Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming more common methods for American communications. Sites that were once reserved for college students are now used by parents, grandparents, businesses, and movements to keep in touch and disseminate information. Many homeowners associations and condominium associations have joined the new media revolution, with varying degrees of success.
Facebook and Twitter can allow users to customize who can see information posted. While most association governing documents are matters of public record, if an association wishes to post other information, like meeting minutes or budgets, it may wish to limit access to association members. Any association that intends to make full use of the communications aspects of social media should take care to ensure that the site or page is regularly reviewed to grant access to members.
Even if the association regularly reviews its pages to grant access to members, it can inadvertently exclude parties who are not members of the sites. As a result, no association should transact any business based solely on online discussions.
While many associations can take action by written ballot and are not required to hold a physical meeting, the temptation may exist for members to take formal action based on online discussions. This must be avoided because the association’s governing laws do not contemplate such action, and the likelihood that non-participating members have not received notice of the action is too great.
Even if an association has 100% participation by its members on a social networking site, it may not be prepared to handle the headaches that can come with web-based communication. Regular moderation can help an association ensure that comments are relevant to the community and are not inappropriate. However, overzealous moderation can lead to owner complaints of censorship.
In addition, anyone who has participated in a discussion group recognizes that the anonymity of the Internet can lead to the absence of civility. An association that provides a forum allowing anonymous posting may open floodgates for abuse.
Associations may look to social media as a way to communicate to members, but should be cautious when allowing members to create a dialog on the association’s pages, and should never take formal action based solely on online discussions.