It’s hard to imagine how quickly technology has evolved during our lifetimes, and much of that change is a result of how much closer we’ve become—virtually, that is. Whether it’s finding cheap plane tickets, or a restaurant for a Saturday night on the town, the Internet seems to always have the answers. Technology also has transformed the way we communicate by providing us with new places to correspond, through email, message boards and social networking websites. But what is readily available at our fingertips is not always properly used, even if it seems to provide immediate satisfaction.
The Web Necessity
Still, given the need for neighbors to communicate, it’s no surprise that leaders of homeowner’s associations are using the web to talk with each other in-house, build community cohesion and to distribute important information. More frequently these days, property managers and board members are taking their communities online and using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with each other. While these tools can be useful in spreading important news around the community, they also can be launching pads for misinformation and rumors, which cause problems in a building. Clearly, how one uses online tools to interact with the community can define the success (or lack thereof) of that communication.
In a time when nearly everyone—from children to septuagenarians—is surfing the web, not having a web presence for a multi-family community is becoming the odd exception. That’s because the easy access for users, and the breadth of contact available through the Internet, is far more effective than other forms of communication.
With technology improving at such a rapid pace, people are expecting more and more information to be available on the web and associations are embracing the trend by providing homeowners with the ability to pay dues online, and providing access to governing documents, meeting minutes, newsletters, and audit reports. An association website can serve three main purposes: communicate, inform and market, says Tim Arel, a property manager at North Point Management in Amherst, New Hampshire. But the very things that make the Internet so attractive as a communications tool, also can have a downside, he adds.
“Some associations provide a section for owners to blog comments. Instead of creating an area for positive and productive comments, this could become an area where owners express their complaints and dissatisfaction,” says Arel. “In the case where the website is public, this now creates a negative image of the association. The net result is that instead of creating something positive, the website hurts the image of the association to potential buyers. Another area of concern is having personal information on sites creates security concerns. Boards must be very concerned over the exposure of personal information, as well as the potential liability on the board and association.”