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The Use of Social Media in Strata Complexes

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Michael Teys' presentation paper as presented at the ACCAL Conference March 2014

Michael Teys' presentation paper as presented at the ACCAL Conference March 2014

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  • 1. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 The Use of Social Media in Strata Complexes Michael Teys ACCAL Conference March 2014 An Inevitable Shift in Power
  • 2. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 2 Socialnomics in the Strataverse Erik Qualman is the Dale Carnegie of the digital age. He is the author of ‘Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business’. Socialnomics made Amazon’s number 1 best selling list for the US, UK, Canada and Germany. Naturally, in defining his own term ‘Socialnomics’, he invited everyone’s input via social media. Qualman accordingly defined socialnomics as ‘”the value created and shared via social media and its efficient influence on outcomes, economical, political, relational etc”. Apart from a best selling book and an enormously popular blog, Qualman also has one of the world’s most viral YouTube videos in ‘Social Media Revolution’. Play that video and amongst other things you will learn: • Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years; • 96% of millennials have joined a social network; • Social media has overtaken pornography as the number 1 activity on the web; • If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world; • The US Department of Education now says that online students outperform those learning face-to-face; • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55 – 65 year olds; • 50% of mobile device traffic in the UK is for Facebook with the average user checking in five times per day; and • Gens Y and Z consider email passé. Qualman’s video concludes with the sobering thought that your ‘ROI’ (return on investment) with social media is that your business will still exist in five years. A subset of socialnomics according to Qualman is that in the future we will no longer search for things, rather things will find us via social media. One of the major components of socialnomics therefore is social commerce: transactions (outcomes) that occur via social media. In terms of strata entities, consider how far strata owners are presently from the new reality of socialnomics. Strata owners barely know what things they should be looking for let alone where or how to look. Strata purchasers in most Australian states and territories save for Queensland and New South Wales, routinely buy strata property without conducting a search of the books and records of the strata entity they will join and where they do, the information is often unreliable because of the way it is stored (or not) and the way it is interpreted and reported. In our Strataverse, many strata managers still think they own the personal information collected and used by the strata entities they manage and it is their right to refuse owners
  • 3. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 3 access to this information including contact details of their co-owners, under the false and deluded premise that the Privacy Act precludes them from passing on this information. While a far cry from the leading edge of social commerce, in the Strataverse there are early signs of the use of social media by strata entities. This presentation demonstrates 10 actual or possible uses of social media by strata entities that assist these entities meet their functions as controllers, owners and administrators of common property. Properly understood as the tip of the social media iceberg, the proliferation of social media in the Strataverse must lead to an inevitable shift in power from strata managers consciously or unconsciously, controlling knowledge to exert power over strata owners to a world of strata owners empowered by knowledge about their own affairs. Opportunity Number 1 - A Facebook Group to Build Community Facebook is of course an online social networking website that allows friends and family to connect and share information online. Facebook was founded on 4 February 2004 initially for Harvard University students and now allows anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old, to become a registered user. By January 2014, the market capitalisation for Facebook had risen to over $134 billion. At the end of January 2014, 1.23 billion users were active on the website every month. At 31 December 2013, 945 million of this total were identified by the company as mobile users [Source: http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/facebook]. In Australia, Facebook had 13 million unique Australian visitors to the website in February 2014. This compares with 12.2 million or 52.81% of Australia’s population in June 2013. For New Zealand on that date, the unique New Zealand visitors to that site were 2.4 million or 53.69% of New Zealand’s population [Source: Social Media Statistics January 2013 Australia and New Zealand, Adcorp].
  • 4. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 4 On Facebook a user can form a group. There are three types of groups: open, closed and secret. An open group is one that anyone can see and know who is in it and what they are posting. A closed group is one that anyone can see that the group exists and who is in it, but only members see posts. A secret group is one where only members see the group, who is in it and what members post. A closed or secret group is appropriate for building a community and sharing information within a strata entity. The advantages of a Facebook group for a strata entity are these: 1. It’s free to use; 2. It allows owners to ‘opt in’ which addresses privacy issues so long as the strata entity has a privacy policy declaring that it will use information for social networking purposes; 3. It enables 24 / 7 online transparent conversations between members of the group; 4. Members can upload and share photos, videos and documents and create events; 5. Posts can be fed to Facebook from other social media tools such as YouTube (for videos), Instagram (for photos) and Twitter (for status updates). The proper use of a Facebook group page by a strata manager should reduce email traffic and improve owner engagement. However, this type of use will probably be seen as a waste of time and money. Socialnomics would challenge this assumption and casts doubt on whether a business acting like this will exist in five years. Opportunity Number 2 – Identify Common Property on YouTube A common source of conflict and confusion within a strata entity is the identification of common property and distinguishing this from lot property for determining responsibility for repairs and maintenance. A short video taken on a mobile device can help educate owners (new and old) about the extent of common property and how this is distinguished in each scheme from lot property. 2013 saw a change in preference towards visual content on social media with Twitter releasing an update that previewed images within the news feed and Facebook giving preference towards photo posts. The fast growth of networks like Instagram and Snapchat, continue the trend toward visual content. According to the popular blog ‘Hubspot’ visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text and 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. [Source: Zoe Tester, NZTE Change Consultant, “Top 5 Trends Social Media for 2014”, 28 January 2014]. Strata schemes that include visuals within their updates will drive engagement with their owners.
