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SocialMedia Networking in Co-ops, Condos & HOAs

By W.B. King

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 With smart-phones dominating the cellular market, people now have Internet  access anywhere and everywhere they go. While shopping and “googling” are leading reasons to use the Internet, the rise of social media has changed  the way in which people interact with one another, businesses and government.  Earlier this year, the City of New York hired its first chief digital officer,  a former Bloomberg Businessweek “Most Promising Social Entrepreneur,” Rachel Sterne. She has been charged with developing Web 2.0 technologies and  social media initiatives geared toward connecting the city’s 83 agencies and keeping residents informed.  

 Like city government, homeowner associations, boards and management companies  are also looking to branch out for the same reason: to inform residents. “Social media creates a virtual community and that can be a great way to  accomplish community events and committees,” says Brandon Osman, director of business development for Metropolitan Pacific  Properties, based in Astoria, Queens. “It also helps with branding and the marketability of your community.”  

 A recent CNET report found that 27 percent of small businesses are on Facebook,  18 percent are on LinkedIn and seven percent use Twitter. While the Facebook  percentage may appear small, the report found that social media use in this  demographic has doubled, with 75 percent of businesses polled owning a page on  some type of social networking site. Boards and homeowner associations that  have not taken the plunge should consider the importance of having a social  media presence. For example, 64 percent of Twitter users and the 51 percent of  Facebook users say they are more likely to buy brands if they “follow” a company or are a “fan” of a company.  

 “Condos or HOAs who use Facebook or LinkedIn are seeking to expand its presence,” says Georgia Lombardo-Barton, president of Manhattan-based Barton Management,  LLC. “There might be a broker or possible buyer interested in that building’s profile that might not otherwise have considered it previously.”  

 While the writing is on (Facebook’s) wall, some remain slow to adopt, explains Osman. “We are aware that there is a social media frenzy these days, however, we are  hesitant of involving social media in our management practices as we feel this  can be a recipe for disaster,” he says, adding, “Yes, they are a community but do they all know each other well enough to  communicate personally?”  

 The Internet Age

 When the Internet first came to prominence, there was a generational divide  among adopters. The safety and security of email was originally suspect, and  for the then-older generation, the medium itself was deemed impersonal. Today,  emails are not only second nature for all computer users, but are viewed by  some as a more antiquated form of communication. Text messaging and  communicating through social media sites is used more often among many.  

 According to recent Pew research poll, mobile users aged between 18 and 24 send,  on average, 109.5 text messages per day, or 3,200 messages per month. Texts  sent by 25 to 34 year olds averaged 41.8 per day. Respondents 55 and older sent  between four and 10 texts per day.  

 “I don’t think the disparity in adoption rates of older people is as wide as most  believe,” says Stephanie Davis, associate broker and chief social media officer for the  Heddings Property Group in Manhattan. “We see the highest adoption rates of personal users with Facebook and less with  Twitter and LinkedIn.”  

 Among social networking concerns is security. According to Bloomberg, out of  4,640 organizations polled, more than half said computer attacks increased as a  result of workers using social networks. One quarter reported that the attacks  rose by more than 50 percent.  

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 “There are great dangers in allowing residents of a community to socialize in a  virtual environment. It is easy for one to portray themselves as a friendly  neighbor in an online environment,” says Osman. “Let’s say there is a social media group called Joe Estates where all residents can  sign on and interact with other residents in their community. A resident of  Apartment A is a single female grad student and she posts that she is going on  a fun vacation to Florida and will be back in one week,” he continues. “Another resident in Apartment F is a convicted criminal, who has broken into  homes in the past, and sees the post. You can use your imagination and see that  this situation has a very bad potential.”  

 As a result of increased communication, the once vibrant and informative  community bulletin boards that announced meetings, events and legal notices has  become more so static with the rise of technology. Like the domino theory, more  and more people look to advanced, streamlined technology to receive  information, but even in the “greatest city in the world” change comes slow.  

 “Quite frankly, I don’t really know of any co-ops that are involved with social media,” says Davis. “Maybe I could Google it and find some more information but this publication [The  Cooperator] is ahead of the curve addressing this topic in the New York City  market.” Davis adds, “Moving forward, I see that adoption rates for boards and co-ops will increase  most likely with Facebook opposed to Twitter because it is most popular.”  

 The Facebook Effect

 In 2010, the film The Social Network was a huge success. With over 800 million  Facebook users worldwide, it is no surprise that the movie grossed nearly $225  million, as ticket holders were essentially extras in the movie. From a  personal standpoint, Facebook has been a resounding success due to its ability  to share updates, photos, media and other interests effortlessly. However, not  all businesses or organizations are seeing the value, and remain watching the  game from the sidelines.  

 “Yes, there is a slower social media adoption rate for older co-ops and  condominiums,” says Lombardo-Barton. “Yet it varies depending on whether the board consists of younger, social media  savvy members.” When asked if she is approached by boards curious about starting a social media  platform, she responded “rarely.”  

