Social media, and the internet generally, have become some of the most frequently used advertising vehicles in many industries, including real estate and mortgage brokerage. Industry professionals turn to social media for its cost effectiveness and wide reach, but also because it creates opportunities to offer creative incentives to potential clients through their personal social media accounts.
Advertising is advertising, whether online or off, and the rules that apply to traditional advertising apply to online and social media advertising. But, how can a broker monitor every tweet, Insta, vid, or post?
Be proactive. Brokerages should have detailed and specific policies and procedures for social media advertising.
Your policies should include:
- who will advertise or communicate on behalf of the brokerage
- how to advertise on behalf of the brokerage
- the wording, logos or graphics used to advertise or communicate on behalf of the brokerage
- the consequences for non-compliance
- who will communicate all policies and procedures to the industry professionals and applicable brokerage staff
Advertising policies need to cover incentives
Incentives are a significant part of social media advertising in the industry. An incentive” is anything a brokerage advertises, communicates or offers to the public to attract business. Examples of incentives include travel miles, gifts, contests, gift certificates, games of chance, or anything else of value. Incentives used on an industry professional’s social media account are still incentives, and the brokerage must offer the incentive.
As you likely know, the ease of creating and posting advertising through social media has led to many associates seemingly offering incentives on their own, separate from their brokerage, without realizing that the incentive rules apply.
Remember: all advertising is on behalf of the brokerage. Industry professionals must not directly or indirectly, advertise, communicate or offer to any person their own incentives whose sole purpose is to attract business to them personally. This includes promoting likes and follows on social media platforms as part of an incentive to attract business. Below are examples of incentives advertised through social media.
All of these examples comply with RECA’s Advertising Guidelines, as long as they are brokerage incentives, and not individual incentives. The emphasis is on “us,” “our,” and “we.”
“Let us sell your house and we will give you free use of our moving van”
“If you hire us to find your next home, you’ll receive a $500 gift certificate for ABC Depot”
“If you hire us to find you a new mortgage, we will donate $200 to XYZ Charity”
“If you LIKE my brokerage’s Facebook page, you will be entered to win a gift certificate.”
Here are the same incentives, but with individual incentives. These do not comply with the Advertising Guidelines as they suggest the individual is offering the incentive, not the brokerage.
“Let me sell your house and I will give you free use of my moving van”
“If you hire me to find your next home, you’ll receive a $500 gift certificate for ABC Depot”
“If you hire me to find you a new mortgage, I will donate $200 to XYZ Charity”
“If you LIKE my page, you will be entered to win a gift certificate.”
Why is it important?
All industry member advertising is done on behalf of their brokerage, and that’s why brokers need to be aware of – and take responsibility for – all advertising. This includes industry member internet and social media advertising. Because monitoring every tweet or Facebook post made by associates is a monumental task, having a detailed, clear policy for the use of social media advertising by the brokerage’s industry professionals can go a long way.
The broker is ultimately responsible for all activities carried out on behalf of the brokerage, so it is vital that brokers ensure all associates’ social media advertising complies with the Real Estate Act Rules, privacy legislation, and brokerage policy. Brokers need to talk to their associates about incentives. Let them know that these sorts of things might get clicks and likes, but if they aren’t brokerage incentives, they cannot offer them.
For more information about incentives, review the Information Bulletin: Incentives.