  • 5. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 5 Opportunity Number 3 – Follow Bloggers on Strata Issues Using WordPress A blog is a type of website that is usually arranged in chronological order from the most recent ‘post’ or entry at the top, to older entries towards the bottom. Blogs are usually written by one person and are often written on a particular topic. Blogs can be text, video or media [Source: Change Management Toolbox, 15 September 2011]. The primary use of a blog is to share news and thoughts with a community. It is not recommended for marketing campaigns, press releases or broadcasting but instead gradually establishes expertise in a particular area; brand awareness, and can extend communications and customer relationships. Blogs have potential to turn from sharing information and thoughts to conversations that lead to meetings and then business transactions. Strata entities might use a blog for following bloggers on specific strata issues, for example ‘Resolving Building Defects’ (a TEYS Lawyers blog www.chriskerin.com). Strata managers and the leaders of strata entities could also blog both internally (to a specific scheme) and externally (to the world at large). A strata manager that blogged regularly and well would create a profile and a point of difference in a space presently wide open. Opportunity Number 4 – Get Breaking News on Twitter Micro blogging or status updates give information updates and conversations that are limited in length (to 140 characters). The most common of these is Twitter. Twitter delivers updates and news on an organisation’s business and engages and converses with people interested in the organisation or your point of view. Twitter builds brand awareness and reputation. It enables you to share knowledge and build relationships with your community. Twitter is as much about listening as it is broadcasting. You can search for tweets of interest by name and by the use of hash tags. Imagine Twitter as you, hovering over a cocktail party or networking function where there are hundreds of conversations happening and you can magically see key words above the people having conversations of particular interest to you enabling you to zero in on them. There are strata lawyers and strata managers that are using Twitter and therefore, there are strata owners and developers following them. Strata entities could also use Twitter (albeit to a defined interest group of potential followers) for sharing updates about their building and strata entity. This could be useful for generic reminders about the payment of levies, the holding of meetings and the calling for nominations for office bearers. The tweets can automatically feed to Facebook and reach people using that medium as a preference.
  • 6. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 6 Opportunity Number 5 – Find a New Strata Manager on LinkedIn LinkedIn is a social networking website for people in professional occupations. It was founded in December 2002 and is mainly used for professional networking. As of June 2013, LinkedIn reports more than 259 million users in more than 200 countries [Source: http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/linkedin]. LinkedIn might be used by a strata entity to find a new strata manager. A search for strata management companies in LinkedIn will indicate who is on LinkedIn, which in itself says something about the progressive nature of the company as a strata service provider. Conversely, you can search your shortlist of preferred tenderers by name and see whether they are part of LinkedIn and if so, what they have to offer. Information on Linkedin tends to be less slick than a website or brochure and you can search both companies and the key people to learn more about who might be assigned to your account. There is an advanced LinkedIn service, which will enable you to message those open to receiving messages even if you are not linked in with them. This, for example, would enable a strata manager or chairperson to seek out introductions to owners within the strata entity who are also on LinkedIn. This is a unique and sophisticated way of establishing relations and encouraging participation in strata entity affairs. Opportunity Number 6 – Connect With Your Local Community on HouseNet HouseNet is social media for where you live. This is a new social network for local communities in Australian housing, which connects you to people, news and content for your suburb [Source: www.housenet.com.au/care/about/]. The site went live in September 2012 and boasts capabilities for problem solving for strata management. HouseNet has published a short e-book “Strata Stress Be Gone 10 Ways to Use Social Media for Better Body Corporate Management”. Opportunity Number 7 – See Progress on Repairs & Maintenance by Instagram Instagram is an online photo sharing, video sharing and social networking service. It enables its users to take pictures and video, post messages to them and share them on a variety of social networking services including Facebook and Twitter [Source: http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instagram]. Whether you subscribe to the view that Work Health and Safety legislation applies to strata entities or not, the common law about occupier’s liability and the statutory duties about repair and maintenance, requires strata owners to be and remain aware of issues relating to their common property. Instagram can help with this. Service contractors and trades people can take photographs of repair and maintenance work done by them and post this from Instagram to the scheme’s Facebook group page or Twitter
