How to Minimize Risks in Your Social Media Property Marketing

smart phone screen with social media app icons

Property marketing skills are an essential component in a real estate professional’s toolbox. With around 2.38 billion users on Facebook, 145 million daily active users on Twitter, and more than 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram, the power of social media comes as no surprise. It’s a growing resource for real estate professionals to reach their target audiences through clever and shareable marketing.  

But like many things in business, there are risks involved in property marketing, even though it may seem like a routine task to an experienced real estate agent. The rise of social media — and the ability to quickly post information via a smartphone 24/7 — also brings with it some risks. Human errors can and do happen. 

Here are some strategies to keep your property marketing on track while also minimizing the risks… 

Keep Your Social Media Posts Legal

Social media has made property marketing quick and easy for real estate professionals. But like any form of property marketing, you still have to be sure your marketing activities are legal.  That means abiding by all relevant Federal and State laws, including the Fair Housing Act, which protects discrimination in housing due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. 

How could a Fair Housing Act violation happen on social media?

The ability of Facebook ads to exclude certain audiences was the focus of a federal lawsuit in March 2018. Facebook advertising allows you to define an exclusive target market very specifically. Innocent mistakes can happen. Real estate professionals may choose to exclude families with children, or those in a certain age bracket, or they may target a particular gender. However, to keep on the right side of the Fair Housing Act, it’s important not to actively exclude any specific protected class for your listings. Advertising to the broader population is a much safer option to keep your ads legal, and avoid any allegations of wrongdoing against the Fair Housing Act. 

Consider Privacy 

As a real estate professional, you have an obligation to protect the privacy of your clients. This means not disclosing information that can reasonably identify an individual or any confidential information about a transaction. 

That means not posting details of offers submitted, not accidentally letting the general public know a seller is on vacation or has vacated the home, and not accidentally identifying a seller in your property marketing. All of these things may seem obvious issues to avoid, but social media is a somewhat informal means of communication. There have been many cases where real estate professionals have let their guard down and found themselves in hot water. 

Avoid Trademark and/or Copyright Infringements

It’s important to avoid any trademark or copyright infringements in your social media posts. Real estate agents could find themselves facing a lawsuit on these grounds for any number of reasons, including:

  • Use of a new tagline in your advertising that infringes upon another company’s trademark
  • Use of property images that you’re not licensed to use
  • Use of music in your videos/virtual tours that you don’t have permission to use

It may seem easy enough to delete something on social media if an issue arises. But the rapid rate at which social media posts can be shared means you may lose control of the post quickly. Best to assume “if it’s posted, even for only a second, it’s out there.”   So ensure that you have the right to post content before putting it on social media to avoid opening yourself up to liability.

Ensure the Facts Are Correct

Know — and check — the facts before posting. If you mention “room for a tennis court”, be sure you’ve actually measured that there’s space for a 60’ x 120’ court. If you suggest “potential ocean view if you add a second story”, be sure you’ve checked any CC&Rs or other regulations that might prohibit the addition. Don’t refer to that “gem on a quiet street” when it actually overlooks a highway.

Effective property marketing is all about highlighting property features, but you need to provide a realistic representation of the property to prospective buyers. Avoid touching up photographs of the home or over-exaggerating the property features. Avoid superlative statements like:

  • “This property is close to a fabulous school”
  • “One of the safest streets in the area”

Ensure all information you quote in your property marketing, including social media posts, is 100% factual and correct. That will help you avoid a lawsuit on the basis of misrepresentation.

Ensure You Have Premium E&O Coverage

To protect yourself against potential lawsuits, be sure you have Errors and Omissions insurance designed especially for real estate professionals. CRES Real Estate E&O + ClaimPrevent® even has a legal advisory service you can access 7 days a week – so you can prevent legal issues before they become lawsuits. 

Contact CRES at 800-880-2747 for a confidential discussion today. CRES has been helping real estate professionals for more than 20 years. Our friendly team can customize an insurance solution to suit your specific needs. 

This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.

Originally Published March 11, 2020

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