Building Community Online Electronic Media Can Boost Association Communication

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 homeowners 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—are 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.

“A website is a benefit if it’s nicely done with accurate information. If someone is looking at an apartment on 1400 Lakeshore Drive, they’re going to google it,” says Michael Daniels, chief operating officer of Cagan Management Group in Chicago. “If it’s well kept up it will add to the resale cost and will take some burden off the manager.” But the very things that make the Internet so attractive as a communications tool, also can have a downside, he adds.

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