  • 7. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 7 address. This will build goodwill with the owners, aid transparency of services co-ordinated by the strata manager and build engagement in the strata entity’s affairs. Opportunity Number 8 – Build a Scheme Knowledge Bank on Wiki Using Wikispaces A perennial problem for strata entities is the loss of knowledge when a strata entity migrates from the developer to the first owners, from one manager to another and from one committee to another. Much time is spent in these entities repeating past mistakes and challenging decisions without reference to the thoughts behind the decision-making in the first place. Someone will suggest that a manual be created but this is a lot of work for one person and seldom are they kept up to date. Creating a wiki for a strata entity to retain knowledge about the scheme is a good use of social media. A wiki is a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add or edit content. While a wiki is a type of content management system, it differs from a blog in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing the structure to emerge according to the needs of the users [Source: http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki]. The advantages of a wiki for a strata community are: 1. It’s free; 2. It is collaborative which shares the workload and ensures balance and correctness because any entry can be edited by any other member; and 3. It is flexible and pages can be created (and searched) for all manner of matters including strata management issues and general information for example, when the rubbish bins are collected. Opportunity Number 9 – Monitor Interest in Strata Newsletters on Mail Chimp Newsletters for strata communities have been around for a long time. Like newsletters in all walks of life, they often start with energy and enthusiasm that dwindles from about the 4th edition. The traditional paper version of the newsletter is difficult and expensive to produce and distribute. Social media can help make this easier for strata communities and give new insight into topics of interest and readership that can help frame the future of a strata entity. MailChimp is a good tool for producing and distributing electronic newsletters and analysing the readership by measuring the number of people who open the newsletter and more importantly, click on particular topics. The analytical service, which is automatically generated by the hosting company, provides you with an invaluable insight into the thinking of those within a strata community.
  • 8. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 8 You will find out what topics are of interest and to whom. This can help inform the future undertakings of the strata entity and identify people who are interested in the strata entity generally and more specifically, particular topics that might help recruit ‘new blood’ for the committee. Opportunity Number 10 – Survey Owners With Survey Monkey From time-to-time contentious and / or complex issues will arise in a strata community that will benefit from community consultation. For example, a review of caretaking services, a major redecoration of common property and / or a review of by-laws of a scheme. Survey Monkey is a tool which can help to gather and analyse data which enables community members to have their say on these issues and perhaps more importantly, to be seen to so do. The benefit of using an online tool for this purpose is that it collates and analyses the results for you in a form that enables you to report the results back to the community. This is an essential step in effective community consultation and the automation and anonymity provided by this tool will assist strata entities in these matters. All That Stands Between Our Strata Entities and Socialnomics, Is Us We, being among the thought leaders of what I have called, our Strataverse, are all that stands between our strata entities and this new, and better world of social commerce. We can champion this cause, and the benefits it will bring, or we can enable the naysayers to preserve their anachronistic ways. Social commerce in strata is confronting for many service providers. In a Strataverse with more free flowing data, including for example, easy access to a service contract and its expiry date and contact details of co-owners available to co-owners, might result in more competitive tenders for strata services. Owners might begin to see that they have rights and options to move to other providers without obfuscation by strata managers failing to make agreements available or to hand over books and records if called upon to do so. There are legal issues to be determined to allow this to happen but this does not mean the formulation of social media polices for strata entities, which is about all we have seen suggested so far. Strata schemes, like most other entities, don’t have a policy for how members must speak to each other at a networking function or one that determines how they address each other by email. Social media is no different and our fixating on legal debate on social media policies for strata entities, as has happened elsewhere in the world, will stifle the initiative unnecessarily. Rather, the legal debate we need to have to allow social commerce to flourish in our Strataverse, is about intellectual property and the rights to the ownership of the platforms on which this information sits.
  • 9. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 9 The right legal debate will address the truth about privacy laws in Australia and the application of the new Australian Privacy Principles to personal information collected, held and sold by strata entities via their agents, the strata managers and caretaking and letting agents. The right legal debate will extend to issues of electronic transmission of strata votes and records and strata law reform to permit social commerce in strata entities to increase participation rates. These legal issues are beyond the scope of this paper but it is our responsibility as strata lawyers to lead the thinking about these issues and hopefully to provide solutions rather than handbrakes for the revolution that is socialnomics. Michael Teys LLB, FACCAL PRINCIPAL LAWYER & FOUNDER TEYS LAWYERS Michael is the principal of Teys Lawyers. Since buying the assets of Andreones following its liquidation 4 years ago, Michael has built a strata law firm operating in four eastern seaboard jurisdictions. Challenging conventional strata management referral models, his firm's business is primarily drawn from social media. His firm publishes four electronic newsletters a week, runs two specialist blogs off its website, and has its own YouTube channel. Michael appears on SKY News Business Channel weekly discussing latest strata issues and tweets daily to over 500 followers here and around the world. In 2013 his firm was ranked in the top 4 percent of users worldwide on SlideShare.
  • 10. © Copyright TEYS Lawyers 2014 10

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