At the beginning of my continuing education (CE) workshops for Florida Realtors, I always read the applicable NAR Code of Ethics rules and initiate a discussion about how the platforms or technologies we’re looking at facilitate — or frustrate — adherence to the rules.
At times, it’s clear that the rules as they are written have not kept pace with the many technological changes we see in the marketing space and the many platforms we use every day to generate leads, increase networking capability and advertise listings.
What follows are a few aspects of marketing where you’ll want to review the code of ethics and ensure that you are in compliance.
How can I ensure my website conforms to the code of ethics rules regarding advertising?
You’re probably familiar with the rules regarding disclosure of your brokerage affiliation. In fact, your website is probably the “one-click” platform that you rely on to disclose your brokerage.
To ensure that your website is in compliance with best practices, consider the following:
- Don’t include your brokerage information just on your homepage. Add it to the header or footer of your site so that it will appear on every page of your website and blog.
- Be sure to provide your full company name, not just the name of your team.
- If you are working with a website developer, be sure that he or she has sufficient experience in building and creating content for real estate websites to ensure compliance with necessary disclosures and information.
- Check your website frequently to ensure that relevant links, contact info and social media platform icons are still current and accurate.
How can I make sure my social media platforms include the proper disclosures?
One of the easiest places to run afoul of brokerage disclosures and other code of ethics rules is on your social media platforms. Some platforms, like Snapchat, do not lend themselves well to extensive disclosures or even to one-click-away convenience.
If your platform doesn’t give you much visibility for your mandatory information, consider including a title card within the content, either at the end of stories or prominently displayed at intervals on your feed.
Remember, using usernames and bios that don’t properly disclose your identity and affiliation can create major violations. The code uses the phrase “readily apparent” to describe the ease with which users should be able to find your information. Don’t bury it in the fine print.
Consider the following additional social media pitfalls:
- While some real estate agents use one social media page for both personal and professional shares, others keep them separate. However, if you are sharing your newest listing on your personal page as well as your professional page, all of the same disclosures apply.
- Be careful when talking about a home you’ve previewed, an open house you’ve attended or a property you’ve shown, especially when it’s not your listing. If you want to talk about the home, get the listing agent’s permission in advance, and be mindful of what you say. Any negative comments can be construed as attempts to undermine the listing agent or the value and public perception of the property.
- Commiserating or venting about clients, commission details or other information related to specific transactions. These can reveal confidential information, undermine your bargaining position or flout your fiduciary duty to the client.
- Be especially mindful if you include images or videos of clients in your marketing — for example, a video of your walkthrough or a cute closing photo with a “sold” sign. Have clients sign an image release upfront to protect yourself from liability.
How can I use virtual reality and augmented reality in my marketing and still comply with truth in advertising according to the code of ethics?
The code of ethics specifically talks about the use of images that are misleading to consumers, and the rise of virtual and augmented reality technologies and platforms create opportunities to present an idealized view of the properties you represent.
To ensure that you are on the right side of the marketing regulations, be sure to:
- Clearly indicate altered or augmented images with a watermark, label or other indicator.
- Include a caveat in the property description, flyer or brochure copy, or in the website or blog content if a property is being presented using augmented or virtual images to stage or convey possible design and renovation alternatives.
Remember, your best ally in the effort to conform to the code of ethics is your broker and your local association. If you are in any doubt as to whether your website, platform or listing photos are in compliance, check with it first.
Be sure to keep up with changes as they occur, and check your platforms frequently to ensure that all of your information is kept current and up-to-date. Don’t forget tangible marketing materials like signs, flyers and direct mail pieces, especially if you use them repeatedly in your farming or other marketing initiatives.
Do you have questions for the Marketing Mastermind? Send them here.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr