Social Media vs. Relationships with Neighbors

Why Knowing Your Neighbors Is Rare Today

In the United States, it used to be common to know your neighbors on your street or in your apartment building. In fact, your neighbors often stayed in the same home for longer periods of time, which made it possible for lifelong friendships in neighborhoods to form. Today, the Internet has greatly changed how we interact with others and the increase of airplane travel has made many families have the opportunity to move more frequently than they did in the past. Due to the limited in person interactions and prominence of digital conference calls, chatrooms, and social media platforms, the way neighbors communicate has greatly changed. Even HOAs have greatly shifted their strategy to use platforms including Nextdoor and Facebook in an effort to connect with more of their residents who may not have the availability to attend neighborhood social events or devote time to volunteer with the HOA.

Should HOAs Communicate with Residents on Social Media Platforms?

There are many benefits to HOAs using social media as a valuable tool to increase their bond with their residents. The happiest residents are ones that feel that their HOA is an organization that is worth paying their monthly dues to. Many HOAs have had a great deal of success using Facebook groups to create an open dialogue with their residents. Facebook groups can be used to send invitations about upcoming events, remind residents about important deadlines or reminders, and to share pictures or memories from current events in the community.

What Are the Detriments of Social Media for HOAs?

Where social media can get complicated for HOAs is related to resident complaints or disputes between fellow residents. Facebook, while excellent for some things, does allow public comments to be seen. If a resident is unsatisfied with an issue, it will be easy for them to complain publicly and tarnish the reputation of the HOA. If other residents agree with the resident’s complaint, it is also possible to start more aggressive action by a group of residents against the HOA. One way to mitigate these risks is to disable the comment function on HOA posts or group invitations. Each HOA board of directors needs to assess how they want to use social media for their respective strategies. Social media can be particularly effective to larger HOAs who may not always be able to know each one of their residents closely. So long as your HOA has a clear strategy and knows the risks of social media, it will be possible to safeguard your HOA against many of the detriments association with social media.

How to Handle a Dispute That Occurred on Social Media

If your HOA has a group for residents and HOA board members, it is wise to delegate a member of the HOA board of directors to monitor the correspondence in that group. Typically, comments are one of the areas where disputes can get public between residents or HOA board members. Messages can also be used for upsetting neighbors to harass other members of the community. Holding a seminar on how to use social media either digitally or in person can give residents instructions on boundaries with social media and what conduct is not appropriate. If two residents do have an argument on the public social media page, removing their comments is a way to eliminate the dispute and deter further resentment within the community. Adding additional regulations to your HOA rules is a great way to make your residents understand the digital policy for your community and what conduct on social media is not acceptable. 

What Can Your HOA Do to Encourage a Stronger Sense of Community Amongst Your Residents

Even though there may be digital announcements via email, text message reminders, or Facebook event invitations, in person interactions are still one of the fundamental aspects required to have a strong community environment. HOAs need to use digital tools to encourage in person attendance so that personal relationships may be formed within the neighborhood. Many HOAs have designated specific committees to chair the planning of social functions. These committees can use social media to increase attendance, but then keep encouraging in person relationships within the community. Remember that it is the responsibility of your HOA to lay the groundwork for strong relationships within your neighborhood. The residents, if given ample opportunities, will meet you halfway if they are openly encouraged to be social and form valuable friendships.

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