Window to the Law: How to Create a Social Media Policy

Watch this month’s Window to the Law video for tips as well as other things to consider when crafting a social media policy for your brokerage.

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Window to the Law: How to Create a Social Media Policy: Transcript

It’s projected that there will be 2.77 billion people on social media in 2019. Compare this to 2010 when the Facebook movie, The Social Network, was released and there were only around 900 million people on social media. The movie’s tagline was “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Facebook now has more than 1 billion active users. The Social Network tagline rings true even more so today. With the press of just a few wrong keys and a company can find itself in a public relations crisis and even worse be subject to legal sanctions and discipline.

Establishing a social media policy is not only prudent but is critical to ensure your organization and its people know how to avoid the social media pitfalls. In this edition of Window to the Law, I will discuss considerations for crafting a social media policy.

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A social media policy establishes clear guidelines for your organization to follow when engaging in social media. The goal of the policy shouldn’t be to curb free speech or to control people’s opinions, but to safeguard your reputation, and to ensure social media behavior won’t pose risks to your organization, or violate laws or the REALTORS® Code of Ethics.

Many states require real estate brokers and licensees to include specific disclosures on all advertisements. This extends to marketing on social media. Rules vary by state, so it’s important you know the legal requirements and to include them in your social media policy. For example, your state may require that all online advertising to include your name, your broker’s name, the brokerage logo, office location, as well as states of licensure. Your policy should identify these disclosure requirements and then explain how and where the information should be displayed.

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Have clear Terms of Use for any blog or interactive website where visitors can comment, post and share information. NAR’s Social Media Policy template contains several potential rules that you may want to include. Be sure your terms of use prohibit unlawful or objectionable materials, set forth a take-down policy, and disclaim responsibility for any third-party sites linked to your website. Lastly, the terms of use should establish that you have the authority to use any content or materials that any visitors post on your site.

Your social media policy should require all communications to be honest and truthful and to present a true picture in advertising, marketing and other representations to be consistent with Article 12 of the NAR Code of Ethics and Federal Truth-in-Advertising laws. REALTORS® must be sure their advertisements are never misleading or deceptive. There was an instance where a listing agent digitally altered an MLS photograph to create a paved driveway when the driveway was actually dirt. When asked about the discrepancy, the listing agent explained that he had engaged in virtual outdoor staging. Your social media policy should forbid this type of conduct. And make sure that any information about listing property is kept current and accurate. Requiring honest and truthful communications will also protect against defamation claims.

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Once you’ve established a social media policy, your organization should review it at least once a year. This provides the opportunity to review and discuss brand guidelines, etiquette and engagement, confidentiality, consequences and social media for personal use. If your organization uses humor or memes in social media, make sure everyone understands what is appropriate and what isn’t. Last year, a major restaurant corporation learned the hard way that using memes is a risky game. The restaurant posted a meme of a cartoon frog that was once considered innocent and playful. Upon posting the meme, the restaurant quickly learned that the cartoon frog was now known as a symbol of white supremacy. Due to the constant changing social media landscape, your social media policy should always be reviewed, updated and discussed to ensure everyone knows the parameters.

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The NAR Risk Management Issues Committe approved a Social Media Policy template, which can be molded to reflect individual business practices and brokerage philosophies. However, please note that this template must not be adopted and used without the proper customization. For more resources, please visit nar.realtor.

Thank you.

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