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Social Media Policy - A Must for Real Estate

Public Social Media Policy - A Must for Real Estate Brokers

By James Crawford

The most recent new story of a Florida real estate agent blogger and his broker being sued for "Libel" by a developer for 25 million dollars is a sobering story of the unintended consequences of Blogging.  Brokers need to take very good notes on this story, and form some strategies or office policy to avoid being involved in a mess like this.  We must remember that we are real estate agents and are not investigative reporters.  Hearsay, innuendo, direct comments and inference may be very damaging to others especially when posted in print or media...then the problem is compounded.

We live in a high tech age and social media is the new buzz word or hottest fad these days. There are conventions, camps, and well attended seminars, but not many of those attending or participating really understand what it is all about. Too many agents are pre-occupied with "Tweets and Twitter" and need to worry more about their actions and online behavior.  Social media can include many items such as Blogging, WordPress, Blogger, Facebook, Linkedin and so many more. It is the latest real estate craze that is supposed to increase our online presence, and close us more business.  The idea is that the public, your network of friends or associates will learn more about you and think of you when they need your services.  So far so good?   The problem is a few agents may have figured out how to use it effectively while others are out there just blasting away writing about everything.  Agents on-line routinely bad mouth construction and name the builder; they will talk about clients and competition while trashing the reputation of others!  On any given day... they will put in writing materials that they have copied and pasted from others, and use it as their own, and use copyrighted pictures or photos that they have no right to use. Have you ever heard the saying, "Restraint of tongue and pen?"   Well with the advent of viral marketing, social media can magnify their errors on steroids for the entire world to see!   The problem will arise when someone they have wronged finds it!  Then what?

Some agents will talk about a deal online that they are working and break the trust of their fiduciary privilege with their clients, bad mouth the competition, a product, service or put in writing something that is in direct contrast to the real estate laws which they are compelled to abide by.  To compound this, other agents will comment back and forth on the same issue, and the topic can become very volatile.

It is very scary that most agents do not understand their actions may cause irreparable harm to others.  Once a blog or comment is in writing, it is fair game for all to read.  The Internet is an online platform that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is global in nature.  What you write for the most part is also available in archive.  So even long after the post is written, it may be retrieved by others.  Why is this important to know?  Under the law real estate brokers are responsible for the actions of agents that are licensed under them.  In most states, a broker is to review and approve all advertising before it is published.  The Internet is no different. A Blog by a real estate agent is considered advertising unless the Blog is totally a personal Blog that mentions nothing of real estate.

Slander, libel, plagiarism, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, hate speech, spamming, copyright infringement, violations of real estate law, misinforming the public with wrong or erroneous information or data, violations of Fair Housing Laws, RESPA violations, and making false accusations against others may be the basis of a major lawsuit for a Broker that is unaware of what his agents are writing on-line.  This is one case where ignorance is not bliss, but rather a clear indication that the Broker in charge is not fulfilling their responsibilities under the law. Once any of the above has occurred...it's too late to correct the wrong.

Since the Internet is here to stay, it is more important in this day and age that each broker develops an "On-Line Policy" for social media.  This will include the "Do's and don'ts" for on-line writing and behavior of the agents that are under the broker and guided by his policy. An on-line policy will lay out the specifics of what an agent can or cannot do on-line.  First a good on-line office policy should adhere and comply to all state real estate license law, and state law, the NAR Code of Ethics, but it should not end there.  Agents need to use common sense before anything is put into written form, and their broker should be reviewing their Blogs, and on-line activities as they relate to real estate.  Agents and brokers need to understand fully that once anything is put into writing it will be their own words that can convict them.  If a real estate broker is proactive and develops an on-line policy and then addresses this issue with agents that are under their tutelage the consequences.

Items to be addressed should cover:

  • Advertising properties
  • Compliance to state real estate license law for advertising
  • Copyright laws - plagiarism
  • Defamation
  • False or unsubstantiated claims
  • Fair Housing
  • Fiduciary to clients
  • Identification of licensure and license affiliation
  • Libel, personal opinion
  • RESPA
  • Slander

James Crawford ABR, Broker Associate

 

 

 

 

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Comment balloon 21 commentsJim Crawford • April 11 2010 10:11AM

Comments

What a valuable post.  In this day and age we must all be aware of what we post and comment on.  Even the most innocent of these could can be costly.  Thanks.

