Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Facebook for RH?

In a recent post HCR requested advice from his readers asking if he thought it would be acceptable to join a board and continue to post on this blog. Along with many other commenters, I advised that he should have no trouble doing both. I added that blogging about board issues may actually end up helping him make decisions. I decided to follow my own advice, and start posting about board issues.

At a recent board meeting, we were interviewing candidates for our Teen Advisory Committee. During the interviews, a discussion of getting teens involved in activities came up. Someone suggested that the Teen Advisory Committee start a Facebook page in order to facilitate improved communication. As the discussion progressed, the talk turned from making a Facebook page for one committee into making a Facebook page for all of River Hill.

As I see it, one of the most important things the Community Association can do is communicate effectively with the residents. I think the Community Association of RH does a great job with this. We recently completed a total redesign of the RH webpage, which turned out quite aesthetically pleasing and functional. I may be bragging, but I think our newsletter, The Villager, is better than any other Columbia village newsletter. Both of these are great ways to send information out to residents, but it does not promote a two-way method of communication.

Additionally, unless people check our webpage every day, there is a lack of updates on new issues and events. The Association receives information daily from the police, the county, and other groups that would be great to send out to the community. Additionally, the board often has issues come up at the last minute that it would be great to get community feedback on. We do have a list-serve, which we use to send out emails with information about events or updates about public safety issues. Unfortunately, only about 650 people (out of about 6,500 residents) are signed up for the list-serve, so we are not hitting much of the population.

This is where Facebook could come in. By creating a Facebook group for the Village of RH, we could keep residents up to date on any pertinent information. We could use the Facebook group to invite the community to events. Individuals could post to the Facebook page to let people know about any questions or concerns.

There are several pros and cons to having a Facebook page. One pro is that it would help foster an improved sense of community between the residents. The Columbia-like community that my business is in, Piney Orchard, has a yahoo-group page. Personally, I hate the format of the yahoo-groups, but the people in Piney Orchard post on there like crazy. They request help looking for a plumber or questions about architectural issues. Several times lost pets have been located using the group. A few heated political conversations started recently, but nothing too serious. I would love to have a forum like this for RH.

Another pro is that we could effectively communicate information to the community. Heck, if an issue came up at a board meeting, and we wanted community input, we could make a post on facebook right then and there.

There are some cons to making a facebook page, of course. Some people feel that they can go willy-nilly on the internet and post whatever they please with no regard for the other humans that are reading their comments. Again, this has not been a large problem in Piney Orchard, and I do not see it being a problem in RH.

Another con is the time it would take to train the staff. Of course, Facebook is free, but staff time is not. Again, I think this is not a major concern, because we could get rid of the list-serve, and utilize the staff's time they were spending on that updating Facebook.

Does anyone out there have experience in utilizing Facebook for an organization? What has your experience been? We are discussing the proposal to create a Facebook page at our next board meeting, so I'd love some insight before then.