Have you ever gone to sleep at night wondering what your agents are doing using Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter? It may be foolish to expect that ignorance will hold up in a court of law when you (the broker) or the agents do not know what they do not know.
Based on the average broker’s knowledge of what is even possible with social media, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if several violations already exist within your company without your knowledge. Do you even know which agents are using which sites, and what they are sharing under your company’s brand?
Here are some of the most common real estate risks associated with social media.
- Real estate license law
- Fair housing
- Intellectual property rights
- Code of ethics
- Imputed knowledge
- Broker disclosure
- MLS rules and regulations
Experienced brokers already know the risks of these violations with regard to traditional forms of marketing, communication, and advertising, and many already have language stated in their broker policy and procedures manual detailing agent protocol. What is often missing is a set of rules instructing agents on proper social media practices approved by the brokerage. This ensures quality control of the messages being shared on multiple social networks.
Most real estate brokers do not know the intricacies of each social media site and consequently do not fully understand which problems might arise by an agent’s participation. For example, the video sharing site YouTube allows real estate professionals to upload their own video tours for free. Do your agents know whether or not to include the brokerage name in the description of each video, or if they should uncheck the video settings to prevent other viewers from embedding the video onto another broker’s site?
New agents coming into the business may already be armed with the skills necessary to participate in social media. They may have several friends on Facebook, numerous Twitter followers, and Linkedin connections. While this comfort level makes it easy for them to share their real estate experiences, it also puts them at risk of sharing in a way that negatively impacts their credibility, misrepresents their area of expertise, or violates real estate license laws. Real Estate brokers must urge their agents to attend training on Fair Housing, Code of Ethics, and license law before they are allowed to contribute information online.
Experienced agents don’t always know (or may not have the time to learn) how to use social media effectively, but still want to create a brand using some new online tools. It is easy to outsource these responsibilities to a high school student, college intern or virtual assistant who contributes information on behalf of the busy agent. However, the outsourced help may not fully understand the risks associated with social media. The agent will still be held accountable and needs to be able to approve the content before it is released onto the World Wide Web.
If you would like to understand these issues in greater detail and learn the best practice for dealing with social media, please see our 16-page PDF special report, “Social Media Broker Discussion Tool”, which we encourage you to download from our VIP membership page. If you have not become a VIP member yet please click here.