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Navigating Online Resident Groups in the Condominium Industry


In the age of social media, online communities have become an integral part of our lives, and this holds true for Ontario's condominium industry as well. Some property managers and directors have started considering whether the use of social media is the new way forward for their condo... but what about the use of online platforms for resident groups?


Residents are increasingly turning to platforms (particularly Facebook and WhatsApp) to create online groups to foster communication and provide information within their condo communities.

Sometimes, such groups are initiated by current directors or those running for the Board, as they aim to increase communication within their condo community.


While an initiative for using social media groups to increase communication with residents is often based on good intentions (and such groups can offer several benefits), they also come with their own set of challenges.


In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of online resident groups, and provide 10 essential tips for directors and property managers to consider when dealing with these groups. Finally, we’ll explore the question of whether condo leadership should embrace social media and consider starting such groups themselves.


 

Navigating Online Resident Groups in the Condominium Industry



The Benefits of Online Resident Groups:


🕬 Enhanced Communication: Online resident groups provide a free platform for sharing information, announcements, and updates, facilitating better communication between participants.


🤝. Community Building: These groups can foster a sense of community among residents, allowing them to connect with their neighbors, share common interests, and organize social events.


❗ Rapid Information Dissemination: Urgent notices, emergency alerts, and important announcements can be quickly shared with a large number of residents through online groups, ensuring that everyone stays informed.


✅ Problem Identification and Resolution: These groups enable residents to report issues and address concerns promptly, facilitating faster resolution and creating a more proactive approach towards problem-solving.


🔍 Transparency and Accountability: By providing a public platform for discussions, online groups encourage transparency in decision-making processes and hold the corporation’s leadership accountable for their actions.



The Challenges of Online Resident Groups:


💥 Misinformation, Rumors, and Disruptive Behaviour: The open nature of online groups can lead to the spread of inaccurate information, rumors, and gossip, potentially causing confusion and conflict among residents, board members, staff, and/or property management.


Online groups may attract individuals who engage in disruptive or negative behavior, leading to conflicts, cyberbullying, or harassment among residents. Furthermore, inappropriate or offensive content can tarnish the community's reputation, which, in turn, can affect property values.


😠 Lack of Control: Condo leadership may find it challenging to manage the content and discussions within online groups, as they are typically administered by residents. Attempts by leadership to explain or defend allegations are often met with negative reactions, which can be frustrating for all participants involved.


⏰ Time-Consuming: Such groups are often very active, and staying on top of content may be extremely time-consuming. This is especially challenging in smaller communities with part-time property management, or if residents choose to exclude leadership (such as the Board or Management) from the group.


⁉️ Circumventing Official Channels: Property Management often uses official channels (such as various condo management software, or direct communication) to receive reports of issues that need tending too, including the use of an internal processing system that leads to issue resolution. The use of groups may make existing protocols for information receipt and issue resolution difficult as residents may be less likely to communicate directly with property management.


⚖️ Legal and Privacy Concerns: Sharing personal information or discussing sensitive topics without proper guidelines can infringe on privacy laws and put residents and the condo corporation at risk.



10 Tips for Directors and Property Managers:


1. Provide Official Channels: Encourage residents to use official communication channels for important matters, such as submitting formal complaints or maintenance requests, to ensure proper documentation and accountability.


2. Foster Offline Engagement: Encourage residents to use online groups as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, in-person meetings and community engagement activities.


3. Address Concerns Proactively: Act promptly to address residents' concerns raised within the online group, demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues and fostering trust.


4. Educate Residents: Organize workshops or information sessions to educate residents about responsible online behavior, privacy concerns, and the importance of verifying information before sharing.


5. Monitor Online Groups: If time permits and your participation is permitted, regularly monitor the content and discussions within online resident groups to ensure compliance with community guidelines and identify potential issues.


6. Establish Clear Guidelines: Develop clear rules and guidelines for online group participation, including privacy policies, code of conduct, and consequences for inappropriate behavior.


7. Encourage Professionalism: Promote a professional tone within the group, encouraging residents to address concerns constructively and avoid personal attacks or offensive language.


8. Engage in Active Moderation: Appoint administrators or moderators who can actively manage the group, ensuring respectful discussions and timely removal of inappropriate content.


9. Regularly Evaluate Effectiveness: Assess the effectiveness and impact of the online group periodically to determine whether it aligns with the community's goals and if adjustments or improvements are needed.


10. Ensure Compliance with Laws and Regulations: Be aware of privacy laws and regulations that govern online communication and ensure that the group's activities align with legal requirements.



Finally… the big question… To Start or Not to Start an Online Group?


While online resident groups can be valuable tools for fostering community engagement and enhancing communication, it is crucial for condo leadership to carefully weigh the pros and cons of participating in existing groups or initiatives for starting them. We recommend considering the following factors:


🤔 Assess Community Needs: Assess whether there is a genuine need for an online group in your specific condo community, considering factors such as size, demographics, and existing communication channels.


❓ Resources and Expertise: Determine if your board members or property management team have the time, resources, and knowledge to effectively manage and moderate an online group.


🙋 Balance with Offline Engagement: Remember that online groups should supplement, not replace, in-person meetings and community engagement activities.


⚖️. Reputation Management: Consider how an online group could affect the condo corporation's reputation, and whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.


🧑‍💼 Legal Considerations: Consult legal experts to ensure compliance with privacy laws and regulations and to mitigate any potential legal risks associated with starting and managing an online group.



In conclusion, online resident groups can be both beneficial and problematic within Ontario's condominium industry. By following the tips provided and carefully evaluating the need and potential risks, condo leadership can make informed decisions about whether to embrace social media, start an online group, or maintain a strong social media presence.


Ideally, condo leadership’s goal should be to leverage available platforms to enhance communication, foster community engagement, and create a positive and inclusive environment for all residents… whether or not that includes social media or groups is certainly something that requires careful consideration.


How’s your community communicating? We look forward to hearing all about it!

-Stratastic Inc.


P.S. Want to stay connected and informed? Sign up with Stratastic now, and you’ll always be the first to receive condo content like this!


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