Many Realtor Associations have been quick to grasp the concept and importance of using Social Media to engage it’s members. NAR has released countless governing documents, hired staff to educate and create tools themselves. Online communities are some of the most powerful influences in marketing and culture that can exist. The important element here is community.
Purpose and Task of Facebook
Facebook has a variety of options to engage and build communities. Chief among those options are Facebook Groups and Facebook Business Pages (aka Fan Pages). Both of these are powerful tools in the right mindset and skillset. The better of the two is up to the tasking by the Association.
- Facebook Groups
- Groups are just as they sound. A place within Facebook to invite followers and be able to send messages, share photos, video, events. It’s somewhat fixed and serves the purposes of most Association’s needs.
- Facebook Business Pages
- Business Pages, also known as Fan Pages allow a great deal of customization. It’ll require more staff time to create and develop with the addition of FBML, similar to HTML, the right talent can make the Facebook page look just like a webpage. The find-ability is much better and the additional pages and tools can create a far more dynamic environment.
There are some concerns for the Association. Part of that anxiety is natural for a new tool or putting the ability for members to state their feelings out there. However, many have found that the ability to hear directly from members and to engage and correct misconceptions a value tool.
Essentially there are two concerns that some associations have had. The first is concern over what may be said and how leadership will respond. Internal policies should be adopted to establish who will respond and how a response should be given to membership comments and inquires.
One consideration is to limit the posting of comments, announcements and events only to Association Staff. This helps limit liability, but the tradeoff is fewer members in your community. Social Media engagement is built on bilateral communications and not unilateral. People who understand the real value of social media will not stay part of a community that does not respect them or allow them to participate in the conversation. Tara Hunt, in her book called The Whuffie Factor, makes reference to the consumer (in this case members) finding value in “turning the megaphone around”. This concept is allowing the other guy to be heard. Without the element of the member being able to give feedback, there is little value in the options above.
Dealing With Intruders
Frequently you’re going to get Loan Officers, Settlement Agents and Brokers announcing classes, services and other things. That’s the price of building a community. If you think about it, this isn’t much different than your traditional networking event. So long as the Association is doing quality work and providing a superior service, there shouldn’t be much concern for competition on the Facebook page.
Typically speaking the Association is a group of the its members, so if the members are looking for a way to communicate one to another it should be encouraged. If it’s found that someone is solely doing self promotion, a email or request that person to stop will end the conflict. Removing the ability for people to engage the community will make the Facebook Page or Group little more than a traditional static webpage. If the full power of engagement isn’t utilized, than it’s just a drain on staff resources.
Try It, You’ll Like It
Since this tool is free and easy to turn on or off if a problem arises there is really no reason not to try it. There are a number of YouTube and Blogs out there to help you put together an awesome Facebook presence. I encourage each Association to give it a try!