Building Community Online Electronic Media Can Boost Association Communication

 It’s often hard to fully comprehend 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.  Spreading the word via the web allows you to be able to address a broad market,  while everybody gets the same information and you are able to get immediate  feedback, says Steve Cohen, vice president, operations, for A&N Management & Consulting in Boca Raton. But the very things that make the Internet so  attractive as a communications tool, also can have a downside, he adds.  

 “You can misinform people very quickly, and many people view things documented  online as the end all to be all. There’s a potential for error,” Cohen says.  

 Sometimes, using a hard copy newsletter or a piece of regular mail to convey  community information might be more appropriate media for a particular message,  but some people tend to use the web even for such messages, partly because the ‘net is so easy to use. That’s why A&N Management & Consulting still uses quarterly paper newsletters for its clients, in addition  to helping them maintain websites and convey Internet-based messaging.  

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