Policy: Member’s Use of Social Media in the Real Estate Business

Bonita Springs Estero Association of REALTORS®

Policy: Member’s Use of Social Media in the Real Estate Business

As used in this policy Broker shall refer to the Broker. REALTOR® or Agent shall mean a licensed real estate agent employed by or affiliated with the Broker. User(s) shall mean individuals visiting the social media sites of Agents. Social Media as used in this policy shall apply to both activities at the agent’s web sites (e.g., blogging) and use of third party social media tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Due to the hundreds of different Social Media tools which may be utilized by agents and more, are constantly being created. The provisions of this policy are interpreted generally, to apply to the types of interaction the agent has with the social media service rather than to specific web sites and providers. Notwithstanding anything in this policy, it remains the responsibility of the Agent to comply with the requirements of local, state and federal law and the Code of Ethics of The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

The scope of this policy shall extend to all uses of social media in connection with the real estate business (use in connection with the real estate business to include any use in which the agent seeks to promote and/or capture real estate business from consumers or other agents). This policy is not intended to cover the personal activities of Agents outside the real estate business; however any conduct which reflects adversely upon broker or the brokerage may be reviewed under the terms of this policy.

Whenever identification is required by this policy, it shall include the following:

Policy:  Identification on the Internet

  • Name/Logo of brokerage
  • Name of broker
  • Address of the brokerage office with which the agent is affiliated
  • Phone/Fax/E-mail of the brokerage office
  • Name of the agent responsible for the web site
  • State of licensure
  • Agents affiliated with a team may also include the name of that team
  • Phone/Fax/E-mail of agent or team responsible for the web site
  • Any other requirements mandated by state law/regulation
  • Any additional brokerage identification requirements

Policy: Blogging

Agent shall be responsible for compliance with all laws and regulations governing real estate business including fair housing, antitrust and real estate license laws and regulations.  Where identification is required the same items of identification listed in the Internet policy shall apply or where identification is required, at a minimum the following elements shall be disclosed:

  • Name/Logo of brokerage
  • Name of broker
  • Address of the brokerage office with which the agent is affiliated
  • Phone/Fax/E-mail of the brokerage office
  • Name of the agent responsible for the web site
  • State of licensure  e.g. Jane Doe, Licensed in Florida and Ohio
  • Any other requirements mandated by state law/regulation
  • Any additional brokerage identification requirements, required by REALTOR® Association or Agent’s Brokerage of Record.

The Agent shall be responsible for informing the Public (and obtaining approval if required by Broker) of any blogging site maintained by Agent and shall be provided with necessary information to subscribe to the blog.

Terms of Use Blogging Website

  • REALTOR® is responsible for establishing the process for governance of the blog by posting terms of use for the blog.
  • Agent shall use the terms of use of the brokerage for blogs; or the Agent shall create terms of use for their own blog and allow them to be reviewed by broker prior to launch of the blog.
  • Agent shall make the terms of use available to REALTOR® Association upon request.

The Terms of Use Include

  • Users shall abide by all legal requirements related to, the use of the blog and the site’s terms of use including specifically its privacy policy. Users shall be responsible for their conduct on site.
  •  Obtain clear authority from Users to utilize anything on the site.
  • Prohibit the unauthorized use of third party content or the posting of any unlawful or objectionable materials.
  •  Prohibit the use of the site to harass or stalk anyone.
  • Prohibit the posting of content which infringes on the rights of any third party.
  • Prohibit the posting of content which expresses a preference based upon an individual’s membership in a protected class.
  • Provide a removal policy in the event any such materials are posted to the site.
  • Disclaim responsibility for any third party sites linked to through the site.
  • Disclaim and limit any liability arising from the content of the site, whether provided by Agent or a User.
  • Provide a privacy policy consistent with that used by the brokerage.
  • If Agent allows posted comments in return for consideration, the fact that the commenter has received compensation shall be disclosed.

Identification of Agent/Team/Brokerage

  • Agents shall identify themselves when establishing a blog in such a way that, Users of the blog shall know the Agent’s name, their status as a real estate licensee and the name of the brokerage affiliation.
  • In any posting related to the brokerage, the Agent shall assure that the Agent’s relationship to the brokerage is clear to avoid violation of the FTC rules.
  • Agents shall not participate in the blog of another party without disclosing their identity and the brokerage affiliation/Office.

Policy:  Responsibility for Blog/Website Maintenance

  • All blogging must be monitored by agent for false / defamatory / demeaning / degrading commentsat all times. Damaging comments must be removed within 24 hours.  Agent may elect to hold comments in moderation before posting.
  • Agent is responsible for removing or clarifying any comment, if the agent knows it to be false or misleading.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring that the content and operation of the blog conform to the standards established in the REALTOR®. Code of Ethics of The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Policy:  Use of Third-Party Social Media Sites (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)

There are hundreds of providers of social media services in which real estate agents may participate. The purpose of this policy is, to provide guidelines intended for both agents and brokerage with legal liability risk management, to protect the brokerage’s reputation and good will in the community. Like blogging, the scope of this policy is intended to relate to use of social media in connection with the real estate business, regardless of the social media service being used andwhen related to the real estate business the Agent should observe these guidelines.

Agents are required to read and be familiar with the policies and requirements of any site on which they participate and to comply with the requirements of that site. In particular, Agents should know the privacy practices and policies of the sites. When options are provided, the Agent shall / may select an option which provides a level of protection to Users of Agent’s social media site consistent with the level of protection afforded by the brokerage at the brokerage’s web site.

