The rise in use of social media comes with lawsuits arising from postings on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Condo corporations can and should govern themselves to avoid these conflicts.
Condo corporations are both organized communities and highly regulated businesses. They handle large amounts of money and are tasked with maintaining property values. This leads to conflicts and, at times, legal battles.
Social media affects how people and communities communicate. Conflicts and legal battles result from residents being unclear about their and their condo corporation’s responsibilities, and choosing to post public condemnations that go beyond what has been considered acceptable. The ease with which individuals can post public information that is false, misleading or defamatory creates new forms of conflict.
Condo directors discussing condo business through personal social media sites blurs the line between condo business and other matters. Personal, possibly private, social media sites that expose condo board deliberations or business matters may include statements that damage the reputation of a condo corporation or certain individuals in unacceptable ways.
One of the accepted norms of condo governance is that business should only be discussed in scheduled meetings or in private. When condo board members discuss business in a party room or bar and constitute quorum, it could be a legal condo board meeting. Decisions could be binding yet there may be no minutes for the meeting. Depending on decisions made and owner reaction, there may be legal issues surrounding these decisions. The same may apply to business discussed by board members in the public environment of social media.
Regardless of the value of social media, it is not and never was intended as a forum for effective decision making. Condo management is a regulated system involving records, paper trails and communications that exist for the benefit and protection of condo communities. Social media circumvents much of this and, as such, should be limited to basic communications and announcements.
Unregulated social media communications in communities can inflame tensions; create financial liabilities; and, at times, result in lawsuits. Damaging the reputation of a community through social media communications can damage property values. Misuse of social media within communities can defeat the purpose of electing a condo board to manage the corporation and community.
Since condo corporations are private businesses, it makes sense to look at how other private businesses successfully utilize social media to build their brand and value.
- Should any matter go to court or arbitration, physical records are typically required to substantiate anything that has been stated. Comments or postings on Facebook do not qualify.
- Private businesses do not discuss budgets or expenditures on Twitter or Facebook and neither should condo corporations. These are conversations that should remain behind closed doors.
Social media is a form of marketing that should make a community look good and contribute to appreciating property values. Ensuring it serves this purpose, and avoiding social media chaos, requires some social media rules:
- Management and directors should limit social media communications of condo business to official social media sites controlled by the corporation. Do not allow directors or board members to discuss condo business on other social media platforms. Use the official platform for communicating information to the community.
- Limit social media communications to facts, general information and announcements. Avoid opinions and anything that can be controversial or create opposition.
- Do not use social media for official communications or records. These should always be retained in hard copy format.
- Do not lose control of social media communications. Have a moderator approve comments before posting to prevent anything negative or inflammatory from being posted. Do not allow anonymous comments to be posted.
- Keep the social media site private. Require site members to agree to a code of conduct. Nobody should post information pertaining to individual residents.