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Mind your communication and own your data

Who says what, to whom and where? Communication has never been more far reaching, available and sometimes untameable. Here below we discuss how quickly things are changing in the way we communicate, valuable aspects to consider moving forward and a few tips on how to vet new platforms in order to maintain a handle of online based dialogue.

Delivering accurate information while encouraging engagement is a constant challenge in any residential community. Social media groups like WhatsApp and Facebook seem to pop up everywhere whether the HOA knows or even approves of it. Residents and homeowners create spaces on platforms amongst themselves with the best of intentions, but what happens when conversations get out of hand? What happens when these platforms change their terms and conditions? What happens to the archived data when the use of these free platforms becomes unsustainable?

Facebook is attempting to come to the rescue by planning for a merger between Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. At first glance, this sounds like a great solution but there is so much to consider. What happens to the metadata from these conversations? Can these platforms be hacked? Is the data really encrypted throughout or does the data become vulnerable when uploaded to the Cloud or Google Drive? Do the admins of social media groups understand that there are potential legal consequences to the conversations taking place? And the list goes on…

Let’s be honest, when we found out that WhatsApp is changing their terms and conditions none of us deleted the app. Most of us added other apps like Telegram and/or Signal to our list of messaging tools increasing the number of platforms used on a daily basis. Adding more and more apps only fragments our attention and induces a subtle but potent fatigue. Keeping track of where to speak and with whom, is becoming increasingly complicated. 

With so many moving parts like independent platforms, merging platforms and changing terms and conditions, it is imperative that every residential community consider the implications of moving forward. Whether you are a resident, homeowner or estate admin, the communication platform used is of utmost importance. 

Communicating a thought, opinion or request is one thing but communicating it to the correct person via the correct channel and being assured of a suitable response or outcome is quite another.

An estate must really consider regaining control by implementing a closed circuit platform. A space where the data belongs to the estate, where the data is protected, where conversations can be mediated, where documents and information is shared accurately and confidentially.

A closed circuit platform and mobile application should include functionality such as direct messaging (to individuals or groups), notices & events communications, issues & fault reporting capabilities and Forums that can be categorised for specific conversation topics with moderation rights assigned to a dedicated Forum champion.

Every estate must really consider the importance of phasing out free social media platforms and implementing a solution that puts the control back in YOUR hands. When shopping for closed circuit community portal platforms, it is also vital to consider the longevity of the tech company powering it. Longevity and reputation are priceless metrics when vetting any supplier and their products. Be sure to ask questions about their security protocols, data ownership and moderation features. 

The points raised above are not measurable line items in the yearly budget report but valid and costly nonetheless. Who is to say how much the privacy of your data is actually worth?  How to accurately calculate time spent by estate admins and HOA’s switching apps and jumping from one group to another? How much time is wasted by not using automated behaviours to communicate with residents and homeowners?  Who can measure the cost of decreasing morale in the estate due to conversations getting out of hand? What is the true cost of a bad rumour on the estate that unpredictably spreads like wildfire? 

And so to recap; your estate will never have as little data as it does today. As each day goes by, more data is created and archived, someplace. So moving forward it is utterly imperative to find a good closed circuit solution from a technology provider with a solid reputation and longevity. Be sure to ask about encryption, data ownership and automated features. 

Implement as soon as possible, take control now in order to enjoy peace of mind tomorrow.

Read the original article in Estate Living’s 2021 Industry Journal