Agents should remain aware that items posted on social media sites may be forwarded or used for purposes other than originally intended. Agents should be particularly aware of this when making decisions as to what to include on their social media sites.

Policy:  Posting of Professional Contacts/Qualifications (e.g., LinkedIn, Real Estate Agent Directories)

  • Agent is responsible for assuring that any listing of qualifications, credentials or training contained on the site is current, accurate and not misleading. Any changes to the foregoing shall be promptly revised on the site.
  • Agent shall not falsely claim association with any person or group (e.g. trade organizations, designations.)
  • Notwithstanding any provision herein, Agent remains responsible for complying with the license laws and regulations governing the conduct of licensees, along with all applicable local, state and federal laws.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring that the content conforms to the standards established in the REALTOR® Code of Ethics of N.A.R.

Policy: Posting of Text (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)

  • All text shall be the Agent’s own and not plagiarized or copied from another party without that party’s permission. This shall not prohibit the use of, reasonable quotations from the writings of others or writing for which the Agent has received permission to use, or using writings consistent with the practices of the site (e.g., retweeting). No content which infringes upon the rights of any third party may be used.
  • Agent may blog/write regarding the listings of other licensees, within the brokerage if the blogging option is checked in the MLS and is accordance with the rules of their brokerages
  • Agent may write regarding the listings of other brokerages, if the blogging option is checked in the MLS and in accordance with the rules of their own brokerage.
  • Agent shall assure that writings do not contain unauthorized disclosures of confidential information of clients, customers or REALTOR®.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring that the use of the site is consistent with the  REALTOR®  Code of Ethics, local, state and federal laws and all applicable real estate license laws and regulations, including where necessary identifying Agent.
  • Copy and paste of full newspaper or news source articles is plagiarism and not generally not permitted per the copyright of the source (if noted) however a few leading sentences with a link to the original story is acceptable.

Policy: Posting of Comments to Social Media Pages of Others

  • Any statement regarding the brokerage shall clearly disclose the Agent’s relationship to the brokerage.
  • The Agent shall disclose his/her status as a real estate professional as a part of any real estate related statement.
  • Agent may/may not accept compensation for placing a comment on a site without disclosing that they received compensation.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring the use of the site is consistent with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, local, state and federal laws and all applicable real estate license laws and regulations, including where necessary identifying Agent.
  • Anonymous negative or defaming posts, comments and/or ratings are not permitted. The Bonita Springs-Estero Association of REALTOR® may employ the use of IP tracking, if necessary, to discover/verify the offending individual.
  • Neither Agent nor Broker may post on the profiles or pages belonging to Bonita Springs-Estero Association of REALTORS® to recruit agents to their brokerage or to recruit management/brokers of record to employ at their brokerage.
  • Neither Agent nor Broker may post (spam) ads for their listing(s) on profiles or pages belonging to Bonita Springs-Estero Association of REALTORS®.
  • Neither agent nor broker may post comments on any B.E.A.R. social media platform as a personal ad or self-promotion steering readers or members to the individual agent’s website or broker websites.
  • Neither agent nor broker may post comments on any B.E.A.R. social media platform for another agent as promotion to steer readers or members to the individual agent’s website or broker’s website.
  • Neither agent nor broker may post comments on B.E.A.R. social media platforms to steer B.E.A.R. subscribers to “like their page” or “follow them” or to “subscribe”.

Policy:  Posting of Photos (Flickr, Picasa, LIVE, etc.)

  • Agent is responsible for assuring that Agent is authorized to use any photo posted to the site (to avoid copyright infringement).
  • Agent shall secure permission to post, for marketing purposes, the digital image belonging to another person on the Agent site.
  • If an image has been materially altered in a misleading way contrary to the true condition of the property (e.g. Photoshop) by Agent, the fact that the image is altered shall be disclosed.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring the use of the site is consistent with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, local, state and federal laws and all applicable real estate license laws and regulations, including where necessary identifying Agent.
  • Agent understands “creative commons” licensing, under most circumstances, excludes commercial use.

Policy:  Posting of Audio/Video (YouTube, Podcast, Audible)

  • Agent is responsible for assuring Agent is authorized to use any audio/video posted to the site (to avoid copyright infringement).
  • Agent shall secure permission to post, for marketing purposes the image belonging to another person on the Agent site.
  • If a video has been altered in a misleading way contrary to the true condition of the property (e.g. Photoshop) by Agent, the fact that the video is altered shall be disclosed.
  • Agent is responsible for assuring the use of the site is consistent with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and all applicable real estate license laws and regulations, including identifying Agent.

Policy:  Online Classified Advertising (Craigslist, Backpage, etc.)

  • Members of Bonita Springs-Estero Association of REALTORS® shall disclose their full name and brokerage name on all ads placed on “online classified advertising spaces” (e.g. Craigslist). When advertising any service of real estate for compensation to the general public and consumers shopping for real estate, are able to easily identify when they are contacting a real estate professional.
  • Neither Agent nor Broker may post real estate listings for sale or for lease in online classifieds unless they have been expressly authorized to advertise them by the listing Broker.

Enforcement of Entire Social Media Policies

Participation and interaction on B.E.A.R. social media platforms is a privilege.  B.E.A.R. reserves the right to implement the three strike rule and ban a user [agent, broker or affiliate] from any B.E.A.R. social media platform for violating B.E.A.R. social media policies.

Policy violations may be subject to disciplinary action as set forth under the B.E.A.R. member policy, SWFLAMLS Policy and the REALTORS® Code of Ethics.