Posted by Tricia Pearson, Real Estate Broker, San Antonio/Hill Country Homes for Sale (Tricia Pearson - Pearson Real Estate - Texas Hill Country) about 9 years ago

What a valuable post.  In this day and age we must all be aware of what we post and comment on.  Even the most innocent of these could can be costly.  Thanks.

Posted by Tricia Pearson, Real Estate Broker, San Antonio/Hill Country Homes for Sale (Tricia Pearson - Pearson Real Estate - Texas Hill Country) about 9 years ago

What a valuable post.  In this day and age we must all be aware of what we post and comment on.  Even the most innocent of these could can be costly.  Thanks.

Posted by Tricia Pearson, Real Estate Broker, San Antonio/Hill Country Homes for Sale (Tricia Pearson - Pearson Real Estate - Texas Hill Country) about 9 years ago

Great post Jim.  Social Media is definately taking off and in my opinion is an incredible tool to expand your face to a bevy of potential clients and network partners.  One thing for sure though, you need to be unique and accurate about all information you put out there for others to see, or you are leaving yourself vulnerable to an aray of problems that you don't want.

Thanks again!

 

Posted by David Hardison (Bluegreen Communities) about 9 years ago

Great post Jim.  Social Media is definately taking off and in my opinion is an incredible tool to expand your face to a bevy of potential clients and network partners.  One thing for sure though, you need to be unique and accurate about all information you put out there for others to see, or you are leaving yourself vulnerable to an aray of problems that you don't want.

Thanks again!

 

Posted by David Hardison (Bluegreen Communities) about 9 years ago

Social media is a wonderful vehicle when used correctly. A written policy should be established in all offices. That is one hefty lawsuit. Do you have any background information on that? Being in Florida, I am very interested.

Posted by Dick and Dixie Sells, Realtors, Tampa Bay Florida Homes For Sale (Sells Real Estate, LLC) about 9 years ago

Jim, even if you feel you're protected by free speech, can you afford a bully and court costs?
Your friend in Washington State,
Paul

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority! (RE/MAX Northwest.) about 9 years ago

Hey Jim, it's great to have you back here on AR!  I agree with your post and many do not realize the importance of their on-line actions.

Posted by Home Design, Home Design and Real Estate about 9 years ago

Jim, you have articulated this so well and like you I se many people posting the most damaging material without a thought to the consequences! Words like stones cannot be recalled when cast and  as you stated, by then ...it's too late to correct the wrong."

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Tricia Pearson - Pearson Real Estate Thanks!   I think this is a very neglected subject.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Kevin Hawthorne (Bluegreen Communities)  Even if it is accurate, we need to be mindful of what we say.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Dick and Dixie Sells, Your Tampa Bay Florida Connection (Future Home Realty)  You can Google the story easily, but I rather not name the specifics.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Paul Henderson, Realtor ® Lacey, DuPont or Hartstene Pointe WA. (RE/MAX Professionals & Four Seasons Inc.)  Exactly.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Jennifer K Giraldi, Atlanta REALTOR® Atlanta Real Estate Expert (Solid Source Realty Atlanta) Thanks for the comments.   I am pretty much taking a sabbatical from all my AR postings.  It is very time consuming and I have some other areas of my business that I am expanding.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (AvenueOne Properties, Austin Texas Real Estate)  And they live forever on the Internet until they are taken down.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Jim, 

Great points.  We need to speak with care in this form of social media blogging.  We are still responsible for what we say or TYPE!  

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) about 9 years ago

Michelle Francis, Atlanta GA (Tim Francis Realty) I agree!  Amen to that!

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

Jim: Sage for advice for any real estate professional who blogs or has an online presence.

Posted by Matt Grohe, Serving the metro since 2003 (RE/MAX Concepts) about 9 years ago

Matt Grohe Remax Des Moines CRS, GRI, ABR (Remax Real Estate Concepts)  Thanks!  It is still sad to see how many do not get it.

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

What a enlightening truth, I think of the old adages, "Don't air your laundry in public" and if you don't have something nice to say then keep it to yourself. Hey Jim, make it a great week my friend.

Posted by Charles Stallions, 800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl. (Charles Stallions Real Estate Services ) about 9 years ago

Charles Stallions Real Estate 800-309-3414 Pensacola, Fl.   Thanks Charles you also!

Posted by Jim Crawford, Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR (Crye-Leike REALTORS®) about 9 years ago

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