Today’s real estate workplace is markedly different form workplaces of ten or twenty years ago, and we don’t just mean the fashion!
Obviously, the buzzing laptops, tablets and smart phones make a significant difference, but one of the biggest changes affecting every office, is social media.
Agencies, like many businesses, have adapted, as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more recently Tik Tok have started to impact our approach to both personal, brand and property marketing.
Agents are posting daily, sharing more than ever and have the opportunity to reach potential buyers and sellers, to which they never had easy access before.
Social media can be a real opportunity for agents and agencies who use it right.
But, like any public forum, it also comes with its risks.
If you hang out on real estate forums or listen to the word about town, you will no doubt have heard about agents who have been fired after they posted something inappropriate (usually racist, sexist or otherwise offensive) on their social media profile.
And while you might believe you should be able to post whatever you like on your own socials, if you can be connected with your employer, what you post can also affect the agency and brand reputation.
To minimise the risks around social media, many businesses have established a social media policy, they helps their employees understand what they should and shouldn’t post, and when posting something may result in their employment being terminated.
If you don’t have a social media policy, you need one!
If you are an agency of more than one or two people and you use social media personally and, in your business, you need one.
If you are a company that provides back office and brand services for sole-trader agents, you need a social media policy.
Below, we’ve provided a simple sample to get you started in drafting your own social media policy.
Before finalising your policy, we suggest you get advice from your legal expert to ensure both the terms you have included are fair and that they are enforceable.
[Your business] real estate social media policy
The world is changing, and we need to keep up! As an agency, established in [date], [Agency name] has always worked hard to use the latest technology and channels to market our brand and business, and also to promote our listings for our clients.
Social media is a very important part of our marketing mix, and provides us with a way we can reach more people, connect and build genuine relationships with our community.
We have created this social media policy because we want you to be clear and comfortable using social media to promote yourself, your listings and our agency, without ever putting yourself or our business at risk.
The simple requirements below outline what we mean by social media, how we use it, who can use it on behalf of our company and your obligations when representing our company, whether intentional or not.
If anything in this policy is unclear or doesn’t make sense to you, please chat to our office manager, [Name], in person, by phone on [phone] or by email [email].
What does ‘social media‘ mean?
In creating any policy, it’s always important to ensure that those who need to follow it are on the same page.
In our policy, when we say ‘social media’ we have quite a broad meaning. We are referring to anything you might post or share, in any format – whether it’s words, images, videos, sounds or other – on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Messenger, Linked In, Twitter, Tik Tok, Snap Chat, YouTube, Vimeo, WeChat or any similar platform that is in existence or will be in existence in the future.
We’re also talking about any online forums, from Reddit to Wiki, newspaper or media comment sections, websites, Quora, or places you can upload profiles or information like agent profile sites, realestate.com.au and domain and any similar, agent review and ranking sites, or essentially any other online forum.
When we say ‘post’, we mean to publish in any way.
What is ‘Confidential Information’?
Confidential information is information disclosed to you as an employee, or known to you because you are an employee of this company.
An example might be an upcoming agency brand name change, a change in director or the resignation of an agent that hasn’t been shared publicly.
Our databases are also an example of confidential information, and details from within them should not be shared externally or used if you no longer work for our agency.
When posting on social media or online, whether personally or on behalf of our brand, you must not post confidential information without explicit permission from licensee-in-charge, [Name].
Similarly, you will need to have management approval to post anything that includes our logo, business name or branding, images of our staff, offices, clients or listings, or video or audio of the same.
You must also strictly adhere to legislation with regards to showing imagery or video footage from a property that is not ours, for example, a seller’s property.
When does this policy affect you?
If there’s a way that your post or share can be associated with our business, this policy applies in those situations.
It applies to every employee of our business, whenever you are communicating, posting or sharing online in any way that may impact our brand, agency and reputation.
As an example, this policy applies if you are posting on behalf of the business on our Facebook page.
It equally applies if you are posting on your own Facebook profile and your profile says you work for us, you have mentioned working for us in any comments, or you have our logo anywhere on the profile or in a post, including on your clothing in a photo.
Posting content online
What you post and the way you behave online can impact your own reputation, that of our agency and even the reputation of others who work here. Taking a second to consider the content before you tap post can help reduce our risk.
When posting online:
- Only do so on behalf or our brand/agency or on our profiles if you have permission from the licensee-in-charge or our social media lead. Our social media lead is currently [name].
- Don’t publish anything, even on your personal profiles, that might damage the reputation of our business.
- Don’t publish anything that suggests your opinions or beliefs or what you are posting is supported and believed by our business unless you have explicit permission to do so.
- Don’t publish anything that might compromise our security, breach privacy laws or threaten the well-being of any of our employees, clients or anyone else.
- Don’t publish anything offensive. This means nothing that might be considered harassment, racist, sexist, discriminatory, defamatory, degrading or belittling by other general people.
- Do not use social media to bully or harass anyone else, inside or outside our business.
- Do not use social media to embarrass or publicly shame someone else.
- Do not use social media to break the law in any way.
Examples of what not to do:
- Don’t comment on/respond to a negative review of you or our agency with aggression, threats, anger or rudeness. In fact, if you are asked to respond, do so with kindness, patience and show the nature of our caring and considerate business.
- Don’t post a picture of new buyers at a property without their permission.
- Never post a picture or video of a family with minors (children) without the explicit permission of their parents.
- Don’t share your opinion on social justice campaigns online, if your profile associates you with our business.
- Don’t post personal details about a seller or landlord, or their neighbours.
Examples of what to do:
- Think before you post! Stop, read it again, ask yourself if this is how you want to be seen. Is saying this going to help or hinder your reputation with the general public?
- Remember, private is never actually private online. A message shared only with a friend, can always be shared with others without your permission.
- Check, check and double check. Always read it again before you post it! Typos? Grammar? Offence?
- Put yourself in other people’s shoes… would what you are posting upset anyone, belittle them or make them feel less-than or humiliated?
- Post your latest listings, if you have all your paperwork in order, and your client allows you to share the listing on social media.
- Share testimonials if the client gives you permission to do so.
What happens if you don’t adhere to this policy?
Violating this policy will have different results depending on the nature and severity of the violation.
On a case-by-case basis, we may just have a chat and work to improve your social media education. In more extreme cases, you may receive a warning or even be terminated.
Note: this article does not constitute legal advice. This draft policy has been prepared purely as an example, and you should have your own policy carefully checked by your own experts and potentially legal experts, before publishing and sharing.