twitter during work hours, whether it’s on their personal or work device. On their lunch hour or break time, it’s typical to allow employees to use social media, although they have no right to privacy when using office equipment.

However, moderate social media use in the office can give employees a quick mental break that enables them to return to work more energized. Co-workers might use social media to increase interaction and strengthen relationships, improving collaboration and strengthening your office harmony.

But although social media interaction among co-workers can improve relationships, it can also expose associations to potential liability regarding sexual harassment. I would discourage co-workers from having social media connections with one another and certainly advise against AEs requiring it.

Social media is a valuable tool to communicate with members, and if an employee’s job description includes managing the association’s Facebook or Twitter account, they’ll need access at work. But I recommend that association staff not connect with members via their personal accounts.

Q. Can my board fire me for what I post on my personal social media pages?

Maybe. There’s no shortage of examples of public figures, media personalities, politicians, and private citizens losing their jobs over something they posted online. You represent your association in everything you do publicly, and posting something that may be considered hate speech, discriminatory, or widely offensive (not that you would ever do this!) may be grounds for dismissal or reprimand.

Separating your personal and professional accounts to avoid any misunderstandings or accidental clicks of the send button won’t completely shield you from negative consequences mentioned above, but it’s still a good idea. Unfriending your members and colleagues and asking them to “like” your professional page instead may be a massive undertaking, but it’s in your personal and professional best interest. Now is the time to take control of your social media by establishing a business-only page.

Take a cue from NAR CEO Bob Goldberg. His public Facebook page, which has more than 2,300 likes, is where he communicates with members and posts photos, video messages, and news about the association. His personal Facebook page, on the other hand, shows only a few dozen friends, which indicates that he keeps it strictly personal.

Apart from dismantling your social media accounts, explore the features these platforms offer that enable you to communicate only with certain segments of your friends or followers. Remember, posting a disclaimer that your views do not reflect those of the association is generally ineffective in the eyes of members and the public. A disclaimer isn’t a shield from being shown the door for posting something that is clearly incendiary.

Q. Can I keep members from posting inappropriate things on social media?

No. Unless, they’re violating the posted rules of your association-hosted Facebook group or another association-sponsored platform, or the member is an association volunteer who has agreed to follow your social media policy, you can’t, and shouldn’t, interfere with what they post online.

Your association-hosted social media groups should have clear posting guidelines that include the expected code of conduct. If a member’s negative post is about your association, you should respond immediately and diplomatically with facts and links to factual information. Offer to take the conversation offline by extending an invitation to a face-to-face meeting or phone call.

Carole Kaptur is the director of strategic association management at the National Association of REALTORS®. Contact her at 312-329-8311 or ckaptur@realtors.org.

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