December 2011 – How should an HOA use social media to improve your communications with owners? Here are some tips, including five communication dos and don’ts.
HOAs Enter Social Media (Just Like Everybody Else)
“I’m absolutely seeing community associations get more into social media,” says James R. McCormick Jr., a partner at Peters & Freedman LLP in Encinitas, Calif., who represents associations and whose Twitter handle is @HOA2HOA. “HOAs and management companies need to get on the ball. It’s a manner of communication that more people are becoming involved with. If they don’t figure out how to use it for their associations, they’ll be left behind.”
Bill Worrall, vice president of The Continental Group, which is based in Hollywood, Fla., and manages 1,300 condominium and homeowner associations totaling 310,000 residential units, also uses Facebook and Twitter (@ContinentalGrp) to communicate with homeowners, board members, and maintenance personnel. “Social media is really an information–sharing tool,” he says. “We intend to grow this in the future because we see social media becoming a powerful communication tool for HOAs and becoming more popular every day with board members and staff as a way to share ideas and collaborate.”
How are HOAs using social media? “Here in California, there’s a huge push toward transparency,” says McCormick, who says HOAs are announcing event information, posting links to photos of community events, and providing notices about things like a malfunctioning fountain. Among the HOAs McCormick follows on Twitter are @BelmontHOA (in Ashburn, Va.); @DunwoodyHOA (in Dunwoody, Ga.), @nisquallypines (in Yelm, Wash.), @RiverbrookeHoA in (Suwanee, Ga.), @ParkPlaceHoA (in Loganville, Ga.), @BoulderWalk (in Atlanta), and @MiraLagosHOA (in Grand Prairie, Texas).
“Some communities have their own Facebook page, and we’ll distribute best practices and relevant articles, and we’ll post them to Facebook and Twitter,” says Worrall. “We’ll also receive ideas from board members, and staff on some of the issues they’re facing and how they’re handling them. They’ll post them on our Facebook page, and we’ll release those ideas to the public. We’ve also seen board members make connections with their peers at communities down the street. We like to see that as well because it becomes an online, collaborative community.
Email Still Hot; Text Use Growing
HOAs are also entering the texting world. “We don’t send texts en masse yet,” says Worrall. “But we do have technology so that if a unit owner receives a package at the building, we send a text saying the package is waiting for them. We use text for individual customer service.”
Jenny Key, Austin, Texas–based vice president of RealManage, Dallas, TX based, association management firm that oversees properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas, says recent wildfires prompted some HOAs to get into immediate communications. “We’ve had wildfires here in Central Texas, and a handful of associations realized the need to communicate immediately with owners,” she says. “They’ve contracted with third–party providers to send text messages while allowing people to opt out. It’s fairly new, and the fires spurred the associations to put it in place primarily for emergency situations.”