Social Media Best Practices for Your Community

By Amy Smith
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The primary allure of social media in community associations lies in its ability to foster enhanced communication. Platforms like Nextdoor and Facebook groups offer a space for neighbors to share information — from community events to security alerts — and foster a more connected and informed community. This real-time interaction boosts transparency and aids in building trust.


The benefits as described above are diverse.  Importantly, social media provides a podium for residents to voice concerns, share ideas, and participate in community decision making processes.

However, navigating some aspects of social media can be tricky.  The emergence of unofficial platforms — those not under the direct control of the association but operated by individual owners or residents — poses significant challenges and considerations.  These platforms, which may include Facebook groups, Nextdoor communities, and Google groups, operate under their own user agreements and privacy policies independent of the association’s governance.

The primary concern regarding these unofficial platforms is the potential misuse of the association’s name, which could imply an official connection or endorsement.  This can lead to confusion both about the source and accuracy of information.  In these cases, the association may need to act.  This could involve requesting altering or removal of the association’s name to avoid misleading representations.

Furthermore, if there’s a perceived infringement of the association’s intellectual property rights, steps such as sending a cease-and-desist letter or taking further legal action might be necessary. These measures are aimed at preventing the spread of misleading information and clarifying to the community that the unofficial group is neither run nor sanctioned by the association.

Another issue arises when an association director or officer operates an unofficial social media account related to the community.  Questions regarding whether statements made on such platforms constitute official statements of the association, the equality of access for all owners and residents, and whether the platform aligns with or contradicts the association’s best interests need careful consideration.


Social media platforms offer a public forum where residents can express opinions and share information.  However, this freedom can lead to several issues when posts become detrimental to the association’s interests.  Associations need to carefully assess online activities to determine if they objectively violate governing document provisions.  If they do, boards must take appropriate action based on properly written and enforceable governing documents to address the objectionable activity.

Here are a few ways social media activity could potentially escalate to enforcement action:

Defamation.  In community associations, this involves damaging the good reputation of a resident or member through false statements.  It can be spoken or written and might occur during association meetings, in newsletters, on community bulletin boards, or through social media.  Defamatory posts on social media are actionable to the extent that they justify association involvement.  Associations need to consider whether online behavior constitutes defamation and take appropriate action, including potential civil remedies.

Invasion of privacy.  This is a significant concern, particularly for associationoperated social media platforms. Unauthorized sharing of personal information or images that cast members in an untruthful manner could lead to legal claims.  Associations should guide their community members to understand and avoid actions that infringe upon the privacy rights of individuals.

Nuisance and annoyance.  Nuisance in a community association context typically involves repeated or ongoing conduct rather than isolated incidents unless a single incident is indicative of habitual behavior.  Most governing documents include provisions to prevent offensive conduct, nuisances, and serious annoyances.  However, enforcing these provisions can be challenging, especially without statutory guidelines.  Associations can take internal actions, such as warnings, fines, or other penalties for violations of these provisions.  Additionally, derogatory or harassing remarks about board members, management personnel, or association vendors on platforms like Nextdoor can interfere with the board’s duty to administer the community and may constitute a nuisance and annoyance.

Interference with association operations.  Defamatory or false statements about the association, its operations, board members, or vendors can sow confusion and mistrust and potentially harm reputations, leading to legal disputes and damaged professional relationships.  Disclosing confidential information breaches privacy and can compromise negotiations or contractual obligations.  Criticisms or calls to action against the association’s rules or decisions can undermine authority, leading to financial instability and challenges in enforcement and maintenance.

Moreover, social media can be a tool for organizing dissent against board decisions, creating hostile environments for board members, staff, or vendors through harassment that can affect the association’s ability to function effectively. Negative reviews or disparaging comments about contractors or service providers can strain or sever necessary professional relationships, impacting the quality and reliability of services available to the association.


Given these challenges, it is imperative for community associations to adopt best practices in managing social media.

Develop a policy.  A well-defined social media policy should outline the purpose of the platform, rules for engagement, and guidelines for content moderation.  This policy should be communicated clearly to all residents.

Specifically, associations managing social media groups must clarify that these platforms should not be used for official requests like maintenance or records submissions.  It is crucial to establish and communicate explicit guidelines for appropriate use and direct members to proper channels for official communications.

This approach prevents overlooked requests, ensures prompt and accurate responses, and maintains organized communication records.  It also upholds standards of responsiveness and accountability.  Failure to guide members correctly could expose associations to liability, especially in jurisdictions where specific timelines are mandated for responding to official requests.

Monitor and moderate regularly. Associations should actively monitor their social media channels to ensure compliance with their policies and address any issues promptly.

Train and educate.  Board members and residents should be educated on the appropriate use of social media, emphasizing respectful and constructive communication.

Understand legal implications. Associations should consult with legal experts to ensure their social media policies and practices comply with state laws and regulations.

As beneficial as social media can be, its integration into community associations is not without legal complexities. Community associations must navigate myriad legal considerations, including First Amendment rights, privacy concerns, and issues related to content moderation. Here’s a breakdown:

FIRST AMENDMENT CONSIDERATIONS. Community associations using social media face unique challenges in respecting free speech. While these private entities are not directly subject to the U.S. Constitution, they must avoid creating an impression of censorship or discrimination. While the First Amendment primarily restricts government action, associations should be cautious in regulating speech to avoid infringing on the perceived rights of residents. This balance is delicate, as associations aim for respectful and constructive dialogue without overstepping into what might be perceived as suppression of free speech.

ENFORCEMENT AND MODERATION. The enforcement of social media policies in community associations is a nuanced task. Associations must establish clear, nondiscriminatory rules consistently applied to avoid legal pitfalls. A comprehensive social media policy that provides guidelines for acceptable use and outlines the consequences for violations is essential. (See best practices, p. 40.) The focus should be on preventing behavior that disrupts community harmony or violates the rights of others, while maintaining a fair and legal approach to enforcement.

PRIVACY CONCERNS. Community associations must ensure their social media policies are compliant with privacy laws and safeguard the personal information and images of members. Protecting members’ data and respecting their privacy is important, particularly in the digital context, where personal information can be easily shared and misused. Associations are advised to be vigilant in how they and their members use social media platforms, ensuring that any sharing of personal information is done with consent and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

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Amy Smith

Amy Smith is with Makower Abbate Guerra Wegner Vollmer in Farmington Hills, Mich.