 With no hard data to determine how many boards and management companies are  currently using social networking sites, it is difficult to ascertain how this  aspect of Internet connectivity is impacting this business demographic. Aside  from security, there are understandable reasons why some organizations are slow  to adopt. “Security could be an issue which is why we recommend that buildings carefully  evaluate the positives vs. negatives to social networking,” says Lombardo-Barton.  

 An aspect of social media that troubles many people is not only privacy issues  but the ability to share information such as on a Facebook wall or a Twitter  post without oversight. If this occurs, unintended consequences can transpire. “Some other possible downsides include various vendors soliciting the building  for work, or someone might have negative comments to post about employees,  board members, and management,” Lombardo-Barton continues. “A board runs the risk of some loss of discretion or privacy in using social  networking media.”  

 As indicated by New York’s recent job posting and Davis’s title, social networking is longer a hobby but a profession. According to  Monster, the number of postings for social media-related jobs rose 75 percent  over the last year. In September, for example, there were roughly 155 positions  available an increase from an average of 88 per month a year ago. If the  decision is made to move forward with a social networking presence, the first  question that should be asked is: who will manage it?  

 “Regardless of who manages it, there are privacy controls on social networking  sites that can be used,” says Davis. “If you have a group on Facebook, for example, the group can be hidden so only  members of the group can see it online. But these same people can communicate  and use Facebook’s tools and applications.”  

 Linked into Tweeting

 Twitter is another social networking phenomenon; however, according to the  company, it has about 200 million open accounts although it estimated that 100+  million are active or used weekly opposed to Facebook which claims that of its  800 million users, half return on a daily basis. While there is business  viability in both platforms, the adage “different strokes for different folks” holds true.  

 LinkedIn, the professional social media site, has grown considerably in recent  years. In September, President Barack Obama gave a speech on The Jobs Act at a  town hall meeting in San Francisco that was sponsored by LinkedIn. The company  has upwards of 120 million registered users, spanning more than 196 countries.  For many management companies and boards, this site represents the possibility  to connect with vendors and other professionals. Another social site MySpace  claims to have about 125 million users.  

 “Supposedly, one would want to engage in business with a contact from LinkedIn,” says Lombardo-Barton. One should be able to easily check references if a  vendor/contact is ‘LinkedIn’ to someone you know. It expedites the search process.”  

 While social networking is an outgrowth of the old community bulletin board, the  technology might not be best suited for all boards or managing agents. For  many, a closed system with a password protected website is the answer.  

 “We do encourage the use of a property portal which is handled by the property  manager and constantly monitored of all incoming content from residents. The  manager can post up emergency announcements, create online voting polls and  upload important documents like lead paint or window guard forms,” says Osman. “Inside the portal, residents can make maintenance requests, pay dues online,  there is even a community marketplace which works much like Craigslist.  Additionally, residents can submit their own virtual business card to share  with other residents, and we have secured discounts from local community  restaurants and are available for our residents when they present their  specific resident card.”  

 There is one major difference between this approach and social networking, he  explains. “This type of service gives our residents a sense of community, however, no  interpersonal communication is allowed among residents through this portal,” says Osman. “This is to ensure that we as managing agents are not held responsible for the  potential abuse of this kind of service.”  

 W.B. King is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Cooperator.  

Comments

Jose bracero

I'm a shareholder in My Building,The lady who happens to be the President,doesn't use the Board,to inform about anything that has to do with the Building,we've had 4 major Floods & a Fire ,she doesn't inform the insurance,just resently OCT 31 there was another FLOOD which ruined two Apts ceiling/walls,she told the other shareholders to suck it up and fix it themselfs,one of the weird things that I found,is as a president of director for the building,she take about 8% of the Building maintenance/RENTs,thats more than what shes payingin her own maintenance/RENT,it like she's living for FREE, plus she also taken extra for pitty CASH,for herself ,the building hasn't been replacing lightbulb in the Hallways,the WALL are mess up due to all the ware N'tare,She's a real SLUM-LORD,She even Fired the original super who was doing a great job in replace for her Drugselling Brother,who also is months behine in his RENT too,Question:How can the Shareholders FIRE her ass,when there are so many Elderly people,who don't understand why she letting the building become a SLUM-Building

Long Time Board Member

In our quiet, friendly mid-size midtown co-op, purchases in the last five years or so have been primarily by young, business professionals. Previously at our annual meetings we often had a demand for more newsletters, etc., so 3 years ago an in-house website was started, everyone was informed and reminded a number of times, yet virtually no one uses it! We can only assume when in the comfort and quiet of one's own home, the opportunity to add on to an already too-busy online life is not of interest.

an unknown user

@Jose. Check your by-laws. In our building, we can remove directors with or without due cause with a certain percent of shareholder votes. If you don't have a copy, ask your managing agent for a copy.


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